Wednesday 3 February 2021

The Endgame in WandaVision

Following last week's exciting, but not entirely unexpected, twist, Marvel Studios has released a mid-season trailer for WandaVision on Disney+. Expect spoilers ahead for the decades-spanning sitcom homage.

Back in 2013, Netflix dropped the entire first season of House of Cards in one go and it inspired the first of many discussions with Andrew Lewin over the intervening years. Binge-viewing became part of our water-cooler pop culture lexicon.

However, there’s been pushback with some streaming services adopting a more traditional weekly format to build anticipation, social media discourse and lock-in subscription renewals in an increasingly saturated space.

WandaVision and Disney+ stablemate The Mandalorian have both been beneficiaries of this approach. But the former's courted controversy from casual fans who are taking the series at face value and impatiently bemoaning the lack of bombastic battles a la the big screen Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).

They can't see the wood for the trees or, more accurately, white picket fences of an alternate reality Westview. Unlike the splintering Star Trek franchise, fans are treated with respect and rewarded for their emotional investment.

We Interrupt This Broadcast begins in the wake of the unsnap in Avengers: Endgame and delivers a sucker punch as folks discover they've been in limbo for 5 years and loved ones have subsequently passed away during the Thanos Blip.

We experience firsthand Monica Rambeau's (Teyonah Parris) return in a way that wasn't possible in Spider-Man: Far From Home and learn the tragic loss of a fan-favourite character from Captain Marvel.

Trauma and tragedy stalk the hospital corridors with no simple superhero fix. All very meta in the midst of a life-threatening global pandemic and our shared trauma in lockdown. And, on a deeply personal note, I'm reminded of the life-changing traumas of my head injury in childhood and losing mum to complications arising from a uniquely medical matter.

The image of Vision's (Paul Bettany) reanimated corpse was nightmare-inducing as Wanda Maximoff's (Elizabeth Olsen's) nostalgic sitcom facade momentarily falls away revealing a brutal, ghoulish, reality.

Wanda's experienced the death of a loved one before. Her twin brother, Pietro AKA Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), was killed in Avengers: Age of Ultron and Wanda's magical powers have grown exponentially since then.

There's a dark mystery at play as Wanda's mental health further deteriorates before our eyes with seemingly prodigious consequences for the future of the MCU. As Nick Smith wrote previously, Bettany is great but I argue this is Olsen's show. She deftly flips from fun to frightening; no longer overshadowed by her Avengers teammates.

A traumatised superhero, trapped in a dangerous nostalgic reverie (something many of us can relate to in lockdown as I rewatch classic series from Blake's 7 to Worzel Gummidge by way of Grange Hill on BritBox), making WandaVision a subversive pop culture technicolour touchstone that will be mentioned in the same breath as Twin Peaks, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and more.

Wanda's both protagonist and antagonist in her own story, but who will triumph? Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness may hold the answer.

It's not all bleakness and the upcoming Halloween-themed episode inspired me to buy my first Funko Pops!, which look fantastic in-hand!

New episodes of WandaVision premiere every Friday exclusively on Disney+.

Do you think Wanda is the 'big bad' in Phase 4 or is someone else pulling the strings? Let me know in the comments below.

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