For many of us who have been reading Marvel Comics for most of our lives, the two heroes most synonymous with the Avengers are not Iron Man, Captain America, or Thor, but two characters whose stories and relationship took center stage in the series. With Cap, Iron Man, and Thor, any fan could follow their adventures in their stand-alone series and in numerous cross-overs and guest appearances in other Marvel Universe titles, but if you wanted to know what was going on with The Vision and Scarlet Witch in any given month, you had better pick up a copy of the latest issue of The Avengers.
This is why many fans who grew up reading about the unique relationship between a mutant witch and a synthezoid constructed by the Avengers arch-rival Ultron were in many ways disappointed with their introduction into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. While the “big three” of the Avengers were adapted to the big screen fairly well (and were also well-known to those watching the films due to their individual films and sequels), The Vision and Scarlet Witch were thrown into an already packed Avengers: Age of Ultron film, leaving no room to get to know or care about yet another two superpowered individuals.
And while we did get to see them display their powers and grow a bit as individual characters in Captain America: Civil War and Infinity War or Endgame, things didn’t improve much in terms of making the couple into the “star-crossed lovers” we knew them to be. If time had been spent to develop their relationship on screen, the “death” of Vision would have certainly elicited stronger responses from viewers who truly believed that they loved each other.
If this was one of your personal pet peeves with the portrayal of The Vision and Scarlet Witch in the MCU, the “magical world” of television may be able to provide the antidote to your blues (or reds), through the Disney+ series WandaVision.
WandaVision is of course the first in a slew of television series set directly in the MCU (to a much greater extent than Netflix’s Marvel Knights series or ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) and in terms of a first entry, the series proves to offer something different to fans of the films: a slow burn quirky mystery. But mystery is only a small element of the first two episodes, as the much talked about sitcom framing device is the genre of choice here, and thankfully, it works due to the performances of Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany.
Olson and Bettany finally get a chance to develop the chemistry they lacked in the films through the tropes of the early 1950’s sitcom, with the straight-laced, clumsy husband and the witty, resourceful wife on display. Bettany’s Dick Van Dyke to Olsen’s Mary Tyler Moore (with a dose of Lucile Ball and Elizabeth Montgomery thrown in on occasion) are not out of place in the world of the sitcom, although something is certainly amiss in Westview. Luckily however, the focus is not on the mysterious set-up or the objects that colorfully “bleed” through into this Truman Show world; the focus is on creating an actual sitcom that authentically captures the essence of the genre without irony.
Director Matt Shakman directed 43 episodes of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and his experience with modern sitcoms is essential in setting up the story and the conventions of the classic comedies of yesteryear. Because Shakman constructs the episodes as black and white sitcoms first (with the laugh track, classic confusion and misunderstanding between husband and wife, and the overall presence of a sweet, innocent romance), when the elements that will send people to internet message boards for theories and easter eggs appear, they land effectively.
In terms of the bigger picture, the hints are enough over the course of the first two episodes, but viewers are also not obnoxiously hit over the head with them (we’ll leave that for the people who will dissect the “theories” on the world wide web). That robot-faced toaster was made by Stark Industries? Was that watch a Baron Von Strucker timepiece? Was that a S.W.O.R.D symbol on the radio? Yes, they were, but it does not distract from the performances or pace of the WandaVision.
While critics have been impressed with WandaVision, it will be interesting to see how younger MCU fans react to it (it is filmed in black and white after all, which usually sends anyone under 30 running for cover). But if you are looking for an atypical start to the television extension of the Marvel Universe, and you longed for a deeper examination of the lynchpins of those classic Avengers stories from the source material, you may just be in luck.