I’m not going to write it but there’s a very good academic paper called “The Blipped Hero: Why Marvel Can’t Do a Heroic Age, in Comics, Film, or Streaming.” Also this would be the perfect time for Sentry to do the hero stuff, because then Randall Park can do an “Agents of Atlas.” More than anything else so far in the Marvel movies… “WandaVision” is getting to the verisimilitude. And it’s actually incredibly impressive. This episode’s really impressive for a number of reasons, but the way this episode in particular addresses the “reality” of the Marvel stuff… Josh Stamberg’s able to do a person as a caricature as a person and it covers a whole lot.
Though the episode also starts the deep dive in Elizabeth Olsen’s headspace, thanks to guest star (or new cast member) Evan Peters. While husband Paul Bettany is way too busy being suspicious about the whole suburban paradise thing, Peters is cool with it (as in cool with Olsen having apparently engineered the whole thing) and he’s there to give Olsen a sympathetic ear.
But the episode doesn’t open with the resolve on Peters’s surprise appearance in the previous episode’s cliffhanger—instead there’s a “Malcolm in the Middle”-esque (I think) opening titles sequence, quickly centering on the antics of twins Julian Hilliard and Jett Klyne. The episode opens with them trying to figure out what’s up with their weird slacker uncle Peters while mom Olsen and dad Bettany get agitated with one another and try to mask it for the children’s sake. Hilliard and Klyne only have to run the episode for a while but they’re really good. The script—credited to Chuck Hayward and Peter Cameron—does an excellent job with the kids, particularly at the beginning, particularly since the episode delays any resolution at all to Peters.
It’s Halloween, after all, and everyone’s getting ready for trick-or-treating. Except Bettany, who’s got neighborhood watch duty even though Olsen doesn’t want him to go but isn’t willing to have a free will conversation with him. Of course, it’s going to turn out Bettany isn’t on duty and he’s instead investigating their strange suburban paradise, finding its uncannier cul-de-sacs and avenues, where Olsen apparently can’t keep the Matrix running at full power and the mind-controlled people just stand in place. It’s an excellent sequence, with Kathryn Hahn’s (sadly) only scene being the capper. There’s some excellent acting this episode from Olsen and Bettany, but nothing really compares to Hahn’s sequence. The episode relies heavily on Hahn for haunting and disturbing and she does wonders.
There’s also all the stuff with Olsen and Peters, where he talks to her plainly about the situation—Olsen seemingly mind-controlling a whole town, not to mention resurrecting first a dead Bettany, then a dead Peters (umm, with an asterisk I’m not sure “WandaVision” is ever going be able to address but at this point skies the limit)—and it gives Olsen a lot of excellent dramatic acting gristle. This episode is the one where I’m getting much more confident “WandaVision” knows all its doing. It’s just doing more than Marvel movies have ever done so… brave new worlds and all that.
I haven’t even gotten outside—literally—to Stamberg’s military operation to take out Olsen and save the day. Though apparently he’s more concerned about getting Bettany back because then they won’t have to buy vibranium from Wakanda or something. There’s a little lot for Teyonah Parris, Randall Park, and Kat Dennings to do—including some forecasting about Parris’s (potential) superhero future and the promise of another guest star next episode—as they have to rebel against Stamberg. After Parris and Park sort of running the subplot, Dennings gets the emphasis and is quite good in a very different setting.
“WandaVision” has taken it up another notch (there’s also a whole thing with the Halloween costumes, including a very appropriately cringe-y look into the kinks of Olsen and Bettany as nineties sitcom parents) and it hasn’t just easily surpassed its source material, it’s refined them into something real and good. For the first time, I’m confident they’re not going to screw Olsen over by the end of it (which I also realize means I could end up extremely bummed).
But no spoilers.