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There will be no spoilers in this review of the Disney+ Marvel spinoff series WandaVision . It’s not that I don’t want to reveal anything. It’s just that, three episodes into its nine-long run, I’m still not sure what’s going on.
Constant confusion is not the best state of mind for most episodic television, but WandaVision has me hooked. There’s just enough mystery to keep audiences following along, searching for clues, while a fairly straight sitcom plot plays out in the foreground of each episode.
If you’ve seen the trailers, you know about as much as I do. Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany reprise their roles from the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Wanda Maximoff (a.k.a. Scarlet Witch) and the android Vision. Yes, he died in Endgame , but if comic books and their adaptations have taught us anything, it’s that no one’s ever really gone.
Wanda and Vision start out living an idealized 1950s sitcom life, in black-and-white, 4:3 aspect ratio and featuring a laugh track – shades of The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Twilight Zone and other contemporaries. By episode 2 they’ve moved into Bewitched territory and, by the end of it, into full colour. Number three feels like The Brady Bunch and The Partridge Family had a baby, or maybe twins.
Episode three feels like The Brady Bunch and The Partridge Family had a baby, or maybe twins
This through-the-decades style is brilliant, with a little nostalgia hit for every generation. (Future episodes are said to reference such shows as Family Ties, Friends, 30 Rock and Parks and Recreation .) There are even period-appropriate advertisements, including a spot-on recreation of the “Take Me Away” spots from the ’70s. But pay attention to the brand. It’s not Calgon.
The performances are, um, intriguing. For most of each episode, married couple Wanda and Vision play out their roles within the confines of the sitcom universe they inhabit. But there are moments of confusion for both characters and viewers, as when the pair realize they don’t have specific memories of getting married or moving to suburban Westview.
And a few scenes present even more ominous overtones. Episode three, which lands next week (the series is being doled out gradually, Mandalorian style), features a Truman Show vibe, and some spooky pronouncements from a character played by Teyonah Parris, whose role in the upcoming Captain Marvel 2 suggests there’s more to her part here than helpful neighbour.
The star rating is based not just on the enjoyment of those first three episodes, but the promise that all (or at least most) will be revealed before the series wraps up in March. At the very least, WandaVision delivers a fun ramble through sitcom history, with the added benefit that you haven’t already seen each episode a dozen times in reruns. If that’s all there is, it might even be enough. But expect more.
WandaVision episodes 1 and 2 are available Jan. 15 on Disney+ with additional episodes released each Friday.
3.5 stars out of 5
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2021