WandaVision Is Proving Why Weekly TV Releases Work
If you've been on the Internet at all in the past month, you've probably seen some of the conversation surrounding Marvel Studios' WandaVision. The series had quite a lot of hype and expectation prior to its launch, especially as -- thanks to the circumstances surrounding the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic -- it became both the first Marvel Cinematic Universe content in over a year, and the first of Marvel's nearly a dozen new TV shows set to exclusively debut on Disney+. While many viewers have argued that WandaVision has met that hype, the series has been met with some scrutiny, with some arguing that it is too fixated on its sitcom-inspired approach, or that it is a far cry away from the kind of big blockbusters that the MCU is known for. The most recent criticism of the show -- something that has since become a topic of conversation on social media -- has been the very nature of its release, with some expressing disdain for the fact that it is splintered out into weekly installments. While everyone's viewing preferences are different and have only grown more so in the age of "binge drops" from streaming services like Netflix, making that argument for WandaVision deeply undermines the nature of the series' storytelling. On both a narrative and a cultural level, WandaVision is proving why weekly episode releases still work -- and how they still can in the years ahead.
To an extent, it's easy to see where the criticisms surrounding WandaVision's release structure are coming from -- especially when compared to the experience of watching an MCU movie. The franchise has had staying power for over a decade thanks to its crowd-pleasing blockbusters, which (even when working in a massive tragic cliffhanger, in the case of Avengers: Infinity War) manage to present a standalone and satisfying beginning, middle, and end. Sure, you might leave the theater buzzing about whatever was set up by an MCU film's post-credits scene or speculating about how a certain Easter egg could manifest itself down the line, but Marvel Studios still showed you its entire hand when it came to that film's specific story. When making that direct comparison, an argument could be made that receiving WandaVision in twenty-minute chunks is narrative unsatisfying -- but honestly, the reverse would be unsatisfying in a whole new way.
Just look at Marvel's "Defendersverse" of Netflix shows as an example -- sure, they contained some great moments and some of the best-ever MCU performances, but the strategy of releasing them in thirteen-hour binge drops made them inherently inaccessible to some. If you were a Marvel fan who was unable to stay up and marathon all thirteen episodes in one sitting the second they hit Netflix on Friday morning, your options would either be to avoid social media or anything tied to the show, or risk being spoiled on the handful of "big" plot points. Those plot points would also fade from the public consciousness shortly after the season dropped, outside of groups of diehard fans still theorizing about that corner of the universe.
Meanwhile, WandaVision has still become the kind of show where a viewer needs to dodge spoilers on a Friday morning -- but only until they're able to check out a single twenty-minute episode. Even a casual viewer who hasn't been watching the series weekly still can feasibly catch up and join the worldwide conversation, something that has since become a facet of the show's marketing. All the while, fans and critics alike have been able to truly appreciate every single scene or small moment in each episode, whether on the level of artistic craft or just as a springboard for fan theories. If the series had been released in a six-hour binge drop, the focus would have largely consisted of Evan Peters' surprise return as Quicksilver and whatever else the show has planned in its finale, aspects of which would have easily been spoiled for some members of the audience before they even got a chance to watch Episode 1.
In a year where the theatrical moviegoing experience still isn't feasible, where network TV has only begun to creep back on the air, and where many people have surely reached the end of their Netflix queue, WandaVision's weekly releases have helped recapture the "event TV" experience. In a way, they've also captured the experience of reading the comics that WandaVision is based on -- a larger arc broken up into a series of wildly-different, unpredictable installments, with major moments and cliffhangers that make you want to come back when the next issue drops in a few weeks time. Sure, WandaVision isn't paced like the kind of storytelling that MCU audiences are used to -- but that's part of the beauty of it.
WandaVision debuts new episodes on Disney+ every Friday. If you haven't signed up for Disney+ yet, you can try it out here.
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