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In “WandaVision”, Marvel Goes Back To Its Roots While Trying Something New by Matt John

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Warning: Semi- spoilers for WandaVision and Marvel.

“What next?” That’s what everybody asked themselves when Avengers: Endgame came out. For 11 years, Marvel had meticulously crafted a cinematic universe that consistently kept fans interested in seeing where the overarching story was going to come together. We all expected a massive payoff when Marvel’s Thanos’ duology came to a close, and they delivered. Not only was EndGame critically acclaimed, but through some creative marketing, it became the highest-grossing film of all-time. They could have easily ended the Marvel Cinematic Universe right there, but that’s not how Hollywood operates with financially successful franchises like Marvel. It’s as they say. The show must go on, so for Marvel, what was next?

We have to keep in mind that, as impressive as Marvel made enjoyable film adaptations of Ant-Man, Doctor Strange, and Captain Marvel, no one outside of diehard comic fans saw those movies because they wanted to see those characters come to life. As impressive as seeing genuine effort put into movies starring little-known superheroes, we watched those movies primarily because we wanted to see if we could connect those characters to the original Avengers. With Endgame done, that was no longer a factor. How could Marvel continue to feign interest from their fans with their main attraction out of the picture?

Enter WandaVision. It’s hard to talk about this show without going into massive spoilers. Let’s start with two words to describe it: experimental and mysterious. At the start, you have no idea what’s going on. The show starts in the 1950s, watching a show with massive I Love Lucy/Dick Van Dyke Show vibes starring two Marvel characters that, since their introduction, have been mere sideshows for the MCU. Right off the bat, you’re asking yourself two questions: “Why are we here?” and “Wasn’t one of these characters dead? Like, permanently?” They don’t acknowledge it right away, but it’s abundantly clear something is off.

Like any other mystery, we get an explanation, but only in tidbits. What piques the viewers’ interest is that the show takes its time to unveil what’s happening, with each detail juicier than the next. The show revealing its true nature comes at a snails’ pace, but it never feels like it’s going too slow. That’s because the show pays homages to hit sitcoms from various decades. Like I Love Lucy and The Dick Van Dyke Show, then transitions to technically younger sitcoms, Bewitched, The Brady Bunch, Family Ties, Malcolm in the Middle, and most recently, The Office and Modern Family. 

If you grew up watching these shows or sitcoms with a similar feel, you’d appreciate the effort they put into recreating them while simultaneously putting a Marvel feel to them.

This sort of material is far from what Marvel is known for, a mystery that takes its time to make sense? Parodying multiple TV shows that honestly have nothing to do with superheroes? Why Bring in characters initially believed to be one-offs in previous films to drive your show? Movies like Ant-man and Dr. Strange weren’t bad movies, they were entertaining, but they don’t alter the Marvel Cinematic Universe because they correctly followed the formula. We all knew that there were going to be future Avengers installments. With WandaVision, Marvel is in unfamiliar territory.

There is the one word that stands out above anything else to describe WandaVision: Risky. It’s risky to put two characters who have primarily been secondary superheroes in your cinematic universe at the forefront. It’s dangerous to start your story off like a puzzle that takes episodes at a time to put its pieces together. It’s perilous that, seven episodes in, not only do we not have a complete understanding of what’s going on, but we still don’t feel how this will end. But that’s why this show has resonated with its audience. Not just because it’s new to us, but that’s what Marvel was all about once upon a time.

It seems like a distant memory now, but ten years ago, what Marvel was trying to accomplish was a massive risk. Consolidating multiple storylines with individual superheroes into one colossal overarching plot had never been achieved before. And to do it with B-list superheroes too. As weird as this may sound, no one thought of Iron Man or Captain America when they thought of Marvel superheroes going back to the 2000s. You usually thought of Spider-Man, X-Men, or the Fantastic Four. That’s why they got film adaptations before any MCU character did. There was heavy skepticism if The Avengers was going to work leading up to its release. 

Now, Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, and even the Guardians of the Galaxy have not only teamed up in the same league as Marvel’s primary superheroes, but they may have usurped them too. That all happened because of the risks that the MCU took in its younger days. If WandaVision keeps going the way it’s going; it may not be long until Scarlet Witch and Vision are put on that level too.

The one box still unchecked for apparent reasons is if this show can stick the landing with two episodes left. Considering both Marvel’s reputation and how fresh this material has been, we have to be optimistic that they’ll do just that. The real headline, Marvel has found a way to keep its viewers’ eyes peeled even with what they lost. Now that they’re in their new phase of keeping their universe afloat post-OG Avengers, WandaVision is solid proof that the MCU has shown no signs of slowing down.

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