WandaVision Recap: A Grief Observed (Episodes 1 & 2)
We’re running a weekly recap of WandaVision on Disney+. There are spoilers, duh! You’ve been warned.
Wanda Maximoff is the most tragic figure in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. She is a character defined by her grief, a woman who has lost everyone she ever loved.
Her parents? Killed in a war. Her brother, Pietro? Killed by Ultron.
Her beloved, Vision? Killed by Thanos. Well shucks, technically Vision was killed by her, and then killed by Thanos a second time right in front of her. Double shucks!
And that was before the Mad Titan killed Wanda too. AND half the universe with her.
Later, when Earth’s Mightiest Heroes brought Wanda and half the universe back to life, Vision stayed dead. So when the credits rolled to Avengers: Endgame, we knew that Wanda was a woman in mourning. Thankful for her life, sure. Proud of her lover’s sacrifice, yes. But the first decade of the MCU left her wrecked with grief.
Now, with the premier of WandaVision, it’s clear someone at Marvel Studios has a sick sense of humor. They took a heartbroken, Sokovian orphan and her dead android lover and plopped this tragic couple inside the most saccharine, idyllic of all television genres: a Golden Age sitcom. Complete with hijinks and laugh tracks.
It’s borderline inappropriate. But I guess that’s probably the point, isn’t it?
WandaVision is zany and funny and nostalgic, with occasional bursts of creepiness and dread.
Mass entertainment tends to mask the uglier truths of the era from which it’s born. With the benefit of hindsight, it’s easier for us to spot the disconnect between fantasy and reality when we view those older shows. With time and distance, for example, we know that when I Love Lucy was on the air in 1953, Lucille Ball herself was made to testify before the House Committee on Un-American Activities during the paranoia of the Cold War and Red Scare. Similarly, as Bewitched portrayed a more emancipated heroine opposite her bumbling husband in 1965, the colder realities of segregation, political assassinations, and the War in Vietnam barely crept through the screen.
It’s why we speak of entertainment as an escape. Marvel movies themselves are a product of this disconnect. But with WandaVision, the disconnect itself has become an essential component of the story.
I’ve never liked those scenes in comedy movies where something bad happens, and then the character, in their despair, cries all day in the shower. The scene is played for laughs, and it would be hilarious were it not for the number of times I’ve done that exact thing in my worst moments.
In the rushing sound of the water and the isolation of the drawn curtain, the shower becomes a kind of sensory deprivation tank, a place of refuge to fully feel my bad feelings. In those moments, rare as they are, I want nothing more than for the porcelain tile to pull me into itself, to sink into the drain, to disappear for a time.
When Joy Davidman died in 1960, her widower, C. S. Lewis, published A Grief Observed a year later. The man wrote:
Her absence is like the sky, spread over everything. But no, that is not quite accurate. There is one place where her absence comes locally home to me, and it is a place I can’t avoid. I mean my own body. It had such a different importance while it was the body of H.’s lover. Now it’s like an empty house.
Grief is like that. As we mourn the passing of someone we love, our grief is not singular. Yes, of course we mourn the one we love, but we also mourn ourselves—the person we once were in the presence of our beloved.
Our lover is gone. But so are we.
Which is why, in those “shower moments” (patent pending), if any one of us were equipped with the Scarlet Witch’s reality-bending superpowers, I can see the allure of forsaking, for a time, my grief-stricken self and exchanging it with a sunny derivative of an idealized I Love Lucy fantasy.
I guess it’s here that I’m telling you my opinion of what’s going on in this show, even though the show itself has yet to answer that specific question.
A voice breaks through the black and white sheen of WandaVision’s suburbia, “Who’s doing this to you, Wanda?” I’m pretty sure I know the answer.
Wanda is doing this. Sinking into the drain. It’s all she can do.
A few final thoughts.
Someone is observing Wanda in this alternate reality. It’s yet to be seen whether these observers are the ones causing the reality, or simply observing it somehow from the outside.
If I was placing a Vegas bet, I’d say they’re observing. If I placed an even bigger bet, I’d say they’re also trying to snap Wanda out of whatever malaise she’s created for herself. Whether those intentions are good or bad, we’ll just have to see.
As I mentioned before, Vision was dead at the end of Endgame, and I’m operating under the assumption that he’s still dead now. The man we see in WandaVision is an invention of Wanda’s imagination.
I admit, it’s not a perfect theory. If all this is happening in an alternate reality of Wanda’s making, then that doesn’t explain how or why Vision is off by himself for certain portions of the show, with his own experiences absent of Wanda.
WandaVision is zany and funny and nostalgic, with occasional bursts of creepiness and dread. It’s one of the weirdest things Marvel Studios has produced. It’ll eventually take a turn for the sad, as Wanda and Vision start to remember what happened to them, as the façade starts to crumble.
Either way, after a COVID-driven extended hiatus from the MCU, it’s good to be back in the Marvel universe again. Times are tough. We all need a little escape.
Great insight! I’m a hospice chaplain/bereavement coordinator so you’d think I would have caught this right away, but I actually completely missed this theme even though it was right in front of me.
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