"Move beyond the series’ (excellent, charismatic, and legitimately funny) mimicry of classic sitcom tropes, and it’s pretty clearly the Marvel version of a mystery-box show, with lead characters trapped—to varying degrees of awareness—in a sort of epiphanic, invisible prison," says William Hughes of Marvel's WandaVision. "It’s Lost, but in soothing Brady Bunch color tones. Westworld with a laugh track. The Prisoner, if No. 6 was trapped in Dick Van Dyke’s kitchen. It’s a fantastic premise, honestly, one informed by Wanda Maximoff and Vision’s complicated comic book history, as well as 70 years of beloved sitcom sandboxes for the show’s cast and crew to play in. But it also sits in direct opposition to the MCU ethos, which can tolerate a mystery for exactly as long as it takes its antsiest audience member to start to squirm. To withhold information—to withhold anything—is counter to what turned these films into a pop culture institution, and that necessity to provide gives WandaVision the sense of a show being pulled in even more directions than its already bifurcated premise might suggest. Black-and-white trappings or no, WandaVision exists fully within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and in the MCU, even the subtlety must arrive in capital letters." Hughes adds: "Part of the genius of the Marvel films is the universality with which they can be read. Hundreds of millions of people can go see an Avengers movie and walk away with almost identical comprehension of what happened on the screen, for all the chaos of the battles and the dozens of named characters fighting it out. (To the point that, when the films do indulge in a bit of rare ambiguity, as with the time-tossed epilogue of 2019’s Avengers: Endgame, the debates that crop up online can be immediate and fierce.) The franchise’s clarity is a virtue, but not, necessarily, when there’s a mystery afoot. WandaVision understands that it must, by the strictures of its genre, hide, obfuscate, and tease—but consistently does so by shouting, 'Clue! Go Google this clue!' at the top of its lungs. It’s as subtle as a bunch of magic rocks shoved into a golden mitten; worse, these intrusions often distract from the legitimately wonderful work its leads are doing in their homage to classic comedy styles. None of this makes WandaVision a bad show, really, even a little...But it does make for a lousy mystery. Lost, the show that helped codify this genre in modern TV, took a lot of flack over the years for not knowing where it was going for pretty much most of its running time. WandaVision has the opposite problem: You can almost imagine the spreadsheet it’s pulling its meta-plot elements from, algorithmically sprinkling a few details into the mix every week to keep the audience content."
TOPICS: WandaVision, Disney+, Emma Caulfield, Kat Dennings, Kathryn Hahn, Randall Park, Marvel