Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is here at long last, and it’s here in a most unusual way. Because Black Widow was pushed back and Marvel’s entire slate of projects was reshuffled, we begin the new era with the Marvel Studios fanfare streaming on Disney+, followed by two episodes of a comic book series that are delightfully weird and unexpectedly heartbreaking.
WandaVision depicts Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany) together again for the first time since they were torn apart in Avengers: Infinity War (twice). They’re together now, but they’re also in some kind of sitcom dream world. It’s a big artistic risk, but never fear. The show uses the past of the MCU to pave the way for the future, and in the process, it gives us quality time with a couple that some of us didn’t know we needed.
**WARNING: From this point forward, there will be spoilers for the first two episodes of WandaVision. If you have not watched yet, then get outta here, Dewey! This show isn’t habit-forming, but you don’t want this. Get OUTTA here!**
For the most part, the first two episodes of the series are a black-and-white sitcom homage. It’s part Bewitched, part I Love Lucy. It works quite well as just this, a sitcom about a witch and an android dealing with the android’s boss and his wife (Fred Melamed and That '70s Show star Debra Jo Rupp, respectively), as well as the neighborhood’s queen bee (Emma Caulfield Ford). At one point, Vision sings "Yakety Yak" as a diversion while Wanda conjures up dinner. What a merry romp!
Something’s not right, though. The story of Wanda and Vision doesn’t make sense. There are gaps in it, something happened, and while we still have the image of Vision’s death (courtesy of Thanos) ingrained in our brains, that’s all we know, really. We never saw these two get married, and we didn't ever really see Wanda grieve. A little, but not much. In fact, with so many character journeys going on in the films, we didn’t see much of them together at all.
The series gives us little reminders about where they came from. Wanda’s Sokovian heritage is mentioned (though her accent is well and truly dead), and faux commercials bring in both Stark Industries appliances and watches made by Strucker. The latter family (all HYDRA, all the time) was responsible for Wanda and her brother ending up the way that they did in the first place — tortured and superpowered.
We also get a sense of what’s new in Phase 4. There’s some kind of presence outside of this fantasy world, with a voice buzzing in asking, "Who’s doing this to you, Wanda?" Teyonah Parris plays a woman named Geraldine, but we know that she’s actually Monica Rambeau, all grown-up from Captain Marvel. Wanda finds a helicopter toy (in color) in a bush following loud noises, and she also banishes a beekeeper that comes out of a sewer. She simply rewinds her show, has a pregnancy reveal, and then gets colorized along with her husband and their world.
The logo on the side of the toy helicopter is unmistakably that of a sword, which means that the Sentient World Observation and Response Department (S.W.O.R.D.) is making its MCU debut.
Trailers have already shown it, but there’s also clearly more to Kathryn Hahn than meets the eye. There always is. That’s the Kathryn Hahn promise.
These references weren’t surprises. S.W.O.R.D. has popped up in promotional materials for the series, and it only makes sense for there to be some callbacks to prior history. Though we were overjoyed that the series committed to the oddball sitcom premise (for two entire episodes, mostly), we weren’t surprised by that, either. It’s not something Marvel could do in a movie, and even by the standards of the always-bonkers DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, it’s a bold opening.
What surprised us was the streak of heartache that runs through the laughs, and how emotional we got. We don’t want this fantasy disturbed. We thought that we wanted to finally see S.W.O.R.D. We know that Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings) is going to appear, as well as Jimmy Woo (Randall Park). We thought we wanted them immediately. We still want all of that, just... not right now.
We just want Wanda and Vision to be happy. Forever. Is that so much to ask? Though they are a hugely famous comic book couple, Olsen and Bettany's characters haven’t had much time to develop their love story in live-action. We cared about them, and Vision’s “death” in Infinity War is a ripper... but we got over it? We thought we did, anyway. Bettany doesn’t appear in Avengers: Endgame at all, and though Wanda does get to kick Thanos in his purple Grimace bottom ("You took everything from me"), we never really had any closure with the two of them.
Now they are back, they're being silly as hell, and that ol' android head wound is ripped right back open. It's wider than ever. Maybe it's pandemic loneliness talking but the adorability of these two makes us want to jump off of Stark Tower. They can’t remember getting married, so Wanda has rings magically appear on their fingers! Laugh, sigh, cry. Their chemistry is as crazy as the series itself, and with every laugh (either from us or the sitcom standard laugh track), there’s sadness.
Some of us (not naming names) were choked up at multiple points while watching. This black-and-white sitcom riff had us teary because we know that this love is doomed. No amount of magical fakery is going to change that.
Or will it? We no longer care about anything else going on in this series. (We do, come on, but whatever.) All we want/need/demand is for Wanda and Vision to be together and happy. The witch and the android, in it 4 lyfe. Is that so hard? All we need is the smile in Olsen’s eyes when she looks at Bettany, who hasn’t been allowed to have this much fun since appearing in A Knight’s Tale.
So yes, ignore those booms, Wanda. Rewind that tape and ignore the beekeeper. Ignore the entire MCU slate for that matter. Have Vision save Fred Melamed from choking (he's a national treasure, we're not monsters), but short of that? Let this fantasy continue. We want your love to blaze eternal.
A new episode of WandaVision streams on Disney+ every Friday. Yakety Yak, Marvel's back.