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The WandaVision premiere, episode 1.01 “Filmed Before A Live Studio Audience” isn’t about the “what” so much as it is about the “where and why”, and I am HERE for it.
WandaVision is a show with some big ideas on it’s brain. Well, that is if the viewer watches it with the bigger picture in mind.
Before we continue, however, I am going to assume that you, the reader, have watched the 23 films that comprise the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) which were produced by Marvel Studios. In other words, Iron Man through Spider-Man: Far From Home. We will be dealing with mega spoilers from the previous films, and even possible future spoilers for the direction in which the MCU may head in future phases.
That said, onto the great experiment of Marvel Studios’ first step into television…
When it comes to WandaVision, it’s easy to get lost in the minutiae of the easter eggs, the callbacks to an older generation of TV, and the incredibly awesome casting of an American treasure like Debra Jo Rupp of That 70’s Show fame.
As currently constituted, WandaVision begs you to get lost down the Google rabbit hole of Marvel history only to wake up the next day with a splitting headache, a years worth of credit card debt, and a missing tooth like Ed Helms in The Hangover.
While waking up with a Tiger in the bathroom does sound appealing (only to break up the monotony of pandemic life), I can’t help but wonder this simple question: why is WandaVision even a thing?
Is it well made? Of course. I’m an apologist for all things Marvel Cinematic Universe (yes, even Thor 2), and I would trust Marvel Studios head honcho, Kevin Feige, to babysit my kids.
BUT, THIS CAN’T BE IT. RIGHT?
WandaVision simply can’t be a fun little throw back to a different age of television with some random easter eggs to spice up the soup, right?!
Upon finishing the premiere of WandaVision, “Filmed Before A Live Studio Audience”, I took a deep breath, looked over to the other side of my couch where my beautiful bride and partner in Mary & Blake Media was laying down and said, “well, that happened.” Disappointed, I climbed upstairs, brushed my teeth, put on my absurdly expensive sleeping mask, and tried not question my allegiance to all things Feige.
Then it happened – my brain started spiraling down the black hole of possibilities.
What is the significance of August 23rd (the date of the dinner) to Marvel? What does the name Arthur Hart mean in the Marvel universe? Is Agnes actually Agatha Harkness? Why is there a S.W.O.R.D. logo on an old TV? Why are there fake credits? Who is watching the old TV? Why does Vision work at a company that does “computational services”? Speaking of that, why is everyone just cool with the idea of calling Vision, Vision? What is the significance of the wine they’re drinking at dinner? Why is Debra Jo Rupp skipping like a broken piece of vinyl and who the hell is ok with “Yakety Yak” being their song?!
So as I lay wide-eyed in my bed for hours on on end with nothing but the mysteries, the shame of being an adult male wearing a sleeping mask, and easter eggs from WandaVision taking up residence in my inner consciousness, I realized WandaVision is very much like the greatest show ever created: LOST.
After watching the LOST pilot, directed by JJ Abrams of Star Wars fame, I found myself asking the same question as Dominic Monaghan’s Charlie, “guys, where are we?”
I was fascinated by the island, the monster, why the plane crashed, how the characters all related to each other, and so on. It was a great hook for a show that eventually evolved beyond the mysteries it posed in the premiere.
Like LOST though, WandaVision, in the end, has to be about the characters and their respective journeys. While it’s great to have little mysteries sprinkled throughout the runtime, for every answer we receive about whatever the latest mystery of the day is, we will just have another question. No matter what Jac Schaeffer does as the showrunner, those answers will always be as satisfying as the empty calories from a Hostess Cupcake. Great in the moment, but depressing and hollow when you hit the scale the next morning. WandaVision cannot subsist on solely easter eggs and Twinkies.
WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED?
Other than creating a set straight from the late 50’s early 60’s era of sitcoms, shooting it in a traditional three camera soundstage set up (actually in front of a live audience) and giving Wanda and Vision intentionally stiff lines that would put the likes of even Bewitched and Leave It To Beaver to shame — I’m looking at you, “My wife and her flying saucers!” and “My husband and his indestructible head!” — what actually happened in the show? Nothing of real import — in terms of the story.
But this is not bad. In fact, the show is teaching you how to watch it.
Yeah, vision saves his boss from choking on steak, Agnes shows up all creepy like (almost like she’s kind of in on whatever the hell is happening), and Wanda magics up some wedding bands out of nowhere – but like the sitcom conceit of the show, all of the goings-on are just window dressing.
How much do Wanda and Vision know what is going on? Are they being subjected to torture by S.W.O.R.D.? Are we, the viewers, a part of the story for Wanda and Vision much in the same way that we are for Elliot in Mr. Robot? Are we “the voyeurs who think they aren’t a part of this, despite being here for all of it.”? Or, is Wanda in control of this entire existence within the framework of the sitcom? Are we part of her fractured reality after the VERY REAL death of Vision in Avengers: Infinity War?
This knowledge – not the easter eggs (Vision’s indestructible head) or why there’s a STARK toaster that has a red blinking light which also happens to make the sound of Iron Man’s repulsors — is the key to WandaVision.
Why are Wanda and Vision in this sitcom setting, and when is it in relation to the events of Infinity War?
My sense is that this takes place AFTER Vision is murdered by Thanos and Thanos’ subsequent snap that erases 50% of the universe.
WHY IS THIS ALL HAPPENING?
The sitcom aspect of the show feels as if it’s written by someone who has a vague memory of what those early Dick Van Dyke and Donna Reed shows used to be.
The sitcom scenario is a conceit that feels like a safe space for someone who is looking for little risk and a happy ending. In this environment there are little speed bumps that occasionally happen to our main characters but, by the end of the episode, everything is tidied up in a nice neat bow where our leads can sit on their couch, point a tv remote toward the viewer, and declare that they “lived happily ever after” before the fake credits roll.
But the details — why people refer to Vision by his name without any hesitancy, why Vision works in a Computational Services company where no one really knows what the hell they are doing or for what purpose they are doing it, why our couple just seem to be dropped into this world without any context or prior knowledge of the previous events — it all feel like a person who is writing a show based on their vague memory of what that kind sitcom is supposed to be. There’s no attention to finer details.
By the way, this is not a jab at Showrunner Jac Schaeffer (who is quickly becoming a Marvel Studios favorite — she wrote the upcoming Black Widow) or at Matt Shakman the director. In fact, this cognitive dissonance is very much intentional and is expertly written by Schaeffer.
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No, this fictional setting is very much the creation of someone “in-world”, and it’s done for a very specific purpose that will eventually come to light within the context of the story.
My simple guess is that this world is Wanda’s creation. She created this reality based off her vague memory of what a sitcom world would be and the safety that it could potentially provide for her.
Despite how underwritten Wanda Maximoff has been within the MCU, you need to know that Wanda, AKA Scarlett Witch, is a frakking badass.
Wanda is very much like Jean Grey in the X-Men. She is so powerful that she’s not even fully in control of her abilities, and the only people within the MCU that can equal her power are Captain Marvel, and/or, MAYBE Vision. That’s it.
But like Jean Grey, Wanda is very sensitive and unpredictable.
WHERE IS THIS STORY POTENTIALLY LEADING TO?
Is WandaVision a precursor to the MCU version of The House Of M?
There’s a whole storyline called “The House Of M” in the Marvel comic universe where Wanda’s mind essentially breaks after she loses her two children, and thereby any control of her abilities.
As a result of her breakdown, Wanda starts to rearrange the reality of the world around her causing temporal rifts, and a whole bunch of bad news. It was a MASSIVE story for Marvel comics in the mid 2000’s and rocked the very core of what most comic readers believed to be strong foundations for the Marvel world.
Losing loved ones, rearranging reality … wait, hold on this sounds really familiar…
WHAT’S THE BIG END GOAL FOR MARVEL? LET’S REALLY NERD OUT FOR A MOMENT…
Disney just acquired the rights to all of the properties once held by 20th Century Fox Studios — X-Men, Fantastic Four, Blade, Deadpool etc — and Disney also has a deal to include all the characters Sony Pictures currently owns — Spiderman, Morbius, Venom, etc. in the MCU films. The big takeaway is this: for years, characters such as Professor X and, let’s say, Iron Man, could never be in the same film together because the rights to those characters were owned by separate movie studios that did not want to play nice with each other. That is now all changed.
Since Disney (which owns Marvel Studios) made the deals mentioned above, the MCU now has the option to finally put all these characters in the same pool to play together.
With the departures of Scarlett Johannson, Paul Bettany, Chris Evans, and most of all, Robert Downey Jr., Marvel Studios needs some star power to fill the void, and they need a big story to take place after the massive success of the Infinity Stones arc.
Would introducing “The House Of M” (a story where Wanda becomes a major villain) in WandaVision potentially help usher in all these new characters in an organic fashion? There seems to be some evidence that would suggest, yes.
The upcoming Dr. Strange film is entitled “The Multiverse of Madness“ — which will introduce the idea of multiple realities and versions/iterations of our MCU characters existing in one setting.
Additionally, the next Spider-Man – in which Dr. Strange will play a huge roll – is going to be a bananas film that will include characters from every Spider-Man film iteration, even those outside of the Marvel Studios produced MCU. Meaning, Tobey Maguire, Andrew Garfield, and Tom Holland will all be in the same film together AS SPIDER-MAN (!).
Every character, from all different groups, production companies, and times, can exist within the confines of the multiverse — and that could all potentially be created by the events of WandaVision. As such, other characters like Ian McKellen’s Magneto, Ryan Reynolds’ Deadpool, or even Ioan Gruffudd’s Mr. Fantastic, could potentially exist in the MCU, a world of which they would never normally be a part.
This possibility thereby gives plenty of story for the MCU to keep going beyond the small box of it’s own characters, the Infinity storyline, and also rope in a whole world of talent to fill in the gap of RDJ’s departure.
Here’s another thought that could bake your noodle – the multiverse even opens up an opportunity for characters who left the MCU like Vision, Captain America, or even IRON MAN, to return to the MCU for special storylines. They would just different versions of themselves that exist in other multiverses.
Yeah, it’s a REALLY big deal.
A big deal which could all be started by WandaVision. A little show that starts off as a sitcom.
Could the reality of WandaVision be a world created by Wanda in a response to protect herself from the heartbreaking loss of Vision, which will eventually lead to a catastrophic breakdown of reality for the larger Marvel world as we know it?
What did you think of the first episode?