WandaVision – Postmortem

Hehehe, Bohner.

Coming from an admitted X-Men timeline-truther, I dug the Evan Peters fake out.

Entertainment blogs and channels are raging holy hell over WandaVision’s cops and fake outs, and rest assured this is not that place. This is a Ralph Bohner fanpage now.

Way back in January, I had no idea what to expect with WandaVision. I didn’t know what Kevin Feige’s end goal was with this series, though I did know Disney’s (more content). I wasn’t sure until the penultimate episode – the emotionally pivotal chapter that pulls triple duty as a mini-origin movie for Wanda, pulls the curtain on the whole show, AND reveals the waypoint for Phase Four. That Wanda is the way forward for the MCU.

There have been nods since Age of Ultron that Wanda is low-key the most powerful character on the roster. She tore through 4 out of the 6 core Avengers without so much as throwing a punch. Then in Civil War, when Wanda goes full Palpatine on Vision, the Russo Brothers threw us a bone in the film’s extras.

Doctor Strange seemed primed to be the new lead of the MCU post-Endgame, an obvious choice as the character is routinely mythologized as the most powerful being. Agatha Harkness states it outright in the finale that Scarlet Witch is, in fact, more powerful than the Sorcerer Supreme.

Feige, the super-producer who’s been hard at work through Marvel Studios’ last 10 years, isn’t letting up. In shaping the next core cast, Feige’s had an ace in the hole this whole time, and Scarlet Witch is his number one pick. Sorry Thor and Hulk, y’all have been around before Wanda but she spun you two with one hallucination so you guys are benched, for now. (And though the MCU built up Captain Marvel as a bright beacon, it remains to be seen how she’ll push the cosmic end when Thor, Guardians of the Galaxy, and the upcoming Eternals seem to have that covered.)

This appears to be the end goal for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, too, allowing for new leader roles to emerge front and center. If Scarlet Witch and Doctor Strange are set to build out the mystical, mind-trippy corners of the MCU, then Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes are in line to explore or re-explore a political landscape in shambles.

So while I didn’t care for the witch on witch battle or the Hocus Pocus spectacle, I am pumped that Wanda finally owns the Scarlet Witch in both name and appearance. Heck, them Disney channel original movie ass effects were worth it for this alone.

The thing about Marvel Studios’ formula is that they can dabble in different genres all they want, but each media has to bottom-line achieve three things: move the needle forward for the main characters, expand the universe in some way, AND point to future movies. (As if any of us forgot Marvel’s burgeoning film slate.) WandaVision’s finale was no different and bore some casualties to this. The series snuck in a Monica Rambeau chapter which ended with a signpost to Captain Marvel 2. I’m stoked at Monica and Carol Danvers reuniting, but Monica’s post-credits scene sticks out like a sore thumb.

The MCU’s overriding formula comes at tremendous cost of someone like Darcy Lewis, whom the series went out of their way to reintroduce. All she gets in the finale is a bit stunt, one-liner, then peaces out in 5 seconds. Or the town of Westview for that matter. We get a brief reckoning with what Wanda has done to a whole population, but aside from servicing the show’s scale, the inhabitants of Westview didn’t have much else to do in the back end of the series. Like, y’all really brought in sitcom queen Debra Jo Rupp… and…… only use her in the pilot??? How ‘bout my boy Norm? Or my girl Bev? 😤

“Given the chance, I’d bring my mom back.” The series could’ve easily delved into Monica’s own grief story, having lost a mother in the five years she was blipped. And yet, I got what I wanted out of Wanda and Monica’s unspoken kinship with that line alone. Marvel still needs work juggling its B-plots and larger ensembles, but I do think worldbuilding as a whole works better on the television end. The Marvel films bear a 2hr runtime with too many boxes to check off. WandaVision clocks in at nearly 6hrs spread across 9 weeks. That afforded plenty of time aided by weeklong watercooler discussions, long-form threads, and YouTube breakdowns to digest all this. There’s lots to chew on, and lots of places to chew your food for you.

Yes, Evan Peters was a bait and switch – a diabolical play on expectations that, judging by the reactions to the switcheroo, will only get better over time 👌. Because nothing beforehand (nor afterward, for that matter) did the recasting of Pietro signal the dawn of the X-Men timeline. It DID, however, play on Wanda’s confusion of her own power, her spiraling grief manifested via sitcom trope of the long-lost brother coming into town and stirring things up.

I admit to jumping on the hype train. (I, too, played the guessing game of that “mind-blowing” cameo.) I didn’t bother with the logistics of it all because the opportunity was too juicy. Peters’ Pietro meant Wanda’s technically a mutant now, which pointed to a possible Ian McKellen cameo; continuity in the MCU seemed like it was up for grabs, and who else from the prior X-Men universe would make an appearance, etc. It seemed too good to be true and it was.

I don’t mind my expectations being subverted because subversion – when earned and done well – can be its own joyous surprise. For others, the joy is watching their proposed reddit theories followed to a tee, like the Jon Snow parentage reveal in Game of Thrones. Subversion can feel like a Shakespearean betrayal when fans have invested years of their being into a theory. (See also: Game of Thrones.) WandaVision was this year, so I for one don’t understand the head-spinning rage its spun in the three weeks since it ended.

Like, were you really that invested in Mephisto when he’s yet to be teased in the MCU? Was an appearance by Doctor Strange ever in the cards when he himself hadn’t been mentioned until the finale? And were so many of us (myself included) really that stoked about the X-Men timeline joining the fray when we agreed that most of Fox’s X-Men movies were dogshit anyway?

I don’t think we know how to read stories anymore; we’re a culture that feeds off endless hype. This results in fandoms throwing fits over things that were never promised to begin with.

WandaVision might not have been hype to some, but as a superhero fan who grew up around the campfire of nightly sitcoms long before I picked up a comic book, WandaVision was absolutely my shit; it met at the perfect cross-section of past and current obsessions that it’s no wonder I can’t get enough of it. I don’t know which recreated sitcom era I liked better, but I do know that Episode 5 has my favorite theme.

The stylistic choice is more rewarding on a re-watch because it runs deeper than referencing or imitation. Once Episode 8 pulls the curtain, you can start to identify what’s being expressed in each sitcom era—the little routines that Wanda is mourning, what she’s denying, and what she wishes were true instead. The Shimmer Hex is one giant crucible for Wanda to deal (or not deal) with her grief. We’ve seen Thor drown himself in beer and Fortnite, Cap leading group therapy, and Hawkeye mowing down the Yakuza to cope with loss, but we’ve never seen grief on this scale. Grief, for the first time ever, is imagined as a literal superpower—a destructive, life-altering, and ultimately entrapping force.

This line fucking kills me

WandaVision is Wanda’s own sleek origin story because in becoming the Scarlet Witch, she’s forced to confront her past. (“I don’t wanna go back there,” Wanda says, and Agnes replies, “The only way forward is back.”) This charts growth and a destiny fulfilled that would’ve been less interesting in a prequel. Going into this, I knew little of Wanda other than that she was Sokovian, got her powers from an infinity stone, and lost her family and Vision. Her origins have been defined, deepened through this saga.

What’s left at the end is a whole new territory to explore with Wanda. Not only has she come fully into the moniker of Scarlet Witch, she now has a major hand on the steering wheel in the MCU’s rapid expansion this time around. Despite my nitpicks, this makes WandaVision an absolute win in my book.

The show’s bold tagline, “a new era of television,” might’ve been too bold even for a series backed by a Disney budget. WandaVision didn’t evolve TV so much as remix past golden eras for its own purposes. But I will say that the MCU certainly felt new again.

I loved the reintroduction to Monica Rambeau. I loved getting reacquainted with Jimmy Woo and my girl Darcy Lewis. I loved how batshit crazy Agnes’ role wound up being. I loved the earnest sitcom banter between Wanda and Vision, and I especially loved their harrowing love story. I was singing the theme song after the first two episodes and I sure as hex am singing the praise weeks later.

The show might’ve ended, but the deep dive for me has only just begun.