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‘WandaVision’ Weekly: Last exit to Westview

WandaVision
Disney+
 

Welcome to WandaVision Weekly, your home for baseless speculation, crude humor and summaries of the new Marvel television show ‘WandaVision.’ This article contains spoilers for the show, so get out of here if you haven’t watched it. Also, it features a deranged editor talking to himself about a television show in a faux-interview format. It has been preserved in its entirety for accuracy and posterity, should said editor finally snap when he’s forced to rewatch ‘Iron Man 2’ for an article.

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Nick Johnston: Well, that was underwhelming.

 

Nick Johnston: What, did you just get out of a screening of Chaos Walking or something?

No, we already had our fill of Tom Holland floundering in a movie he’s ill-suited for earlier this month, remember? I’m actually talking about WandaVision right off the bat, for once.

It only took you seven weeks and six meta ledes to get there, but I’m honestly proud of you. Now we can get down to business and discuss this stuff without much delay, and I’ll able to punch you back into the shadow realm faster than I would have normally had we spent ten minutes making dick jokes. Because, really, isn’t that how everything Marvel-related ends?

 
 

I’m saddened that you thought so poorly of the time you spent a rhetorical device — Socrates would be disappointed in you. But yes, as “The Series Finale” shows, a big super-fight is how everything must end in the MCU. I think the exception to that was probably Doctor Strange and the “Dormammu, I’ve come to bargainscene. That was five years ago if you can believe it.

Jesus Christ, we’re getting old.

Just like big battles between flying people in the MCU!

Zing.

 
 

Anyway, we’ve got a few dust-ups here: fiercely-made up Agatha vs. leisurecore Wanda, imaginary Vision vs. White Vision, the kids vs. the military, and “Pietro” vs Monica. Oh, and we can’t forget about Darcy crashing the truck from last episode into the S.W.O.R.D. chief’s Humvee. None of them are particularly memorable?

Yeah, the beats feel… pretty weird. I imagine they had to do a lot of work later in the year on these episodes (provided they were shot in some sort of approximate order), so a lot of the conflict that might have been more physical was limited by the pandemic. But Marvel’s been slowly losing its touch with its fight scenes ever since Winter Soldier. On the other hand, I think this might have suffered from being so dragged out.

The Visions fighting is probably the most interesting of these little sub-conflicts, with the Pietro/Monica bit and its reveals perhaps being the funniest.

We’ll talk about the Bettany-off in a minute, but to be totally honest, I laughed pretty heartily when they revealed that Evan Peters was brought back for a boner joke. That’s the kind of thing that will make a certain type of stan pull a Principal Skinner and have to muscle-down that doubt in order to get through to the end of the episode.

 
 

You could practically hear a thousand fans say “Wait, I thought Shane Black was the guiding force behind Iron Man 3?”

Yeah, and it just shows off what a great comic talent Evan Peters is. The dude never really got his due outside of the Ryan Murphy-verse and it kind of sucks to realize that his time related to anything in Marvel is pretty much over.

His work here really elevated the mystery of the show, though, of course, he’s still coming in second to the MVP of this entire endeavor, Mr. Paul Bettany.

It’s one hundred percent thanks to him that The Vision fight is really surprisingly solid, especially when it gets down to philosophical brass tacks — I know some folks were frustrated by the Ship of Theseus stuff, but it’s a fun bit to toss in a debate between two androids. It’s even better as a call-back to the end of his confrontation with Ultron, though this time, he acts as a liberator rather than a mercy-killer. But Bettany’s work here is genuinely worthy of accolades here: he’s able to nail the shifting tones required for this type of parody-horror, and he even manages to stick the transition back to superheroics. It’s nice that they’ve given him the chance to come back in future installments, though I can’t imagine them being as interesting or compelling as the material he was given here and the choices he made with the character (and he needs a paint-job!).

 
 

Otherwise… Wanda and Agatha’s showdown really didn’t live up to the meager expectations that Marvel’s set for itself. They spend 10 minutes floating around chucking Hadoukens at each other like two move-spammers at an arcade, and though Wanda gets a cool new more comics-accurate outfit out of it, it just sort of tried my patience a little bit.

Poor Kathryn Hahn, too — being forced to wear that make-up and to live in anonymity in the real world as a “nosy neighbor” as her punishment for… trying to take power away from someone who doesn’t really know how to use it and recently enslaved an entire town of people? I can’t wait for people to make up “Agatha Was Right” shirts in time for whatever abbreviated comic-con season we have over the next year.

Wanda’s forgiveness arc seems a little convenient to me, as well. She’s done something that plenty of villains have done in other media — brainwashed an entire town to do her bidding — but, for whatever reason, she can’t be a villain or morally compromised character.

There must have been some sort of worry on the part of the people behind the scenes that the story’s central theme — one can move on from their all-consuming grief — would have been buried had the Scarlet Witch suffered any consequences for her actions. Weirdly enough, her actions here are a great justification for the Haywards of the world who want to use Bush-era war-on-terror doctrine in their dealings with superheroes. At least law enforcement made an attempt to capture Bucky after all the shit he pulled. Wanda’s just allowed to leave.

 
 

Yeah, the fact that she demands some sort of absolution from Monica before she sets off to her cabin in the woods is actually quite awkward in practice.

It undercuts the power of her final moments with Vision and her kids, who have all disappeared thanks to the Hex being done away with, and it’s just really weird, but probably done because she needs to get ready for Doctor Strange 2 whenever that comes out. Got a lot of studying from that Big Damn Book of Witch Shit she has to read.

Is there anything else important from this episode we should talk about?

Monica might be going to outer space next, thanks to the Skrull that showed up at the end of it. Boy, her time on the show was really truncated here, wasn’t it? I wish she’d been able to take down Agatha with Wanda or something. But I think her taking up the mantle of Captain Marvel is probably an alright development down the line, and that’s all I’ve really got to say about it.

So, what’s your final verdict on the show?

Well, I think it was fine. It was a lot of fun to spend a few weeks in this weird period of all of our lives consumed with something other than how much the world’s cruelty, and I think that’s all that Jac Schaeffer set out to do: make the most entertaining and stimulating TV show possible within the perimeters it was given. And on that front, I give her and Matt Shakman a hearty congratulations.

 
 

I was pretty disappointed, to be honest. I think I expected too much from everything, probably because we’ve been a year or so without any new tales in this universe — it really feels like we’re all still stuck in the immediate period right after Endgame and nothing has moved any further along.

It won’t for some time, too, given that Black Widow is a prequel. I’m excited for Falcon and Winter Soldier for the exact reasons you’re talking about: I want to see what the world looks like in the MCU outside of the European Union’s tourist spots. But you’re right about the stagnation.

It just feels like we’re running out of ways to tell this story, and the things that made it interesting are in direct competition with what they think their audience wants.

I think Feige’s true cinematic accomplishment wasn’t a small one — he provided proof that the Marvel Universe and its disparate aesthetic styles could live under the same cinematic roof, an especially heavy task back before he became the master of his domain and had the muscle to bend any and all filmmakers who signed up for the task to his will. The issue is that, after Avengers, the innovative strengths of genre-merging ultimately came secondary to the universe-building, with a few key exceptions — Guardians of the Galaxy is ultimately a James Gunn film, with only several acknowledgments to Feige’s primary goal. That’s why the Thanos scene in that film sticks out like such an ugly sore thumb: it’s out of place with the Corman-core pep, sarcasm, and earnestness that Gunn brought to the party. But, very clearly, by the time Age of Ultron hit, you knew what to expect from a Marvel film, and that’s part of the reason why they’re so successful financially — there’s no risk involved whatsoever. The reason they didn’t make a Pleasantville riff is that there’s no incentive to do so. The formula is what’s worth preserving.

Perhaps that’s best represented by the meme of White Vision saying “My primary objective is to crush the Vision” that’s been floating around. I think people were really excited by the stylistic break that WandaVision represented, and they were genuinely sort of bummed when it revealed itself to be a Feige production, after all, no matter who was in the way. And given that it was, somewhat, it disappointed them that all the features of it — like obvious world-expanding in the form of cameos — weren’t there.

Yeah, fans wouldn’t have shouted about Reed Richards or Mephisto or something for weeks on end if they hadn’t been primed to do so since 2008. It reminds me a lot of pro wrestling, honestly — you have pay-per-view events each year and occasionally you’ll get really exciting returns, especially if they’re being teased, like old man Edge returning at the 2020 Royal Rumble or something. So it’s understandable that if a fan, steeped in this sort of tradition begins to try and anticipate these surprises — could those five stars on the poster and the fact that the show is set in Chicago mean that CM Punk is joining up with AEW?? — and find themselves disappointed when it’s only Santana and Ortiz (who are fantastic characters in their own right) who make their way to the ring.

 
 

You really are damned if you do, damned if you don’t. What you see in the show is this uncertain compromise between ambition, success, and a desire for acclaim, and I do wonder if they flew a bit too high with their first true foray into television. And, again, I’m really how it would have been received had it come after The Falcon and The Winter Soldier or alongside a full set of films as originally planned– would people have been able to expect less of it? Would they have found it more courageous in a different context?

It’s useless to speculate about that, but there will probably be a rash of thinkpieces within five years’ time claiming that this was some sort of avant-garde art project rather than a superhero television show, and I think trying to paint it in that light is a disservice to the things it does well and overstates the success of the really rough aspects of the show. Again, taking all of this too seriously is something that comic fans have always struggled with, and that aspect has carried itself over nicely in its cinematic iterations as well.

So, we’re agreed: It was a fun experience, but probably one we’ll never revisit.

Yes, I think that’s absolutely fair. It’s why you and I typically don’t rewatch movies unless we haven’t seen them in decades. I’ll probably catch-up on a highlight reel of this on YouTube instead of watching it again if I ever desperately need to.

One final question: Do you think there will be a second season?

No. I think this is a true one-and-done. The concept can only go so far, anyway. What’s she going to do — find another town to enslave?

 
 

Fair enough.

So, yeah. Thank you so much for reading this column, everybody, and once again, our sincere apologies to Rob Bricken. And you know what?

What?

I think I like you, after all.

Awww.

See you back here for The Falcon and The Winter Soldier in a few weeks?

 
 

It’s a date. See you then, folks.