This review contains spoilers from WandaVision (2021).
Although the writing and acting are lacking at times, WandaVision truly shines in its final two episodes. Paul Bettany and Elizabeth Olsen, as expected, deliver outstanding performances throughout the series. In both the comedic early episodes that mimic the tone and style of series like The Dick Van Dyke Show or Malcolm in the Middle, and the final episodes where Wanda is forced to allow her fabricated husband and children in order to free the town of West View, Olsen and Bettany display a true mastery of their craft. In moments such as these, the writing for the series truly shines.
For the first time in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), we see the character development of Wanda and Vision as a pair, rather than two separate characters. Having only appeared in three MCU films before his untimely demise at the conclusion of Avengers: Infinity War, Vision (the android formed by Tony Stark from the union of the Mind Stone with an adamantium body that Ultron intended to be his own) was removed from the MCU before Bettany could properly stretch his legs in the role. His death was also accompanied by a diminishing of Wanda’s role in the MCU as the Infinity Saga drew to a close. Though Olsen’s performance was certainly worth noting in Endgame, there simply wasn’t enough screen time for her to properly portray the anguish and loss of a woman who had lost everything dear to her. WandaVision provides much-needed character development for both Vision and Wanda, particularly by showing the love that the two characters share.
However, just as with Westview, not everything is sunshine and roses with WandaVision. The series suffers from various issues, both in terms of production and narrative, that detract from the performances of its cast. One of the primary issues that WandaVision suffers from is its lack of a compelling villain. Director Hayward of S.W.O.R.D. serves as the primary antagonist throughout the first seven episodes, until Agatha Harkness reveals her true nature in the seventh episode. Throughout his brief time as the main villain for the series, Hayward’s character serves merely as strawman for the viewers to hate in lieu of Wanda, despite the fact that her actions are objectively more deplorable (the manipulation and isolation of an entire town’s population, for example).
We are never provided with proper context or an explanation for Hayward’s actions, leaving the viewers to fill in the narrative void themselves, at best, or in utter confusion over a character that would otherwise be one of the good guys, at worst. In the final two episodes, Agatha rises to the forefront with the promise of a compelling villain, but ultimately falls short, with little character development or screen time as Agatha. She, too, lacks the conviction and purpose of a character like Ultron or Thanos. This is in no part due to a lack of talent on the part of (Yale School of Drama alum!) Kathryn Hahn, DRA ’01. In fact, she delivered quite the performance from the opening episode until the final episode, through her transition from the nosy neighbor into a seemingly formidable villain. However, we are given only a short intro sequence to explain Agatha’s character in the eighth episode, with no context to convey who she is or what she really wants besides the cliche of “more power.” In any case, such motivations are simply too shallow to create a convincing or terrifying character.
The show also seems to fall short in terms of the extent to which it was expected to link the MCU to the multiverse, which would have led into Marvel’s phase four, the series of future projects that the MCU is expected to transition to following the conclusion of the Infinity Saga with Avengers: Endgame. Though the show is somewhat redeemed by its introduction of characters such as the Spectral Vision and Monica Rambeau (the latter of which is portrayed quite well by Teyonah Parris), it falls short in most other aspects. Although many fans believed that the arrival of Evan Peters’ Quicksilver represented a potential merger of the X-Men and Marvel universes, it seems that fans will have to wait. In an anticlimactic reveal that displeased many fans of the X-Men films and Quicksilver, viewers learn that Evan Peters’ character is not the real Quicksilver, but is instead just another poor soul enchanted to believe his is someone that he’s not.
Even discounting the many fans who will no doubt be disappointed not to see Evan Peters make a proper return as Quicksilver—his character having been much adored by fans of the X-Men films—Marvel also missed out on a chance to set up the upcoming Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Although the Sorcerer Supreme (Dr. Strange’s title as the preeminent sorcerer on Earth’s dimension of existence) is somewhat alluded to by Agatha in the final episode and there seems to be some indication that Wanda and Strange may team up or face off in the upcoming film, no concrete connections are made.
Despite the surface issues of WandaVision, the show represents an exciting step for the MCU and the beginning of phase four. Even though it suffers from narrative missteps, WandaVision is redeemed by its stellar cast and remains a very entertaining watch, while also providing character development for Wanda and Vision. Perhaps many of its issues, such as the lack of a compelling villain or the failure to introduce the multiverse as expected, can be resolved by changing one’s perspective. Truthfully, you could consider Wanda the primary antagonist throughout the series. One could hardly imagine a more compelling villain than a powerful witch who had lost everything dear to her several times over and used her powers to create an artificial reality where she can have the family she always wanted, even if it means the torment of an entire town’s citizens.
And perhaps that is where WandaVision shines most. The series truly does a compelling job of showing Wanda’s anguish after the events of Infinity War and Endgame. Viewing the series in that light allows one to empathize with the loss that Wanda has encountered. From the death of her parents in Sokovia when she was just a child, to the loss of her brother in Age of Ultron, to having to kill Vision only for him to be resurrected and killed by Thanos in front of her in Infinity War, Wanda has undergone severe emotional distress and trauma in her brief time on-screen and hasn’t had a chance to truly recover. The perspective that WandaVision provides allows us to properly see that pain and understand the true ramifications of these events for Wanda’s character, as well as the impact they will have on her future in the MCU.
However, not all hope is lost for her character and there is yet a chance of a happy ending. As Wanda and Vision say in their final moments together, “We have said goodbye before, so it stands to reason… We’ll say hello again,” giving viewers some hope that they may see the proper reunion of Wanda and Vision in some future MCU project.