I’ve got a confession – I don’t think I’ve seen a single Avengers movie. Despite being a big fan of comic-book based cartoons as a kid, and even loving the really horrible attempts at making movies in the early 2000s, the overwhelming volume of this kind of story burned me out on the genre quite some time ago. I didn’t really plan to watch WandaVision but the adorable ads with Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany doing their best Bewitched and the dramatic arguments online totally sucked me in – and I’m so glad.
This show, according to Wikipedia, takes place immediately following the events of Avengers: Endgame. Is that the one with Thor in a fat suit? I don’t even know. I’m probably not going to watch it. So I was a little lost at the very beginning, but the really cool format and amazing acting made it really entertaining anyway. So I’m not an Avenger’s gal, but I AM an X-Men fan! I watched the original cartoon, all the follow ups, and every single movie put out. Weird right? I can’t explain it. I love the idea of natural mutations creating humans with enhanced abilities. I think it’s really beautiful and as far as sci-fi goes, realistic. So I did have some cursory knowledge of Scarlet Witch/Wanda Maximoff before now, but nothing you can’t find on wikipedia haha.
Now that I’ve finished the show, I still think they did themselves a great disservice by thinking only diehard marvel fans would want to watch the show and therefore making it a little harder for those on the outside to get into it right away. If you feel intimidated by this, just get past the first 2 episodes and you’ll have everything you need to enjoy it.
WARNING: POST CONTAINS SPOILERS BEYOND THIS POINT
Every single person in this show absolutely acted their asses off. Honestly, stellar job. Elizabeth Olsen was so fun to watch and incredibly relatable, and Paul Bettany was just as lovely as ever. I think they made a really amazing couple, even though much of what we got to see was only from Wanda’s perspective. They had real romantic chemistry, and whenever they got the chance to be funny they absolutely nailed it. Kathryn Hahn has always been a treasure, and she really showed off in this show. Her well-honed comedic timing made her little twist and genuine TWIST. She totally nailed the annoying neighbour and brain-washed routine. The supporting actors and even extras really sold the idea that something was very wrong right away, and I was impressed with the looks of anguish that came through on people who were under Wanda’s spell and supposed to be smiling or folding laundry. I really felt that horrible feeling liek someone is driving your body around and there’s nothing you can do. Wanda’s character goes through a lot of emotions throughout the show, and I found every single one of them really relatable. The loneliness and longing, and even the excitement and tranquility she felt in her perfect world.
I was also psyched to see Evan Peters play wanda’s brother Pietro! In the avengers movie this character is played by a different actor, but years earlier Evan Peters played a version of this character, Quicksilver, in the 1970s in X-Men: Days of Future Past and absolutely nailed it. Now, you don’t have to have watched that movie to enjoy Evan Peters, but I loved his version of the character and it was nice to see him again. Because of legal stuff with Marvel and the X-Men, those movies do not take place in the same universe as the avengers, so the actors and characters differ a bit. I’ll take crumbs where I can get them. Kat Dennings also reprised her role as Dr. Darcy Lewis from Thor and provided some great comic relief and sarcasm, along with a really big brain who can think her way through any problem.
The format was my favourite feature of the show. Every single episode is in the style of a TV show from a different decade or era, but they’re all family sitcoms. The series begins in black and white, with obvious nods to the Dick Van Dyke show and Bewitched, and seems like a standard 30 minute sitcom, but you notice vaguely menacing details that let you know that all is not as it seems. We get some I Love Lucy, Ozzie and Harriet, Brady Bunch, and Family Ties throwbacks before we enter the 90s and you see a real shift to shows like Malcolm in the middle and even OUT OF THIS WORLD – which was one of my ABSOLUTE FAVOURITES about an alien girl with magic powers!! We also got some really funny Modern Family style scenes and Elizabeth olsen does a KILLER Julie Bowen! I thought this was really fun, and the switching from decade to decade really made me realize the magnitude of wanda’s power once I knew that it was her creating and re-creating this town and these characters every day. I think the format itself gives non-marvelites something to cling onto and love. Like most marvel movies, it’s full of easter eggs and throw backs to previous movies, but also to famous moments of classic television that had me riding the nostalgia roller coaster.
Even though I never read the comic books, I know the powers and origin stories of these characters can change drastically from movie to tv show to comic to movie again. So forgive me if I confuse any details here, but I love this version of Scarlet Witch and her powers, rather than being (or just being) a mutant, Wanda was born a witch but her latent powers were amplified by contact with an Infinity stone called the mind stone. Her powers are, therefore, mainly mind-based like telekinesis and telepathy, and in this show she can basically possess all the people of a town with a character she’s created for them to play. She controls all of their minds. very scary stuff. She can also conjure objects out of thin air, create illusions, and change things and people at a cellular level. (Honestly magicians and witches in the marvel universe have been grossly underemployed. Doctor Strange was great and this show sets up the story for a second Doctor Strange, which I’ll definitely watch. Will I ever get a Madame Web movie?) The show got SUPER WITCHY by the end though, and I was so excited to learn that the villain (you know, besides wanda) is Agatha Harkness, a witch from the original Salem Witch trials! Kathryn hahn played a fantastic witch, and the inclusion of fictional versions of real witch things like runes and chaos magic really made me laugh – in a good way! I honestly didn’t expect it! There’s nothing witchier than a baby witch whose powers are activated and accelerated by trauma casting a gigantic hex and having to fight an OG salem witch for the right to keep her magic. PLUS! They replaced her black cat with a lop-eared bunny named Senor Scratchy! Like, that’s just extremely my shit.
By the end of the show it honestly didn’t matter that I haven’t watched the Avengers, and I don’t think it would have mattered that I like some of the other characters with a sort of tertiary connection to Wanda, I just liked it. It was fun, touching, sad, and action-packed. I do understand why others couldn’t get past the first few episodes, though. I feel like Marvel takes the job of pandering to their fanbase really seriously and that can be cool sometimes, but it also can make others feel unwelcome.
My only real beef with the show concerns Wanda’s ethnicity – I know I know, but I think it’s important. If you read the comics, you know Wanda and her brother Pietro are from a Romani bloodline filled with magic users of varying skill levels and abilities. Wanda was certainly born with at least some power. If you watched the movies or cartoons, you might think/know Wanda is romani on her mother’s side and jewish on her father, magneto’s side. In that version, her parents actually met in a concentration camp during world war 2. In this version Wanda is from a fictional eastern european country called sokovia instead of serbia. Either way, by removing that identity I think you remove a lot from Wanda, and give a little too much power to the infinity stone and the experiments done on her by a nazi-like organization. Especially considering they decided to go with the “she was born a witch” angle, it would have been really neat to see her connect with either of these roots. Both Romani and Jewish identities also carry an enormous amount of strength in the face of trauma, and I felt that this was so powerful in Magneto’s story in the X-Men movies. It really adds nuance to the idea of good versus evil, and makes it clear evil actions sometimes don’t actually come from an evil place but from trauma. Wanda’s grief and loss was heartbreaking, but it just didn’t feel big enough to enslave an entire town. It didn’t have that compounded, generational, loss that made Magneto such a compelling villain – he was kind of hard to root against!
That being said I think it’s probably better for them to just not, rather than rely on some potentially gross stereotypes for people who are still to this day oppressed and objectified.
Actually, I lied, there is one more thing that’s bugging me – where the fuck did the second Vision go? The army created a second version of vision, and you see him interacting with the one we’d been watching all along, and realizing they’re the same. So why didn’t his consciousness transfer over? Why couldn’t old vision just move into this new body? I was like, so sure that would happen. You never see what happens to the white-bodied vibranium man! Maybe he’ll be back in the new Doctor Strange? I guess I’ll find out!
I really liked WandaVision. It was fun and silly, but with heart hidden under the surface. The action-packed fight sequences and bright scarlet movie magic don’t take away from the real story and development of a really great woman character. In fact, the show is filled with strong women coming into their power and breaking all the fucking rules – and that’s witchy as hell!