"What is grief, if not love persevering?" That particular line was mocked in WandaVision's penultimate episode, though it's hard to see why. Sure, it's a tad on the nose, but it perfectly summarises this ambitious and wholeheartedly different take on what a superhero show can be. WandaVision is ultimately about grief, coming to terms with loss, especially if you don't have the power to either confront or reverse the traumatic event that put you in that very situation. It's a curious angle on a show that, from the get-go, insisted on being different, and most of the time it succeeded, and succeeded tremendously.
As I alluded to in my early review of the first couple of episodes, WandaVision's set-up is fantastic to put it mildly. It's convincing set design is held together by both an intriguing overarching mystery, as well as some poignant questions about what constitutes both authority, power and... well, loss. As we travel through different eras of television, starting in the 50's, and ending up in the present day, the show takes on inspirations from a wide variety of beloved television classics, but it also helps grow said overarching mystery.
At the same time, some almost Lynchian snaps keep us on our toes, and reminds us that the world of Westview is misaligned, even fake. The first five or six episodes really do stick to its sitcom set-up, and thankfully so, and simultaneously it builds its tension and world from outside the barrier too, introducing us to key characters and overarching narratives. The duality mostly works, but it's clear from the off-set that the most endearing and interesting part of WandaVision is... well, Wanda Maximoff and The Vision.
It's their enduring love and infinite respect for one another that is the central building block of the show, and it's brought vividly to life by overall fantastic performances from both Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany. It's their most successful running as their respective superhero personas, and by a long stretch, and their charismatic performances make that central building block strong, strong enough at least to contain some of the shows weaker elements.
One of which is the show's central villain, Agatha Harkens, a character that emerges as the sort of "aha moment", but ends up being quite the dud. Not only is the central reveal rather bluntly introduced, it also becomes a bit of an aside, seeing as Wanda, and the illusion she's created out of her grief, continues to take centre stage, even after Agatha reveals herself with malicious intent. It's also partly her fault why the show looses a good amount of steam in the penultimate episode. This particular time traveling tale back through Wanda's past feels both out of place, and inserted so forcefully, that it also feels jarring. Oh, and it also doesn't contribute to the coherence of the story, so it's a pretty direct waste of time.
The show does recover in the finale though, bringing both some classic Marvel action sequences filled with panache and power, as well as some truly memorable dialogue. So, as I said, the show's overall quality did heavily depend on how it took the interesting narrative thread, cast out as hooks in the first sitcom-heavy episodes, and managed to follow up with meaningful conclusions. And it did manage that in broad strokes, with only the aforementioned stumbles to speak of.
WandaVision has proven that Marvel superhero tales can exist in a number of guises, and as an experiment, it thoroughly succeeds. It looks gorgeous, is well acted and directed, and paces its mysteries, its action and its exposition well enough to both innovate and satisfy.
There are a few things I'd change if I could, such as erasing the entirety of the eighth episode from the season, and even incorporate Evan Peters' Quicksilver copy a tad more, if only to lean more heavily into the FOX X-Men universe. But most of that is nit-picking, and that's where we are, really. WandaVision is a testament to Marvel's ability to tell different stories with their characters, and if you had grown tired of the established formula, this is not only a breath of fresh air, but proof that there's a willingness to diversify. I'm excited about that, and if you like Marvel, you should be too.
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