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REVIEW: WandaVision – Episode 5

by @holocronJosh for @mar_tesseract

WARNING: The following review contains spoilers for WandaVision – Season 1, Episode 5: On A Very Special Episode…

And just like that, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is changed forever. WandaVision’s fifth episode, aptly titled “On A Very Special Episode…,” sees the series fuse together the sitcom, dream-like structure of its first three episodes with the mystery unraveling nature of its fourth episode. In doing so, WandaVision delivered its best, most unpredictable and intriguing chapter yet.

The structure of the episode is a good place to kick things off given that this has been somewhat of a point of contention among select viewers. Some found WandaVision’s first three episodes to be a bit meandering, a criticism we most certainly did not buy into. Conversely, WandaVision’s fourth episode shifted the focus almost entirely away from its titular characters in exchange for a more by-the-books installment that began to unravel the mystery of Westview. Despite us absolutely loving everything to do with WandaVision so far, “On A Very Special Episode…” felt like the show had came alive in new and uncanny ways. Director Matt Shakman and writers Peter Cameron and Mackenzie Dohr deftly navigate the fifth episode in providing plenty of the weird and plenty of the grounded. 

Let’s start with the weird. Everything in Westview seems happy-go-lucky, but there is always something ominous lurking under the surface. Wanda and Vision’s children voluntarily grow at an alarming rate. Agnes breaks character, asking Wanda if she should “start from the top.” Vision seeing into Norm’s terrified, trapped mind. This latter point provides yet another big, confirmatory reveal for the series as it is finally and explicitly revealed that Wanda is in control of Westview and all of its inhabitants. 

Back in the real world, SWORD and the FBI work on uncovering the secrets of the fake reality that Wanda has conjured. After uncovering that Wanda stole Vision’s dead corpse just days prior in order to create this world, the agents send a drone into the world, angering Wanda enough to make her come outside and confront them. This, coupled with the prior reveal of Wanda controlling Westview’s citizens, really made Wanda feel like the show’s villain in an interesting and unnerving way. Wanda’s confrontation of the SWORD agents is reminiscent of Ian McKellen’s Magneto in the original X-Men film, and Elizabeth Olsen’s performance in this scene certainly evokes the villainy of her comic book character’s father. The subtle return of Wanda’s Sokovian accent and her change in outfit marks a stark contrast to the idyllic character we see in Westview (a.k.a. The Hex). Wanda looks disturbed, grieving with the loss of a man she loved dearly and the trauma of losing her brother and parents before that. Now more than ever, we’re getting a glimpse into Wanda’s rationale for creating Westview as a way to live her ideal life with Vision and slowly discovering more about the extent to which WandaVision is a show about dealing with grief and trauma in destructive ways.

After warning the agents to not enter Westview again, Wanda returns home to find that Sparky has died, prompting Tommy and Billy to ask their mom if she can revive him, knowing that she has full control and power to do so. Vision finds this suspicious yet again. He eventually confronts Wanda a few minutes later, revealing he knows that she controls Westview.

We don’t have much of an opportunity to see this heated conversation pan out further, however, as the door knocks and one of the MCU’s biggest “holy crap” moments yet. Not only is Pietro Maximoff / Quicksilver knocking on the door, BUT Pietro is played by none other than Evan Peters, reprising his role as the character from the Fox series of X-Men films. This cracks the entire MCU open in a way even bigger than J.K. Simmons appearance as a reworked J. Jonah Jameson in Spider-Man: Far From Home. The explanations for Peters’ appearance are endless. Is it as simple as Aaron Taylor-Johnson being recast? Is this some merger of the Fox X-Men films and the MCU? Or is this akin to Simmons in Far From Home? Is this really Quicksilver, or someone insidious in disguise? The possibilities are endless, but for the time being we’re just beyond excited and surprised to see Evan Peters in this role again. Peters has been one of the highlights in the last several X-Men films, highlighted by two incredible slow-motion action sequences in Days of Future Past and Apocalypse. So, the prospect of getting more of this version of the character is not only exciting for WandaVision, but the MCU more broadly. All in all, we’re extremely impressed.

Verdict: 9.5/10

WandaVision stunned with its best episode yet as we were delighted to see more sitcom weirdness coupled with plenty of intriguing reveals along the way. Elizabeth Olsen excels in perhaps her best performance in the MCU yet, subtly shifting from sitcom housewife to a mourning superpowered being. The episode’s concluding moments are sure to change the landscape of the MCU for better and we cannot wait to see what that entails as WandaVision heads into its last few episodes.

Images courtesy of Disney+ & Marvel Studios

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REVIEW: WandaVision – Episode 4

by @holocronJosh for @sw_holocron

WARNING: The following review contains spoilers for WandaVision – Season 1, Episode 4: We Interrupt This Program

The mystery of WandaVision finally began to unravel in We Interrupt This Program, an episode that brilliantly connects to the events of the broader MCU while spotlighting returning characters. The fourth episode of the Disney+ series changes course from the previous episodes in largely focusing on Monica Rambeau’s journey as she begins to expose what’s really going on Westview.

So far, WandaVision has impressively committed to its unusual premise, delivering entire episodes in jovial sitcom fashion with only brief glimpses of what’s lurking underneath the surface. We Interrupt This Program intelligently halts this structure in shifting the focus away from Wanda and Vision’s idyllic world to begin delivering some answers. These answers largely come as we track Monica Rambeau, impressively brought to life by Teyonah Parris in a nuanced, impactful performance. The beginning moments of the episode are haunting as they show the effects of the Blip unfold in real time. The confusion, the chaos, and the sense of dread is palpable in these early moments and certainly add yet another emotional layer to the events that occured in Avengers: Endgame.

As the episode progresses, we’re introduced to Randall Park’s Agent Woo and Kat Denning’s Darcy Lewis, who are both scene stealers. Similar to the Star Wars universe, one of the best things about the MCU is its ability to call upon different characters or plot elements from the past and reintegrate them in new, unexpected ways. Darcy hasn’t appeared since 2013’s Thor: The Dark World and it seemed like her tenure in the MCU was over, until she springs on the scene in a pivotal role in WandaVision. Similarly, Jimmy Woo was a highlight in Ant-Man and the Wasp and now shines in his expanded role in a new medium.

The fourth episode of WandaVision offers a glimpse behind what’s going on behind the curtain, without giving too much away too soon. This is a difficult balance to strike, because, if the show progresses as it did with the first three episodes, some viewers may grow frustrated at how abstract and ambiguous the series is. However, revealing all of the secrets of Westview prematurely spoils the fun and stops the guessing game MCU fans are currently engaged in. We Interrupt This Program largely confirms what fans have been speculated for a while now regarding WandaVision largely drawing upon the classic comic run House of M. We finally get confirmation that Wanda created Westview, presumably as a place to live her dream life with Vision away from the perils of the world. We’re also given answers about some of the unusual occurrences in the series so far, such as the red and yellow helicopter toy, the Beekeeper, and Geraldine’s knowledge of Ultron. The list of what we don’t know, however, is still rather extensive: is this world Wanda has constructed a threat? What’s up with Wanda’s neighbors and what are they hiding? What are the implications of re-creating Vision in this world? All of these mysteries and more are brilliantly set up and likely to unfold over the coming episodes, once again emphasizing how the story Kevin Feige and company are telling really lends itself to the week-by-week format of a television series.

The titular characters are notably quite absent in episode 4. Although it would’ve been nice to see more of Wanda and Vision, the decision to shift the focus away from them is a reasonable one in order to inform the audience about what’s going on. Along with the shift away from Wanda and Vision comes a shift away from the beautifully stylized aesthetics of the series’ first three episodes. Obviously, this is done for major story purposes, but it was a bit of an unfortunate contrast to go from entire episodes uniquely made to look like 1950s, 60s, and 70s sitcoms in exchange for a relatively bland looking episode set in the modern day. 

Verdict: 8.5/10

WandaVision continues its incredibly impressive run so far with an episode that ties nicely in with the events of the MCU and sheds light on what’s really going on in Westview. While the episode may not be as visually unique as its predecessors, the mysteries answered and mysteries left unresolved, in addition to the return of several MCU characters, make us excited for and intrigued by what’s to come in the Disney+ series.

Images courtesy of Disney+ and Marvel Studios

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REVIEW: WandaVision – Episode 3

by @holocronGeorge for @mar_tesseract

WARNING: The following review contains spoilers for WandaVision – Season 1, Episode 3: Now in Color

Following last week’s duo of unusual premiere episodes, we were left intrigued as to how far and for how long WandaVision will continue in such a strange vein. And we’re extremely happy to say that the MCU’s inaugural Disney+ series continues with this trend of strange and weird set forth in the previous episodes. Episode 3, titled Now in Color, follows the happy couple Wanda and Vision as they continue their lives in Westview, now in the mold of 1970s sitcoms a la The Brady Bunch. The episode sees Wanda and Vision as they try to manage Wanda’s greatly accelerated pregnancy in jovial sitcom fashion, while something insidious bubbles under the surface.

After three episodes, one of the highlights of WandaVision has been its complete and total commitment to its mysterious premise. Critics of the MCU often target the similarity of various projects in terms of tone, plot, pacing, aesthetics, etc. But such a criticism can most certainly not be lodged at WandaVision. Creator Jac Schaeffer, director Matt Shakman, and company are all in on making WandaVision as weird as possible, really leaning into its sitcom structure and only momentarily hinting at what’s truly going on. It’s hard to watch WandaVision and not draw comparisons to the work of David Lynch, who brilliantly strikes a balance between the bliss of ideal American family living and the threatening, mysterious mechanisms operating under the surface. Needless to say, WandaVision has excelled so far largely due to its unusual premise and the mystery it leaves viewers thinking about in regards to “What the hell is going on in Westview?”

The sitcom elements of WandaVision provide a lot of opportunity to really emotionally invest in the relationship between Wanda and Vision. Vision’s burgeoning anxieties over being a father and Wanda’s frantic management of a crazy pregnancy felt endearing and genuine and made us care about their relationship on a level that transcends that which we’ve seen in the MCU movies so far. 

Speaking of interesting characters, WandaVision has bolstered some great guest stars so far, with Teyoonah Parris’ Geraldine becoming a more prominent player in episode 3. Parris is immediately likable and genuine in the role and leans into the sitcom dialogue of the crazy situation perfectly. Kathryn Hahn’s Agnes has been great so far too and, although her appearance in episode 3 was relatively brief, she was still gripping.

It’s with some of the minor characters like Geraldine and Agnes that the intrigue kicked up a notch in Now in Color. Agnes and Herb are clearly concealing something and Doctor Nielson makes an intriguing statement regarding one’s ability to ever leave Westview. Vision, along with the audience, is beginning to recognize that something is off here, but, before we can get any answers, is thrown off the trail. The confrontation between Wanda and Geraldine marked the highlight of the episode as Geraldine inquired about Wanda’s brother Pietro saying, “He was killed by Ultron, wasn’t he?” The episode suddenly took a sharp turn here and, before we know it, Geraldine is plummeted out of the picturesque Westview presumably back to the real world. One can refer to comics like House of M or S.W.O.R.D. to theorize about what’s going on in WandaVision, but, other than that, the series surprisingly leaves you with little to go off of – something we really enjoyed as the series continues to grow more mysterious.

Verdict: 8.75/10

WandaVision’s third episode takes inspiration from The Brady Bunch in spectacular fashion, delivering great 1970s sitcom moments, emotional character development, and a mystery that continues to deepen and grow more threatening.

Images courtesy of Disney+ and Marvel Studios

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Chris Evans to Reprise His Role as Captain America

by @holocronJulie for @mar_tesseract

Chris Evans is in talks to reprise his role as Captain America, according to Deadline.

Evans, who played the iconic hero from 2011-2019, was thought to have hung up the shield after the ending of Avengers: Endgame, which saw his character reunite with Peggy Carter and seemingly spend the rest of his days with her. Many believed that this would be the last time Evans would appear in the MCU, at least for some time, but now it seems he his back sooner than expected.

Per Deadline, Evans will play Captain America in at least one MCU film with the option for more. His role is described as similar to Robert Downey Jr’s post-Iron Man 3 career in the MCU, in which he was a supporting character in films like Spider-Man: Homecoming and Captain America: Civil War. Although Evans seemingly made it clear that he was retiring his role after Endgame, the actor has expressed that he missed playing the character, saying “I absolutely loved my time with Marvel; I already miss it.”

If reports are to be believed, Evans isn’t the only returning actor to the MCU. Last year, Deadline reported that Downey Jr himself would be playing Tony Stark once more in the upcoming Black Widow prequel movie.

Images courtesy of Disney+ and Marvel Studios

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REVIEW: WandaVision – Episodes 1 & 2

by @holocronJosh for @mar_tesseract

After an unexpectedly long wait that totaled over 18 months, the MCU is back with WandaVision, an unusual and intriguing project marking the first Marvel series on Disney+.

The first two episodes of WandaVision are in the format of classic 1950’s and 1960’s sitcoms a la Bewitched or I Love Lucy: black and white, a laugh track playing, and a catchy theme song. They even filmed parts in front of a live studio audience! Over the course of the series’ first two episodes, the lead characters get into various sitcom-esque situations, such as inviting Vision’s boss and his wife over for dinner and hosting a town magic show, both of which go predictably awry.

Lurking in the background of these two episodes is an ominous feeling that something is not quite right in the world of Wanda and Vision. Things seem a little too perfect, they can’t remember their anniversary or how they moved to the town, and more highlight this feeling. The strange person on the radio asking “who’s doing this to you, Wanda?”, along with the red and yellow helicopter and, perhaps most notably, the beekeeper at the end of the second episode, all add to this ominous feeling. As the season goes on, the mystery of what is happening to these two Avengers will begin to unfold.

Perhaps the biggest compliment that can be said of WandaVision is that they fully commit to their unique premise. The first two episodes really feel like episodes of a classic sit-com, with only small bursts of mystery sprinkled throughout. It would be understandable if, after an episode, Kevin Feige and co. decided to bring these characters into the more traditional MCU world and tell the story in a way that fans have come to expect. However, even after two full episodes, WandaVision doesn’t back away from its premise, instead opting to turn the season into a slow burn mystery show. This makes it all the more appealing and highlights the diverse storytelling in the MCU’s future.

The third episode of WandaVision will air next week on Disney+. After WandaVision, Marvel Studios has The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Loki, Hawkeye, What If…?, and Ms. Marvel all scheduled to premiere this year on Disney+.

Images courtesy of Disney+ and Marvel Studios