Marvel’s 2021 WandaVision singlehandedly made me a fan of Wanda Maximoff, aka Scarlet Witch. I mean, so much a fan, that she’s probably my favorite character in the current Marvel Cinematic Universe. For starters, she’s ridiculously powerful! As a Superman fan, I enjoy my superheroes being absurdly powerful. I suspected that she might be the most powerful character in the MCU and I saw other articles backing that up, validating my suspicions. As others have pointed out, Wanda not only took on Thanos one-on-one twice, but it seems likely she could have dispensed with his purple butt in Endgame if he hadn’t “rained fire” from his ships.
And as WandaVision lays out over its nine episodes, that’s an unbelievable demonstration fo Wanda’s power before she has the requisite knowledge in which to effectively wield it. In other words, combine her nearly limitless power with knowledge and she is indeed unstoppable. Or at least, virtually unstoppable. Perhaps someone, like Doctor Strange, will know how to stop her, if necessary.
The show follows Wanda (played by Elizabeth Olsen) and her love, Vision (played by Paul Bettany), who is an android that came out of Ultron in 2015’s Avengers: Age of Ultron. They gradually fell in love until Vision was killed by Thanos in Infinity War.
WandaVision is by far the most ambitious and bold project Marvel has ever developed, even more than Guardians of the Galaxy because the first episode starts as a black and white 1950s sitcom. Yes, you heard that right. Wanda and Vision are a spitting image of something from I Love Lucy, which aired from 1951 to 1957. The premise of the “sitcom” is that Vision is hosting his boss for dinner, but Wanda thinks it’s their anniversary. Hilarity ensues. Fortunately for Wanda, her nosy, busybody neighbor, Agnes (played by Kathryn Hahn), helps prepare the dinner.
However, it’s at the dinner we get our first glimpse that something is … amiss, in the most Hitchcockian way. The boss’s wife keeps repeating, “Stop it.” after her husband begins choking, and then Wanda says in her real, non-sitcom-y voice to Vision, “Help him, Vision.” I get chills even reliving that scene in my head!
From there, we get sitcom duplications for the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, and even The Office-like single-cam docu-style with the awkward zooms from the 2000s. The sitcom details and touch is just incredible. I can’t say enough about how everyone involved, from Olsen, Bettany, Hahn, the costume designers, set designers, prop peeps, and so on, completely nailed each decade. It’s truly impressive. And even the intentionally cheesy sitcom jokes and gags are legitimately funny. One of the funniest is when “drunk” Vision (drunk in the sense of, he swallowed gum and it has his gears all a mess) and Wanda do a magic act in front of the town.
We eventually learn that Wanda has seemingly created a quarantined zone of Westview, New Jersey, where everyone in the town is held “hostage” to whatever she’s doing; whatever this fantasy sitcom mirage is. It also seems like Wanda stole Vision’s body and reanimated, somehow, his corpse, according to Hayward (played by Josh Stamberg), who is the acting director of Sentient World Observation and Response Department, which deals with extraterrestrials and artificial intelligence, the space-bound counterpart to SHIELD.
However, Monica Rambeau (played by Teyonah Parris), FBI Agent Jimmy Woo (played by Randall Park) and Darcy (played by Kat Dennings, who is a lovely return from Thor: The Dark World), suspect something else is going on and go against Hayward.
The alternating between the fake … reality … and reality … reality helps to create an unbelievable amount of that Hitchcockian creepiness and sinister feeling. Each episode gives us more and more clues that something is wrong. And we can’t quite figure out if Wanda really is nefarious or there’s something else going on here.
It turns out that Agatha, in a hilarious-but-scary turn, is actually Agatha Harkness, a witch who dates back to the 1600s in Salem, Massachusetts. She’s frustrated that magic comes naturally to Wanda and tries to essentially “suck” the power out of Wanda, while also making Wanda choose between letting the townspeople free and “killing” her fake family or continuing to hold the townspeople hostage and maintaining her illusion.
In a heart-breaking series of scenes, Agatha makes Wanda relive what caused the illusion in the first place. That’s where we get Vision talking to Wanda in the aftermath of her brother, Quicksilver, being killed, telling her, “But what is grief if not love persevering?” What a fantastic line and quite easily the best line in the MCU.
That is the heart and thrust of the show here, folks: Wanda dealing, or rather, not properly dealing, with her grief. We learn that, no, she didn’t try to break Vision out of S.W.O.R.D’s facilities; it’s Hayward who lied about that and who is actually trying to re-create Vision. And Wanda only went to Westview because that’s where Vision previously said they’d grow a family. In her moment of grief — because she is so ridiculously powerful — Wanda created the illusion.
Eventually, she’s able to both defeat Agatha and say “goodbye” (by actually saying “We’ll say hello again one day,” yet another great line) to Vision and the children, by thanking them for picking her as her mom. More tears ensued.
And I have to say, too, I loved the reveal of Scarlet Witch’s costume. I’m glad she finally had a chance to wear a proper costume.
Vision also has a perfectly Vision moment when him and the White Vision (for lack of a better word; he’s the re-created Vision courtesy of Hayward) settle their “fight” by philosophical battle of whether White Vision’s programming to destroy Vision is correct if Vision isn’t actually the real Vision since he’s only a fantasy illusion. That breaks White Vision’s brain and he flies away.
And because of Monica going through the barrier of Westview, she now has powers, which she uses to save the kids from Hayward going haywire. And then there’s a mid-credits scene, which teases that she’ll be used more in the next Captain Marvel movie. I can’t wait because Parris was great in this show.
We also see an end credits scene where Wanda is soaking up her knowledge. People think she’ll be in the night Doctor Strange film, Doctor Strange: Multiverse of Madness, but aren’t sure if she’ll be fighting with or against Doctor Strange. After all, Agatha said Scarlet Witch is more powerful than Doctor Strange. Those are the seeds for conflict.
I’m glad I’m not in charge of keeping track of all of the characters and storylines for the MCU, especially when Phase Four is about to introduce the concept of multiverses! But, WandaVision, even more than Falcon and the Winter Soldier, which I loved and just watched and reviewed, makes me so hyped for what’s to come with this Phase Four.
I can’t praise Olsen, Bettany and Hahn enough. The best thing these Marvel television shows are doing is allowing these fantastic actors a showcase to remind people that they aren’t just playing one-dimensional superheroes; they are fantastic, versatile actors. WandaVision more than proved that.
What a great, great show. I loved it.