She’s secretly a witch with superpowers and he’s secretly a robot who can pass through walls—together, they’re sitcom gold. Honestly, I’m shocked that some starch collared writers in the golden-era of television didn’t think up this premise way back when. With its first three episodes now available to stream on Disney+, Marvel’s WandaVision is something unfamiliar. In the middle of a franchise filled with and fueled by the familiar. WandaVision may star two members of the superhero team known as the Avengers. However, this show has less to do with capes and crimefighting and instead feels more like an episode of Twin Peaks that just happens to star two comic book characters.
Beneath the pitch-perfect, laugh track-filled facades of the 1950s and 1960s there is something sinister lurking, waiting to reveal itself. This is a far cry from the buildup of the MCU’s previous threat of Grimace’s jerk of a brother, Thanos. In the epic, three-phase arc that built up and ended the start of the grand experiment known as Marvel’s Cinematic Universe, Thanos was a looming presence. Well-known to the audience and even on some of the character’s radar but always seen as something larger than life. Something that was, for lack of a better word, inevitable. On the flip-side of that is where WandaVision lives; a world of pure unknowns.
Characters Face Horrors But Flip On The TV Instead
The last time we saw Vision, he was turning a pale shade of dead. Having lost the Infinity Stone that gave him life to Thanos and his insatiable desire to snap, Vision was in bad shape. While it was uncertain at the time how much of Shuri’s efforts to sever Vision the robot-man from Vision, the Mind Stone, actually paid off. There was no denying it at the time—Vision, like Zed, was dead. When we last left Wanda, she had been brought back to life to face down and finally defeat Thanos.
Way back in the early days of these films, who could have predicted that Phase 4 of the MCU would start with a beautifully realized recreation of a 1950s sitcom? And that it was starring two of the lesser known characters from the comics?
We’ve Been To This Weird Intersection Of Marvel Before
This show feels earned in the same way Guardians of the Galaxy or Doctor Strange felt earned. After so many movies, slowly built up to the grand cosmic and the mind-bending of the expanded Marvel universe. Those films got to reap the rewards of being unapologetically spacey and existential. WandaVision, however, gets to be an entirely different beast.
Midway through the first episode, audiences see an era-appropriate commercial for a Stark-brand toaster. As the woman in the ad waits for her toast to finish toasting, the device begins to beep ominously and the black and white world is pierced, ever so slightly, by a single flashing red light.
The moment is tense, eerie, and a very subtle callback to the moment in Age of Ultron when Wanda and her twin brother, Pietro Maximoff, tell the murderous robot about how they lost their family to a Stark weapon that took days to finally go off. But, setting aside the intertextuality of this reference, the moment felt like something out of a David Lynch film. All dreadful and dripping in 1950s nostalgia—the tiny cracks filled with darkness showing up in the quaint and innocent.
David Lynch With Superheroes, And Less Smoking
As the episode continued past this minor disturbance, things began to get real in a truly troubling way. As Vision’s boss nearly choked to death on his dinner while his wife repeatedly laughs and tells her husband to “Stop it.” like a broken record. In the next episode we’re greeted with menacing bangs, beekeepers, and other strange goings-on. All this and in the back of my thoughts, I kept waiting with baited breath for strobe lights to go off and Bob to come crawling towards Wanda as if she was Sarah Palmer.
David Lynch uses nostalgia, technology (especially electricity), and industrial imagery and soundscapes as tools. He is also deeply obsessed with corruption of the soul and society. You can see these elements in full display in many of his works such as Eraserhead, Blue Velvet, and Twin Peaks.
Here are stories that explore the dark and grimy underbelly of idyllic places. Places like the neighborhood one grew up in or the small town where everyone knows everyone else but with a creepy mutant baby or backwards talking person thrown in for good measure. While I highly doubt WandaVision will go as dark as Lynch does (in fact, I guarantee it won’t) it’s still hard not to watch this charming sendup to the sitcoms of the Baby-Boomer generation and not see the influence of one of film’s most unique voices oozing out of their television screens.
Marvel And Disney Went Bold And It Pays Off
This is what it truly means to have earned this. No other piece of film in the MCU has been so bold as to evoke the uneasy and unsettling sense of doom one feels gazing into a Lynch piece and in a comic book show no less. The fact that Marvel and Disney were willing to let something like this get made is not so much a miracle as brilliant. The small screen is the perfect place for this kind of experimentation.
With the success of offbeat shows like Legion or Doom Patrol (also based on comic book properties) grabbing viewer’s attentions, something like this was inevitable. Many of the films in the MCU have a tendency to replicate a specific genre. Such as Captain America: The Winter Soldier coming off as a big-budget 1970s era political thriller a la Three Days of the Condor or Thor Ragnarok playing like a Bing Crosby and Bob Hope Road To film. WandaVision is something new and truly unique.
Stay Invested My Friends, And It’ll All Pay Off
It’s safe to say that I will be deeply invested in the lives of Wanda and Vision for the foreseeable future. We will also be chomping at the bits for the next few weeks for more of that Lynchian eeriness. While Peter Parker might never call up Captain America to tell him that he found Black Widow dead by the lake and wrapped in plastic. WandaVision may yet have some truly deep, dark, and disturbing places to explore before its season wraps.
Here’s hoping Marvel and Disney are also willing to keep experimenting. Imagine a Star Wars property like this. I mean, if Thor and the Hulk can star in a buddy comedy, why can’t Wanda and Vision play out their story across the decades in various sitcom formats all while trying to figure out just what disturbing things lurk in the shadows of their quiet, little, television lives?
For more on Marvel, or any other general pop culture, make sure to check back to That Hashtag Show.