Spoiler Warning: This piece contains spoilers about Disney+’s upcoming Marvel series WandaVision.
Something strange is a foot in suburbia, and that’s the thread which Disney+’s upcoming Marvel series WandaVision tugs on.
While Marvel has traversed the streaming space before with a number of Netflix series, i.e. The Punisher, Jessica Jones, The Defenders, Daredevil, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist, what makes WandaVision notable is that it’s the first streaming series to employ Marvel Cinematic Universe characters as protagonists, specifically Scarlet Witch aka Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) and b.f. Vision (Paul Bettany). WandaVision drops its first episode this Friday, Jan. 15. While the Netflix Marvel shows dropped an entire season at a time, MCU Boss Kevin Feige is stoked by the ongoing fan discussions which are spurred over the series’ longer run given its weekly episode release.
“We enjoyed watching that with The Mandalorian, and it got me excited with how we were building WandaVision,” said Feige today at Zoom press conference for the Marvel series.
WandaVision is a very ambitious undertaking for Marvel. It’s the first time the MCU has experimented with a 30 minute comedy series format. But even more than that, WandaVision traverses a world of satire, specifically that of 1950s-’80s sitcoms including The Dick Van Dyke Show, Bewitched, The Brady Bunch and Family Ties. Scarlet Witch and Vision are known in the Avengers movies for their gravitas, both of them for the dangerous powers that they wield, not to mention their backstories (her twin brother Quicksilver dies in Avengers: Age of Ultron). Here, in WandaVision, the duo are all wink-wink to the camera with a giggle at life’s daily domesticated activities and mishaps. While The Mandalorian is a direct build out of the Star Wars: Return of the Jedi universe, WandaVision takes the colorful road not taken in launching what Feige bills as the launch of “Phase 4” of the greater franchise which will entail overlaps between the big screen features and the upcoming Disney+ series.
“I think Wanda and Vision are a couple of fan favorites because their love story is so tragic,” says WandaVision Head Writer Jac Schaeffer at Sunday’s junket for the series, “We’re opening up the stage and space for them in this domestic sphere where she’s doing the dishes and being cute. Some of the stuff you’d never see superheroes participate in especially coming from the dramatic moments in the MCU. And in WandaVision, it’s a lot of cute-cute until it’s not.”
Not unlike David Lynch’s small town worlds in Blue Velvet and Twin Peaks, there’s a greater disruption lurking beneath the veneer in WandaVision, and the fun of the series comes from its slow burn in our learning about this, and where the series could go. There are fanboy rumors that the show will build a bridge toward the MCU’s relaunch of the X-Men series on the big screen, but that’s mere speculation at this point.
The big intriguing questions in WandaVision are: How did Scarlet and Vision wound up in an alternative universe? Also, who are their two sons? Marvel lore has it that they grow up to be Young Avengers. Meanwhile, terrorist org Hydra is lurking around in commercials in WandaVision, like some big GE or Procter & Gamble advertiser. What’s up with that? Nosy, intruding neighbor Agnes played by Kathryn Hahn is supposedly a villain, so when does she reveal her true colors outside of borrowing a cup of sugar?
And we can’t forget about Wanda/Scarlet’s friend Monica Rambeau in the show played by Teyonah Parris. It’s already been reported, and today’s zoom panel spoke about it, that Parris will reprise her role in the upcoming 2022 movie Captain Marvel 2, a clear bridge between the MCU Phase 4 movies and Disney+ series (the 5-year old version of the character was played by Akira Akbar in the 2019 movie).
Said Parris today, “We actually do get to learn particularly what things Monica has seen and gone through and how they’ve shaped her life. We will actually touch a lot on that throughout the show.”
Added Hahn about Agnes, “I’d say the same thing (in regards to my character). In all those classic sitcoms, there’s always that person who sits on the coach, but their personal life you never get to know anything about.”
Said Feige about the Hydra elements, “In regards to how other truths of the show are leaking out, commercials were an idea of how we could do that. It’s just a strange version of the 1960s commercials that you have to keep watching. If you’ve watched all the movies, you’ll be able to connect what they mean.”
In building the universe of WandaVision, Schaeffer and director Matt Shakman and their team, assembled a bible of quirky retro sitcom expressions, and were keen to show how Wanda/Scarlet evolves as a woman through the generations, i.e. how she goes from wearing a dress to slacks. Despite paying great homage to classic TV shows, when WandaVision echoes contemporary storytelling, it’s in the pacing.
“A lot of current shows right now, like prestige series; if you watch a couple of episodes, you think it’s one thing, and then in episode 4 or 5, it flips the script. That’s where contemporary references came through in terms of the show’s boundary-pushing the genre,” comments Schaeffer.
When asked as to where Phase 4 of the MCU ends, Feige declined to answer at today’s panel.
Said Feige, “I hope WandaVision says ‘Get ready for the new and the different.’ I hope all of our movies have said that, one after the other. Certainly with the Disney+ opportunities, it has allowed us to expand. Falcon and the Winter Soldier was going to debut first last year. Creatively, we didn’t reshuffle, but part of having a long lead plan is having an idea of how to reshuffle. I’m not saying we were planning for a global pandemic. This required no shuffling whatsoever in terms of the creative, just in terms of production. As is often the case, when we’re thrown curveballs, the unexpected has always served the MCU well. WandaVision being our first [Disney+ series], it’s so bold.”
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