WandaVision Season 1 Episodes 1-2 Review

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After the successful launch of The Mandalorian, expectations are high for Marvel’s attempt at a Disney+ live action streaming series. Whereas The Mandalorian may have saved Star Wars for a decade and made Disney+ a real competitor for Netflix, WandaVision is an attempt to keep Marvel relevant in a post-Infinity War, real-pandemic world.

Episodes 1 and 2 of the fledgling series have Wanda Maximoff (Scarlett Witch) – played by Elizabeth Olson – and Vision – played by Paul Bettany – acting as husband and wife in a not-quite-reality of changing TV sitcoms. If you’ve seen The Truman Show, this strikes similar vibes, albeit with a more virtual reality feel and a bit of BioShock style horror thrown in to boot. Clues about their world being an empty façade begin to appear in the episodes, and Wanda is clearly discovering that not all is as it seems.

For the most part, the series seems to take off the runway with ease. The production values are excellent, the pastiche of TV sitcoms from different eras are mostly well-done (although, the Bewitched style is pretty well lost after the first few minutes of Episode 2), and the ensemble cast is doing a wonderful job. Elizabeth Olson seems to be really at home in this role, and does it all so well that it’s easy to imagine her being cast in a full series of 60s/70s sitcom parody. In fact, she does this with such flawless execution that I dare say she’s better at this than playing the part of a superhero in the MCU.

Not all is perfect, though. Paul Bettany is required to do quite a bit of Dick Van Dyke slapstick comedy in these first two episodes, and frankly he’s not up to the task. I’m not sure it’s a fair ask though. The inflatable flailing arm tube man style motions that a physical comedian is adept to perform are far outside the realm of anything he’s done before, and as a result some of the humor just doesn’t land. While the laugh track is meant to hit home on the pastiche, when the jokes are completely absent, it’s a bit nauseating. Maybe that’s why sitcoms ditched them years ago anyway. So while Olson nails her role, Bettany’s character comes across as weird… and not in an endearing way.

Another issue is that Bettany’s makeup and facial costume just doesn’t work in black and white. It looks like he has growths at some points. But maybe even stranger is that when color does finally appear, he looks all the more bizarre after having seen him in black and white. Whereas the zany colors work in superhero movies, the fluorescent makeup is off-putting and cheesy in a world that is less Amazing Spiderman and more Leave it to Beaver.

Reviewing the first two episodes of such a strange series is difficult. The problem is that these set-up episodes are meant to give clues as to where the whole thing is going — if the end of the first season is excellent, these episodes will be viewed in a totally different light. However, at this point, Olson is carrying hard and the intrigue is not quite there yet to maintain interest. It’s also going to be tough pulling for any other characters if they’re all just illusions of reality. As of now, the only two characters we can believe are real in any sense are Wanda and Vision.

Well, except for David Schwimmer’s Mustache Man. He steals every scene he’s in, whether he’s real or not. Since we can’t keep doing Stan Lee cameos in future Marvel movies, it’s time to beg Kevin Feige for Schwimmer Mustache Man making at least one appearance in everything Marvel from henceforth.

So for now, WandaVision scores for the first two episodes:

C+

Let us know what you think and what you’re score would be in the comments below!


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