How 'WandaVision' succeeds at subtle devastation in ways MCU films cannot

Teyonah Parris as Captain Monica Rambeau in 'WandaVision.'
(Image credit: Disney+)

This post contains spoilers for WandaVision.

WandaVision has been such a stark departure from what we’re used to getting from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Breaking up the story of Wanda’s breakdown into a nine-episode series has allowed the storytellings to stick the emotional beats in ways the movies sometimes failed to accomplish. Sure, watching Peter Parker fade away while Tony Stark held him was impactful in its own way. Still, with so much chaos happening from start to finish in Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame, there wasn’t enough time to really feel the gravity of the situation. Movies can be limited in this way, especially when so much is crammed into a short amount of time.

I’m thankful we get time to sit with each episode of WandaVision weekly. It helps with digesting each episode — and there has been a lot to process. Specifically speaking to the fourth episode, "We Interrupt This Program", the cold open was an episode all by itself. In it, Monica Rambeau reappears sitting in a hospital room after coming back from The Blip. She is visibly in duress and so are we, the viewers. The hospital is in utter disarray as people begin reappearing. You can even hear chaos unfolding outside as Monica makes her way out of the room. I’m not saying this moment wouldn’t mean anything if WandaVision were a feature, but not looking away from Monica learning she's lost her mother and was gone for five years makes the moment hit harder. And, because we’ve been able to sit with this world for three episodes a week at a time prior, a connection to this world and these characters has been established in a way that differs from the movies. 

Spider-Man: Far From Home gave insight into a world grappling with the effects of The Blip, but on an emotional scale, it pales in comparison to what WandaVision gives us a glimpse at. That’s all thanks to the acting of Teyonah Parris, who masterfully sells the entire open. Because of her performance, we're able to feel the full breadth of the devastation left in the wake of The Blip as people come back. In Avengers: Endgame, sit with the heroes left as they grapple with a world post-snap, but we've never been given the perspective of someone who came back from it—we've only seen the reactions of the half that survived. Because Monica's loss is directly tied to the Blip, we can begin to fully realize how traumatic it was both to those left and to everyone who disappeared once they return. Jokes about someone thinking his wife was a victim of The Blip when in reality she left him to be with someone doesn’t warrant the emotional work. 

Then there's the understanding of how utterly heartbreaking the life of Wanda Maximoff has been. It’s not like we don’t know her story and what happened to her in those MCU films. Still, now that Elizabeth Olsen has gotten a chance to emote and be fully expressive in the first three episodes of WandaVision, we have the needed emotional cues to understand her as a character. Wanda working through her trauma in this heightened larger-than-life daydream feels entirely relatable. I get that. I understand wanting to escape from the traumas of life to dream up my own world in which I don’t know the pain — one I’m trying so desperately to escape from — if only for a few moments. It’s a coping mechanism. I’m not debating whether or not what Wanda has done is morally right. She is holding an entire town of people hostage, after all. But I am saying that I can begin to understand how her hurt could rule her so much that she would use her powers in this way to piece together a life she’ll never know. WandaVision is Avengers: Disassembled, but with actual care to her and her trauma.   

WandaVision is doing a tremendous service to characters with such rich comic histories. It’s only four episodes in, and we still haven’t begun to completely understand how heartbroken Wanda is or even Monica to that extent. She just came into her loss, and we don’t know how that has affected her and will continue to affect her. We still don’t know the full story of how Vision is there, although episode four might hint at the grisly truth of his situation. There are still five episodes of WandaVision left, and I’m looking forward to seeing how this show continues to handle these characters and their world. 

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