Flicks With Nicki – WandaVisionNicki Salcedo. Photo by Dean Hesse.
I am a fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). I want to live in a world where people can be superheroes. I used to think there were clear lines between good and evil and between love and grief, but now I wonder. I’ve spent a year wandering between the reality of a global pandemic and the imaginary world I created in my home to keep my family going. I like my imagination. I’m not good at reality, so I entered the world of Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany) to see what happens when superheroes get domestic.
In “WandaVision,” suburban America is as frightening as it is comforting. The show begins with a catchy theme song and a drive into Westview, New Jersey. It is the 1950’s picture perfect town. The house is clean, the outfits are crisp, and the neighbor (Kathryn Hahn) is nosy. However, the laugh track makes us uneasy. The problem isn’t that Wanda is a telepath, and Vision is an android. Something is wrong. Vision and Wanda don’t know how they’ve come to be in Westview. They don’t remember anything about their lives other than the fact that they love each other.
Even though the world is black and white, the first commercial in “WandaVision” shows us a toaster with one bit of color. A red light flashes, and we hear an ominous beeping sound. It is like a jack-in-the-box waiting to surprise us. Or a bomb about to explode. Who is controlling that bomb? Is it Tony Stark or Wanda Maximoff?
The beautiful mystery of “WandaVision” is that we know too much. We think. We think we know Wanda Maximoff. We’ve known the various iterations of Vision since the first “Iron Man” movie, where he was the voice behind Tony Stark’s artificial intelligence personal assistant J.A.R.V.I.S. But we don’t know enough. Each episode reveals another decade and another homage to classic TV shows. We don’t know why.
We start with “The Dick Van Dyke Show” and “I Love Lucy.” We move to “Bewitched” and a hint of “Mary Tyler Moore.” Eventually, we evolve from “The Brady Bunch” to “Family Ties” and “Full House.” Near the end we get “Malcom in the Middle,” “Modern Family,” and “The Office.”
Somewhere along the way, the laugh track disappears. The town fills with color and the actors look directly at us. Something is still wrong. We discover that there is a world beyond the world of Wanda and Vision. I wonder how first-time viewers reacted to the twists and turns. In my house, we felt excitement upon seeing Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris) from “Captain Marvel,” Jimmy Woo (Randall Park) from “Ant-Man,” and Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings) from “Thor.”
“WandaVision” might be setup as an inside joke for Marvel fans, but its hook is in the social commentary on domestic life. We have entered “The Twilight Zone.” Rod Serling used to welcome us into that world with these words:
“There is a fifth dimension, beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call The Twilight Zone.”
The black and white becomes gray. Gray becomes color. We realize the laughter is as insidious as a witch’s cackle. When the laughter fades Elizabeth Olsen looks at us through the camera. “Everything is meaningless.” Girl, same. We know the feeling.
By the time I watched the final episode of “WandaVision,” I’d lived 365 days of COVID-19. Some days, our house felt like an underground bunker. Other days, we were in a happy sitcom. My mother-in-law died just before Christmas, and I put my pain away for another time and wore a smile. Maybe suppressing my grief was wrong, but I didn’t know what else to do. I was afraid that the eruption of my sadness would be too much to bear.
Yes, “WandaVision” is about grief. Monica feels it. Wanda feels it. So does Vision. He is more than a synthetic lifeform. He is life. He is love. Grief comes with love. The other theme of the show is about who is good and who is evil. The crisp perfection of the 1950’s household is evil. The laughter is evil. Wanda is good and evil. She wants love. She wants to fit in with the people in town. She is like me. She is equally capable of creating life and destruction.
I suggest that you watch “WandaVision” for campy American life, superhero fight scenes, and a mystery to unfold. The nine episodes felt like a therapy session. I like the commentary on community, motherhood, and rage. At some point, Elizabeth Olsen and Kathryn Hahn are dressed in Halloween costumes while delivering great performances. The story arc is unlike anything we’ve seen on American television. Top quality script, directing, cinematography. It is a strange and somber adventure. It is also funny and exciting. For deeper analysis, we pondered why Wanda is the perfect doppelganger for Thanos. And she is. What is life, but a journey to death. What is good without the collateral damage of evil. Vision asks, “What is grief, if not love persevering?” Same, Vis. Same. We know the feeling.
Found on Disney+, all season one episodes are now available. We’ve held in our pain and grief too long. It might be time to drop to our knees, shout at the sky, let the energy burst from inside us, and see what might spring to life. Grade A-
Nicki Salcedo is a Decatur resident and Atlanta native. She is a novelist, blogger, and a working mom.
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