All is not what it seems

All is not what it seems

Review: WandaVision
Starring: Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, Kathryn Hahn, Teyonah Parris, Randall Park, and Kat Dennings

In the event that you’ve been living under a rock, or simply avoiding TV spoilers on Twitter, WandaVision is the newest television show from Marvel, streaming on Disney Plus. The show combines an American sitcom style with a dark fantasy narrative.

The premise behind WandaVision is easy enough to describe, but difficult to grasp at first without being disoriented. The show features Wanda/The Scarlet Witch and The Vision living together in a suburban dream home, with each episode taking on the style of a different decade of American sitcoms. The first episode, for example, resembles 1950s shows, with The Vision trying to keep up the façade of being a human worker angling for a promotion. Latter episodes take a number of tropes from their own decades. The 2000s episode, for example, draws on the popular mockumentary style made famous in that decade, with the actors’ pieces to camera fitting in nicely.

As the show progresses, the viewer garners the impression that all is not as it seems and that an altogether different reality is slowly breaking in. Beneath the veneer of the peaceful idyllic picket-fence neighbourhood, there seem to be whispers that people do not trust Wanda. All the while, the question is there as to who is responsible for the strange visitors, and how some characters seem to know that they’re in a show. There’s also the question as to how the Vision is even alive, given that the character’s fate was sealed by Thanos in Infinity War.

As all of this might suggest, WandaVision is a show that takes a number of deliberately disparate elements and throws them together into a surreal mix. It’s a story where the sitcom setting and trappings from past TV clash with the constant feeling of dread.

WandaVision is visually spectacular, with special attention given to ensuring that each episode has subtle nods to shows from years gone by. Long-term Marvel comics readers will also find enough Easter Eggs to tide them over until April.

Driving all of this is a cast that fleshes out the material, drawing from the acting styles of the given decade that the episode takes place in. Elizabeth Olsen shows a wide range as the protagonist, while Paul Bettany plays up to the strangeness of the role. Perhaps the show stealer here, however, is Kathryn Hahn, who plays the couple’s odd neighbour Agatha.

If there can be a complaint, it’s that the show’s wonderful weirdness is reigned in a little too early by a revelation in the fourth episode. Given how impressive the setup is, and the ways that the show initially hints as to what is really going on under the surface, the intrigue could have been sustained for a few more episodes (or the entire first season).

In saying that, the sixth episode of WandaVision has a major reveal that may have major implications for the future of Marvel’s franchises, as a certain forbidden door is opened. More weirdness can be expected, and that is a good thing here.

For Christians, there is plenty to note while watching WandaVision. While the show does not explore faith per se, there is more to consider. The way that the show takes a seemingly idyllic suburban setting where people put on a false face and pretend all is right with the world is a reminder of the false consciousness the likes of Brueggemann argue the church is tasked with calling out as part of its prophetic vocation. To suggest that all is not right with the world, and to query as to who is responsible, is a task not best left to fictional Avengers.

WandaVision is streaming now on Disney Plus.

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