Well. That was some bullshit.
………okay, fine. My original intention was to post something every few episodes of WandaVision, an approach I had a lot of fun with during Game of Thrones, which, for all it’s faults, had enough content to make silly conjectures and theories about all while joking around like a Jokey Jokerton, but damn if that wasn’t both impossible given how lean nearly every episode has been and, come to find out, would have been an utter waste of time anyway. I’m not going to sugar-coat this reaction lads and ladies and non-gender identifiers, this first step into Phase 4, regardless of the delays and rescheduling due to Coronavirus, is a colorful but toothless piece of fluff, it’s exactly the commercial for Disney Plus I suspected it would be, and the best part of the experience were the conversations about what it could have been.
I bear no ill-will towards the cast and crew, WandaVision, ultimately, is a pretty terrific creation in terms of scale and scope, there’s a lot of attention to detail from the craft-making perspective and I have a great deal of respect for the amount of love that went into putting this odd experiment of a show together. But my contempt, of which there is a lot of, is for the higher level decisions and the writing. Good lord, how do you waste Randall Park at every instance with this Jimmy Olsen caliber, aw-shucks dialogue; this terrific improvisational actor who exudes personality and quirk has been made utterly forgettable. Director Hayward was successfully mysterious, then troublesome, then stupid, then downright Snidely Whiplash evil, not because he was complex and well-written, but because they had no idea how to write him except to be a foil and make bad decisions. Additionally, I even got frustrated with Kat Dennings’ character being limited to exposition and snark, she could have been a completely new character and it wouldn’t have mattered so why bring her back at all?
The long awaited finale, that was supposed to usher in the next Doctor Strange movie and have some kind of crazy cameo or reveal or something, had and did none of those things. This was, in fact, a self-contained story about Wanda being sad and doing some crazy magic and then stopping. There were no consequences or stakes, no Multiverse reveal, Evan Peters casting is revealed to be, in the most meta of meta ways, just an actor cast in a role which some folks have found to be a cute in-joke and I have found to be a gigantic ‘fuck you‘ to the audience for getting our hopes up that something significant was taking place. We are all dumber for having experienced it, I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.
The only saving grace of WandaVision, the raison d’etre, are the performances. In a very short amount of time Kathryn Hahn has elevated herself to full-on meme status, she was one of the few actors whose role had some meat on it, who managed to exceed the relentlessly mediocre writing and put some stank on it, which is no surprise considering she’s, well, Kathryn Hahn. Paul Bettany and Liz Olsen also comport themselves well, but that’s also a given, I even experienced emotional emotions when they were emotionally emoting. But holy Marvel Studios, was any of it worth it at all if the end result was a gigantic reset? I am almost more surprised by the lack of actual plot or movement of the MCU than I would have been if Doctor Strange or Professor X had showed up. What a waste of a great setup and a great concept and great comic book source material. What a waste, period.
Here’s the part where I would normally expound on some of the deeper themes and resonance of WandaVision, how it explores some metaphor or concept but I’m still grasping for straws. Wanda’s grief, in the penultimate episode, is effective in retconning her history and what I was worried about was a subsequent giant CGI slap fight which is exactly what took place. I will give credit for, and this is important to note, that the Vision versus The Vision (typing words about the MCU is getting so stupid) was concluded in a very satisfactory way. Something that gets lost in all the green screen and computer effects is that in the comics the action and big splash pages were only half of the draw. The rest is the writing. More often than not the heroes had to reason their way out of a problem, as opposed to punch the problem away. This has only occurred a handful of times so far, with Doctor Strange outsmarting Dormammu (ugh, fake words) and the conclusion of Spider-Man: Far From Home, which has a lot of punching but ultimately Peter snags the pistol Mysterio has aimed at him because he still has his guard up, because he learned. So, good job, WandaVision, you have continued the tradition of setting up Bettany with some of the best lines and insights into the human condition.
Let’s talk post-credit scenes. While it’s not clear what Monica Rambeaux’ powers are exactly, some research on the interwebs (because good writing always requires a google search to understand what’s happening) reveals her as Photon/Spectrum, and she will play a role in the upcoming Captain Marvel 2. Also, there are Skrulls and Nick Fury is in space, both things that were revealed at the end of Spider-Man: Far From Home, so, who gives a shit? Further, Wanda in a cabin in the mountains being maniacal at the camera and implying…something, that smacks a lot of Ed Norton’s failed turn playing the Hulk. Again, I’m more confused than anything else at the dearth of content. Why are they holding back at all? Why won’t you talk to me Marvel?! This was like having a messenger conversation with someone where the little ellipses go wiggle, wiggle, wiggle, for five minutes and then the message you get is “LOL IKR” and you’re like, what the actual hell.
Say something nice, my mom’s voice is chiming in my head. Fine. For seven weeks or so WandaVision was a successful pop culture phenomenon that raked up all kinds of otherwise obscure comic book references and lore. It’s always fun watching the internet buzz about something that isn’t awful or offensive or divisive, and although the week-to-week releases are annoying in the age of instant streaming, it also unifies people in real-time and becomes a shared experience in a time when we can’t have a lot of those or, you know, nice things. So, cool beans. Even though the entire venture would have made more sense as a four-part mini-series or even a full-length feature where they can still give every single crew-member their own credit screen in order to artificially stretch out the run-time right down to the craft-service people, because you can fool some people Disney, but you can’t fool me, I’m hip to your game and I’m not going to stand for it. Not any more. This far, no further. Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice…you can’t get fooled again, is what I’m saying.
….anyone know when the Loki series debuts? I’ll take The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, whatever, just give it to me, already.