Written by: Molly Scully
Spoiler Alert: This article contains spoilers about the television show WandaVision, available to stream on Disney+
Marvel Studios has done it: they’ve entered the realm of TV with their first in a series of shows, WandaVision. I was happily surprised by their first foray into television. Fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) will know the superheroes Wanda and Vision from their previous Marvel movie appearances. Wanda is a human female with the ability to manipulate matter, while Vision is a form of artificial intelligence that has become almost human over the course of the MCU. After Vision’s death in the movie Avengers: Infinity War, fans believed they would never see his character again… that is, until news of this show. Wanda and Vison are romantically involved. Needless to say, this is an odd romantic pairing. Wanda is a young witch while Vision is not technically human, and is supposed to be dead. As a result, I was intrigued to see what MCU would do to center a television show around their strange relationship.
WandaVision brings together elements of romance, comedy, and grief. This is due to creator and head writer Jac Schaeffer’s ingenious idea to show the characters going through the decades in episodes, starting with the 1950s. Wanda chooses the decade’s visual iconography by referencing all of the shows she used to watch with her parents. We soon find out that Wanda is using her ability to manipulate people and matter in the town of Westview, and she is forcing the people in the town to look and act however she wants. Meanwhile, the government agents outside of Westview can see what is going on through monitors. Because Wanda makes the town and her interactions recreate old TV shows she used to watch with her family as a kid, she calls her own reimagining Wandavision.
There are three other previous MCU characters featured outside watching the show and trying to figure out what is going on. They are trying to help the people trapped in the town by Wanda, but first they have to figure out how to get into the town since Wanda has built a forcefield around it. Those characters are Monica from Captain Marvel, a character we originally saw only as a kid; Darcy from Thor, an accomplished astrophysicist hired to try and figure out what is going on; and Jimmy Woo from Ant-Man, an FBI Agent who has helped other Avengers in past MCU appearances.
Monica, Darcy, and Jimmy Woo really bring the show together. Since they are watching WandaVision on monitors from a government base outside of Westview, we hear their commentary on the show. On the surface, they enjoy watching the show, but on a deeper level, they need to figure out how to help the people trapped in the town. The only way to do that is to get Wanda to stop using her powers.
It’s a very interesting idea to write a television show with metafiction; characters within the show are watching part of the show. This technique is used often in various films, and this show in particular added to the weirdness that is Wanda and Vision. Both have odd powers that neither them nor the audience fully understand. That uncertainty was reflected by the commentary made by Monica, Darcy, and Jimmy Woo. It also allowed those characters to see that Wanda was desperate for help in dealing with Vision’s death, and the only way to save the town of Westview was for them to get Wanda to move on.
Even though this show is fun and it has the classic superhero movie action scenes, there is a depressing elephant in the room that Vision is dead, and Wanda somehow brought him back to life because she cannot accept the fact that he is gone forever. We have to watch Wanda go through the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally, acceptance. Only in this show, Wanda has superpowers that make her grieving process much more volatile and dangerous for the people around her. Unfortunately, regular people can also hurt others, just without the use of superpowers; sometimes we hurt the people around us when we don’t know how to deal with our own feelings in a healthy way.
It is beautifully acted as we see Wanda go through grief. Not only do we watch her eventually accept that Vision is dead and she can’t be with him, but we revisit how she dealt with her brother Pietro’s death. After dealing with multiple losses, she’s had enough and denies the fact that Vision’s death is real, which is so relatable. No one wants to keep having to grieve for the people they love. Wanda tells Vision “it’s just like this wave crashing over me again and again. It knocks me down and when I try to stand up, it just comes for me again. And I can’t… It’s gonna drown me.” Just give these writers and Elizabeth Olsen their Emmys now! Everyone wants to bring their loved ones back, but ultimately Wanda relinquishes her love and sets the people in the town of Westview free, showing that despite her flaws, she’s still an Avenger, so she puts the needs of everyone else above her own.