Though Marvel Entertainment’s television division did a great job bringing aspects of the Marvel universe to the small screen with shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Daredevil, the early promise of clear connections back to the films never really materialized. Beyond S.H.I.E.L.D. using the twist from Captain America: The Winter Soldier in its first season to change the nature of the show, the programs rarely made mention of film events and never featured appearances from the movies’ title characters (or vice-versa).
But that is about to change. Marvel Studios now controls television projects directly. And the first series under this new arrangement, WandaVision, is set to debut on January 15, 2021, and unlike Runaways or Cloak & Dagger, it stars marquee Avengers in a story with deep ties to the events of the films.
Despite Marvel Studios’ well-known cone of secrecy, we know a few things about the project. So let’s take a look at those details and try to guess how Marvel will change the face of its TV universe with WandaVision.
[Updated on 11/12/20]
The most obvious connection to the films is right in the name: it stars Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff (a.k.a. the Scarlet Witch) and Paul Bettany as Vision. The latter character was seemingly killed in the final reel of Avengers: Infinity War, so the series starts with a question: Is Vision alive? In fact, the question forms a key part of the trailer Disney+ released during the 2020 Emmy Awards.
The program will also feature Kathryn Hahn as Agnes – more on that in a moment – and see the return of Thor’s Kat Dennings as Darcy Lewis and Ant-Man and the Wasp’s Randall Park as FBI Agent Jimmy Woo. The series will also feature another returning Marvel Cinematic Universe figure in a new form: Teyonah Parris will star as a grown-up version of Monica Rambeau, the character played by child actor Akira Akbar in Captain Marvel.
That mixture of talent is, in its own way, quite eclectic and telling of what the show might be. Parris’s Rambeau is consistent with a contemporary setting, while the return of Darcy and Woo suggest Wanda’s new adventure has some government intrigue. But perhaps the setting is something we should consider on its own.
(Photo by Walt Disney Studios)
Unlike the previous Marvel TV efforts, WandaVision is part of the MCU’s “Phase” calendar system. As Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige revealed at the company’s 2019 Comic-Con International: San Diego presentation, the series is part of Phase 4, which counts the feature films released from next year’s Black Widow to 2022’s Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, which will feature Olsen as the Scarlet Witch. Phase 4 will also include the Disney+ series The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Loki, and the animated series What If..!? – although the canonicity of that last series is up for debate as it will tell alternative versions of established MCU history.
Curiously, WandaVision leapfrogged The Falcon and the Winter Soldier in September with Disney+ featuring the former in a late 2020 sizzle reel video and the recent trailer. Falcon, one of the few series to resume production after the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, is said to have slid into a 2021 launch window after missing its original August release plan. That switch suggests both series may have a certain flexibility in what overarching Phase 4 information they contain — although, in a recent EW interview, Feige said close MCU watchers will find “a wealth of rewards waiting for you as it all unfolds.” At the very least, events of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier have little-to-no impact on WandaVision, even if both programs set up something for the larger world. In previous interviews, Feige said WandaVision – set after the events of Avengers: Endgame – will have a far-reaching impact on Phase 4 and establish the “Scarlet Witch” name.
With that time frame in mind, we know Vision is definitely dead from our point of view. So is Wanda using the healing power of laughter to cope with the loss?
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The few glimpses Marvel and Disney+ have offered look like a pastiche of family sitcoms from different eras. Indeed, even the first info about the series at last year’s D23 Expo featured a soundbite from The Dick Van Dyke Show. Subsequent trailers saw Wanda transforming from a black-and-white 1950s housewife into an updated version of the archetype across the rest of the 20th century. The recent trailer even makes a meal out of the arrival of color.
During that D23 presentation, Feige and showrunner Jac Schaeffer alluded to the series having a different feel and look – and few things are further from the Marvel Studios house style than a three-camera sitcom. At the very least, though, it gives fans the chance to see Olsen and Bettany in comic-book–accurate Scarlet Witch and Vision costumes. For his part, Bettany said the story is “so funny and it just ends up being this huge epic.”
According to the recent EW interview, the series will begin with Wanda and Vision moving to the black-and-white town of Westview. Their home may look like Rob and Laura’s dwelling from The Dick Van Dyke Show, but the couples’ dilemma is straight out of Bewitched – Wanda must hide her witchy powers and Vision’s synthetic nature from the community. These very 1950s sitcom scenes were even filmed before an actual studio audience. But as Wanda and Vis re-run through the sitcoms of subsequent decades, it becomes clear Westview is not a generic TV town.
If we might speculate for a moment, the use of American family sitcom tropes feels right for the character. Considering Wanda was raised in relative isolation alongside her brother Pietro in a Hydra facility, it is entirely possible her notion of a normal family life was informed by watching American sitcoms. As it happens, these sorts of shows were regularly exported across the world in our reality, giving the notion of a Leave It to Beaver nuclear family purchase in real-life Sokovians. Alternatively, Hydra may have been trying to show Wanda what they sought to destroy. Either way, it is clear Wanda is trying to create a family unit of her own using whatever ideas and means available to her.
Unless, as the trailer suggests near its end, this is all Vision‘s doing…
(Photo by © Walt Disney Studios)
The Scarlet Witch of Marvel Comics fame is known for being so powerful that she can alter reality to remove mutants from the world or will children into existence. Though the MCU Wanda has yet to exhibit such an ability, her powers originate from the Infinity Stones and may be strong enough to transport her into various sitcom realities. In fact, a moment late in the trailer sees Monica Rambeau seemingly ejected from a sunny world into a park lit by artificial means. But why would Wanda do all of this? To mourn Vision’s passing, of course. Or, perhaps, to find a way to bring him back.
Though rooted in sitcom iconography, the series also appears to be taking several cues from Tom King and Gabriel Hernandez Walta’s Vision comic book miniseries; the writer even suggested as much at a 2019 New York Comic Con panel. In that story, Vision was himself trying to find domestic bliss by building an android family. Virginia, the wife model, had a brain pattern modeled after Wanda and … well, let’s just say things ended badly. Besides her power, comic book Wanda also suffers from various mental illnesses and can be her own worst enemy.
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From the recent interview, we also know the series is inspired, in part, by some very specific Scarlet Witch stories Olsen read before filming 2015’s Avengers: Age of Ultron. If these stories include the time she used magic to have children with Vision or when she changed all of reality to restore their existences – they disappeared when it turned out they were aspects of the demon Mephisto – it is easy to see how Wanda’s ongoing grief might lead to her conjuring a new world to live in.
Combining those strands, it is entirely possible the series will be set in the sitcom world and the MCU. In the trailer, Kathryn Hahn is seen as the “nosy neighbor” in the 1950s sitcom reality, but her later appearance in the seemingly modern world may be an attempt to wake up Wanda or Vision. If he’s still dead, then this version of him may part of her own consciousness. And a powerful but disassociated Scarlet Witch would be a good reason to bring in Monica and Jimmy Woo, who may or may not be a former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, into the mix.
Then again, there’s another Marvel organization acronym we might be seeing.
(Photo by © Walt Disney Studios)
If certain cast lists are to be believed, we will see S.W.O.R.D. agents at some point in the series. The organization debuted in the pages of Marvel Comics back in 2004 as the space-based version of S.H.I.E.L.D., defending Earth from alien incursion or subversion. And if you consider the space fleet Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) was assembling in the Spider-Man: Far From Home stinger scene, it would seem S.W.O.R.D. has been in the Marvel Cinematic Universe for quite some time. Perhaps Fury’s been building the group since he went off the grid in Winter Soldier. Alternatively, it may be something he whipped together with Talos (Ben Mendelsohn) in the time since Endgame. Either way, it is easy to see why Wanda’s power would be valuable to him and to S.W.O.R.D.
And from the trailer, its clear some organization with deep resources is keeping tabs on whatever is happening to Wanda and Vision.
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Though always intended to run after The Falcon and the Winter Solider, WandaVision held to a late 2020/early 2021 launch for much of its development, with it officially premiering on Disney+ on January 15, 2021. Thanks to the September sizzle reel and the subsequent trailer, we fully expected it to take The Mandalorian’s place as your must-watch streaming program after the Star Wars series concludes December 18. But it seems the real-life pressures of making a television series pushed the program’s debut into the new year. Considering the much longer delays for Black Widow and Eternals, a handful of weeks isn’t too much longer to wait.
Like The Mandalorian and other Disney+ originals, the series will stream weekly. Consisting of six episodes, it is also expected to be the only season of WandaVision. Indeed, all of the Phase 4 Disney+ shows were initially pitched as limited series. We assume the format made it more attractive to the actors, who would know from the get-go there would be no long-term commitments to a television show. Then again, with the Phase 5 shows like She-Hulk being pitched as more traditional, multi-season ideas – and with the Loki series reportedly revving up for a second year – it is always possible WandaVision will return. Maybe she’ll transport herself and Vision to cop shows next time. You know you want to see Vision with a greasy comb-over.