WandaVision ultimately has me pretty torn. I was this show’s biggest proponent for most of its season, holding it up as proof that Marvel was unafraid to branch out and tell character-driven stories in a creative way. This partly holds true; WandaVision certainly does a great job of fleshing out Wanda and Vision, two previously underdeveloped cogs within the MCU machine who we now understand like never before. Their relationship serves as the beating heart for the series, offering genuinely sweet moments alongside spurts of heartbreak and pain, and it could only exist within the breathing room of a Disney+ show. Both Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany are legitimately great here, too.
Where the show takes some missteps is fulfilling the ‘creative’ side of its premise. All the sitcom homages are extremely fun, but as the series progresses it becomes clear that the sitcoms are used to mask a lack of plot, while the show itself becomes less willing to commit to the sitcom format in fear of alienating the audience. The first three episodes — all of which take place entirely within sitcoms — were some of my favorites of the season, though that was due to my faith in the show eventually paying off the foreshadowing in these slower episodes. Instead, the series only has one big ‘reveal,’ which happened to be widely predicted from the series premiere and also undermined by the show itself (compare Episode 8 with Episode 7’s ending to see what I mean).
I don’t need some Westworld level of complexity in a Marvel show, but it feels like a cop-out for the show to be a slow-burn mystery only for it to pull an Occam’s Razor ending and claim that it was really a relationship drama all along. While the intimate moments between Wanda and Vision are the highlight, the show struggles to have it both ways in telling a story about grief while also telling a story that expands the MCU, too often focused on one or the other (the final two episodes might give you whiplash if viewed back-to-back). This is best seen in a certain character that shows up (you know who I’m talking about), as he is essentially used as a massive bait-and-switch to draw out the show’s mystery before amounting to a middle-finger to the audience. The show can’t half-heartedly commit to something this potentially massive within the MCU, and its insistence on doing so highlights how these Disney+ shows want to be mandatory, game-changing stories within their larger universe, but they’re afraid of doing so. Again: the show can’t have it both ways here.
Thankfully, these issues aren’t enough to substantially worsen the show. All the non-sitcom stuff is bolstered by the charisma of Randall Park, Kat Dennings, and Teyonah Parris, who manage to take what could have been show-ruining exposition and instead turn it into an otherwise entertaining side-adventure. Also, even if the show is still a drawn-out movie, the sitcom stuff is fresh enough that it’s very entertaining on a week-to-week basis. And that’s the thing: I enjoyed this show! Unlike The Mandalorian, which I watched purely out of obligation, WandaVision is a legitimately charming show which justifies its existence and does character drama better than most MCU movies. Perhaps I enjoyed it a bit too much, becoming so invested that I have to settle for something entertaining and frustrating as opposed to what could have potentially been really great. The bigger truth here is even more disappointing: if Marvel managed to pull their punches with a set-up this perfect, it will take more than Wanda’s magical powers for them to ascend to their true potential as storytellers.