Chatroom: WandaVision and the Future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe

This past Friday marked the series finale of WandaVision, the first television entry of the Marvel Cinematic Universe to debut on Disney+, and the first in a number of TV shows on that platform that will feature characters from the MCU films. Whether you liked WandaVision or not, it’s safe to say that it caused quite a stir, with lots of fan theorizing and critical backlash, and then a lot of backlash to the backlash.

[This conversation has been lightly edited for clarity]

Michael Lovito (Editor-in-Chief, Movies & TV Editor): Here to discuss today we have Postrider President and Editor Lars Emerson, and Postrider Friend (and first-time contributor) Louis Ryan.

Louis Ryan (Contributor): Hi, I’m Louis, but you can call me Agatha Harkness.

Lars Emerson (Editor): I’ve en”Vision”ed this for a long time, it’s good to be here.

Michael: A lot’s been going on these past months in regards to this show, but we’ll start with the most immediate: What did you guys think of the finale? Was it satisfying? Disappointing? Completely unaffecting?

Lars: I was expecting a little more out of the finale itself, I thought it was actually weirdly boilerplate?

Louis: Yeah, the finale confirmed all my worst fears. Namely, of this feeling like the standard third act conclusion of a big CGI blockbuster film and less like a well-written, conclusive season finale of TV.

Lars: I thought it was kind of jarring to see an actual action/fight sequence, even though I guess we all knew it was coming, was I the only one?

It felt very cliche superhero ending (which, obviously: I mean, this is a superhero show, but it often billed itself differently)

Michael: I tend to agree: it ended with a very typical MCU action scene that didn’t live up to the weirdness of the rest of the show. It’s also kind of weird that after weeks of holding these people hostage, the show ends with Wanda being portrayed pretty unambiguously as the hero/victim. I will say, though that the whole scene where the hex or whatever it’s called is receding and eventually disappears Vision and the twins was fairly affecting, and felt like something you’d find at the end of a comic book miniseries.

Lars: Yeah, I appreciated that moment of loss at the end, I thought it was well executed

I don’t know that it umambiguously paints Wanda as a hero, though it definitely paints her as kind of a victim.

Louis: Those moments fell a little flat for me, because they were speaking very literally, with little subtext about the proceedings. I find that something like Endgame hit a lot of the same points a bit bitter, in my book.

Lars: She’s kind of — to quote The Ringer, “neither hero nor villain” but just someone very traumatized who lost her grip trying to bring people back who she loved.

I mean Endgame also had 21 movies before it in which to build up sympathy for Tony Stark and Captain America, etc. I don’t know about y’all but I never felt like “deep emotional connection” to The Vision haha.

Michael: I guess so — but Monica doing the whole “they’ll never understand your sacrifice” thing kind of felt like it was giving her a heroic moment.

That’s true Lars, and I feel like if this show is good for anything, it gave center stage to two characters who are very consequential in the comic books but who never really got their due on the big screen.

Louis: Yeah, I agree with Mike. The audience is expected to swallow a lot in regards to Wanda by the end.

Lars: And it was, but it’s sort of a step back towards redemption, Wanda is basically the antagonist for the middle up until the last 30 minutes of the show. So I think you can “right” the ship while keeping her controversial.

Which she’s always been in the movies too! Tony Stark talks about her saying, “She’s not a U.S. citizen and they don’t grant visas to weapons of mass destruction,” as someone who is somehow allowed to roam and use her powers.

She’s never been a pure agent of good, you know?

Louis: Yeah, part of my problem with Scarlet Witch, as a character in comics and films, is that she’s way overpowered, and I feel like that reared its ugly head into this show. However, that might be a separate discussion altogether.

Lars: Someone that overpowered kind of has to become the villain at some point, I mean it happens with The Vision in the movies at moments too. So I guess I lean towards this show doing the right thing there too.

It was cool to actively root against Wanda as she mind controlled an entire town and feel sympathy for a dead and/or confused, mind-controlled Vision. I think that’s where the show peaked for me

Louis: I agree with you, Lars, and I feel the show would have been better serviced keeping Wanda as the main antagonist overall.

Instead, the show tries to play it both ways. Have their cake and eat it too.

Michael: Yeah, for our readers who don’t know, in the comics Wanda’s breakdown about the loss of her children results in the deaths of multiple Avengers, creation of an alternate universe where her father, Magneto, is basically king of the world and mutants have overtaken homo sapiens from a societal standpoint. At the end of that ark, everything goes back to normal, but 90% of the world’s mutants are depowered. It’s a whole thing.

Backtracking a little bit, though: We all have different relationships with the MCU. What drew your guys to this shows in the first place and what kept you all watching? Because this show changed a lot over just nine episodes.

Lars: Hahaha we do.

I mean, I’m an MCU completionist, so there’s that.

I also think the MCU is great and am a big fan, so, you got me.

Louis: That’s true, Mike. I will admit I’m not the biggest MCU fan in the world. I pretty much started watching WandaVision just out of social obligation. I was actually pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed the first two episodes of the series the first week. I am a big fan of television, and the effort to replicate classic production values shone through. It felt less like a parody and more like a sincere attempt to recreate a bygone era of TV.

Of course, because nobody punched anyone through a wall in those episodes, they have somewhat of a mixed reaction amongst MCU fans.

Lars: Louis is the only person I know who felt obliged to watch the Marvel TV show WandaVision and not Marvel’s biggest movie of all time… but alas.

Louis: There is a global pandemic now, Lars.

Michael: Exactly. I watched an inordinate amount of TV Land as a child and grew up loving comic books (and eventually the MCU), so this show was kind of tailor made for me. Even when I didn’t find the more sitcom-focused episodes “funny,” per se, I was excited to see how they’d keep recreating different eras, and actually got a little annoyed when they kept pulling back to focus on Jimmy Woo or Darcy or Monica Rambeau, characters who, frankly, I don’t care about as much.

Lars: I thought the lack of action movie theatrics and fight scenes was actually a major draw. It was new. That’s why I was peeved (and brought it up earlier in the chat) when that actually happened, it felt off.

Michael: TBH, the best part of the show was Elizabeth Olsen jumping from Mary Tyler Moore to Elizabeth Montgomery and on and on and on. I thought she was actually pretty great in this show (not having to do her accent helped)

Louis: Yes, Mike, to me, the first two episodes were the peak of the series.

Lars: Elizabeth Olsen is very good in the show, to state the obvious. And yes, the lack of the accent really helps.

Louis: Don’t forget Vision phasing through the ottoman.

Olsen is great in the early episodes.

Lars: I feel like the peak for me was the middle. But do we all seem to agree than the end was not the peak?

Louis: I would say the first half was better than the second.

It felt like more of a chore every week.

This whole season could have been condensed in half, but you wouldn’t have had to stay subscribed to Disney+ for two months, so that’s probably why they extended it.

Lars: I was telling Mike this last week — but I am kind of peeved that Disney+ “got me”.

Like, I’m only subscribed for one episode of one show released every week — first it was The Mandalorian then that stopped and a couple weeks later came WandaVision and now that’s stopped and it’ll be The Falcon and the Winter Soldier… and it pales in comparison to Netflix or HBO where you have multiple shows coming out every week (none of which I follow as aggressively as Marvel’s shows but, still!)

Michael: We’ll get to Falcon and the Winter Soldier a little later, but for now, let’s move towards the middle of the series: what did we think of the twists and reveals? I was pretty stoked about the Evan Peters as Pietro reveal but then disappointed that it ended in nothing more than a boner joke, and the best part of the Agatha reveal was…the literal reveal, with the Munster parody and everything. Then she just became a generic MCU baddie and never really unpacked what it meant to be the Scarlet Witch or what chaos magic was.

Louis: Let’s discuss each character separately.

Lars: I think I disliked every single reveal. The only thing I thought was courageous as the showrunners in these reveals was that Evan Peters as Pietro turned out to be a red herring. I am actually super thrilled that that didn’t amount to anything, if we want to start with that one.

Louis: Yeah, the twists in this series were WAY overblown. I was not a fan of Evan Peters here. I was trying to imagine how the screenplay itself was written. “Wanda opens the door and it is EVAN PETERS from Fox as Pietro.” It’s not motivated by anything in-universe, other than to be cool to us, the audience. Lame writing, if you ask me.

I will say that I was a fan of Peters as Quicksilver in the Fox films, but it just fell completely flat here.

Flat is a good way to describe this show for me. I just felt empty, by the end.

Michael: Fair enough. And what did you think about the Agatha reveal? Were you disappointed she didn’t say “The twins can come over to my house, Franklin [Richards] would love the company!”

Lars: Lol

Louis: Ha ha! You both know what a huge Fantastic Four fan I am. Unfortunately, I was rather disappointed in the end by Kathryn Hahn, who I think is a good actress.

Lars: I guess I found Agatha about as interesting as I found the Skrull reveal at the end — not at all.

Maybe if they’d have given her a whole episode to talk about the Salem witch trials or something, a little more motivation and character oomph — but she was just kinda there doing stuff and it wasn’t super obvious why.

Louis: Not that this needs to be a perfect adaptation of the comics, but Agatha in WandaVision, was Agatha In Name Only. There was very little of the comics character in this screen portrayal, which I think is very disappointing for one of the last major Stan Lee – Jack Kirby creations.

And she ends up becoming Palpatine from Rise of Skywalker by the end, anyways.

Michael: Hahaha

Louis: I swear Hahn was on a green screen for the entirety of the last episode.

Michael: Yeah, and she was given some of the laziest one liners in the action scenes too

Louis: One thing I liked about the final episode, was its portrayal of magic burning the tips of your fingers. I thought that was kind of cool.

The reveal of Wanda’s Runes was not.

Agatha entered Wanda’s red dome of doom with absolutely no back-up plan? Lame.

Michael: Yeah. It’s also still unclear to me how Agatha ended up in Westview in the first place. The whole mythos around the magic was really, really underdeveloped. I don’t need an entire episode unpacking the specifics of how it all works, but just a little bit connective tissue to make it all make sense.

Lars: I guess we’ll have to wait for The Multiverse of Madness Ft. Doctor Strange.

Louis: How did she get from Massachusetts to New Jersey? Did she take the bus?

Lars: I was gonna ask, how did it feel for you Jersey boys to have your state featured so prominently in a Marvel property? ?

Louis: Why did Vision buy property in such a lousy part of New Jersey?

Michael: I was curious where, exactly Westview was supposed to be, if anywhere. I guess Westfield? I have some cousins there that would be excited about that.

Louis: How does Vision have money?

Michael: Low key one of the funniest things about this show to me was how the deed to the house listed the owners as “Wanda Maximoff”, “The Vision”.

Is that the name he puts on his taxes? Does he even pay taxes?

So many unanswered questions.

Louis: And he has a WILL.

Lars: Is he even an American citizen? Is he a legal person?

Louis: Conceived in Korea; born in NYC?

Should we talk about the Vision now, guys?

Lars: Which one? Hey-oh!

Louis: The one that REPRESENTS me on screen. #VisionsSoWhite

Lars: lol – I honestly can’t get past the name “White Vision”

Louis: Yes, I don’t know if you felt the same Mike, but I was not aware of the white Vision storyline from West Coast Avengers.

So, the reveal at the end of the penultimate episode did not elicit any reaction from me.

Michael: I was not familiar with the White Vision either, and I think you nailed it, Louis — I didn’t really feel that much about The Vision in this show either. I thought Paul Bettany did a good job, but outside of that it definitely felt like things were happening to him instead of him being an actual, active participant of what was going on.

Louis: I disagree with you there, Mike. I think Vision was very good in the show. It’s a shame he seemed to disappear for 2 whole episodes near the end. Playing the role of a “Pinocchio” type is an easy way for an actor to engender likability from an audience (See “Data” in Star Trek: The Next Generation). And I feel like it was crucial to their interplay.

Like what Lars and I were discussing before, if Wanda was indeed the overall villain, the show might have ended up becoming Wanda vs. Vision, which I think a lot of us would have wanted to see. There would certainly have been more drama, in my opinion.

Lars: Yeah I liked The Vision in the show, and I didn’t mind White Vision, I thought that was an interesting and logical wrinkle; but the show is definitely more about Wanda since she’s… you know, the only one still alive of the two.

Vision slowly realizing his reality is a lie and that he may not be real and discovering Wanda is behind all of it is like the best part of the show for me, I wish it’d have done more with that.

Michael: That’s a good point about Wanda vs. Vision, Louis. One being whose emotion causes all kinds of destruction versus another governed by pure logic.

Would’ve been interesting to see actually play out.

Louis: Vision having to convince Wanda to let him go? Pssh. LAME! Get back to magic fighting with beams!

White Vision was introduced too little, too late. One ship of theses conversation does not a show make.

Michael: Yeah. And they could’ve used it as an excuse to introduce Simon Williams too!

Louis: Or bring Ultron back, maybe? I guess now we’re unfortunately getting into fan theory territory.

Michael: Ugh, we are. But we can use that to segue into our next point: Do you think this was a success for Disney? It felt like the week by week format not only let them hold onto subscribers but also let them generate a lot more conversation than a show released all at once would.

Louis: I do think the show was a success. People won’t SHUT UP about it.

Lars: Yes! I was reading Shirley Li’s piece in The Atlantic and she talks about how the show proves “appointment viewing” is still interesting.

And I agree, I feel like WandaVision is the first time since we all watched 2017’s Twin Peaks: The Return that we all independently watched a show every week, tracked along with it, and talked about it.

Louis: UGH. That makes me feel sick.

I doubt people will be talking about it this time in 2022, though.

Michael: WandaVision is the new Twin Peaks, you heard it here first folks.

Lars: Lol to be clear – The Return is a better show.

But this does feel like the first time we all had pretty regular appointment sit down viewings and would talk about it.

Louis: I mean, is the show really more successful than Mandalorian? There wasn’t really a Baby Yoda in this…

Lars: I think this show is better than the Mandalorian, even with no Baby Yoda.

And like I was saying earlier, I think Disney got me at least.

I can’t unsubscribe, even though I’m paying so much more for so much less than over on Amazon/Netflix/HBO.

Louis: Yeah, well, I only used Disney+ originally to watch DuckTales, and they have the Muppet Show now. It was something I already had.

Michael: I have not watched The Mandalorian yet so cannot comment. But one key difference is that there are a bunch of Marvel shows all queued up and ready to go (The Falcon and the Winter Soldier on March 19th, Loki in June). Did this make you more or less likely to want to watch any of those or the other upcoming Marvel shows?

Lars: The fact they own this content I really need to see means I’m willing to shell out for it every month just to turn on the app once a week and watch it.

Definitely more likely, Mike. Months ago I thought WandaVision would be like weird and kinda go out with a whimper and then people would be like “eh, we don’t really need a Hawkeye show or a Loki show”

But the fact we can all disagree on the show on various levels but all still watched it and are (hopefully) enjoying talking about it with each other demonstrates it was a success, and I intend to stick around!

Louis: I was just thinking the same question, Mike. Quality-wise, WandaVision ultimately let me down, so I am definitely wary about the upcoming Falcon and Winter Solider show. I’ve been reading a lot of Captain America recently, so I’m excited on a fan level to see Falcon, Bucky, US Agent, and Baron Zemo (with the HOOD ZOMG). But I expect I’ll feel similarly empty by the end of it.

People are going to watch it early and often to avoid spoilers. That’s it. It’s not going to be Season 6 of The Wire……

Lars: I also agree with that, Louis.

Michael: I’m probably going to watch all of these shows either way, but if WandaVision does anything I think it highlights the need for a charismatic lead. Probably the biggest reason I kept coming back was to watch Olsen and Bettany interact on screen. I don’t see Anthony Mackey and Sebastian Stan pulling of something similar (Tom Hiddleston, on the other hand, is always a delight).

Lars: Honestly I think the Hawkeye show is what I’m most looking forward to.

Louis: I think charismatic leads are good, but I think if they have an ironclad-tight plot, which befits the characters, it could work.

While a 9 season show like The Office needs charismatic leads, these are not really “TV shows”. They are more like miniseries, like Roots or the original V.

Just have a good plot.

Lars: Yeah I think it’s interesting that these have all (to my understanding) mostly been billed as single season series. It’s not like they’re building out multiple seasons on The Falcon and the Winter Soldier yet, as opposed to what earlier Marvel TV ventures did (with Daredevil most successfully)

They feel more like a connective tissue than a singular focus.

Louis: And it’s weird that WandaVision had to feel like that, because what did it really set up for future movies?

The new Monica Rambeau (Photon)?

More skrulls?

Lars: The Doctor Strange movie, I guess?

Michael: Olsen has already been confirmed to appear in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. I don’t know what, exactly, it sets her up to do (try to take the Sorcerer/ess Supreme title from Stephen?) but she’ll at least be in it.

Louis: But you’re just making an assumption. I mean, just on the face of what we saw in WandaVision, it doesn’t leave me excited to revisit these things anytime soon.

If they are reintroduced and they are GOOD, then that’s a plus. But I’m not exactly itching for more Wanda right now.

Lars: But I think we’re supposed to think of this story as kind of a closure for Wanda as she was.

Wanda’s story has kind of “ended” even though she’s coming back as a more advanced character with a new look on things, able to put all of this behind her. (edited)

So they were kind of closing the book on the Wanda Maximoff and the Vision of the MCU up until this point.

And honestly, I’ll take any way we can spice up a standalone Doctor Strange movie, because ugh.

Michael: I guess we can close it out with: Is there a particular MCU show you’re looking forward to watching in the future? Lars, you said Hawkeye, and as someone who loved Matt Fraction’s run on that title (which the show seems like it’ll be taking heavily from) and who is still waiting patiently to see Florence Pugh as Yelena Belova, I think I’d have to agree.

Lars: I know Jeremy Renner is problematic and whatever, but I think Hawkeye is awesome and I like dark brooding Hawkeye especially, I don’t care. Come #cancel me!

Louis: Oh, God. In Loki, I like Owen Wilson playing the Time Variance Authority guy aka “Mark Gruenwald”.

I think Loki will suffer from having a cool trailer cobbled together from the 2 very best minutes of the show, however.

That’s my prediction.

Lars: Yeah, that’s a pretty fair prediction actually, I see that.

I think that there’s an upward trajectory for Marvel shows though, I think it is more likely to get better.

Louis: In a pandemic-free world, I might not watch anymore of these shows.

But that’s not ending anytime SOON, baby!

Lars: Always the optimist, Louis ?

Louis: There’s always the FF to look forward to.

“Just when I think I’m out, they pull me back in.” – Michael Corleone, The Godfather Part III

Michael: What happens first: the pandemic ends or the Fantastic Four get their own show/movie?

Louis: To every person suffering from OCD’s distress: FF will be in Phase 5.

I just don’t see any way it comes out earlier.

Lars: So I guess we’ll all get back in a group chat when that happens.

Michael: That’s true, because what is Slack, if not the discourse persisting? See you all next time.