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Can WANDAVISION Redeem the MCU Romance?

It’s no surprise that, of all the options to launch Marvel’s foray into Disney+ streaming, Kevin Feige & Co. consistently prioritized WandaVision. Wanda Maximoff began her journey in the MCU as a volatile antagonist and left it as an Avenger. As for Vision (just “Vision”), his transformation was more physical. He started as an AI assistant and turned into a sentient superhero. Undoubtedly, such unconventional backstories and potent comic history make them an intriguing pair to lead their very own series.

Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany in WandaVision.

Marvel

What is surprising, however, is how little time and space each film dedicated to exploring Wanda and Vision’s shared dynamic. Seeds were planted in Avengers: Age of Ultron with a fan-servicing tease. Captain America: Civil War immediately pivoted into an effortlessly flirty homelife at Avengers HQ. By their next appearance in Avengers: Infinity War, the MCU expected viewers to connect with their burgeoning, suddenly intimate romance. Yet during that film’s climactic moments, a disheartening realization struck me. Neither Wanda’s agony nor Vision’s death—twice over!—ever made the duo’s tragic ending at Thanos’ hands feel particularly moving.

Paul Bettany and Elizabeth Olsen in WandaVision.

Marvel

Why Haven’t Wanda and Vision Worked?

What explains this? Consider each time their relationship reset itself, and we have a new status quo; all the vital connective tissue had occurred largely between films and mostly off-screen. Years may have passed, both here and in-universe. All audiences ever experienced was relentless fast-forwarding with little actual development. Predictably, not allowing us to witness a romance proved to be a questionable method of cultivating a romance—itself a hit-or-miss proposition throughout the MCU.

So, as hinted at in EW’s recent cover story, here’s how WandaVision can remedy this problem retroactively: by focusing intensively on their love story.

Paul Bettany and Elizabeth Olsen in Captain America: Civil War.

Marvel

Romance in the MCU

Look no further than two of Feige’s previous stand-out expansions to television. Agent Carter was a lovely portrait of Peggy Carter coming to terms with Steve Rogers’ post-WWII “death,” learning to move on and define herself independently of her lost love. (This arc, frustratingly enough, is all but discarded in Avengers: Endgame.) Every episode of Jessica Jones‘ outstanding first season, meanwhile, centered on how its tortured protagonist navigates the pervasive trauma of surviving sexual abuse. Tellingly, both shows revolved around core season-long ideas. WandaVision appears similarly positioned to function as a treatise on love and grief after tragedy.

Scarlet Witch and Vision in Marvel Comics.

Marvel

The most immediate benefit is that, as opposed to in the movies, Wanda and Vision’s relationship can’t be placed on the back-burner. Rather, freedom from the constraints of blockbuster filmmaking could allow WandaVision’s writers to finally, meaningfully examine this strange couple. From a basic character perspective, what made Wanda and Vision lovers to begin with? How does an (apparently) artificially-constructed life in wedded bliss address their wants and needs? And most importantly, why should anyone besides hardcore comic fans even care?

Excitingly, this is where the quirky premise of a superpowered family sitcom can serve dual purposes.

Wandavision

Marvel

How the Sitcom Style Comes into Play

First and foremost, WandaVision may be a character study disguised as a genre experiment. The MCU has thrived by constantly shifting storytelling modes, providing at least the texture of something fresh. It should be no different here. Given its singularly off-beat trailer, in fact, this series ought to push the boundaries to their absolute breaking point. Fans can anticipate genre-hopping through decades of sitcom history, the presumably reality-bending mystery of Vision’s return from the dead, and unprecedented implications for future films. Perhaps Wanda and Vision will be our one constant, grounding us amid such larger-than-life wackiness.

Poster for Wandavision.

Marvel

Secondly, the very tropes and conventions that WandaVision will endearingly remix also lend themselves naturally to love stories. Just look to classic sitcoms I Love Lucy, The Dick Van Dyke Show, or even The Odd Couple. (Kids, ask your parents!) Those shows mined conflict and drama from these central relationships, which in turn strengthened our emotional bond with them. Not that I predict Wanda and Vision measuring up to the likes of Lucy and Ricky, Sam and Diane, or Cory and Topanga, of course. These shows had the advantage of years, even decades, of weekly syndication to nurture our investment and familiarity. Simply spending time with these characters, watching as they slowly evolved, was enough. Ideally, WandaVision will accomplish a similar feat through its romance-infused sitcom trappings.

The future of the MCU likely won’t hinge on the outcome of this one show. But a successful outing certainly makes it that much brighter. With everything it has to offer, WandaVision can deliver just what these heroes (and by extension, we viewers who wish to like them more!) need. As Wanda remarks to Vision at the end of the trailer, “We are an unusual couple, you know.” Come January, WandaVision has the potential to truly show us how.