benpacker’s review published on Letterboxd:
"But what is grief, if not love persevering?"
With their first TV series on Disney+, Marvel uses the change of medium to huge advantage to produce a refreshing breath of originality to their superheros but without dismissing the inevitable satisfaction of their action which I'll never not be thrilled by.
With an always evolving story, in its presentation and characters, the series feels brand new with its every episode while still forming a coherent story. The opening episodes, which I feel have been heavily underrated compared to the rest, were more than charming and showed genuine passion for traditional sitcoms while merging superhero characters into this format seamlessly with fantastic comedy. It's such a fun idea putting these inconspicuously powerful heroes in a grounded setting and with this tone. While they didn't overuse the concept alone, the commitment to forming a genuine sitcom was spot on and very impressive. As the series developed in the first few episodes the series showed one of its main strengths; ambiguity, which I only wish lasted slightly longer. Breadcrumbs, some impossible to guess the meaning of, were left throughout, building excitement to the inevitable truth to what has really happened but the truth still revealed itself in an unexpected and epic way. Like all good TV series, greatly suspenseful and mystifying cliffhangers left the audience hanging each week. Once the truth was mainly out in the open, the series didn't lose too much of its fun and comedy, instead consistently merging comedy with drama and action and the transition through the eras of television was never misplaced. When it came down to the final episodes and the high stakes were on full display, the more comedic elements of the premise were rightly sidelined and Marvel's strong roots came back to the foreground for a very tense and satisfying finale with cleverly written conflict and resolution to it. The action, especially some with Vision, was extremely well choreographed and with such great character development. The action was meaningful and extremely suspenseful due to the care I built for the characters, making for some exhilarating climactic moments. Marvel at their finest.
The series' biggest strength is most definitely its characters work, with thanks to the fantastic acting, mainly by Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany (a hugely underrated actor), and intelligent, mature writing. The series overall is an examination of greif, but this is enhanced like nothing else by the perspective of superheros. With the characters already developed largely in past films I was quickly invested in Wanda and Vision as people. As always with this special universe Marvel has crafted, when events were at their climax I realised how much I cared for them, especially with the themes of grief. But the dread of the inevitable truth had me fearful for the characters from the start, engaging me constantly, and that is the advantage of sustained ambiguity which this series uses to a healthy extent but reveals itself to keep its universal audience. While I understand this, I gain less satisfaction from having the plot explained to me, which episode four is all about, than keeping me guessing or leaving it for me to figure out myself.
Especially after this brand new exploration of the two characters, the two leads are easily some of my favourite characters in the MCU. The inevitability perfectly aligned me with Wanda's stubbornness as anyone can empathise with denial due to grief, allowing for great growth of her character. The main two are accompanied by a few side characters who are unfortunately rather a flaw of the series in my opinion. I had much less care for any of them and they had quite generic purposes, making their scenes inevitably less interesting than when the focus was on Wanda and Vision. However, the characters were balanced well, especially towards the end which I was sceptical about, and Wanda and Vision thankfully took centre stage as this series really is about their relationship. Despite this there is one almost shockingly throwaway decision, which I'm sure everyone is aware of, which so blatantly lead to nothing and was very disappointing. I suppose I understand the element of authenticity to the decision, again playing on the themes of grief, but the execution was much too suggestive to lead to nothing. But overall this was exactly what the couple needed for moving forward and their development was emotionally satisfying and even tearjerking at points. The climax of the show surpised me with how heart-rending I found it, with beautifully written dialogue that explored the characters with great depth.
Some other strengths to the series was the swelling and moving score which always seems to go unappreciated in Marvel films. The CGI is mostly impressive as well as some more experimental visual elements which was a pleasant surprise. It came to an ending with a good balance of closure and openness, leaving me extremely excited and keen to see where the characters will go next. Some hints given through dialogue are most definitely significant for the future of the MCU and specific characters.
Overall, I got an undeniably great amount of enjoyment out of the refreshingly experimental Wandavision, with its fantastic lead performances, impressive evolving narrative and some of the best character work Marvel has ever done. Some stronger side characters and maybe a slightly less theatrical antagonist would've made the series near perfect. Maybe there even should've been no antagonist considering Wanda's conflicting actions and could've challenged Marvel to further break the superhero formula and delve deeper into the humanity of their superheros. Certain traits of Marvel and the superhero genre held the series back due to these aspects being quite mediocre, as I personally didn't find the antagonist interesting enough to fit perfectly into the series as they lack a meaningful enough motivation to make me properly worry about the danger they cause. Despite this, Wandavision is the best stepping-stone for these two great characters which I love and care for more than ever and this is a quite an impressive success for Marvel.