R E V I E W – S E R I E S
“It isn’t the cinema of human beings trying to convey emotional, psychological experiences to another human being.”
To commence with a Scorsese quote on Marvel when fans are already infuriated with the not-so-intricate plot of the series finale will turn some necks. But an ‘on the nose’ finale and a desperate attempt at finding the sweet spot between fan service and family drama makes us ponder the implications on the media in general.
Ambiguity is a plot device that is either a product of spooky inconsistency elevating the mystery element or lazy writing. It allows us to wonder just how much a character or an element means to the story it is trying to tell. I cannot help exemplifying The One Ring from Tolkien’s mythopoeia here. As for the series in question, WandaVision, since its inception, has been brilliant in portraying the mystery — the possibility of a higher force (a devil, if you will) lurking in the shadows. With a game-changer episode 4, half of it was revealed to be the effort of characters just as dazed as us. However, finding the ambiguous sweet spot and delivering a cliffhanger that rendered us clueless after every other episode, they would want us to witness a meticulous (theme park) ride at the finale. And the blockbuster trailer style recap at the very beginning was suggesting that kind of showdown.
A cinema sin we often witness is the antagonist gawking with awe as the counterpart takes their sweet time in delivering forced monologues, letting the PG-13 audience sufficient time to applaud. This ‘main character moment’ works the other way too, with exposition filled drama and theatrical show of power level. While this is essential, we will never not nitpick. And there was one such unnecessary voiceover here too.
Nevertheless, WandaVision episode 9, with its subtly trimmed exposition and directly yet perfectly delivered punch lines handled the (melo)dramatic pause brilliantly. Characters wasting no time to wreck each other’s face with automobiles show the fast paced action era we are slowly embracing. A pace we’ve longed for 8 episodes too long still does not quite pack a punch. Nods to abilities Wanda hasn’t used for long, as well as newer heroes having their montage provides a nice touch. While some people feared the series finale to be an overwhelming myriad of arcs as opposed to the pace they built up, it ended up being an underwhelming ride for most parts.
For our main villain, the ambiguity of motives is bittersweet as we are never revealed to what the ultimate goal is. As for the side villain, we will never know the motivation behind the grudge — a forced point comparable to Iron Man villains. Either way, both villains work out for the setting of the whole deal and the screen-time they were given, which I cannot say for other characters we were looking forward to.
An elaborate troll, an unintendedly mindful beast, and a split second contribution — Marvel could not quite do justice to all parties involved. It further plasters the disappointment since two of them have been well concealed plot twists. The other plot twist character, being circumstantial to our knowledge of comics and widely circulating fan theories, did the best that could be done. Since this was fairly easy to deduce, we have been looking forward to the previous two, both of which only let MCU fans tear their hair out.
In its essence, WandaVision was to be all about family — Wanda’s fantasy of a perfect life. Anomalies certainly jeopardised that life, but to gift us a wholesome still and sequence of a family fighting for their home. Too Incredibles? Which is why it works. Other small points like Jimmy Woo’s small contribution adds to that heart-warming flavour, making Randall Park the most lovable actor in Hollywood now. The issue of Wanda’s accent, mentioned twice before on the show, is cleverly executed here to portray her turbulent state of mind. So is her walkthrough to the last stage of grief, supplementing her surprising stability as shown in episode 8.
A self-fulfilling and supposedly satisfying character arc now has us questioning where to draw the line between a mature, sacrificing hero and a berserker Jean Grey — to make the descent into madness work better. After her unanticipated character development in the finale, we are to ponder what should bring her doom — introduction to knowledge or growth of empathy. The first-ever (and last) post credit scene of the series only promises one thing — that the Dr. Strange sequel will live up to its name.
What carried us through the sinister buildup and the slight let down was definitely acting. Every artist delivered their performance through the variance of setups and eras, especially the titular actor, Liz Olsen. Mainstream cash grab or not, her range has all the potential to give Emmy nominees a hard time. Writing didn’t fulfill acting and answers didn’t complement mysteries. An independent psychoanalytical show with a sudden urge to fit into a post Endgame ride could be better off as an emotional rollercoaster. A pinch of identity crisis and philosophical rant about a character being his own human could be more of a central plot, thus contributing to the art form ol’ Marty has been fighting for. It only gives new audiences of the MCU an incentive to watch a family drama with occasional action, while it strips away comic nerds of their fan service by simultaneously trying to be and not to be what it is.
A show centred on trauma and grief and desperation of a living-breathing nuke has some character development in store. But with an almost ‘rewarding’ ending and blatant acceptance of fate, the aftershock value and some previous impacts lose their emotional significance. The second act ending abruptly in an already short runtime left such an impact — a rushed ending that could have been more riveting given 300 more seconds. This ignorance of runtime through and through also raises the question about their decision in making WandaVision a show to increase Disney+ content instead of a feature length film. It further raises the question about the off-putting execution of a final showdown of tremendous potential — making us wonder if the director is only all for sitcoms. Fan theories and Easter egg hunts to instill naive optimism regarding MCU tie-in cameos and comic tie-in appearances had fans raise their own expectations to colossal heights when the show is purely about Wanda’s vision of a family. Riding the hype train that wrecked was not a possibility Dr. Strange could’ve seen.
A couple months of ride to keep us occupied before the pandemic ends had some bumps along the way. An end not so perfect or disastrous lets us reminisce the journey full of hypes and speculations; lets us delve deeper into a hero we should be knowing and caring more about. Where WandaVision stands on a comic-book feature point of view or an artistic point of view is up for its audience to decide. With its unique take on storytelling, the experience will surely stay in our minds. And we will be immersed in the thought provoking magic of the concept of what exactly makes Vision Vision and Wanda herself. For it is she who said,
“In a real magic act, everything is fake.”
Shudipto is a replicant with the emotional range of a labradoodle.