Wandavision sees Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) use her power to build a false domestic life with the deceased Vision (Paul Bettany) TWITTER/WANDAVISION

When Disney+ announced their new line-up of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s spinoff television series they would stream this year, my focus was on the Loki series. As a fan who annoyingly hasn’t been able to let this interest go since I was twelve years old, I was pretty grumpy that Wandavision would be airing first. I haven’t been the biggest fan of the MCU’s representation of Wanda & Ultron, particularly with the whitewashing scandal in which Wanda’s Romani heritage was erased. Whenever I watched Civil War in the cinema, I’d use their fight scene as a chance to get a popcorn refill. Overall, I wasn’t excited for the show and avoided watching it, until I saw that Darcy Lewis from the Thor films was involved. However, when I finally tuned in, I was surprised by the depth of the themes the show was actually exploring.

“I wasn’t excited for the show...however, when I finally tuned in, I was surprised by the depth of the themes”

Picking up after the events of Endgame, Wandavision explores Wanda Maximoff’s reaction to her romantic interest, an android named Vision, being killed. In her grief, she uses her magic to create a literal manifestation of maladaptive daydreaming. With mind-control powers, she takes over a small town, controlling everyone to act out a simulacrum of a “normal” American suburban life. After bringing her partner Vision back to life, they live through a domestic ideal they were never allowed to enjoy, as cracks in the facade begin to show.

In its exploration of the American ideal the show uses genre language, referencing different television eras in each episode.TWITTER/WANDAVISION

In its exploration of the American ideal the show uses genre language, referencing different television eras in each episode. Episodes range from depicting early black-and-white sitcoms like I Love Lucy and Bewitched, to an ’80s-themed episode alluding to Malcolm In the Middle with its direct camera address, family tropes and Halloween special theme. For Wanda, this is a commentary on cultural belonging, as she continues to try living in this fictional, domestic society she has created which is doing its best to emulate popular American media. This is not without fault in its whitewashed presentation — they continue to evoke the Eastern European poverty stereotype, and problematically make references to her as a fortune teller. This is definitely not a nuanced depiction, but perhaps it offers some ideas about the damaging impact of the ideals in this American, suburban lifestyle and what it can mean to groups outside of this.

“In her grief, Wanda uses her magic to create a literal manifestation of maladaptive daydreaming.”

Aware that this is an unhealthy way of dealing with her grief, the show begins to glitch as characters start to realise the truth behind this happy pretence. As we reach episode 4, “We Interrupt this Programme”, we start to see the true concept of what the show is doing. Drawing parallels to The Truman Show, we realise that the entire town is acting out this fantasy against their own free will. Characters break down and start crying when they are freed from this control, aware that there is no way out of this town for them, showing fear of Wanda’s power. Her husband, Vision, starts to notice the signs of things being subtly wrong. From the bright red colour of someone’s blood in an accident, vibrant in a black-and-white episode, to one of the neighbours breaking, asking if she should take a scene “from the top”, the show is able to capture masterfully an uncanny sense of things being off in an effectively creepy manner.

Evan Peters as Pietro Maximoff in WandavisionTWITTER/MARVELFACTS

This builds to an incredible cliff-hanger in which, upon reminiscing on her murdered brother Pietro, she receives a knock at the door. This fabricated reality offers her the comfort not of her brother, played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson in Avengers: Age Of Ultron, but instead of the X-Men Universe’s Peter Maximoff, Evan Peters, her brother from the different series of films. This twist has been the result of many years of build-up. Famously, Marvel and Fox were in copyright disputes regarding “mutants”. Meaning, while Wanda and Pietro could be featured as characters in the MCU, they could not be referred to as “Scarlet Witch” or “Mutants”. In the meantime, Quicksilver became a fan-favourite of the X-Men films after his iconic bullet time scene in X-Men: Days Of Future Past. For her brother to show in this new form is an incredible meta-aware twist and chance to further emphasise the uncanny, altered nature of Wanda’s grief-stricken reality, lamp-shaded by Darcy who exclaims “She recast Pietro?”

Aaron Taylor-Johnson played Pietro in the MCU until his character's death, while Evan Peters played the X-Men incarnation of QuicksilverTWITTER/HEELIXV

Even if you have never stepped a foot in the world of the MCU before, Wandavision makes for good weekly viewing both for its chance to theorise and watch mysteries unfold, as well as its closer look at grief, mental health and Wanda’s characterisation. It is still vitally important to remember the casting situation and its problems, especially when the show evokes ideas surrounding Wanda’s heritage, and not overlook this simply because the series is good. In its surprising success, we can look forward to what else the new Disney Plus streaming format has for us, hoping that its less problematic characters will have the chance to be explored.


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