WandaVision was such a weird animal. Spoilers abound here.
Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) is one of the most horrifying individuals in the Marvel Universe. Her comic book character is insanely powerful, and the filmmakers have gone to great lengths here in an attempt to bring her to that point. She’s a person wholly engulfed in grief and it has cemented her entire personality.
The Vision (Paul Bettany) is a robot that has become sentient without his main battery. He’s dead, having had his face pulled out in Avengers: Infinity War, but he’s back for an interesting season of television that makes him question his reality and his status as a living being.
There’s a really depressing arc to this that ends on a note I wasn’t quite okay with. WandaVision shows Maximoff using a small amount of her power to enslave an entire town, endowing each individual with her grief and pain while forcing them into sitcom-esque lives so she can play house with her dead husband. They let you know they’re suffering, too. Whenever they get a moment to state their actual thoughts it’s desperation. Some aren’t eating, haven’t seen their families in a while, and when allowed are aware of the pain they experience in their dreams.
All of this is really dark for Marvel, but it leaves me lost at sea with characters like Agatha Harkness (Kathryn Hahn). See, the villain of this is really Wanda, but Marvel’s creative team is so afraid to let one of their villains me an ongoing individual you identify with that they have to tack on villain you can drop your jaw at. I don’t know how many people went, “Of course, it was well-known Marvel witch Agatha Harkness!” in glee but…it can’t have been many. And really, when the real villains are grief and corporate greed why do we have a specific person that Wanda can pit herself against?
Why, because a huge digital fight is required for this kind of story! At least by the standards we now measure ourselves against.
The thing that isn’t frustrating is the treatment of The Vision. His final battle goes from awesome phase-fighting (which rules) to more of a robot conversation. Two beings discussing how to determine reality based on the principles of the Ship of Theseus are our moral and logical grounding. It’s an odd conversation, but one that I honestly think needed to happen. The Vision has been a lesser character in Marvel’s films thus far, one that we don’t give a lot of attention to despite his excessive power. He doesn’t have the charisma of a Captain America or an Iron Man, but he’s got power and intelligence to spare. His final battle is an attempt to slow down and talk things out, something I rather appreciate in this world of final battles and epic showdowns.
I just…I don’t know where we go from here. Marvel has danced gleefully along the edge of a story struggling with real issues. They’ve dipped their toes in this pond before, but now that we’re tackling grief and the greed of the American obsession with military superiority it becomes an entirely different conversation. At one point in this series a man shows a grieving widow the remains of her husband as though it were a piece of product, an inanimate object that only represents a dollar value. He is somehow surprised when she reacts negatively to this, frightened when she angrily storms out and breaks down in an attempt to fight the reality of her loss. That’s some heavy shit.
WandaVision was a lot of fun. We got era-specific sitcom references, episodic storytelling, and Kathryn Hahn. The things that didn’t work for me were far from enough to dispel the negative aspects of the series and I’m glad it is only going to be contained to this one idea. The creators sat down to tell me a story about an all-powerful woman trapped in grief, scared to confront the loss of her husband, and that’s what I got. It worked on most levels and was charmingly standard on the others.
WandaVision is currently streaming in its entirety on Disney+.