Following lengthy delays due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the MCU is back on our screens. Last Friday, WandaVision became the first series from Marvel Studios to release on Disney+ and was also the first entry in Phase Four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Fans of the MCU will have undoubtedly been happy to see the longingly familiar intro sequence appear on the screen, but what followed was unlike anything we have seen from the studio before.
WandaVision is a delightfully nostalgic homage to the vintage American sitcom from days gone. The first two episodes that were released as a two-part premiere are full of satire and innuendo that is faithfully taken from shows such as The Dick Van Dyke Show, I Love Lucy and Bewitched.
Shot almost entirely in black and white, the first two episodes of WandaVision both feature storylines taken from the sitcom handbook. Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) plays the role of the homemaking housewife, whilst her new husband, Vision (Paul Bettany) plays the role of the office worker who is eager to impress at his meaningless nine-to-five job. Like the audience watching, both Wanda and Vision are aware of their differences — she possesses superpowers, and he is a robot — but both are trying their hardest to fit in with the neighbours and keep their powers and their true selves under wraps.
Of course, this results in hilarity when Wanda is using her powers to cook a meal for some important guests in episode one whilst Vision tries to distract them. I bet seeing Paul Bettany sing a stirring rendition of “Yakety Yak” by The Coasters wasn’t high on your list of things to watch in 2021, but it absolutely should be. There’s a similar scene in episode two when a “drunk” Vision reveals his powers multiple times during a magic act, only for Wanda to discreetly use her magic to make the tricks look fake.
At first glance it appears that life has been good to Mr. and Mrs. Vision since we left them in 2019. Their romance has blossomed and their new home in Westview is filled with friendly neighbours. This is perfect place for them to be. Or is it?
Behind the situational comedy and hilarious gags that seem to be taken straight from the 1950s and 60s setting, episode one and two remind us that something isn’t quite right here. For fans of the MCU, the biggest sign is that Vision died at the hands of Thanos during Avengers: Infinity War, but that is a fact that neither of them seems to be aware of.
Slowly but surely, small glitches in the matrix begin to appear. At first, the signs are quickly ignored and passed over with moments of comedy like when neither of them can remember why a date on the calendar is marked with a heart. Later, things take a more sinister turn when a dinner guest asks them questions about their past. Luckily for the couple, in their moment of confusion, another guest mysteriously begins to choke and draws the attention away. In episode two, those momentary glimpses behind the curtain start to become more significant as forces outside of the Pleasantville setting begin to seep in and noticeably bother Wanda.
Adding to the mystery are strange adverts that break up each episode and hint towards moments in Wanda’s past. There are also occasional moments where the monochrome setting is interrupted by bright Technicolor objects. After two episodes, it is too early to tell exactly where the show will go in future weeks, but hints of the mysterious S.W.O.R.D. organisation and hearing a familiar-sounding voice break through the radio suggest that Wanda is not in this strange town by choice.
As dark as these mysterious moments may sound, the first two episodes of WandaVision are surprisingly fun and lighthearted, which is no small feat given the underlying complexity. Everything from the opening credits and theme songs to the acting style and script is a faithful and loving tribute to the shows from which WandaVision is based upon. The sense of fun is backed up further by the excellent acting of both Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany who share fantastic chemistry on screen together, and seem to revel in their ability to bring a completely fresh take to their characters.