You may have heard that Marvel Studios’ takeover of Hollywood has official entered a new phase. They’ve now extended their ultra-successful franchise of interconnected films into the television world, and WandaVision made that leap in the most literal way.
One part love letter to television comedies, one part character drama, and one part superhero movie, WandaVision imagines what domestic life could be for one of comic’s unlikeliest superhero couples, a powerful sorceress (Elizabeth Olsen’s Wanda Maximoff, the Scarlet Witch) and her android husband (Paul Bettany’s The Vision). The pilot episode starts off in an I Love Lucy and Dick Van Dyke-inspired world, complete with a classic sitcom plot and even an off-kilter neighbor (Kathryn Hahn’s pitch perfect Agnes). But this being Marvel, nothing is as it seems, and despite the script’s spot-on homage, showrunner/writer Jac Schaeffer imbues just enough off-kilter creepiness to add to the mystery of why these superheroes (one of whom we know is dead) are living in a fictional, 1950s world.
But the show became something of an internet sensation because of how well-drawn its characters are. The extended runtime that television allows gave Schaeffer and co. the opportunity to fully explore these larger-than-life characters in a nuanced way that 150-minute superhero epics don’t allow. Of course, the requisite special effects and fight scenes are present, but as the show dives deeper into its season, its focus shifts from sitcom plotlines and fantastical superhero narratives to become a compelling exploration of loss and grief, anchored by Olsen and Bettany’s performances.
Ultimately, WandaVision offers a different type of comic book adaptation and high-budget superhero movies. It’s weird, it’s quirky, and it’s outside-the-box in a way that shows the full potential of television. More shows should try being as fun and different as WandaVision.