It wouldn’t be exaggerating to say that everyone and their mother has seen Marvel’s latest release, WandaVision, starring Elizabeth Olsen (yes, she’s related to those Olsens), Paul Bettany, and Kathryn Hahn. It’s Marvel’s first TV show, one of four coming to Disney Plus this year, and has become an overwhelming success. The show has spawned hundreds of theories and has brought in many new fans to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but there’s something else that makes the show just so good. If you haven’t seen the show, or aren’t caught up, stop reading here! There will definitely be spoilers.
If you’ve seen every Marvel movie or even just a few, chances are you’ve noticed that the writers and directors follow a very set formula. There’s the introduction to the hero, the call to action (usually caused by a mentor’s death), various challenges that lead to a low point, transformation, and rebirth, followed by a dramatic third-act battle and mysterious post credits scene. With all the action and set up, there’s hardly any time to set up side characters’ backgrounds, focus on love stories, or even the consequences of being a superhero. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially since the formula seems to be working. Still, it has been disadvantageous to some of the Marvel Cinematic Universe side characters who don’t have their own movie, like Wanda and Vision. For most fans, especially those who don’t follow the comics, their love story in Infinity War came a bit out of left field, and neither of their characters or their backgrounds was ever really explained. Their character development was more implied, especially for Wanda, who suffered lots of trauma throughout the series, so it was surprising that Marvel was focusing a show centering around the two main characters.
However, WandaVision quickly became an unexpected delight. Critics and audiences sang its praises and described it as different from anything Marvel has ever done before. And while that’s certainly true for a variety of reasons, like the fact that this is the MCU’s first attempt at a television show or that it focuses on two characters that in past films have been relegated to the sidelines, what truly makes WandaVision different from the other MCU films is the story being told is quite different. Wanda can’t simply punch (or in her case magic) her way out of this one.
Throughout the movies, Wanda’s character has experienced tremendous loss, losing her parents, brother, and finally the love of her life, which is where the audience leaves her. However, unlike in the previous films, where Wanda primarily processes her grief off-screen, the blow of watching Vision be killed is extremely fresh. The audience watches Wanda deny this grief by creating an entire reality for herself, based on popular sitcoms she watched as a child. The amount of action in WandaVision (so far, at least, because I’m writing this before the season finale) is uncharacteristically low for Marvel. Instead, viewers get to see Wanda continuously deny her grief at a high cost, as well as create even more problems for herself by “resurrecting” Vision and creating two sons that she’ll (probably) lose.
During the series, Wanda begins slowly coming to terms with her grief and her powers as a witch (with the help of the insidious and hilarious Agatha Harkness), which seem to be connected. Wanda struggles with the fact that you can’t just run from your problems, or in her case, quarantine a town with chaos magic and turn each day into a classic sitcom. This is what makes WandaVision different and more appealing to wider audiences: her grief and loss is not a physical threat that she can easily get rid of, but instead must work out and deal with like any regular, ordinary, non-super person.