WandaVision is a bold new start for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, unlike anything that's come before it as we step into a bizarre new Phase 4. Disney granted ComicBook.com access to the first three episodes of the Marvel series which is enough to see it is fully committed to paying homage to different eras of sitcom but feels like it's just short of understanding why. The series is hugely entertaining, more so for viewers who appreciated sitcoms of the 50s, 60, and 70s as each episode pays homage to a specific decade. It also rewards hardcore Marvel fans with Easter eggs sprinkled in throughout, culminating in a brave and a fun launch.
WandaVision is hugely entertaining as its cast, characters, sets, and filmmakers commit themselves to making a sitcom for the majority of each episode's run times. It is drastically different from anything Marvel has created in the past, a point which cannot be over-emphasized. Wanda Maximoff and the Vision are playing house, mirroring those who did this before them on titles like The Dick van Dyke Show, I Dream of Jeannie, I Love Lucy and Bewitched. It takes a minute to buy in as this is such a bizarre format for a Marvel story to be told but with WandaVision never wavering from its commitment to the style, the script and performances allow viewers to buy in and simply have a great time watching - something which is only complimented by the inclusion of a live studio audience providing energy and laughs in the background.
Jac Shaeffer wrote a brilliant period-accurate script which Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany bring to life with chemistry so vibrant you would think the first two episodes were in color - but they're not. These two glow together. Bettany is especially having a fun time getting to let loose with the Marvel character considerably more than ever before and the exploration of Wanda's deeper intellect gets Olsen to flex some more muscles, the likes which we've seen from her in non-Marvel titles, but for the first time for Marvel Studios.
While the entire cast is impressively committed, Kathryn Hahn steals her scenes. As nosy neighbor (AKA mysterious character who either has a deeper role in it all or is just a big mislead) is an absolute blast, injecting comedy, energy, and sometimes mystery. Hahn goes all in as the weird, unwelcome neighbor who often comes banging down the door which results in an hilarious, witty, smart, and fantastic in role. Adding Hahn to the Marvel Cinematic Universe was a genius move. Other supporting cast like Teyonah Parris (who plays Monica Rambeau but is introduced as "Geraldine") aren't given a tremendous amount of work early on, but Parris' role specifically is energized, well played, and seemingly one of the keys to unlocking the enthralling mystery.
Much of WandaVision is light and fun but director Matt Shakman also drums up intense, dark, and claustrophobic moments on a dime, all without breaking away from the era-based structure of the show. A scene late in the first episode shows how quickly WandaVision can get from a silly, fun story to an intense, in-your-face thriller in the vein of Twilight Zone and it's one example of how Shakman uses the tone and cameras to really help WandaVision's messages, mysteries, and themes land.
Slowly, WandaVision peels back the curtain with subtle (and some not-so-subtle) teases of a larger mystery being at play. They are sprinkled in quite slowly, perhaps a little too slowly. These teases set WandaVision apart from the pack, though. Shaeffer and Shakman seem to be onto something brilliant and much bigger here, setting the stage for an epic launch to Marvel's Phase 4. Let's just hope they're able to make such potential a reality. The conversation-worthy mystery elements of WandaVision will hook you in for more, while the entertaining format, performances, and filmmaking make the journey to answers worthwhile.
All in all, WandaVision plays like an entertaining sitcom with the mystery elements of LOST baked in. It does lack a bit of a clear direction in the early episodes with a lot more questions than answers and no clear cut villain emerging just yet. Fortunately, WandaVision is tremendously entertaining, weird, fun, and dark -- which is enough to warrant audiences coming back for more, Marvel fans or not. While it is all contained to this brave, bold commitment to a new format, the feeling of something larger being at play is hugely interesting and drives an insatiable desire to know more. How it all pays off and whether or not the fun, dark, slow burn was worth it? Well, we will have to keep watching to find out.
WandaVision Episodes 1-3 Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars.