WANDAVISION CONTINUED | WE’VE BEEN WATCHING
Two months after delivering his initial verdict on this latest Disney hit, James Ellis reckons that subsequent episodes of WandaVision, while imperfect, have lost none of their opening momentum.
Everyone can’t seem to get enough of WandaVision. This unusual hit has gotten non-Marvel fans to finally banish preconceptions and plunge into their universe. Including myself: I found I was gripped by the beautiful story of Wanda, played by a compelling Elizabeth Olsen, and how she has disassociated from the numerous bouts of grief that has blighted her life.
Picking up from the third episode, we were promised a Brady Bunch tribute and we were not let down. Here, Wanda gives birth to twins and the continued fourth-wall breaks persist. Teyonah Parris lets the cat out of the bag as Monica Rambeau (expect to see her as Photon in further MCU properties), disguised as her neighbour in Westview – the town where Wanda has kidnapped everyone, mind and body. Most of the supporting class feature in typical Marvel territory, as attempts are made to take down Wanda and her creation. This is where I lose interest; the show is really about Wanda and her lover Vision, or rather the Vision she thinks she knows. A typical finale also furthers this with by-the-numbers superhero action tropes, clogged with green-screen mania.
Most diehard fans expected Faustian-inspired villain Mephisto to be pulling all the strings. This turned out to be false, as did the appearance of Evan Peters, potentially reprising his Quicksilver role from the X-Men franchise. As it transpired, his crudely named character Ralph Bohner was used to trick Wanda into thinking her dead brother Pietro was back. On first sight this felt like an inspired idea – the licensing no longer a problem, such is Disney’s reach in cinema today. The questionable payoff led nowhere, though, and from this the casting choice led to heightened expectations.
The legacy of WandaVision shall in part be the songs by Oscar-winning husband-and-wife duo Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, most famous for Frozen and Coco. Musical love letters to the sitcom era each respective song honours, the 1950s and 60s numbers are expectedly brassy, bright and jazzy, a real treat for the ear, while a personal favourite is the 80s track Making It Up As We Go Along; dripping with a heightened positivity, the WandaVision motif heard throughout the show is most heartfelt and sincere here. The 90s, meanwhile, gets a Malcolm In The Middle parody with shrill, punk vocals and an allround garage-band feel. Most songs are coded with lyrics going into what is really happening: an eerie little detail, easily missed on first listen.
Stealing the show is the eternal Katherine Hahn, as nosy neighbour Agnes. Her chameleon-like fashion sense is perfect in this decades-spanning series, and she proves to know more than she lets on. Revealing herself to be the witch Agatha Harkness, she vampishly endeavours to drain Wanda of her powers. Munsters-inspired song Agatha All Along has proven a smash hit, certainly the one that will be best remembered. The penultimate episode goes back into Wanda’s turbulent past, in the vein of A Christmas Carol. We discover why she is living in a sitcom fantasy world and how Vision gradually won her over with his comforting ways; one definitive line persists: “What is grief, but love persevering?”
In my first review, I spoke of the fine performances of leads Olsen and Paul Bettany and the rollercoaster of confusion and sweeping romance both endures through the entire series. Little has changed, as both characters have fleshed out personas, making you care more than you should. Fine attempts to replicate the sitcoms are done with changes in aspect ratio, well made costumes and sets which make you feel as if you are there. Some of the disturbing imagery, the teary lady stuck in a loop putting up Halloween decorations will linger in the mind. Maybe Agatha sentenced to continue the forced facade as chirpy Agnes is most disturbing, her face contorted with a beaming smile. Post credit scenes in the finale also teases future work from the comic-book empire. Whilst I can’t say I will be glued to the screen for them, I thoroughly enjoyed this off-kilter attempt at something different.
Streaming on Disney+ now.
words JAMES ELLIS image DISNEY+