“WandaVision,” the first of several live-action series coming to Disney+ as part of Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, makes its long-awaited debut on the streaming service on Friday after being delayed, like so much else, by the pandemic. Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany are reprising their roles as Wanda Maximoff, aka Scarlet Witch, and Vision, respectively, which is interesting in that the latter, an android created during “Avengers: Age of Ultron” (2015), initially bit it at the end of “Avengers: Infinity War” (2018). Of course, we all thought Sebastian Stan’s Bucky Barnes died in “Captain America: The First Avenger” (2011) too, and look what happened there.
When the show premieres, Wanda and Vision are in a period of domestic bliss, living in an idyllic, suburban town known as Westview. But all is not what it seems, and it soon becomes apparent that something is very, very wrong. The trailers for the show have been fairly cryptic about what that is, but we do know some of what to expect. So with the show finally arriving, here’s what you need to know before you watch.
1. It’s an homage to classic sitcoms. Of all the upcoming Marvel TV shows, “WandaVision” is probably the boldest and most creative, just based on what we know about it. The show is said to be part classic sitcom and part Marvel blockbuster, with the series jumping through different decades during its nine-episode run. The first episode was even filmed in front of a live studio audience, which might sound crazy by today’s standards given the decline of the multi-camera comedy, but this was once the norm.
To get a better understanding of classic sitcom style, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige and director Matt Shakman sat down with the legendary Dick Van Dyke to get his take on, among other things, how his classic sitcom “The Dick Van Dyke Show” made silly physical comedy feel grounded. “His answer was really simple,” Shakman told Entertainment Weekly. “He basically said that if it couldn’t happen in real life, it couldn’t happen on the show.”
It’s unclear how that advice might have been helpful for “WandaVision,” a show that appears to feature a fake version of reality and follows a woman with a disappearing accent who can distort reality and an android who died an entire three-and-a-half-hour movie ago. But perhaps I’m overthinking it.
2. This isn’t the Vision you remember. If you go into the series expecting Vision to be the same stoic synthetic being you know and love, you’ll be a bit surprised, as the character is a bit, well, different. During a recent press conference promoting the series, Bettany spoke about the changes and how he dealt with them while filming. “Initially, I was like, ‘Wow, this is feeling so different,’ as I read the script, and I wondered, ‘How do I keep him the same?’ And then I realized he’s always becoming something else. He’s part Jarvis, he’s part Ultron, and he’s part Tony Stark. He’s omnipotent, but he’s also this naive ingénue. So, I realized, ‘Well, I’ll just throw a little bit of Dick Van Dyke in there and a little bit of Hugh Laurie. What Vision is, is just decent and honorable, and he exists for Wanda. If you do that, then you’re safe.’”
3. The series is not a direct adaptation of any comic. If you’re looking to the comics for hints of what’s possibly to come in the Disney+ show, you’re not the only one. But I should warn you that you won’t find all the answers on the page. That being said, you might want to check out Tom King and Gabriel Hernandez Walta’s “The Vision,” an award-winning series that follows Vision as he embarks on a life in a suburban neighborhood with his wife and kids, whom he created. The series explores the character’s struggle for normalcy and the attempts he has made over his life to become more human, but even as he and his family try to fit in, things begin to fall apart after a murder disrupts the entire dynamic.
4. The show will debut with two episodes and then be released weekly. Rather than take the Netflix approach and debut all nine episodes at once, “WandaVision” will follow in the footsteps of fellow Disney+ series “The Mandalorian” and release its episodes weekly after Friday’s initial two-episode drop. This rollout gives the series time to create conversation and build buzz on a week-to-week basis. By being front and center for a much longer period of time, the show could also potentially increase its odds of being remembered come awards time.
This release schedule also means the “WandaVision” finale is scheduled to air March 5, which is just two weeks ahead of the debut of “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” on March 19. With “Loki” subsequently coming in May (and even more Marvel series set for later this year), we’re truly being blessed by the Marvel gods in 2021.
5. The cast hails from all over Marvel. In addition to Olsen and Bettany, the show also stars Teyonah Parris, who portrays the grown-up version of Monica Rambeau, last seen as a young girl in “Captain Marvel” (2019). It’s not yet clear why Monica has become wrapped up in the events of the show, but according to Parris, we’ll find out what her character has been up to in the years between “Captain Marvel” and the events of “WandaVision.” “We actually do get to learn particularly what things Monica has seen and gone through and how they’ve shaped her life,” Parris said during the press conference. “We will actually touch a lot on that throughout the show.”
Other familiar faces include Kat Dennings, who appeared in the first two “Thor” films as Darcy Lewis and is probably best remembered for the way she mispronounced Mjolnir, as well as Randall Park, who reprises his role as Jimmy Woo from “Ant-Man and the Wasp” (2018).
Making her MCU debut is Kathryn Hahn, who is portraying a character named Agnes, said to be a nosy neighbor but who could potentially also be the “man behind the curtain,” based on her various actions in the show’s recent trailer. Hahn previously voiced the character of Doc Ock in Sony’s 2018 Oscar-winning film “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” (2018), which is not part of the MCU.
6. You should pay close attention to the commercials within the show. There are Easter eggs and more hidden within the commercials that were written into the show (yes, sorry, you’ll have to endure brief “interruptions” of your viewing experience — no fast-forwarding!), and they might just reveal an evil presence. Whether that presence is HYDRA or is somehow connected to the evil organization remains unclear. “Truths of the show begin to leak out, and commercials [were] an early idea for that,” Feige explained to Variety. “And if this is the very first Marvel MCU thing you’re watching, it’s just a strange version of a ’50s commercial or a ’60s commercial that you’ll have to keep watching the series to understand. If you have been watching the movies, you might be able to start connecting what those things mean to the past.”
7. It will lead directly into the films. While previous Marvel TV shows like “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” and Netflix’s “Daredevil” existed with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, their overarching storylines were almost exclusively separate from the films. “WandaVision” and the forthcoming live-action shows are different; they are as much a part of the new phase of the MCU as their big-screen counterparts, and they will be integral chapters of the interconnected story. Case in point: “WandaVision” will lead directly into the next Spider-Man film, which is widely expected to feature a multiverse, as well as “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” with Olsen set to co-star in the latter alongside Benedict Cumberbatch.
“WandaVision” premieres Friday, Jan. 15 on Disney+ with two episodes. Subsequent episodes will be released weekly.
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