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What makes for an effective antagonist?
By the first episode, it’s quite easy to tell WandaVision is in a lane of its own. (Or, if you’re a MCU fanatic like me, you’ve noticed that since the trailer.) The obvious reasons are quite clear, Disney Plus’ latest hit show is an ultimate mind trip. With the breathing room that accompanies a television show, fans are able to get to the new Wanda and Vision better; while being greeted with elements of comedic relief plus dark moments.
While I devoured the first two episodes last Friday, truthfully the scenes that left me with goosebumps and my mouth agape wasn’t some crazy action sequence. In fact quite the opposite; they were the chillingly eerie, and simple enough that had I blinked I would’ve missed it. Allow me to explain- and to convince you- that I’m not under (Wanda’s) mind control. Spoilers ahead!
Aside from Infinity War, and along with Endgame, pick any superhero movie from the last decade and a reoccurring feature will be an epic battle that will be won by the end of the movie. No matter how high stakes, how tough the villain or how many people lost along the way, by the sequel our heroes are back to their normal selves. While that makes for a great pace for these huge franchises, it doesn’t allow these characters (plus their fans) to sit with the grief and trauma inflicted upon them.
That’s what make WandaVision superb. The biggest battle in this show isn’t against some alien or intelligent robot but, instead, we watch Wanda fight to hold onto the perfect world she has created and, ultimately, fight back the waves of grief and sadness awaiting her in reality.
Perhaps my favorite and most chilling moment is the end of episode two. A mysterious man in a beekeeper suit crawls out of the sewer and glares intensely at Wanda; she doesn’t raise her hands in her signature style. Instead she quietly says “No” dismissing the threat; the scene rewinds to the moments before she and Vision went outside. Wanda’s refusal to let go of the world she’s created with Vision showcases not only the scope of her powers, but her reluctance to return to a world without Vision. Each episode jumps forward a decade letting the couple parody iconic sitcoms from that era. White picket fence, big house with a lawn and yes a laugh track; it’s so delightfully meta.
When red flags pop up (and they do that often) whether it’s a red helicopter or a mysterious voice calling her name, Wanda pushes onward because the show must go on. Wanda’s need for security prohibits her from acknowledging something is amiss. As the episodes progress she’s able to check off milestones she never gotten to act out with Vision in the movies… magically creating wedding rings, getting pregnant and eventually childbirth.
So far, the villain in WandaVision is Wanda’s suffocating grief. It would’ve been much safer for the MCU to utilize Wanda as an agent as vengeance in another action blockbuster (very similar to Age of Ultron); but Marvel went out on a limb to explore the psyche of a woman attempting to cope with loss. Honestly, I’m so glad they did.
One of my favorite moments is when a mysterious voice from the radio asks Wanda “Who’s doing this to you, Wanda?” in episode two. Shock splashed across her face, as if she’s been caught red handed. To see this duo struggle with normalcy, control, and frankly their sanity is utter perfection. To see Wanda smile through the flamboyant jokes, and yes the laugh track, it hurts even more knowing the pain behind her smile. This world is her shield.
Ignoring painful memories and seeing only what she wants to see isn’t a trait only founded in heroes. Compartmentalizing and mourning missed opportunities is what makes us human. It’s what makes this relatable.
Yes, this isn’t a traditional superhero story. WandaVision is a beautiful and dark tale showcasing Wanda’s plight with her emotional health. Marvel’s decision to highlight Wanda’s ongoing battle against her grief is a revolutionary step correcting one of the MCU’s biggest flaws.