Welcome to the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Episode 1 of WandaVision is an absolutely radiant opening to Phase 4. The fact that Phase 4 is beginning with the MCU’s first feature television series—which is an experimental leap forward of the superhero genre—can only mean that the MCU going forward is fundamentally different from how we remember it. The new MCU is bolder, creative, and imaginative in every sense of the word. For now at least, gone are the days of waiting months or years for the next installment of the MCU. Now, we have weekly updates and ample time to spend with a couple of interesting characters, who it feels we barely knew in Phases 2 and 3. I can’t help but assume we are diving deeper into the comic background of the MCU, with bustling, complex, and intimate narratives that transcend 2 hours of cinematic time. The result will likely be an MCU far different from the one we already know and love, but one that (ironically, given that the episode is black and white) is more colorful, engageable, and simply much more rich in substance.
Layered as a sitcom on the surface, WandaVision is truly like nothing we’ve seen before. We see superheroes out of their cinematic element—Wanda and Vision are just an “unusual couple” trying to fit in in a 1950s picturesque neighborhood. Wanda, the housewife, and Vision, the generic working husband. What’s perhaps surprising is how genuinely funny Episode 1 is. Set almost entirely like a regular sitcom, it is enjoyable from start to finish. Flanked by the MCU opening and credits that seem straight from the movie theater, there is a tension in what the show portrays in the episode and what the show knows it actually is. It’s tense, anxious, and exciting—the promise of something bubbling under the surface comes across naturally and gorgeously. The main “glitch” moment in the episode is by far the most compelling part of the episode, which turns it from a purposely shallow comedy to a mystery that almost frightening as it is thrilling.
All in black and white, we see the title card showing Wanda and Vision just married and moving to a stereotypical 1950s American small town. Already we have the comedy of their powers coming into play — Vision, holding Wanda, walks directly through the front door, leaving Wanda to fall on the ground on the porch. We soon see Vision almost forget to turn on his human form as he leaves for work.
The couple is confused because there is a heart on the day’s date on their calendar. Neither can remember its importance. It was too easy to assume this was their anniversary, and this is exactly what Wanda does with the help of her neighbor Agnes. It turns out, the couple is supposed to have dinner with Vision’s boss and his wife, leading to a classic comedic mix-up when Wanda had set up the entire evening as a romantic night to themselves. They are forced to scrape up a meal for their guests, which also includes funny moments of Wanda being terrible at cooking (even with her powers)—a chicken becomes a basket of eggs and lobsters fly the coup.
The episode includes what are clearly glitches or errors in reality, though they are mostly subtle in this episode. The show is peppered with confusion by Wanda and Vision as to how long they’d been married and where they moved from. The overall absence of the past contributes to the closed-in nature of the sitcom, where we have little reason so far to connect it to the larger universe. Vision discovers that his job purpose-less and no one at the company has any answer as to what the company actually is.
The best part of the episode comes, though, with the most serious glitch. At the dinner party, Vision’s boss begins choking on food. His wife, Wanda, and Vision all just sit and stare at him. The wife keeps saying jokingly, “Stop it!”, as if he were faking it. However, when you would expect that she quit thinking it was a joke, she keeps going. The wife’s words are repetitive and creepy, and the palpable tension in the scene can be cut with a knife. The boss eventually falls to the floor and Wanda commands Vision: “Help him”. Vision uses his powers to save him, but the boss and his wife simply return to their cheery selves and leave. The somewhat subtle disturbing moment completely rips you away from the happy sitcom, a welcome reminder of what we will start to run into down the line.
Paul Bettany truly shines in his sitcom role as Vision. Easily some of the funniest lines and moments come from his wacky demeanor and constant reassuring of others that he is, in fact, a regular human. He seems meant for the role, and in his moments I could almost see WandaVision as a pure sitcom with nothing else on the horizon. Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda surely holds her ground, though, and is a perfect counterpart to Vision. She’s more human, despite struggling to fit in as a non-super one, and Olsen captures those moments with ease.
The episode features only superficial uses of both Wanda and Vision’s powers, but it is exciting to anticipate how the show will showcase how powerful they are, particularly Wanda. It is a little disappointing that she did not get this treatment in the films, but having a strong spotlight on her now is exactly what the character needs to show her undeniable worth to the universe.
4.3 FLYING LOBSTERS OUT OF 5
Episode 1 was delightful and enjoyable. If you expected it to be a superhero experience like you are used to, you might be disappointed. Overall, the sitcom impressively funny and quality, with little need to rely on the background of the MCU. The episode is a tour de force that truly showcases what the MCU creative team can accomplish.
- When Wanda suggests a lavish breakfast and Vision replies, “I say, well I don’t eat food.”
- Vision going on an angry rant when his co-worker compliments him by calling him a “walking computer.” “I most certainly am not! I’m a regular carbon-based employee made entirely of organic material much like yourself.” *Slams down a pile of paper*
- Jones being fired for failing the boss’s dinner expectations with a 5-course meal, a string quartet, and a turtleneck.
- The all-knowing Toastmate 2000 commercial, coming to you from Stark Industries. “Forget the past, this is your future”.
- It’s mentioned that Wanda is Sokovian, something that could have been forgotten since her accent is missing.