Wandavision is... good?!


“The first episode is bad. Clowny and clumsily written and not worth your time.”

I posted that on my Facebook author page this past weekend. It did not go over well. It’s the first time I’ve ever posted something that didn’t get a single like and produced a stream of comments. (All of them politely telling me that I wrong and to just stick it out for a couple more episodes.)

Understand that as a writer and editor, I just don’t have time for badly written shows. It’s the reason I rarely watch anything on network television these days. It’s mostly cliché, hackneyed garbage.

But my friends were adamant, and MCU has a (well deserved) reputation for storytelling. So, I stuck it out, and by the end of Episode 3, I was completely hooked. And after watching the first 6 episodes, this is what I’ll say.

(SPOILER ALERT)

Wandavision is the most poignant and engaging treatise on grief I’ve seen in years. Five years ago, my life exploded in every way. I was betrayed in the most painful way imaginable. The pain was so great there were times when I refused to accept reality. I would go to bed and wake up, thinking that everything was fine, as if nothing had happened. Some days, I would count my life in thirty minute intervals. Could I get through the next thirty? I still had to work, but as I work in schools and I’m with kids all day, I had to be “on.” And so, I saved every bit of energy for those hours, and just tried to survive the rest of the night.

This is what Wandavision does, by exploring the pain of The Scarlet Witch (brilliantly played by Elizabeth Olsen).

Now this is a writing blog, so we’re going to look at from that angle, but it needs to be said that without the talents of Paul Bettany or Elizabeth Olsen, two of the best actors in the Marvel universe, this show wouldn’t work. The multiple roles required for the show would drown lesser actors.

The construct of the show is wonderfully creative, and uses the irony of “sitcoms,” and yes, the show has some hilarious moments, to cover the sadness and sense of dread that lies beneath it. That said, the show is not dark. I’m not a huge fan of dark shows, reality feels like enough for me, but I never felt that way with Wandavision.

And once you get past the first episode, the pacing within the writing is well constructed. It is never in a hurry, and yet pulls you along at just the right speed.

(NOTE FOR YOUNG WRITERS: Pacing is one of the hardest things to master, so don’t get frustrated if you struggle with it. I mention its difficulty in my Storytelling module in my course. I’m sure I’ll expand on it in my next course, because it is so hard to do well.)

Look, the show is terrific. But I stick by my comments about the first episode. Marvel’s prodigious reach and reputation (plus early reviews) allowed for the one miss. Believe me, any other new show would have lost a lot of people with that first episode.

So, do I recommend it? Absolutely. I’ll tell you what my friends told me on Facebook. Suffer through the first episode. The second one is better, and by the third you will be hooked.

Just hang in there!

-Stephen

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