Imagine if Marvel superheroes were dropped into a “Leave it to Beaver” style sitcom.
That’s the off-the-wall premise of the new Disney+ series “WandaVision,” which released its first two episodes last week and now drops Episode 3 this Friday.
Created by Jac Schaeffer (“The Hustle”), the series follows former Avengers-turned-lovers Wanda Maximoff (a.k.a. Scarlet Witch) and Vision (a.k.a. J.A.R.V.I.S.) as they retire to the suburb of Westview with the billboard: “Home, It’s Where You Make It.”
Such a unique genre mashup obviously won’t be for everyone, but the premise is just crazy enough to work. Not only will it please the insatiable appetite of hardcore Marvel fans who get to see two minor characters get their due with more screen time, it will also intrigue non-superhero fans with a wild concept that feels ridiculously fresh.
Elizabeth Olsen (“Wind River”) is winning as the superpowered housewife, pausing for laughs like her sisters in “Full House,” while Paul Bettany (“A Beautiful Mind”) shines as the A.I.-turned-android synthezoid. They first appeared together in “Avengers: Age of Ultron” (2015), building a romantic chemistry in the franchise’s underrated subplot.
To see them joking in the kitchen recalls Yahya Abdul-Mateen II warning Regina King not to drop a carton of eggs in HBO’s “Watchmen” (2019). Here, Vision magically walks through doors and furniture, while Wanda moves dishes through the air with telekinesis. It’s a lovable “fish out of water” concept — and that fish is called Wanda.
Filmed in black-and-white with a 4:3 aspect ratio, it’s a nostalgic ode to classic sitcoms like “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” with throwback opening credits, cheesy laugh track and commercial breaks to promote Stark Industries’ latest gadgets.
Episode 1 (“Filmed Before a Live Studio Audience”) plays The Coasters’ “Yakety Yak” during a forgotten anniversary-turned-dinner-party for Vision’s boss and wife. The comedy comes from Ricardo-style shutters between the living room and kitchen, where overeager neighbor Agnes (Kathryn Hahn) pops in like Ethel Mertz or Kimmy Gibbler.
Episode 2 (“Don’t Touch That Dial”) shows the couple sleeping in separate beds before performing magic tricks for the neighborhood’s rotary club fundraiser. Meanwhile, there are hints that nothing is what it seems, as mysterious interference haunts a portable radio playing The Beach Boys’ “Help Me, Rhonda,” while splashes of color appear.
Most recently, Episode 3 (“Now in Color”) fully transitions to color for a “Brady Bunch” vibe but with the magical realism of “Bewitched” or “I Dream of Jeannie.” We also get to know other neighbors such as Herb (David Payton) and Geraldine (Teyonah Parris), while the soundtrack “Daydream Believer” hints again that their world is an illusion.
Is this proverbial “daydream” a staged reality like “The Truman Show?” Or a virtual simulation like “The Matrix?” Either way, it would explain chronological inconsistencies regarding the ‘60s setting, considering they fell in love in present day before Thanos killed Vision pre-snap in “Infinity War” (2018).
If there’s one complaint, it’s that the relationship beats feel rushed. Other TV series would build a season-long arc to marriage or parenthood, but “WandaVision” crams its major life moments into the end of each episode. Thankfully, it’s not too big a deal since audiences have already seen their relationship grow over multiple movies.
Which brings us to the question: Is there enough action to please Marvel fans? This opening trio of episodes is likely laying the groundwork for plenty of superhero action to come. At 30-minutes a pop, it should be easy to binge the nine PG installments.
Give it a shot. It’s a hard show to hate. In fact, you’ll most likely dig it. You may even love it with the same hyperbolic praise of Kevin Smith (“Clerks”), who Tweeted:
THIS IMAGE SPOILS NOTHING, yet depicts a moment in @wandavision so masterfully penned, performed, produced, and paced, that it is now one of my top 10 favorite scenes in @MarvelStudios history. I’ve rewatched it (s)obsessively for the last hour. Give #ElizabethOlsen her Emmy now. pic.twitter.com/wdrUlL4DJ3
— KevinSmith (@ThatKevinSmith) January 22, 2021