"WandaVision" Review: Disney+ pays tribute to classic sitcoms

In the Marvel cinematic universe, there are well-known and well-established characters like Iron Man, Captain America and the Hulk. There are also less-known characters, who play small but crucial roles in many of the films. Two of those such characters — Vision and Wanda Maximoff — now have the chance to take the lead in the unique and quirky Disney+ program, WandaVision.

WandaVision is not a traditional superhero show. In fact, it feels like it exists in a different universe than the Avengers films. As compared to the Marvel cinematic universe, the show is daring and unique but for fans of classic television sitcoms, it also feels very traditional.

In the three episodes that were available for review, Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany) are a happily-married couple dealing with classic sitcom conundrums. In the opening episode, for instance, Vision’s ill-tempered boss visits the couple’s home and miscommunication between the couple leads to some awkward moments when the boss and his wife arrive.

The three episodes also include some cheesy one-liners that are followed by audience laughter. “Did you use your night vision, Vision,” Wanda asks before audience laughter ensues in the second episode.   

Although the couple seem to be living in the 1950s though, they are still the same characters that Marvel fans recognize from the films. Wanda remains a powerful figure with magical powers while Vision — who disguises himself in front of company — remains an Android. Both hide their secrets from the outside world in the same way that Samantha (Elizabeth Montgomery) once hid her secrets from her noisy neighbor and others on Bewitched.

The first episode feels very formulaic considering its homages to sitcoms of yore. The second and third episodes, which also have somewhat traditional comedy structures, hint at something more. It’s that concept that will likely lure viewers in as a mystery slowly unfolds about the two main characters and the world they find themselves in.

Admittedly, the first episode plays a little safe and it’s more interested in joking about classic sitcom tropes than it is in telling a forward-moving story. However, the pace picks up in the second and third episodes and it shows that the writers are trying to tell a bigger story in this series format. 

With hints of Pleasantville sprinkled in, the plot slowly reveals that there’s more at stake here than the first episode suggests. WandaVision can be a little frustrating though as it’s oftentimes easier to appreciate the nods in the show (to classic sitcoms like The Brady Bunch, The Dick van Dyke Show and others) than it is to enjoy the originality of this new series.

There are plenty of hints that WandaVision is heading somewhere interesting though. With only three episodes though, it’s hard to see exactly where the show is going but it’s easy to recognize the clues being planted for something much bigger.

In the same way that Lost viewers oftentimes tuned in to see the next twist or the latest revelation, viewers here too should check out the show to see if they can unravel the puzzle pieces before the main characters do. With the help of an able cast including Bettany, Olsen and supporting players like Kathryn Hahn, show creator Jac Schaeffer has created something unique but the show is hindered at times when its homages to the past feel more important than its focus on the future.    

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