Wanda, Vision, and Me
Updated: Apr 28, 2021
I wasn’t particularly excited when I heard that WandaVision was coming out. Oh sure, I was looking forward to watching it, but I wasn’t exactly stoked. Not in the way I was earlier in the month when I heard that Cobra Kai Season 3 was finally releasing. I’m pretty sure my initial thought was, “Oh huh, that’s neat.”
So, naturally, I made an event of watching the show, feasting on Domino’s as I watched Marvel’s newest outing. While I wasn’t ecstatic, Marvel hadn’t really let me down before. I thought the show would be just “good” at worst.
I’m not exaggerating when I say that those first two episodes of WandaVision were among the most boring pieces of media I’ve experienced in recent memory. And by “boring,” I don’t mean that I had a hard time caring about what was going on. No, I mean I literally couldn’t focus on what I was watching and I actively began reading fan reactions on my phone because that was more interesting than the show itself.
This isn’t meant to be a review, so I’ll make my primer brief, but WandaVision stars Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany) in a sitcom where the couple must hide their superpowers from their neighbors. Each episode pays homage to a different decade of sitcoms. The first two episodes were homages the fifties and sixties(think I Love Lucy and The Dick Van Dyke Show). To those with knowledge of the MCU, the premise smells fishy. While having genres and aesthetics ranging from neon comedy to neo-noir thriller, Marvel shows and movies have always been action-oriented, while WandaVision is decidedly not. Besides that, Wanda and Vision exist in (more-or-less) the present, while WandaVision appears to take place in a setting emulating the past. If that wasn’t weird enough, Vision appears suspiciously not dead for someone who essentially had their heart ripped out the last time we saw him. It’s clear that WandaVision, more than just a simple sitcom, is a mystery. Unfortunately, WandaVision doesn’t give many answers during its initial episodes. There are some creepy scenes but the episodes are 90% sitcom. I get not showing your hand too early, but those initial episodes of WandaVision, to an initial viewer, practically didn’t even have cards. I was offered crumbs with the expectation that I’d be so hungry that I’d run to the next episode, desperate for more. I was hangry more than anything, not helped by the fact that I found the comedy quite dull.
So, naturally, I decided to give the show another try a week later.
Armed with Domino’s Pizza once again, I actually found myself enjoying it. It wasn’t amazing, but more screen time was given to the mystery, and I actually found the jokes in the seventies-inspired episode amusing, even if not hilarious by any means. I decided I’d be staying on for the long haul.
This, logically, should be the end of the story. I wasn’t too sold on the first two episodes, but the third one did enough to earn my goodwill back. The End. But the whole situation leaves me feeling perplexed. I find myself wondering why I came back for the third episode after I disliked the first two so much. In hopes that I’ll find an answer, I’ve decided to take a (very) brief dive into the Marvel Cinematic Universe and my consumption of it.
It’s surprising to me that I gave the show not one, not two, but three chances to capture my interest. Surprising still, I was open to the possibility of bingeing it when the final episode aired, since I considered it simply didn’t work in a weekly format.
In the anime community, there’s this concept of a “three-episode rule.” Essentially, viewers are encouraged to watch three episodes of a show, even if they didn’t like the initial episodes. The idea is that a show might not hit its stride during its first episode, and by the third, enough things are shown that one can make a more informed decision about the show before they decide to drop it or not.
Based on my description of watching WandaVision, you might assume I’m a proponent of the three-episode rule. You’d be wrong, however, dear reader. I believe that a show should catch your attention from its first episode. Telling people to stick with a show after not liking the initial episode is just encouraging people to waste their time.
The larger context of the MCU changed how I watched the first episodes of WandaVision. Instead of seeing the episodes as the beginning of a new show, I might have considered WandaVision itself an episode in a show. After all, it’s easy to drop a new show if you don’t like the first episodes; it’s harder to drop a show you love just because a few episodes in the middle are a slog. I might have only stuck with WandaVision because I’m too deep into the MCU to turn back.
It feels a bit silly introducing the Marvel Cinematic Universe. If I say you have to have been living under a rock to not have heard of it, I’m barely exaggerating. The MCU is one of the most recognizable brands of this generation. For the past thirteen years, the MCU has captured the minds (and wallets) of the moviegoing planet, catapulting B-list and even Z-list teams like the Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy to household names. Say what you will about the movies sometimes being afraid to embrace the sillier aspect of the comics, it’s impressive that, thanks to MCU, superheroes have gained wide acceptance in pop culture. The MCU painstakingly laid the foundations for its heroes through solo movies, making audiences care when they finally teamed up in 2012’s The Avengers to critical and commercial success. This was replicated on a much larger scale with 2018’s Avengers: Infinity War and 2019’s Avengers: Endgame. Some have said Endgame is the movie of a generation and seeing as it’s the highest-grossing film of all time, I’d have to agree.
I know it might seem that I’m kissing up to the MCU. To tell you the truth, I probably am. I’ve seen almost all of the movies and shows. I absolutely love the series. There hasn’t been a single movie that I didn’t enjoy watching (nope, not even Thor: The Dark World). I fondly remember my dad taking us to see a matinee of the first Avengers movie. I rarely rewatch movies, yet I’ve seen Age of Ultron and Infinity War twice. I will passionately argue that Tom Holland makes the best live-action Spider-Man and Peter Parker (Tobey Macguire excels at playing Peter Parker, not so much with Spidey (sorry, not sorry)). Endgame was the perfect culmination of the series up to that point. Watching the movie with me, my friend discovered that I was a “clapper,” much to his chagrin, and I’m not too ashamed to admit that the movie made me tear up.
It would be one thing to continue watching WandaVision if I was ambivalent towards Marvel, but no, my enjoyment of the series gave WandaVision an implicit seal of approval before I even watched it. I can’t really articulate how giddy I was to see that elaborate “Marvel Studios” logo again at the beginning of the first episode of WandaVision. It was the first time seeing it since 2019’s Spider-Man: Far From Home and it felt great.
But Marvel’s precedent of making (what I consider to be) good movies and shows is only half of the reason I continued. That’s why I wanted to give WandaVision another shot. The other half, the reason why I felt I needed to continue watching WandaVision is because the MCU is a franchise where it’s very easy to get confused if you miss an entry.
As amazing as Endgame’s payoffs were, the downside is, logically, you’ll have to “buy in” first. That involves watching the better part of twenty-one films. Even if they’re not all necessary to understand the plot, the movie is a lot less impactful without prior history with the characters. Whether a movie will be plot-crucial or not can be a gamble. There were two movies released between Infinity War and its sequel, Endgame: Ant-Man & The Wasp and Captain Marvel. Many were led to believe that seeing Captain Marvel would be more important to understanding Endgame, as the titular hero is referenced in Infinity War’s “stinger.” But come Endgame, Captain Marvel turned out to be a relatively minor character while the ending of Ant-Man & The Wasp was vital to the events of Endgame. With no way of knowing what will or will not be important, and with ensemble movies being less impactful if you skip films, you’re better off just watching all of them.
In its continuity, it does a perfect job replicating how it feels to read a comic book. Any given issue of a Marvel comic will reference events that the reader won’t understand unless they read some other comic. Usually, when this happens, there’ll be a text box on the bottom of a panel. If you’re lucky, the text box will briefly summarize the events. More often or not, though, it’ll say something like, “Read all about it in The Amazing Spider-Man #5304!” You can practically see the same thing in the movies.
In this way, Marvel is a bit different from other series I follow. The Gundam series, as intimidating as it may look due to its multiple universes and forty-two year-long history, really isn’t that daunting when you stop to consider that many of the shows aren’t connected in any way. Unlike Marvel as of late, if you throw a dart on a board to choose which Gundam entry you start with, you’ll probably be fine. That said, Marvel isn’t the least accessible series, either. The Wheel of Time is a linear book series, so there’s really no viable way of reading it besides reading it start to finish. Because it’s so long, it can start to feel like a slog (but more on that in an upcoming blog post). Marvel movies, on the other hand, while numerous, aren’t terribly lengthy. If you were determined and free enough, you could probably go through the entire catalog of movies in less than a week (the shows of course, are another story). Because of that, I’ve found it harder to “burn out” on Marvel movies.
All of this is to say that Marvel has created a new type of viewer, and if it hasn’t, it’s certainly popularized them. This viewer will watch a Marvel property, no matter the genre, simply by virtue of it being Marvel. The name, beyond promising quality, promises importance down the line. Marvel has created a type of viewer that effectively has no taste - they will consume everything part of this cinematic universe. I am one of those viewers. WandaVision didn’t seem like it was going to be my type of show, yet I stuck with it. Maybe I put the “fanatic” back into “fan,” maybe I’m a bad consumer, maybe I’m a Stockholm syndrome victim courtesy of Marvel; no matter what you call it, the results the same: whenever there’s a new Marvel show or movie, I come running.
WandaVision, or rather, my strange reaction to it, has made me question whether I want to continue this marathon.
Years ago, I was sad to hear that a friend wouldn’t be following the MCU anymore. They disembarked the Marvel train at the Endgame station. Now, I can’t help but be a bit envious. Assuming everything stays on schedule, there’ll be a whopping eighteen new Marvel movies/shows in the next two years. It’s quite daunting, to say the least. It’s very possible that I won’t like a number of them and I might begin to resent something I once loved. It’s not like I can just pick-and-choose what I watch. As I said before, it seems like if you want to watch something Marvel, you very well may have to watch everything Marvel. Endgame is a decent stopping point, as it provides a lot of closure, but I told myself I loved the series too much to just let it end there.
And after briefly leaning over to the other side of the hype, I realize how ridiculous it is from the outside looking in. Watching almost twenty-one films so you can fully appreciate two? Honestly considering buying a box set of said twenty-one movies? Sticking with a show you don’t think you’ll like because it’s just an “episode” of the gargantuan series it’s part of? Feeling like you’re seeing an old friend because of a logo? Fanatic indeed. And the million dollar question I find myself asking is ‘do I want to be?’
(Un)Fortunately, that question can wait another day.
Because it seems that WandaVision might not be so bad after all. I remain cautiously optimistic for the series. If I find myself burned out down the line, I won’t let pride get in the way of stopping after the eventual Avengers 5. As of now, I still consider myself a Marvel fan, but I recognize that there’s a crack in my proverbial vibranium shield.
tl;dr: Given how much I love the series, I'm available for a position as a social media influencer for MCU products. Domino's Pizza, too.