Since Marvel began its dynastic run at the box office back in 2008, the studio has taken its fair share of risks, experimenting with—and in some ways, creating—myriad superhero subgenres. There have been period pieces, heist movies, teen comedies, political thrillers, even a space opera featuring a gun-wielding raccoon voiced by Bradley Cooper and a sentient, yoked tree voiced by Vin Diesel. And yet as strange and as varied as it’s become, no entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe has sounded as wild as WandaVision, Marvel’s first attempt at making a sitcom.
That’s right: This fall, Marvel Studios will begin production on its very first sitcom, or as Marvel producer/God Kevin Feige described it this past weekend at Disney’s annual D23 Expo, a “half classic sitcom, half MCU spectacular.” The news around the upcoming Disney+ series has been mystifying ever since its extremely on-the-nose title was announced in April (the show will focus on the Avengers’ Wanda Maximoff and Vision; Wanda + Vision = WandaVision—you get it), and quite frankly, every divulged detail since has only contributed to its growing allure. Paul Bettany, the android Avenger himself, characterized it as “definitely the oddest of all the Marvel endeavors so far,” while genuinely seeming to struggle to find the words to describe the project in a recent interview with IGN.
Granted, it will be a long, long time until the show is released in spring 2021, and more details will likely trickle in as the MCU kicks off Phase 4. But D23 gave us a lot to get started on the mystery of WTF WandaVision is actually going to be, so in the meantime let’s break down what we know about Marvel’s upcoming sitcom.
At D23, Marvel Studios had no WandaVision footage available to tease its devout audience of Marvel-heads, but it did, however, have something else rather interesting to share: scenes of Wanda and Vision pulled from Avengers: Infinity War and Captain America: Civil War mashed together with scenes from … The Dick Van Dyke Show.
As revealed in April by the actress who plays Wanda, Elizabeth Olsen, WandaVision is set in the 1950s, and so scenes of Rob and Laura from The Dick Van Dyke Show—which came out in the ’60s, but close enough, I guess—were used as stand-ins for Wanda and Vision. Specifically, Marvel used tense moments between the married Rob and Laura (Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore), arguments about whether there was something wrong with their relationship. But beyond being a unique expo display, The Dick Van Dyke Show is apparently an actual inspiration for the show as well, and producers are taking the whole sitcom thing so seriously that they’re even debating whether to layer in a laugh track.
Series director Matt Shakman echoed Feige’s description and elaborated on the sitcom label in greater detail: “It’s definitely a mix of sitcom and big Marvel action, so we will see Wanda and Vision be funny—which they can be—and I’ve found great humor in their love story. Cooking together, obviously, seeing them in this environment that we’re creating will be, I think, very special.”
I was skeptical about how funny Wanda and Vision could be together until Shakman cited that cooking scene from Civil War, where we find Vision familiarizing himself with paprika:
And while the decision for Marvel to produce a sitcom is still, most definitely, a strange one, WandaVision appears to be heavily inspired by the Eisner Award–winning series The Vision, which ran for 12 issues in 2015. The series’ scribe, the former CIA officer turned comics writer Tom King, seems to agree:
The Vision is set in the suburbs of modern-day Virginia, and focuses on Vision and his family of synthezoids, which he creates to build a normal life—the idyllic nuclear family. He creates himself a wife using the brain waves of his dead ex-wife, Wanda—yes, it’s exactly as creepy as it sounds—and then creates twin children using a combination of his and his wife’s brain waves. The story is a dark, existential tragedy, but it’s also full of the same ridiculous deadpan humor found in Bettany’s Vision repeating “pinch of paprika.”
The illusion of the perfect suburban life soon vanishes for the Vision family, as it would seem will be the case for Wanda and Vision in the Disney+ series—the full WandaVision poster reveals shadows of Vision and Wanda’s Scarlet Witch, looming behind the perfectly normal representations of themselves:
WANDAVISION!!! Official D23 poster I had the honor of painting during the early concept phase of preproduction. This @DisneyPlus show is gonna be something totally fresh.. & weird! #ElizabethOlsen #PaulBettany @DisneyD23 #D23Expo #D23Expo2019 #Disney+ @MarvelStudios #WandaVision pic.twitter.com/VJU4p05Pmb— Andy Park (@andyparkart) August 25, 2019
Wait … Isn’t Vision Dead??
Oh, right. Yeah, Vision is quite dead. In fact, he died twice.
In 2018’s Infinity War, Wanda herself is responsible for killing Vision the first time, when the Avengers attempt to destroy the Mind Stone before Thanos can use it to wipe out half the universe. After agonizing for two-plus hours over euthanizing the android she loves, she reluctantly agrees, and annihilates the Infinity Stone and life source lodged in Vision’s forehead. However, using the Time Stone, Thanos simply reverses her heroic sacrifice and plucks out the last key he needs to initiate the Snapture.
Asked how the series—which, to make things more confusing, starts after the events of Endgame before somehow traveling back to the ’50s—will account for the death of his character, Bettany responded: “It’s super avant-garde and weird.” (He continued to fumble together a brilliant nonresponse; a hidden Disney employee likely would have tranquilized him on the spot had he revealed any more, but I’m still convinced my guy has no idea what this show is either.)
This is, by no means, the first time a superhero has died in a previous story line only to be revived by another writer who wants to use the character for a new story; it happens all the time in the comics, and we’re seeing it more and more in the MCU (shouts to Phil Coulson, the MCU’s original Lazarus). As for how they’ll pull off the resurrection, I have two theories. The first: the multiverse. This one feels like kind of a cop-out, but it seems possible due to both the time-traveling capabilities introduced in Avengers: Endgame and the show’s reported ties to the upcoming Doctor Strange sequel, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, in which Elizabeth Olsen will be reprising her role as Wanda as well. The multiverse allows Marvel to play around with alternate realities; this also appears to be how the studio will explain Loki’s comeback for the upcoming Disney+ series of his own, after he slipped out of the Avengers’ grasps using the Space Stone in Endgame.
The second: Wanda’s powers. As many have speculated, WandaVision could be drawing inspiration from a popular 2005 comic called House of M. In that story line, writer Brian Michael Bendis unleashes Scarlet Witch’s full potential, as she uses her abilities to entirely re-create all of reality after a traumatic incident that destroyed the Avengers and killed Vision (he really can’t seem to catch a break). Wanda builds this perfect world to cope with her loss, where every superhero is peacefully living the life they would have had if they never became heroes in the first place. But, of course, things fall apart, and Wanda’s new reality unravels before her.
It’s possible that Vision doesn’t really get resurrected at all, and Wanda uses her powers to create this perfect, 1950s suburban life to cope with Vision’s death by conjuring up a place where they can be together again. That’s pretty dark—maybe a little too dark for a brand-new Disney+ series—but if it’s anything like The Vision or House of M., expect for this all to go south before the first season ends.
Possibly the most surprising news coming out of this past weekend surrounding the series is the announcement that WandaVision will miraculously group together Wanda (to whom even Thanos admitted: “I don’t even know who you are”), Vision (who, again, is dead), and three MCU characters so minor they’d likely go undrafted in a Marvel fantasy draft: Jimmy Woo (Randall Park), Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings), and Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris). Jimmy Woo appeared in 2018’s Ant-Man and the Wasp as a federal agent assigned to be Scott Lang’s parole officer, while Darcy Lewis served as the comedic relief in 2011’s Thor and 2013’s Thor: Dark World, two movies that desperately needed it. Darcy, Dr. Jane Foster’s (Natalie Portman) assistant and friend, was never seen again once Portman’s character was out of the picture.
Monica Rambeau is easily the most exciting and perplexing addition to the series (and an incredible casting choice in Parris). If you have no idea who Rambeau is, I don’t blame you—the one time we’ve seen her in a film she was merely the child of Captain Marvel’s best friend, in 2019’s Captain Marvel. That film was set in 1995, so by the time we reach WandaVision, Rambeau will be a full-fledged adult. In the comics, the starry-eyed little girl grows up to be a superhero herself, who goes by the name Photon, as well as even Captain Marvel at some point.
Oh, and along with those three, Kathryn Hahn will join the cast as the so-called “nosy neighbor.” Seems like kind of a tough beat when it comes to Marvel roles (though not as tough as being a Tolkien white boy in Black Panther), but Hahn has been known to make hay out of bit parts.
Needless to say, this is a cast ready-made for a superhero sitcom, whatever the hell that will look like. WandaVision is slowly shaping up to be Marvel Studios’ biggest risk yet, but so long as Vision brings back the sweater vest and whips up a nice home-cooked meal for Wanda with just the slightest pinch of paprika, odds are it’ll be another gamble that pays off for Disney.