WandaVision+ (2021)

The best MCU project & creative avant-garde innovation we’ve craved by Marvel for years, WV+’s a boldly-stylized canvas of TV-nostalgia & medium-deconstruction/analysis; a meta-CBM/mystery/comedy/romance/horror/sci-fi/fantasy of grief & phantasmagoria. 9.4/10.

Plot Synopsis: Living idealized suburban lives in Small-Town America, super-powered beings Wanda Maximov and The Vision begin to suspect that everything may not be as it seems.

CLC’s Official Best #WandaVision+ Episode Ranking: 1. Filmed In Front Of A Live Studio Audience, 2. Now In Color, 3. Previously On, 4. Breaking The Fourth Wall, 5. On A Very Special Episode.., 6. The All-New Halloween Spooktacular, 7. We Interrupt This Program, 8. Don’t Touch That Dial!, 9. The Series Finale

*Possible Spoilers Ahead*

Official CLC Review

A 16+-Show, 42+-Season, 750+-Ep DCTV

Marvel Built The Biggest Movie Franchise Ever Over 10 Years: The MCU – Now, Post-Endgame & Old Formula, A Bold Decision To Challenge DCTV & Critics In New World: TV

Photograph Courtesy Of: Disney+ x Marvel Studios

A 16+-show, 42+-season, 750+-episode TV-empire. That’s what DC built since the 2012 premiere date of a billionaire shipwrecked on an island in ‘Arrow’. The dark, cinematic, richly-characterized archer-vigilantism of Oliver Queen proof-of-concepted a new era on TV – one just as epic [& studio-profitable] as the movies, once-thought to be the only way to make billions the now aptly-named Arrowverse brings in yearly for the critically-acclaimed CW/WB/HBOMAX conglomerate. During the same time DC dominated the TV landscape, Marvel did so the movie one – launching their own 10-year, 21-film, 32-hero franchise in the MCU: becoming the biggest and most profitable cinematic franchise ever off (largely)-parallel tonal mixes, critical-acclaim, and fandom-service as epic-scale as both universes’ J.L./Avengers crossover team-ups. Marvel, like DC did with the DCEU, also tried a different approach to keep their film and TV universes separate – a partnership with the king of streaming: Netflix that (somehow) failed, perhaps due to fan preferences of the family-friendly tone of the MCU but definitely because ~all of the shows were mediocre-to-bad, except Daredevil and The Punisher. The wild growth and insane profitability of Netflix catalyzed a streaming war age – with every studio throwing money-bags to pony up to the table and Disney throwing down their biggest poker cards: Marvel and Star Wars. The Mandalorian arguably saved the entire Disney/Star Wars-consortium after a slew of chaotic and fandom-antagonizing films, & Avengers: Endgame culminated a grand finale to Phase 1 at the movies it would be difficult to keep producing – especially since MCU movies are formula-blockbusters. Perhaps fueled by the recent viral headlines of legendary directors like Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola rightfully-criticizing the aforementioned MCU formula as ‘not-real-cinema’, the MCU is shaking things up on a new medium: TV – and their first project is what we’ve, from CLC to Mr. Scorsese, been waiting for over a decade. The best MCU project & type of creative avant-garde innovation we’ve craved by Marvel for years beyond safe blockbuster formula, WV+ is a boldly-stylized canvas of TV-nostalgia & precocious medium-deconstruction/analysis – a meta CBM/mystery/comedy/ romance/horror/sci-fi/fantasy/CSI series of ignis fatuus, phantasmagoria, breathtaking production/costume-design, pure joy of watching experience, domestic life, grief/escapism themes, slow-burn classical storytelling, vaudeville dark magic villain, cutting-edge ambition, & master-characterization for Elizabeth Olsen’s Scarlet Witch.

The Meta-References To TV History

The Dick Van Dyke Show, I Love Lucy, The Twilight Zone, Bewitched, The Brady Bunch, Full House, Malcolm In The Middle, Modern Family, The Office, & More – 1950’s-2010’s

Photograph Courtesy Of: Disney+ x Marvel Studios

The press-release of the [extensive] list of TV series WandaVision+ (WV+) sampled drew gasps across the film community. Cinematic recreations & homages never really went beyond 1-2 major reference-projects maximum – and bones lined the Movie/TV graveyards of failed-realizations sunk by their own hubris, pretense, and overestimation of aptitude. WV+ has 17 [according to CLC’s Deconstructive Analysis Of References Both Obvious & Hidden In Its Labvrythnian Mazes]: The Dick Van Dyke Show, I Love Lucy, The Twilight Zone, Bewitched, I Dream Of Jeannie, The Brady Bunch, Good Times, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Full House, Malcolm In The Middle, Modern Family, Goosebumps, Out Of This World, Wayward Pines, Arrow, & The Office from TV, and The Wizard Of Oz from movies: perhaps its biggest inspiration & homage. This is a crazy [borderline impossible] slate of some of the greatest and most foundational, legendary, and inimitable projects in the history of TV & film – a self-painted, eras-wide target on your back that would exile a studio as the laughing-stock of the industry for generations if failed on its promises. TV is also a far more difficult medium to master than [blockbuster] films; big-budget theatrical films have the luxury of hiding behind a 1.5-2 hour bright-and-fast burning timeframe, preclusion of rewinding or pausing to catch/analyze the tiniest of details, and a public not parsing much of the experience beyond broad-strokes & overall A/V-experience it’s far easier to impress with on a massive theater screen and subwoofers than a 50″ TV in a suburban living room.

A Pure Joy Of Nostalgic TV Experience

One Of The Most Beautiful & Stylistically-Impressive TV Homages I’ve Ever Seen, WV+ Takes Us Back In Time; Perfectly-Recreated Era-Magic & A Masterpiece Visual Canvas

Photograph Courtesy Of: Disney+ x Marvel Studios

TV has a fractional budget of its cinematic counterparts to work with and far more restrictions [when not on streaming] – having to rely far more on the power of its writers’ room storytelling and characterization-prowess/capabilities to stretch out the story to 5-10x the runtime-length in a 12-23 episode S1-order it’s extremely-difficult to continually-hold a viewer’s attention [especially in the social-media/TL;DR-age]. Tack that onto the production companies for WV+ – Disney and a Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) so famous for propagating basic, calculated blockbusters to low-demanding audience demographics, they have their own eponymous formula name and who have no real experience in the vastly-divergent medium of TV – and you have a bonafide recipe for disaster/failure. The story of WV+ reverberates the classical Americana the series paints as a heart on its sleeve: never doubt the underdogs, especially when you humiliate & light a fire in their bellies like Scorsese’s comments and all the jokes/write-offs must’ve on every day of production.

The Multiverse Of Genres

A Meta-CBM/Mystery/Comedy/Romance/ Horror/Sci-Fi/Fantasy/CSI Series, WV May Be The Most Genre-Diverse & Ambitious TV Series Released Snc. The Twilight Zone 1959

Photograph Courtesy Of: Disney+ x Marvel Studios

The project is a pure joy of nostalgic TV experience like nothing I’ve ever witnessed – it’s a miracle of achievement: a one-season tour-de-force curated exhibition of everything we love about TV & its history painted in the most avant-garde/indie stylism possible, blending genres across decades and eras. A Meta-CBM/Mystery/Comedy/Romance/Horror/Sci-Fi/Fantasy/CSI Series, WandaVision+ is perhaps the most genre-diverse & wildly-ambitious project to grace our TV screens since 1959’s The Twilight Zone. This is the experimentalism and manifest-destiny innovation CLC and people who care about the state of cinema worldwide have begged the MCU to take for over a decade beyond safe blockbuster formula – and it’s positively-glorious. This series has the potential to be a game changer for big pop-cultural Films/TV & CBM’s of equal magnitude to The Dark Knight, Joker, & Into The Spider-Verse – a beautiful, lovingly-crafted homage & eulogization-panegyric to the medium that also deconstructs & analyzes it foundation-wise: The Wizard Of Oz for a new generation & age! The miniseries plot-structure can be divided into four-acts at roughly 2-3 episodes each [20-min episodes was a brilliant-decision evocative of its subject & lore, while also refreshingly-curtailing the admittedly-onerous task of 40+-min length ep’s across multiple seasons like Netflix/CW] – each episode apart from a CSI one and two for the finale perfectly-encapsulating a decade of TV series from the 1950’s-2010’s. To start, we’re taken into a panchromatic dream of white picket-fence ’50’s Americana: the origins of the sitcom.

I. Marriage Bliss In The ’50’s & ’60’s

A Mystery In Four Acts & Decade/Ep., We Begin In Classic ’50’s U.S.A.-Suburbia – The Origin Of Sitcoms Charming As Newlyweds

Photograph Courtesy Of: Disney+ x Marvel Studios

From the opening flickers, the avant-garde expressionism makes this unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. The famous red Marvel Studios logo fades to chiaroscuro black-and-white & TV static FX take us into a proficiently-recreated 1950’s sitcom. Our two newlywed protagonists cruise the streets of a classic idyllization of white picket-fence suburbia in a ’51 Stuedebaker Starlight Coupe – a genuine thrill to see MCU heroes in such a vastly-different light: a dream-like transposition into a simplistic and limitlessly-charming era of U.S.-history, reverberated by the performances. The subtlety/nuance of Elizabeth Olsen’s and Paul Bettany’s physicality and acting styles further pull us into the fantasy – the overexaggerated, vaudeville performances characteristic of era TV series are purposely invoked and painted live before our very eyes.. and even a live-studio audience for maximum nostalgia/authenticity! The portraiture of domestic life sees S.W. & Vision take on classically-defined housewife/working-husband gender-roles; the bizarrity of the canvas highlights how far the spectrum has evolved from the rigid-restraints/clichés of the Baby-Boom era as black-and-white as its TV-colors – especially women, from the home to the workforce to even superheroicism on the world’s biggest stages today. The chemistry and romance of Olsen & Bettany also deserves recognition & praise, furthering the perfectly-cast pair’s love-story from their first introductions in Age Of Ultron 7+ years ago. The sitcom-invocation gives the MCU the perfect-match and cover for its light/airy quip-filled tonal mix: one we’ve previously criticized for detracting from the epic-scale action scenes of an IW or Endgame too but feeling right in-context here. The setting is also a wildly-divergent one from ~every other CBM – even with them being perhaps the most popular blockbuster & TV genre on the planet, we rarely-if-ever seen them set in as intimate and strikingly-normal a setting as a small-town like Westview or the past. The nightmare of the world’s COVID-19 landscape makes the home-set series even more relatable, and nostalgic charm even more investable by its escapist fantasy [panchromatic] glow.

The Cinematography, Set/Costume-Design

A Miracle Of TV Achievement, Every Detail Of The Paradisiac Small-Town America Is A Dream – Down To Even The Commercials!

Photograph Courtesy Of: Disney+ x Marvel Studios

Every detail of the canvas is perfection – a masterpiece of TV analysis and pure recapture of the magic of the birth of TV bursting with the enchantment of the pastel-clad, big-Chevy’d, poodle-skirted, laugh-tracked, baseball-pasttimed, patriotic, glam-rocked era. This, of course, is due to the painstaking craftsmen behind the cinematography, VFX, production/costume-design, score, and make-up departments – teams usually in the background of public recognition to cast-and-directors, here demanding even more celebration than the people on-screen. WV+ might be the most beautiful canvas of TV & Americana nostalgia/aesthetics I’ve ever seen in my lifetime of cinema – the period-authenticity is staggering and work of hundreds or thousands of people analyzing every frame of 1950’s-2010’s sitcoms clearly-evident in every shot. The curly-hair, polka-dot/checkered-plaid shirtwaist dresses, darkly-accented pink or minty-green decor, hourglass-accented silhouettes, classical-suits, antenna-TV’s, font-sizes, editing, frame-shifts, sharp-cuts, fades, wire-screens, automobiles, small-town street-signs, and 10x more aspects than printable give you a hallucinogenic trip through the history of the medium for a positively-glorious experience any cinephile will get lost in happily. Even while overtly-realistic & lovingly-tributary to classic U.S.A., it works in subtle commentary by modernized stylistic-choices – like a more diverse POC-cast in the background that wouldn’t have been found in 100%-white TV series of the age to poke fun at the ’50’s lack of color [both cultural and chromatic], capitalism-eulogization through Vision’s boss to reminisce on America’s fascination with mercantilism [taken to farcical proportions in S1E1’s dinner-party-from-hell], & out-of-place misogynistic comments criticize its society wide era-view on women.

The Score & [Subliminal] Mystery

The Acoustic Landscape Is ~Every Bit As Diverse & Magical, A Perfect Encapsulation Of Genres & Eras W. A Bizarre Music Theory Motif As WV-Backbone: The Devil’s Interval

Photograph Courtesy Of: Disney+ x Marvel Studios

The lifetime achievement of the A/V canvas goes down to even the brilliant-touches of the commercials and acoustics of its score – both working in-tandem to carefully-cultivate a gut-feeling that there’s something wrong in paradise here. The commercials advance the nostalgic paean, while working narratively & adding even more TV-authenticity to a major part of medium-history increasingly-forgotten in The Streaming Age. Only diverging in the subtlest and most hidden of subliminal messages and background details, the presence of hydra logos and names/types/mottos of the products themselves take cues & tricks from real-life commercial psychology – twisting its capitalistic vices into a plot-device reminding us of Scarlet Witch’s (S.W.) story-arc to get here, paralleling the infinity stones, and poking fun at her traumatization trough black comedy touches of a villain behind the scenes? The Toaster-Mate 2000 [coyly-made by Stark Industries] references Wanda’s origins by the bombing of her apartment by a Stark Industries Missile – paying homage to the first redemption-arc that began the MCU, referencing Wanda’s pet-name of Vision in the comics: ‘Toaster’, and looking like a Vision-esque face with the only the top-middle colorized [The Mind Stone if extrapolated to Vision, further commentary of him being a machine/A.I. given a mind by the stone]. The Strücker watch references S.W.’s time spent under the nightmare-experimentation of the Hydra operative sharing the same name [with even a Hydra logo on the watch-face] which gave her and Pietro their powers, also by its temporal aspect a reference to the Time Stone. A peculiar aspect constant not only in the commericals, but also in the theme songs and general score is the omnipotence of a bizarre music-theory chord progression-type: The Devil’s Interval. While it sounds happy and isn’t even noticeable to anyone without extensive background knowledge of instrumentalism and orchestration, it further works perfectly with the series’ motif – miring the twinkling xylophonics, rattling tambourines, marimba, jazz, calmative flutes, jubilant major-key serenado orchestral strings, and overt happiness of the idyllic ’50’s scene score-wise in something ‘off’ & mysterious. I love the introduction of Agnes as the high-libido neighbor/friend from next door helping out the couple pre-hijinx, twinges of psychological horror like the choking ‘stop it’ scene, and clear references to The Dick Van Dyke Show, I Love Lucy, Bewitched, I Dream Of Jeannie, & The Twilight Zone – as the series transitions from black-and-white to technicolor, progressing two decades in two episodes to the 1970’s.

II. New Parenthood In The ’70’s & ’80’s

The Black-And-White Thematic/Chromatic Simplification Of The ’50’s Gets Colorized & Funkified; The Groovy Lives Of Avg. Parents

Photograph Courtesy Of: Disney+ x Marvel Studios

Next, the ’70’s. From the psychedelic, disco-dancing, rainbow-hued, bell-bottomed, afrosheen-foxy grooviness of the opening credits, this might be the best era-homage of WandaVision+ [only rivaled by its opening ’50’s recreation]. Every aspect of the fashion, VFX, prod./set-design [somehow looking both real and fake at the same time as the series continues its existential tailspin into conspiracy theorizations on what is really going on here], and costumes are ‘far-out’ – capturing the ostentatious visual motif of the era, referencing The Brady Bunch, Good Times, and The Mary Tyler Moore Show . The surf/glam-rock, trumpeted, wurlitzered, wah-pedal electric guitar-strums of the Golden Age of Rock N’ Roll shine in the soundtrack – especially cognizant in the brilliant utilization of Jimmy Hendrix’s black-magic Voodoo Child, not only thematically-relevant in clever parallels to Maximov as a character, but melting your face off with its solos. The marriage/domestic bliss of the couple transitions to parenthood on the pregnancy of Wanda – itself [and its unnatural logarithmic-progression of hours/days instead of months] being the biggest hint so far that something’s onerous in the dreamscape and magic may be at play. The commercial reverberates it: ‘The Hydra Soak’ overtly names the criminal organization while being a double-entendre to bubble-baths, and its mother-getting-away references Wanda’s desire to get away from her life [‘without going anywhere at all!’] – while graphically and thematically-matching the Tesseract and its interior Space Stone’s ability to create portals and ‘escape’ to other parts of the universe.

A Cosmic Threat & Debut Of S.W.O.R.D.

The Plot-Structure & Lay-Out Of Clues Fuel The Slow-Burn Mystery – CSI, J. Woo, & Big Theories: House Of M, Mephisto, Multiverse?

Photograph Courtesy Of: Disney+ x Marvel Studios

Still, it’s a comedic gold-mine to see MCU superheroes subject to the same nerves and chaos of everyday couples like childbirth as twins are born – and the previously-benign Monica throws down a hard connection of the two kids being like the Maximov twins and reminding Wanda that Ultron killed Pietro. Thrown violently out of the fantasy and revealed to be a spy working for a governmental agency called S.W.O.R.D. by a Wanda looking increasingly like a power-mad villain, we’re finally given an explanation of the dreamscape-turned-nightmare & the series darkly-shifts to CSI with a jarring juxtaposition/fast-forward to present day that cuts like a buzzsaw – effectively highlighting how spellbinding our time in Westview and past-eras was. Being the cosmic and extraterrestrial-sister of the more earthly-focused S.H.I.E.L.D. we know from The Infinity Saga, the cold-and-sterile, dark gunmetal, expensive/opulent facilities of S.W.O.R.D. establish intrigue of a new govt. inside the Marvel Universe with a slew of hidden agendas and potential storylines. Losing her mother while in erased from existence without even being there to comfort or console her during a resurgence of cancer, Monica’s dark backstory both takes us back into the excitement of Endgame and gives her the ability to understand the pain, loss, and motivations of Wanda – plus a strong black woman [one of the MCU’s best] it’s refreshing to see in major pop-media, and gets superpowers to be likely seen again in Captain Marvel 2 by the post-credits scene. Redeemed also are two major characters from the purgatory of Marvel Cinematic Universe failure-movies: 1) Thor 1/2’s [Dr.] Darcy Lewis, whose spunky-comedy tech nerdiness also paves way for some feminist themes about title and doctorates and 2) Randall Park’s wryly-comedic FBI agent Jimmy Woo from 2018’s putrid rom-com Ant-Man & The Wasp. Also established by this fantastic CSI intermission is a B-villain arc in the power-hungry, easy-to-hate control-freak megalomaniac Agent Hayward – a villain straight of an ’80’s movie with inferiority-complexed ambitions setting the stage for our return back to glorious TV nostalgia.

The Psychological Horror

The Revelation Of A Whole Town Taken Hostage & Turned Into Puppets For The TV Enjoyment Of A Previous Hero Is Perverse & Wicked – A Dreamscape-Turned-Nightmare

Photograph Courtesy Of: Disney+ x Marvel Studios

The bad gym fashion, tube-socks, big hair, sweatbands, visceral piano-ballads, synths, and blurred camerawork of the ’80’s as we’re taken yet again back through time to the age & aesthetics of Full House and Out Of This World. The Lagos paper-towl brand and polysemic catch-phrase of ‘when you make a mess you didn’t mean to!’ furthers the likelihood of a villain pulling strings behind-the-scenes, darkly-joking on the tragic events of Captain America: Civil War’s Lagos-acciden wherein Wanda misdirected a suicide-bombing into an apartment building and killed innocent civilians to set up the litigation of The Sokovia Accords. The red liquid the towels pick up symbolize by-color/matter-phase the Aether aka Reality Stone and it’s ability to correct/rewrite reality as the series goes full-House Of M psychological horror. The revelation that Westview is an entire town held hostage in a living sitcom for the enjoyment of Wanda Maximov – a ‘hero’-turned villain also making crimes against nature by resurrecting her own lover Vision’s body against his will like a Frankenstein – is striking, packing powerful dramatization value commendably darker and far more mature than previous MCU projects. The destruction of personality, free-will, and perception of all awareness of surroundings like mannequins or meat-puppets frozen waiting on their cues also serves as a brilliant meta-deconstruction of TV-series in the most sadistic real-life way possible – Wanda being a real-life writer/actress/director with endless power over people’s lives. The payoff of the slow-burn mystery is immense as it keeps working in new wrinkles – like how Agnes doesn’t seem to notice/mind the obvious references to the magical disnature around her and one of the biggest surprise-cameo’s in the history of CBM’s: Evan Peters’ Quicksilver from Fox’s X-Men.

III. S.W.O.R.D. & Nightmare In ’90’s & 2000’s

The Age Of Punk-Rock, Fourth-Wall Breaks, Single-Cam Comedies, & Cartoon-Network, Energy|Moxie Personified By EP-Quicksilver

Photograph Courtesy Of: Disney+ x Marvel Studios

Ah, the ’90’s. Punk rock, found-footage, single-cam [wildly-swerving and subversive] sitcoms, gangsta rap clothing, Pulp Fiction, neoliberalism, MJ, the internet, nescient-phase of CGI, Disney-Renaissance, Fight Club, The Simpsons, blue-jeans, breaking the fourth-wall, and golden-age of Nickelodeon/Cartoon Network/etc. Being born in the decade myself, the era of nostalgia and its iconic contributions to pop-culture hold a special-place in my heart – one I couldn’t wait to see painted on-screen and am overjoyed with the results. Part of this – besides its clear-aestheticization to the original subversive-sitcom Malcolm In The Middle alongside Goosebumps, Full House, and the epic tradition of Halloween Special episodes – is due to the lightning-fast zip of energy Evan Peters brings to the scene. One of our favorite no-f’s-given, counter-culture, juvenile-moxie actors from American Horror Story to Pose FX to Kick-Ass to X-Men, the man/child embodies the teenage-chutzpah and joie-de-vivre of the ’90’s perfectly – also being a shocking cameo on-par with The Mandalorian’s and DCTV’s Crisis On Infinite Earths [creating a multiverse-canon of DCEU & DCTV by Gustin and Ezra’s Flashes meeting back in 2020]. The halloween costumes humorously and nostalgically reference the comic book history outfits of each original hero, as Vision betrays Wanda to go undercover-to-unncover the horror of Westview’s darkest secrets – just as S.W.O.R.D.’s mission of resurrecting Ultron punches even more fascination into the TV series.

The Tonal Diversification

As Contrastive In Tonal-Mix, A Chiaroscuro Both Lighter & Darker Than Previous MCU-Films – Sitcoms To 1693 Salem-Witch-Trials

Photograph Courtesy Of: Disney+ x Marvel Studios

The Yo Magic! commercial is the darkest and most gloriously-nostalgic one yet – a perfect-recreation of the stop-motion claymation commercials ’90’s kids like me had pumped into our bloodstreams via networks like Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network. The starving kid on a desert island who offers anything for food, only for a shark to show up and give him a yogurt pack he can’t open so he dies salivating over it in his grasp symbolically-references the devil’s trope of appearing when someone offers to sell their soul: a shark hunting sinners and tricking them with ‘gifts’ that aren’t really so. This can also be analyzed as the Soul Stone by its psychological-torment and requirement for death/sacrifice – and be projected onto Wanda’s situation of perhaps getting in lieu with the devil of the Marvel Universe: Mephisto to bring her family & idealized life back in Westview to intensify the hype 10x over by teasing one of the big bads of comics history. The Nexus antidepressant pill commercial focuses on Wanda’s present and future – referencing her own depression stage of the 5 stages of grief and signaling she’s ready to move on, finalizing the theory that the commercials are referential of her story-arc by physically-merging the two; Wanda is seen taking these exact pills in several times in the main episodes. It also invokes the Power Stone by the events of Westview unlocking Wanda’s true cosmic powers and final-form of Scarlet Witch, or be predisposition to it with the stone being the Darkhold Maximov is studying at the end and gains dark magic powers/knowledge from its secrets. The stone and story-arc references by the commercials are thus hypotheses-supported – and the only questions left to interpretation are: who are the two man and woman presenters across the eras’ commercials [perhaps Wanda’s parents?] and who is the villain helping prop up this funhouse/frame-job of psychological terrorization?

One Of The Best MCU Villains

A Career-Performance By Kathryn Hahn, The Grandiose, Vaudeville, Deliciously-Evil Ag. Harkness: A Villain Of Subterfuge, Black Mgc, & Masterclass In Expressionistic Acting

Photograph Courtesy Of: Disney+ x Marvel Studios

The series transitions to the 21st-century and cutting-edge innovation of The Age Of The Office [+ Wayward Pines & Arrow, both having done a storyline wherein a fake-reality small-town suburbia-america has been constructed to trick residents into thinking life’s normal in apocalyptic or villain-minded circumstances XD. Also: Modern Family’s stylistic aesthetics] brought to TV. Direct character-to-audience interactions breaking the fourth wall, sardonic knowing gazes to the camera [Paul Bettany hits perfectly], rumba-transitions with crisp cuts, and a depressed Wanda clinging to her crumbling family and happiness against the overt signs & dilemma of her wrongdoings. The weardown of the illusion finally reveals the necessity for the big-bad hiding in plain sight to finally reveal herself – a jaw-dropping [& wildly-catchy bop, psychotically-mocking Wanda’s sitcom-life] plot-twist and another black magic witch in Westview: Agatha Harkness. A career-performance by Kathryn Hahn, the grandiose, vaudeville, deliciously-wicked Witch Of The West is a tour-de-force in subterfuge, layered villain amongst the [villain-problematic] MCU’s best, & masterclass in expressionistic acting. The physicality and facial miens/contortions of Hahn are priceless and transmit more zest and emotiveness than most actresses do with monologues – and her dark magic heathen is as fascinating characterizationally as it is an indescribabe joy to watch prop up the phantasmagoria from behind-the-scenes. The 1693 Salem Witch-Trial origin scene of Harkness is perhaps the darkest and most striking tonal-shift the MCU has ever attempted – a complete-180 from its blissful and cherubic/angelic ’50’s sitcom aesthetic to one of the most evil and apocryphal times in American history. Here, the subversive burn-at-the-stake trope [feminist-relevant/important in the fact its accusations killed women far-and-wide on predominantly-unfounded claims by a fake-Christian Protestant mindset] is flipped by the fact it was a coven of witches themselves holding Agatha on trial.

A Masterful Character-Study Of Grief/Loss

The Best Achievement: The Depth, Beauty, & Poignance Of Wanda’s Characterization Arc – A Psychoanalysis Of Grief/Loss In 5 Stages

Photograph Courtesy Of: Disney+ x Marvel Studios

The cockiness/pretense of her powers is just that she had the curiosity and ambition to go higher [a a hierarchical-system punishing & stifling overarchieving young women symbolic of the patriarchy], and her crying pleas that she could be good and learn to change give depth to the character – turned to the dark side by rejection and attempted-murder by her own family and sisters for a powerful origin scene amongst the best in CBM’s. Fast-forward ~300 years , she’s perfected her black magic and is the perfect counterbalance/reverse-villain of a classically-heroic Wanda – here, strikingly-similar by the fact they’ve both done wrong they didn’t mean to and were motivated by power-hungriness. Needing to know how she achieved such an impossible spell-web in Westview, Agatha walks Wanda and us back through the inexorable darkness and trauma of her childhood, setting the stage for WV+’s major themes: grief, immigrant-dreams, the desire for normalcy/fitting-in, and power of TV & cinema. The Cold-War childhood of a war-battered Sokovia with drugs, sex, and weapons being peddled on every street-corner is again darker and more realistic than the [previously family-friendly] MCU has ever portrayed – but a perfect background landscape to paint how TV, movies, & the joy/worlds we escape to through them can be all that people in bad situations have to distract them from the depressiveness of their real-life surroundings. The scene also shows the unfathomable nightmare realities of many war-torn countries around the globe – the kind immigrants escape to countries like the United States to protect their families from in hopes of making better lives for themselves and future generations, and of which America was founded by. The warm, jovial family scene watching their favorite sitcoms [choosing from a collection of DVD’s with every TV show WandaVision+ references in the box for a legendary Easter Egg] is killed as a rogue missile from Stark Industries cuts like a buzzsaw in the flick of an eyelash – warping it into one of the most heartbreaking, tearjerking, shocking, boldest, and saddest scenes in TV history. We will never forget the power of emotion of seeing that evocative shot of the children trapped underneath the debris and rubble, still watching the TV next to the missile and remarking how the Dick Van Dyke episode they’re watching is about a nightmare he eventually wakes up from: a scene loaded with subtext & allegory that pulls your heart-strings so hard, they’ll burst.

A Breathtaking Paean To TV’s Power In Life

A Gut-Wrenching, Heartbreaking Glimpse Into The Tragedy Of Existence Paints The Power Of TV & Cinema – Escapism To Limitless Worlds When The Real One Fails

Photograph Courtesy Of: Disney+ x Marvel Studios

The shot is also one of the greatest and most symbolically-beautiful I’ve ever seen – exemplifying through visual metaphor TV & cinema’s aforementioned allure of limitless worlds, stories, and possibilities to escape real-life from – the reason we at CLC love cinema, enough to bring tears to this critic’s eyes. The origin of Scarlet Witch is tied to the origin RDJ’s Iron Man [& symbolically: The MCU]: the first-hand experience of the horrors of war his family was responsible like a merchant-of-death convincing the genius-billionaire-playboy-philanthropist to grow-up and become the hero defeating them – his arc also leading to Wanda’s orphanization and collection by H.Y.D.R.A. for experimentation. The psychological and physical torture of Wanda’s time in H.Y.D.R.A., first-meeting and romance with Vision, and visitation to S.W.O.R.D. HQ connects her past and present story-arcs in an overwhelming canvas of grief: the nightmare of seeing a Vision being torn apart and his corpse defiled by government-fueled scientists before seeing the revelation of his plan for their forever-house in real-life Westview they will never get to grow old in being the final nail in the coffin that breaks Wanda Maximov. The constant throughout the extreme traumatization Wanda’s faced throughout her life from losing her parents to her brother to her one true love and everyone she’s ever had is TV – so she uses magic to physically escape into the old friend that always brought her solace in a stroke of pure script brilliance. Chaos magic is born from WandaVision+’s true-villain [& perhaps the most universally-relatable one in CBM-history]: grief. S.W.’s story-arc parallels the five-stages of classically-defined, psychiatric grief: 1) denial – the fabricated reality of a sitcom-world, 2) anger – her lashings out at S.W.O.R.D. & Monica for interrupting the illusion, 3) bargaining – her transactional-agreement with the town-people of Westview and fights with Vision, 4) depression – every fiber of Wanda’s conscience and one true love rejecting her in shame, and 5) acceptance.

IV. The Finale & Birth Of The Scarlet Witch

A Trip Back Through The Life & Backstory Of Maximov Explains The Entire Conundrum & Sets The Stage For An Epic Showdown Between Multiple-Villains

Photograph Courtesy Of: Disney+ x Marvel Studios

The last one comes later, but the series is a poignant and powerful exposition on how grief can turn even heroes and the pure-of-heart into villains through its warping of psychology and experience; even byproduct-wise, the entire illusion of Westview was born out of non-malignant intentions: grief and loneliness twisted into a nightmare. The series tackles complex mental health issues in one of the best recreations in pop-media according to psychologists and traumatization-therapists, showcasing far more emotional-depth, artistic prowess, and characterization-skill than the MCU has ever previously shown. A fully-villainized Agatha Harkness takes Wanda’s kids hostage and S.W.O.R.D. reveals its true king’s gambit: a remake of Vision [in a beautiful pure-white exoskeleton], fully-controllable as an AI-weapon to eliminate Wanda and the real Vision. This sets the stage for an epic duality-themed finale of each of the two eponymous heroes fighting their dark-half/side – with far improved action scenes packing more spectacle than previous MCU fights. Apart from a few standalone projects [The Winter Soldier, Black Panther, & Avengers movies] helmed by certain directors whose auterist portfolio includes stylistic fight/battle-choreography like The Russo Brothers, the MCU has been ~basic and underpowered on the action side.

The Action Scenes

A Fuel-Injection Of Power & Adrenaline ~Fixes One Of Our Big Problems With MCU Action: Choreography, Scale, & Experience

Photograph Courtesy Of: Disney+ x Marvel Studios

Comparatively, the DCEU [despite its problems like WB-studio interference, storytelling-in-parts, and jumbled tonal-mixes] delivers far more epic and jaw-dropping action scenes: one of its major franchise-saving positives from Wonder Woman to Man Of Steel to Aquaman to BvS and the breathtaking spectacle we go to blockbusters and CBM’s to see. Perhaps that’s because the heroes of DC are far more powerful and godlike than Marvel’s [Superman can OHKO the entire Avengers-roster himself if he wanted to] – a dual-sided sword in allowing for limitless-scale action scenes out of our wildest dreams, but making it harder to characterize and write them with as much real-world humanity as say Spiderman. Whatever the case, the majority of MCU action scenes have been underwhelming on the popcorn-fights, and WV+ realizes it: fuel-injecting some good old-fashioned power, epic-scale, and adrenaline into the fight scenes as they rage across suburbia in vastly different motifs: physical/technical-vs-chaos-magic. Though it ~overstays its welcome [as we’ll explain later], the action WV does have delivers as it paves the way to romance, poignance, and a perfect final-form Scarlet Witch straight out of the comics and fan-dreams in the finale. The most impressive and depth-filled characterization-arc of the entire MCU [rivaled only by RDJ’s Iron Man], Elizabeth Olsen’s Scarlet Witch is a masterclass in development.

A Perfect Scarlet Witch & Character-Arc

Worthy Of Singular Adoration, The Final-Form Of Scarlet Witch Is Perfect In All Ways – & TV Series A Game-Changing Evolution Of Franchise-Moviemaking Raising The Bar

Photograph Courtesy Of: Disney+ x Marvel Studios

Redeemed not only once or twice, but three times – from HYDRA-villain-to-Avenger to the wrong side of Civil-War-to-Endgame to Westview-to-hero’s choice/sacrifice – the character has been on a topsy-turvy ride of death and rebirth [all working characterizationally] to this final-form version 6+ years in the making. The appearance of the witch only believed to be in myth in her scarlet-skied, red-costume, crowned glory is perfection in every possible way, from look to backstory to powers to journey. Enough to bring tears to a comic-book fan’s eyes, this achievement is made even better by the nostalgic touch of recreating her opening sneak-up first appearance on Stark and a brilliant reversion of Agatha’s power-lust/rule-monologues against her to steal her centuries of powers and trap her in a psychological prison of her self-chosen character: the nosy neighbor. A rewrite of The House Of M comic-storyline cleverly gives Wanda the power to choose on her own agency between Westview or her family in the finale – evolving as a person and choosing good at the darkest of expenses in giving up her own happiness: the essence of heroism, a choice even the purest amongst us would have difficulties with, and heartbreaking goodbye to Vision as Pandora’s box closes in oh-so-satisfying fashion. We love the decision to forgo a classic Disney happy-ending and mire the landscape in realism: the citizens still [rightfully] harbor grudges and ostracize Wanda, never knowing what she gave up for them and the story likely going national to put Scarlet Witch in a difficult character-position moving forward [a hero to us, but villain to the rest of the world]. A lone mountaintop post-credits scene reveals Wanda having created multiple avatars and reading the Darkhold to learn her true-powers – hearing the cry of her kids to fuel burning desire to know more & what it means: a breakdown attempt to find another way to save them? Reversion of hero into villain leading into Multiverse Of Madness? Temptation of Mephisto?

Vision-CGI, Darcy, & Length

Major Flaws Throughout The Finale, But Minor Ones: The Overpresence Of Darcy, Bizarre [Mini]-Series Length, & Vision-CGI

Photograph Courtesy Of: Disney+ x Marvel Studios

Now, although WandaVision+ is the best MCU project and one of the most avant-garde TV projects in decades – raising the bar for big pop-culture franchises to similarly-innovate, it has [many] flaws. Major, gaping, inexcusable ones can be found in the finale, but a minor one is Vision-CGI. As we’ve said all the way back to Age Of Ultron, we’re not fans of Vision’s costume or appearance – looking like a crayola spokesman or arch-enemy of the blue man group. The CGI to bring the carbon-synthezoid to life is questionable, often being seen with facial expressions looking extremely fake. The character is also an inarguable knockoff of Superman/Cyborg – down to the laser-vision, cape, flight, super-strength, computational-mechanics, etc. Worse: White Vision looks incredible – a bone-chilling monochromatic version that looks 10x more intimidating and powerful than the real-thing, so why not fix the design early on? The regular design is so detracting and ~ugly, I really wish he would’ve stayed in disguise as Paul Bettany more often to refrain from having to look at Vision. Darcy is also far too prevalent, overstaying her welcome and making us relive the crimes-against-nature that were Thor 1/2. Her smart-alecky personality becomes grating after a while and also is responsible the one antifeminist, clashing line in the series when she thinks Vision is asking her on a date and saying she’s buying the lobster, insinuating he will be paying for her [when true feminism would be both of them paying half/half: equality, right?].

The Finale & Major Letdown Of Bo[h]ners

A Betrayal Of Its Promises, The Finale Of WV+ Bows To The Safe, Mindless Action & MCU Formula It Rejected Early; Anticlimax, Wasted, Potential & A Pointless Evan-Cameo

Photograph Courtesy Of: Disney+ x Marvel Studios

These gripes pale in comparison to the finale – flaws so large, they would be excusable for ruining the series for many viewers. Of course, the biggest one [& one sure to blue-ball any bo[h]ners]: the complete-waste and purposeful antagonization of the casting of Evan Peters. Why in the realm of reality would you cast the actor who plays the exact [& universally-beloved] Fox X-Men version of Wanda’s brother and one of Marvel’s biggest character: Quicksilver.. only to cop-out at the last second and ruin the character by reducing him to nothing more than a cheap boner-joke? This is the Mandarin Iron Man 3 twist all-over-again – only 1,000x-worse by not even being remotely-funny: just juvenile, pointless, and offensive to the fanbase they obviously knew would easily connect the dots and view as the introduction of the X-Men to the MCU they’ve been waiting for 10+ years on. The series also thus wastes a fantastic actor and the perfect opportunity to merge the X-Men: not only through Quicksilver being Wanda’s brother, but also Mephisto her father in what could’ve easily been a one-second cameo in the finale to light the hype of the fanbase on fire. The failure of the reveal of Ralph also highlights the series’ other major flaws: a set-up of Mephisto bizarrely-canceled and miniseries-length. Nine 20-minute episodes is very short for a TV series – if you can even call it that. It’s more of a miniseries length at that point: a bizarre number of episodes when standard is 12-13 episodes minimum it had the storytelling legs to achieve and stops weirdly one-short of double-digits in 10? The series really needed its tenth episode to capitalize on the big-bad it teases throughout the storyline: the devil of the Marvel unvierse, Mephisto. The out-of-nowhere pregnancy [when Vision is an android and thus can’t father children], suspiciously-fast development/birth of two children having Wanda’s and Pietro’s exact powers, and entire nightmare-fantasy of Westview it would take impossible power to create is suspicious and inexplicable enough to warrant his control over the situation: a Rosemary’s Baby x Wayward Pines scenario he could easily have set up by a Wanda selling her soul in a grief-fueled breakdown to get her family and sitcom reality.

Exemplification Of Its Own Meme

A Purposeful Antagonization Of Its Fanbase, Constant, Unmistakable Comics References, Castings, & Cast-Quotes – Only To Give None Of It… The Agatha-Wink By Marvel

Photograph Courtesy Of: Disney+ x Marvel Studios

There are tons of characters who feel ‘off’ or like pawns/disguises in a larger scheme, from the mailman giving extensive creepy looks/lines every episode to Senor Scratchy to the Ralph mystery [being the husband of a witch; witches are concubines to the devil in traditional folklore] to Agatha’s rabbit to Director Hayward to Dottie – all seemingly for nothing in the absence of Mephisto. Heck, there’s even exact symbols and Easter Eggs of his involvement from throughout Marvel & comic book history like extensive use of hexagons and the cicada: unmistakable clues there’s no possible way they could’ve put in by-accident/coincidence and ones that make no sense to include so prominently without any plans to use him. While the series does still work without him, teasing one of Marvel’s biggest bads with no capitalization adds an obvious letdown – one that makes the series feel like it settled by not being more and leaving a ~bad taste in the finale of this otherwise five-star chef’s meal. There’s also no explanation on what happened with that aerospace engineer fans theorized as a cameo by a [hopefully-John Krasinski] Mr. Fantastic – and the cast’s fanning of the flames by promising a huge cameo in the finale ‘on par with The Mandalorian’s S2 Luke Skywalker-one’ by their exact words dug the own hole they found themselves in. The series thus ironically personifies the famous meme that’s come out of it: Agatha doing an ostentatious-wink [above] we now know as her taunting her villainous involvement under the guise of neighborly-benevolence The MCU echoes by going out of their way to provoke its fanbase with unmistakable Marvel references and fake-castings signaling storylines it had no plans to go down: irresponsible. The finale also betrays the overarching motif and promises of the series – wasting a majority of Ep. IX time on basic, mindless, generic MCU action scenes in stark juxtaposition to the avant-garde, creative, artistic psychological/fantasy it previously-wowed on without the need for caveman-action scenes. Though it makes up for it in the emotionalism and perfect final-form Scarlet Witch, this was time that could’ve been easily redirected to characterize and write a major cameo like Mephisto, Quicksilver, Magneto, Mr. Fantastic, etc., with or without a 10th episode.

Conclusion

The Best MCU Project Ever

Though Flawed In Finale, A Boldly-Stylized Canvas Of TV-Nostalgia & Medium-Deconstruction/Analysis – A Meta-CBM/Mystery/Comedy/Romance/Horror/Sci-Fi/Fantasy/CSI Of Phantasmagoria

Photograph Courtesy Of: Disney+ x Marvel Studios

Overall, Wandavision+ is the best MCU project ever – and one of the boldest & most avant-garde new TV series of the 21st-century. Even with its major flaws in the finale wasting Evan Peters, betraying series-promises of evolving past mindless action scenes, and antagonizing its fanbase with constant Mephisto/X-Men/F4 references it fails to capitalize-on, it’s extremely hard to be mad at the damn experience of being walked back through decades of sitcom-nostalgia in an otherwise-perfect canvas of TV. This is everything critics of the bigger-than-life world franchise have been waiting for 10+ years on – a complete, unprecedented burst of creative energy and limitless ambition that sets a new benchmark for pop culture series in comprehensive, absolute rebuke of the safe blockbuster formula of the MCU. This is how a franchise evolves, and it’s incredibly impressive – regardless of the fact this is impossibly their first outing on the small [& more difficult to story-tell] screen. WandaVision+ is a TV experience of pure joy and charm unlike I may have ever seen before: a perfectly-recreated, loving masterpiece-homage to its history taking us one-decade-per-episode through the ’50’s, ’60’s, ’70’s, ’80’s, ’90’s, and 2000’s. The Dick Van Dyke Show, I Love Lucy, The Twilight Zone, Bewitched, I Dream Of Jeannie, The Brady Bunch, Good Times, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Full House, Malcolm In The Middle, Modern Family, Out Of This World, Arrow, Wayward Pines, The Office, & The Wizard Of Oz are fair game in this impossible canvas – brought to life by pure witchcraft behind-the-scenes in sound, cinematography, production/costume-design, etc. enough to bring tears to any critic’s eyes. The mystery of how, what, when, where, and why this happy eulogization to small-town america fringed with psychological horror and charade is happening is a pleasure to contemplate: a Da Vincian codex/puzzle to decipher even the tiniest of background details and fake-commercials. The characterization, storytelling, and performances are phenomenal – juggling multiple villains, backstory-exposition, and beautiful arcs for each of its main characters with a chef d’oeuvre one for Elizabeth Olsen’s Scarlet Witch from childhood origins to H.Y.D.R.A. to final-form. The series’ big-bad is something universal more insidious than supervillains and you can’t punch with superheroics in a stroke of thematic brilliance: grief, but we get a bonus villain in Kathryn Hahn’s deliciously-wicked, vaudeville, friend-masquerading, power-hungry Agatha Harkness straight out of 1693 Salem, MA: the perfect black magic counter/reverse of Wanda. The action is far more powerful and epic than previous MCU projects, thematic-depth and feminist power tangible by how it evolves women’s representation from ’50’s housewives to now, tribute to the power of TV/cinema beautiful in how it gives people in real-life nightmares like Wanda worlds to escape into [here, beyond metaphor to physically escaping into the world of sitcoms], and genre-diversification wild by the most comprehensive list ever achieved on television since The Twilight Zone (1959). The best MCU project & type of creative avant-garde innovation we’ve craved by Marvel for years beyond safe blockbuster formula, WV+ is a boldly-stylized canvas of TV-nostalgia and precocious medium-deconstruction/analysis – a meta-CBM/mystery/comedy/romance/horror/sci-fi/fantasy/CSI series of ignis fatuus, phantasmagoria, breathtaking production/costume-design, pure joy of watching experience, domestic life, grief/escapism themes, slow-burn classical storytelling, vaudeville dark magic villain, cutting-edge ambition, & master-characterization for Elizabeth Olsen’s Scarlet Witch. Who knew a planned-one-off 2008 summer blockbuster named Iron Man would lead us all the way here? ‘Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore.’

Official CLC Score: 9.4/10