Dave: Hello and welcome to Comic Book Herald’s WandaVision review! Ken Laster and Sara Century are joining me to crystallize final thoughts on the debut of the MCU on Disney+, talk about theories & Scarlet Witch, and examine where the MCU is heading with The Falcon and The Winter Soldier dropping on March 19, 2021!
Please note, expect spoilers for the full series, as we discuss it in detail.
Check out our review of episodes one and two to see if we got anything right!
Ken: In the end, it was a third act floaty fight scene all along.
Sara: This is when I was like, “oh, right, we’re in the MCU.”
Dave: I’ll admit, after all the unrestrained potential of what WandaVision *could* become, and all the wild speculation about who could really be pulling the strings, I love that the simplest solution became truer and truer as the series progressed. As did the friendly reminder that, yes, this is still very much part of the MCU as we’ve known it since 2008. WandaVision is a show about Wanda Maximoff learning her powers are connected to magic, truly becoming the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Scarlet Witch (which means something more significant than comics history would tell us), and getting her first official costume (shouts to Wanda with the good hair). It’s comically simple origin basics, but wrapped in such a well constructed package, with a clear tonal focus on one woman’s trauma.
Ken: I agree. I respect that in the end, it was a more or less focused story on that grief, and avoided the brick building that fans expected. The moments where that grief is explored are by far the strongest. Despite becoming a meme, the “love persevering” line was one that genuinely hit me and my friends watching, and that emotional resonance continues in the finale. Wanda and Vision’s goodbyes were incredibly strong for me. The creeping inevitability of the hex dropping and Bettany and Olsen acting out that anticipation was excellent. In a universe where romance and big emotions largely feel like an afterthought, WandaVision excelled in not just breaking the visual form, but also the emotional sterility in this franchise.
Dave: Part of the appeal of migrating these movie stars to TV – remember, the notion of this happening with any consistency was not in the cards as recently as, oh I don’t know, Agents of SHIELD – is the opportunity to really develop supporting players that don’t get as much MCU screen time. Civil War and Infinity War did very little to make me care deeply about the MCU Wanda or Vision, but WandaVision uses the space to do that successfully. I’m absolutely swept up in the emotion of their fantasy dissolving, and good grief, don’t even get me started on the House of M style cube-disassembling kids.
Sara: Everyone that worked on this show brought their A-game, and it’s impossible to ignore that. It was expertly assembled to make a funny, smart, compassionate, and weird love letter to American Television, and I definitely cried. The last episode nailed the comic book weirdness of The Vision, and that silhouette of Wanda in her more comic book inspired costume design – was everything. Watching her finally become the Scarlet Witch after years of MCU movies was very satisfying for me. *Cut to the ‘I Love Wanda’ mug from Episode Seven*
Dave: I’m sure this is infuriating to many fans (evergreen MCU sentence opener!), but WandaVision emulating and manipulating the puzzlebox TV method by making nearly every mystery a red herring is kind of genius.
FoX-Men Quicksilver showing up, and Evan Peters playing the speedster from across the multiverse, only to make that part of Agatha All Along? And to double down so that Evan Peters was a *literal bohner*. That’s such a slap in the face of the fans connecting the dots between comics, MCU news, and reckless speculation. And you know what? Good for the showrunners! They threw everyone off the scent, told exactly the story they wanted, and set up weeks of nonstop engagement & discussion.
I have nothing against fan theory and speculation (I’m even, uh, a guilty part of the community), but I do ultimately prefer stories where fans are less likely to predict many of the outcomes. The MCU is less interesting to me if I can say “Well in comics history X,Y,Z happens, so we’re probably looking at these storylines,” and be right.
Ken: I have to confess a dark ritual I like to do, which is to go to r/marvelstudiosspoilers and read the “leaks” the day after an episode and just revel in the fantasy. I personally am not as hard on theory culture as a lot of people, I kind of have fun with it and trying to piece out how the MCU is going to riff on source material is occasionally fun for me as a fan of the comics, and more specifically stories that are able to pull off wild continuity deep dives that retain emotional impact (@Al Ewing).
However, it is too easy for me to forget that this billion dollar franchise does not exist in a bubble and that many people go to theory crafting to find out the *next big franchise* and ignoring the story being told. It’s a rough tightrope and the form WandaVision went for in terms of being a show that looked like one thing but was doing another and the week to week release only led to that more. The MCU is known to use each installment as a building block to the universe but I think the big fault of the conspiracy theorists is that Marvel’s storytelling is usually a lot simpler than what they think it will be.
Dave: While we’re here: The preposterous X-Men theory cycle surrounding this show (mutants are confirmed in the MCU! Magneto is going to cameo! Herb is Mister Sinister (ok that one’s mine)) swung and missed so hard. Step back for a moment, though, and consider whether it seems likely that the biggest entertainment franchise in the world would roll out their most popular new toys – characters that don’t have a single movie or TV series even announced yet in Marvel Phase 4 – in an unrelated TV series. Of course that wasn’t going to happen!
Sara: Woulda been sick, though.
Sara: Yes and no. There is a lot to love. The way Wanda takes things on herself and refuses to confide in others is one of her comic book characteristics that they truly nailed. It’s great to see her come into her own with this incredible power she has. Her character beats are great, and it’s easy to empathize with her.
For me, anytime you delve into Wanda’s MCU backstory, the changes made to the character that don’t really work are the most glaring. The whole Sokovia thing is more and more ridiculous, and what we lost out on with Wanda’s narrative becomes obvious. Wanda’s Jewish and Roma heritage is so important to the text specifically because it links her stories with cultures that have been historically persecuted. Here, the bombing of her home is more a thing that happened as a circumstance of fate, and we lose something in that telling. As much as I feel fondly towards the Elizabeth Olsen Scarlet Witch, it was harder in the last two episodes than ever to ignore the conservative overtones that casting a non-Romani actor in the role allowed for.
Dave: Very good points. On the macro level, I was ultimately impressed with how WandaVision handled Wanda’s role in creating Westview (with one exception). Instead of Wanda succumbing to possession (Avengers: Nights of Wundagore), brainwashing (West Coast Avengers: Vision Quest), or just absolutely losing her s**t (Avengers Disassembled/House of M), WandaVision honestly works to sell the *lifetime* of trauma and grief that understandably pours out of this woman. Episode 8 in particular makes this all work, utilizing the flashback structure through Wanda’s life to successfully explain how Wanda gets to the emotional space of making Westview happen.
Ken: Looking at the question of who WandaVision did right by, I have to pick at who it did dirty. Particularly in the finale, the crew from the outside, Jimmy Woo, Darcy, and Monica really get the short end, primarily in terms of screen time. Monica more so than others. Charles Pulliam Moore and Stephanie Williams go into it more succinctly than I could, but the finale really let down Black viewers watching for Monica, and falls into the same traps that the MCU put her mother into in Captain Marvel.
Monica feels like more of a character, with her own grief and superpowers, but ultimately she is forced into a stereotypical role to absolve the white lead of any and all guilt with her boundless empathy, with none of the support in return. She even goes so far as to take bullets from authorities for this white lady’s imaginary children, despite the kids being able to handle themselves. This endless (mostly unearned) support and allyship Monica provides to Wanda occurs, in the context of the series, after being puppeted and made to essentially be a racial character, but still she is made to be the one to offer forgiveness. This feels like a rant in the context of the series at large, but to Black fans who have been excited to see Monica Rambeau come to life, and have given a lot of leeway to WandaVision for her portrayal, to have this be her end point is incredibly disappointing.
Dave: This highlights something I wasn’t sure how to articulate, which is that episode nine ends and Wanda still has immense amounts of damage to atone for. She *tortured* a whole town for an extended period of time. This is only dealt with in the smallest of ways in the final episode, and honestly I still have questions about the details. Why couldn’t kids come out until that one Halloween episode (and more horrifically, how the hell did they survive?). I get Monica’s empathy in connecting with Wanda’s loss, but that wholehearted forgiveness as if on behalf of the town did not feel right to me.
Ken: I wish there was more sense of closure for Westview citizens and Wanda. I cannot imagine being straight up tortured by an Avenger. Someone who was there for a day forgives her, and she flies off with no accountability. I think I respect it as Wanda is a very ambiguous character when it comes to her deeds, but I’d rather Monica’s attempt at comfort not be there. If she’s going to live with that stain, let her live with it a bit more.
Sara: I’m glad we’ll be seeing Monica’s story continue with hopefully a lot more focus in Captain Marvel 2, because the casting is perfect and obviously people want her in her own series. For the second post-credits scene, all I can say is that, for all the standard MCU problems with the show, there are moments where they just knock it out of the park. The weird duality that makes Wanda so compelling is at the forefront of the scene, and as a Wanda megafan, I thought it was great. Such a good, classic Maximoff family cliffhanger.
Ken: I am not the foremost expert on WandaLore but I am nearly certain those disembodied voices mean that the twins will be back for the Young Avengers team that is not so subtly being built in this Phase. As for the Skrull…I’m kind of sick of the Skrulls…They are starting to be a built in twist and they aren’t as fun to look at as their comic counterparts without their little widowspeak hats.
Dave: Yeah, given we know from Young Avengers that Billy and Tommy are very much a part of the Marvel tapestry, it’s no surprise they’re not gone gone. Nonetheless, I’m glad to hear their voices because *cries in the key of Dad*. To me, the interesting question is where the kids wound up. I’m also quite interested in Wanda reading that Darkhold, getting real good at magic, and seemingly astral projecting and making tea at the same damn time, something I don’t think even the Sorcerer Supreme could do! Steve’s always just laying around taking inappropriate naps while he astrals.
The repetition of Skrulls in post-credits scenes (Far From Home, WandaVision, and obviously Nick Fury’s space set-up in Captain Marvel) is weirdly ambiguous. Presumably this is all building to Secret Invasion, but I really have no idea what shape that reference takes in the MCU, where these Skrull allies are effectively working for Fury (or so I assume). Plus, we aren’t that close to Disney+ Secret Invasion dropping (there’s a lot of other stuff that needs to happen first). I’m sure there’s a plan, but a super long con of Skrulls in high places feels oddly disconnected from the center of the MCU right now.
Dave: I don’t think WandaVision reinvented the art form, but I already feel like I’m going to miss the stylistic choices and ambition in the upcoming Falcon and Winter Soldier and Loki. The gimmick of wholeheartedly mimicking sitcoms through the ages was *really* effective, and remains a huge reason why the first three episodes felt like such a rush.
Ken: Overall, I don’t think my opinion will be shocking, but the show held my interest the strongest when it was the furthest away from the MCU norm in terms of visuals, formats, and story focuses. As the production value focused on faithfully recreating old sitcoms faded, the focused story on grief is what brought me back in and I’m glad that this type of story got told with these characters in this serial format.
Dave: For me, the worst episode of the series was the fourth. Now partly, I felt this was because it insisted on handholding and overexplaining every element of the previous three episodes, but as the series progressed, it also became emblematic of my biggest issue. Life in Westview? Interesting. Life outside Westview in the tiny military tent/farm ecosystem? Snooooooze.
Sara: It was exactly as good and as annoying as I expected it to be. With every downside, there’s an upside. The Agnes is Agatha reveal was a delight, despite my annoyance at the stereotypical imagery around witches and the cartoonish Disney Villain TM conclusion for her. Monica’s ending is a huge disappointment, but I was impressed that they did such great character work with her in the middle episodes. Darcy Lewis and Jimmy Woo were great additions, and I hope that we see Emma Caulfield in the MCU again. I have loved The Vision and the Scarlet Witch comics since I was a kid, so this was a personal series in a way that most MCU properties haven’t been for me, but it’s not without its disappointments.
Where Does WandaVision Rank on Comic Book Herald’s MCU Power Rankings?
One easy way for me to put WandaVision in perspective is to rank it against the rest of Marvel’s output during the era of the MCU. And while I don’t expect many to perfectly align with my personal rankings (quickly replacing the Meyers-Briggs to help us understand each other), I was honestly a bit surprised to find that it’s very easy to put WandaVision right around my top 10. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed WandaVision, but until the final two episodes, I wasn’t ready to call it great.
The biggest debate I have here is whether I think 9 episodes of WandaVision is better than three seasons of Netflix Daredevil. Despite the excitement I felt binging the first three episodes of Daredevil season one, or Jessica Jones season one, I do think WandaVision is ultimately a much tidier package, with substantially less waste.
Tier 1: The Best
1) Avengers: Infinity War
2) Avengers: Endgame
3) Jessica Jones (Season 1)
4) Thor: Ragnarok
Tier 2: Great
5) Guardians of the Galaxy
6) Captain America 3: Civil War
7) Black Panther
8) Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier
11) Daredevil (Seasons 1,2,3)
Tier 3: Good
12) Spider-Man: Far From Home
13) Spider-Man: Homecoming
14) Iron Man
15) Captain America: The First Avenger
16) Captain Marvel
Tier 4: Perfectly Average
17) Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
18) Iron Man 3
19) Ant-Man & The Wasp
20) Avengers 2: Age of Ultron
Tier 5: Mixed Feelings
23) Doctor Strange
24) Luke Cage (Seasons 1 & 2)
25) Agent Carter (Seasons 1 & 2)
26) The Punisher (S1, S2)
27) Thor 2: The Dark World
28) Cloak & Dagger (Season 1)
Tier 6: I’ll Only Watch With a Comic In Hand
31) Agents of SHIELD
32) Iron Fist Season Two
33) Incredible Hulk
Tier 7: Nope
34) Iron Man 2
35) Jessica Jones (Season Two)
36) Hay fever
37) Iron Fist Season 1
38) Poop in the tub
39) Neighbors who don’t understand social distancing