A couple that has just gotten married is driving to their new home. They are happy and in love. It’s a simple time. There is no apparent ambiguity here. One might say that the world is happily black and white. Their home has a familiar feel to it, but they’re happy and even funny. That is until one day something unusual lands in the front yard. The wife, we’ll call her Wanda, goes out to look at it and it’s different. It’s a toy helicopter and it is red. Wanda seems perturbed by this. Later, when her husband, who goes by the unusual name of Vision, comes home after work their entire world starts to change. The world has become wildly colorful. Something is not quite right with this world of sitcom canned laughter. Someone is watching them from afar, and Wanda is starting to become worried.
Marvel Studios has made it clear that they’re not afraid to take calculated risks with their cinematic properties. At first, the risks seemed small by simply reinventing a singular movie franchise like that of the patriotic hero Captain America. In his first movie, it had a classic World War II approach, but when it came time to do a sequel the studio went for a political thriller. Now, Marvel has just wrapped up their movies that made up Phase 3 by giving us Avengers: Endgame, the second part of a blockbuster bonanza that gave us the death of several notable Marvel heroes, not the least of which is the sentient android Vision (Avengers: Infinity War). So, the question one must ask is, how do you top what was an Earth-shattering two-part saga that pretty much showed us every single hero Marvel Studios has already introduced? The answer is simple. You don’t. Instead, you take a chance and go in a new direction and Marvel is doing that in a two-pronged attack. First, instead of giving us a movie, they are delivering the first of what will be numerous TV streaming series for Disney+ that ARE connected to the MCU (as opposed to what they attempted on Netflix, ABC, etc.). This then allows for them to go for their second novel approach and that is to start the series off as a ’50s sitcom. It’s easy to say that this approach is a bold move for Marvel, but is it smart?
Returning to this series are the two actors who helped create these beloved characters, Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff/Scarlett Witch and Paul Bettany as Vision. From the start, these two are working in a genre that is quite new to them. There’s no doubt that they are both familiar with the genre of the ’50s sitcom, but it’s something different to act in it, and shows of this particular nature can only be found on specialized TV channels. This also put Marvel in the position of also having to craft something that hasn’t been done in decades, but Marvel, as well as Disney, can be extremely resourceful and they tapped the talents of the legendary actor and comedian Dick Van Dyke to consult with how this series was to be made. As for Olsen and Bettany, some people might find their performances disturbing as they bear no resemblance to the heroic characters we’re familiar with. The reasons why things are the way they are has yet to be revealed, but Marvel Chief Guru Kevin Feige has assured fans that they will be rewarded if they stick it out through to the end. Instead, we are just to take this enjoyable romp at face value for now and that romp has been fun. We have the great pleasure of seeing Olsen and Bettany give comedic performances that are both quirky and sometimes just hilarious. I have little doubt that when Feige approached both Olsen and Bettany that they jumped at this opportunity to stay within the MCU but do something completely different from anything they have done before. Again, both Olsen and Bettany are wonderful to watch, and while Bettany has the luxury of going overboard with his comedic performances, Olsen plays her character with layers. There is the Wanda we see on the surface who is bubbly and happy, but underneath there is a quality that shows a sense of suspicion for her surroundings.
The series is also littered with Easter Eggs that can have appeal for both MCU fans as well as fans of the comic books, including one dealing with S.W.O.R.D., which is a different organization than S.H.I.E.L.D. The series has so far made use of fake commercials that drop names from past Marvel movies, suggesting that perhaps there is more to this world of sitcoms that have been created for Wanda and Vision. One thing is for certain and that is this series will evolve into a more familiar formula given that the ending of this series (Or is it a season?) will dovetail into the new Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness that will have both Benedict Cumberbatch as the Sorcerer Supreme and the Scarlett Witch. This suggests that what we have here is more than just a trivial series and that before it’s over it might develop the character of Wanda into a hero who is far more powerful than what we’ve seen in the movies so far.
As for me, I love this novel approach that Marvel is taking with the beginning of Phase 4. I grew up watching such sitcoms as The Dick Van Dyke Show and Bewitched so seeing this series present itself with this homage to such classic shows is a lot of fun for me. The seeds of the mystery behind this world have been planted and I will definitely be watching more to see how this “Wandarful” (Do you see what I just did there?) series ends!