Sunday, January 17, 2021

REVIEW: 'WandaVision' - Wanda & Vision Embrace Domestic Bliss and Sitcom Conventions in 'Filmed Before a Live Studio Audience'

Disney+'s WandaVision - Episode 1.01 "Filmed Before a Live Studio Audience"

Wanda and Vision struggle to conceal their powers during dinner with Vision's boss and his wife.

In 2019, the television industry aired 532 scripted shows across numerous outlets. The way people consume content now is different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, it's less necessary to provide ample coverage of each episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site provides shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the series premiere of Disney+'s WandaVision.

"Filmed Before a Live Studio Audience" was written by Jac Schaeffer and directed by Matt Shakman

The Marvel brand is undergoing a bit of an evolution on television. The film and TV sides of the studio have largely been kept separate over the last decade. The executives loved talking about how everything was connected. However, it was rare whenever the TV side of things was just as pivotal to the development of the extended cinematic universe as the films. The various Marvel shows still have solid track records. That mostly came from them being self-contained stories that worked outside of the world that was being depicted on the big screen. And now, those two worlds are colliding in a major way for Disney+. The executives are now working as one overall unit. That means various characters from the films are going to be the stars of their own shows on the streaming service. It's a way to further showcase the overall stacked list of talent that has been affiliated with this universe for awhile. Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany were largely relegated to the supporting ensemble in the films. Their characters - Wanda Maximoff and Vision - were certainly important to the overall plot at various points. However, they weren't the heroes the films were ultimately centered around. In fact, Vision was one of the few characters who seemingly didn't come back to life during the events of Avengers: Endgame. That immediately makes it curious why he is now alive in this series. And yet, this show wants to take the audience out of the familiar element. It's different than any other project produced under the Marvel banner. In fact, it's an homage to the great and storied history of television. This premiere proves itself as a love letter to the classic sitcoms of decades long ago. The premise is simple. However, it's very affectionately told with the execution revealing that everyone involved is telling a story in a unique way. Wanda and Vision have become the classic couple at the center of a '50s or '60s sitcom. They live vague lives - with Vision having no clue what the company he works for actually does. But that also lends itself to the premise where these shows shot in black-and-white pushed forward a certain ideal of domestic bliss without worrying too much about the world beyond one's doorstep. It's comforting while still presenting challenges to the couple who live in this life. On top of that, Wanda and Vision have incredible powers. She has magic that presents itself mostly as telepathy here. Meanwhile, he is a synthetic being who can phase through objects and doesn't have to eat. Their problems extend out of them trying to live double lives in suburbia. He wants to impress his new boss in order to get a promotion. Meanwhile, they are confused about a date on the calendar and chaos ensues. Again, the plot is simplistic. That too represents an homage to this form of classic television. It wasn't meant to be absolutely life-changing. It was an easy viewing of comedy that shows the overall charms that life is suppose to entail. Of course, the audience has the awareness that none of this should be as it currently exists. Vision is suppose to remember everything. And yet, he and Wanda seem to have no recollection of their lives before this moment in time. They have a basic understanding of who the other is. They are in a loving relationship that they embrace fiercely. But they can't answer basic questions when presented with them. That is concerning for a moment. That concern is also dramatized in a way that breaks the conceit of this world. It's just a brief moment. The action is no longer depicted as a multi-camera sitcom. Instead, it cuts to dramatic close ups of the various characters at this dinner as Mr. Hart chokes. Wanda has to tell Vision to intervene before he actually does. And then, everything suddenly snaps back into place. This world appears to be fragile. The comforts that Wanda and Vision have are seemingly enough for them though. They find peace and happiness over making special memories together. It doesn't have to be a dramatic, life-saving disaster either. Their presence in each other's lives is comforting. But again, the audience should be very suspicious of the premise of this world. It is a love letter to the medium Marvel is now boldly exploring with the characters seen in the feature films. However, it's story has the potential to tell something dramatically new as well. Only time will tell just how bold the creative team is willing to go as it explores these new horizons. There still needs to be substance underneath all of this stylization. Wanda and Vision could be trapped in this world with someone carefully monitoring them. The borders will have to break down further to show the true extent of the invasion. That specificity will likely come soon. Right now, it's simply a pleasure to see the joy that comes from these characters who are so often dealing with the weight of saving the entire world.