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Wandavision – So Terrible it Actually Causes Pain – The SASS Report

I’m more than a little pissed off. My youngest daughter, at the age of 11, was enamored with Scarlet Witch. As a fomer comic book store owner and a fan of the story form for decades it was an opportunity to truly connect with her on something we were both passionate about. A riend and former Marvel Employee, my daughter and I would play Fortnite together for hours discuss old story lines and characters, and try to predict what would happen next.  She dug into back issues of my comics collection, looking for clues for the ultimate villain, who these characters were, and what it all meant.

Then it ended. And after the second end credits rolled, at 4 am, she looked at me with disgust and shook her head. “That’s it?” she said and headed to bed. Her interest destroyed, the comics now untouched, our conversations over.

Marvel and Disney, you took something magical from me. And I’m pissed.

Wandavision has left the building and it was everything we hoped it wouldn’t be, safe, bland and uninspired. And like unsalted mashed potatoes only the rabid fans are left to defend it while the rest of us see it for exactly what it is. Inedible.

We know it sucked because auteur turned Disney shill Kevin Smith cried over it. The man who started down the Mat Stone/Trey Parker path, smoked too much weed, and ended up numb and dumb.

It was a 9 episode, 5 hour extravaganza that held so much promise from the source material. With Fox now in Disney’s wheelhouse we expected that X-Men and Fantastic Four would be at least hinted at, give this is the run-up to the next Dr. Strange movie entitled multiverse of Madness, directed by Sam Raimi and starring all the spidermen, with appearances by Wolverine and freaking Deadpool all but confirmed.

Each week we were teased with a better storyline to come, rumors spread of the inclusion of Mephisto or Kang the Conqureor or even Ultron as Haywood. But as usual the fans, all nonprofessional writers and producers, had ideas that far outstripped the highly paid jokes who run these studios and have never so much as walked into a comic book shop. At this point I don’t believe Kevin Feige actually reads any of the source material he puts up on screen. He’s like the MPAA of Marvel, putting a corporate polish on content without understanding anything about it while real talent, like Favreau, toil diligently attempting to turn out quality product the fans want to see.

Where have we seen this before? (Star Trek)

In fact what Marvel/Disney accomplished was something that should have been impossible – a show worse than anything Netflix aired. I would take season one of Iron Fist over the bland, uninspired and contentless Wandavision any day.

It’s like they know the Mandelorian exists but are desperate to prove that it’s an anomaly and if they just keep churning out their crap the audience will eventually get it.

The story is pretty simple and could have been told in a tight 90 minutes. Wanda, a traumatized woman who witnessed the death of her parents as a child, is now in grief after the death of her brother, and then watching her husband die twice, once by her hands. She is suffering from profound PTSD, with no support network, and wandering with no idea what to do. She arrives at the foundation of the home Wanda and Vision were to build together. A being called The Scarlet Witch, a malevolent force akin to the Phoenix force (whose story Fox has screwed up not once, but twice), uses this moment to take control of Wanda and cast multiple spells seizing control of the town and converting it to it’s will to benefit it’s host. Vision is recreated as an autonomous spell. Where did the Scarlet Witch come from? Well, as with all things Marvel, it from the original McGuffin in Loki’s staff. How did it get there since the staff held the mind stone and its blue while the scarlet witch’s magic is red? Isn’t the red stone the reality stone which would match the plot much better? Oh dear viewer, if you stop to ask questions at any point the entire story falls apart like a strippers outfit after too many trips around the pole.

Wanda and VIsion begin to live through the episodic television shows representing the DVD’s that Wanda’s father sold in her home country and is a source of her only happy childhood memories prior to trauma. But all is not right in wandavision land. There are intruders. first with the Monica Rambeau, daughter of Maria Rambeau. Maria, if you recall, was best friends with Captain Marvel and founded SWORD, the successor to SHIELD. Monica was snapped out of existence following Infinity War and came back after End Game to find out her mother had died due to cancer while she was gone.

Also within the town is Agatha Harkness, a witch over 340 years old, and looking to find out who or what is the source of the powerful magic. When she discovers it’s Wanda, she chooses to sit in the background and manipulate events to see how Wanda responds and what she is ultimately up to.

Finally, the villain of the story. The generic corporate baddy, the usual corrupted head of SHIELD, I mean SWORD, because we have no originality left. He’s looking to take extreme measures to put an end to the individual who is, and I can’t make this any clearer possessing and torturing the townspeople and threatening to ever expand the spell until it has taken over the world. He’s the bad guy for wanting to stop it.

I can’t begin to describe all the stupid.

After a few hijinx and promises that lead to nothing, the series ends with Harkness figuring out that Wanda contains the Scarlet Witch, Wanda coming to grips with her grief, wherein she ends the spell and releases the townspeople.

Of course, the director of SWORD is arrested for doing his job.

Yep, this was a 9 episode 5 hour arc to give her the code name she’s had in the comic books for 60 years. That’s what we accomplished.

Every theory, gone. Every idea, wasted. It wasn’t even a good story. Dragged out over 9 episodes in a story arc that could have been told in an hour. And that would have had padding.

Where did Disney go so horribly wrong?

Let’s start with the villain of the series.

Hayward

He’s the current Director of Sword, Sentient  World Observation and Response Department, god Marvel is terrible at acronyms… Sword is tasked with assessing and dealing with terrestrial and extraterrestrial threats to the planet. Hayward is a mortal without powers who has to use every asset at his disposal to battle superpowered, alien, and magical threats. The director of such an agency would be so thoroughly vetted and so overqualified that they should be the hero of the story. This is the person tasked following in the footsteps of Nick Fury.

You know what Hayward is? He’s a Marvel version of Batman. He’s a tough fighter, an eminent strategist, someone who can have two conversations simultaneously because he has two ears. Hayward, like Batman, has to have a contingency plan for taking out every member of the Avengers without superpowers to rely on. He should be badass, tough, making decisions no one else has the guts to make, and three steps ahead of the opposing side at all times. Emotionally he’s a powder keg, constantly stressed and wondering what major catastrophe is going to go off next.

What we got? A simpering, mealy mouthed whiner who can’t make a decision and is so combat inept he uses a pistol in a final stand off.  I am so…sick of writers who have never been in combat and never served writing combat scenes so cringeworthy that basic recruits can look at them and go “nuh-uh”.

He should be a human willing to stand toe to toe with Thor, relying on nothing but imagination, intelligence, and the technology and weapons developed by his agency. Hayward is actually the natural hero of the story, where we should have focused, looking at the world and the crisis through his eyes as a normal human with the job of drawing and defending the line in an age of super powered people able to alter the fabric of reality. I take it back, he’s not much Batman as Amanda Waller.

But he’s a white male. So he’s the villain. Because that’s how we do it now.

And why was he arrested at the end? And I ask that as an attorney. He literally did nothing illegal or outside his purview. He had a super villain, taking over a town, torturing hostages, and creating accomplises out of thin air to aid her. Just because her imagination gives them children form, they were still using powers on regular humans and had to be stopped.  He was trying to save hostages, resolve a superpowered crisis, and control a situation. He was completely in the right at all times, including revamping the vision and sending him in to take out what was a super powered magical construct. Not putting regular humans at risk.

But this is simple writing, for a simple time, to be safe and not take chances. And so we get Agatha

Agatha

Is a 340+ year old being. You know what you learn with age? Wisdom, patience, an ability to manipulate people. You know what this character didn’t show? Wisdom, patience, any ability to manipulate people.

What was her role, ultimately? To reveal that Wanda was the scarlet witch. We already knew that. We’ve known that for 60 years. This has all the feel of Disney’s Solo movie. A completely needless trip to discover why his name is Solo and where the dice came from. We don’t care, we really don’t and that was demonstrated in box office numbers.

Instead we want characters. What didn’t we get?  Why was Agatha absorbing power? What is her plan for the power she is absorbing? She has not a relevant character before now. She didn’t try to prevent the invasion, or show up for the conflict when Doramamu was looking to end the planet in Dr. Strange. So what was her ultimate goal? What is her motivation? Why are Disney and Marvel afraid of characten?

Why did Agatha torture Wanda by manipulating the story lines? There is mention of “getting a response” but they were so random, the poking of a stick in a bee hive that a 25 year old would do, not the calculated cunning of a witch alive for 340 years.

If Agatha Harkness is just the Marvel version of D.C’s Parasite, just have Agatha attack at the beginning, suck Wanda’s power down, and be done with it. Was Agatha looking for a best friend? Is she building a coven of her own?

WHY IS SHE HERE?

And the final reveal that Wanda is the most powerful magic user in the universe.  – “more powerful than the sorcerer supreme of magic”, first…what is the point? Dr. Strange apparently used to be the most powerful magical being in the universe, but he’s a white male so we can’t have that? Sorcerers are not as powerful as witches? But the sorcerer supreme prior to Strange was a woman…so…was she more powerful as long as she’s female?

First, how do we measure that power? Is there a point system? Is there a weights scale? Do the Celestials roll dice when they create characters? Saying one being is stronger than another doesn’t really make much sense especially when you just beat someone who had all the infinity stones at their disposal. We know that the strongest person on the planet is only the strongest at that moment and in a medium where gods and galactic entities are regularly beaten before breakfast…what was the point of that comment?

This is something that Marvel is very guilty of. They created the ultimate weapon in Fantastic Four’s first encounter with Galactus, The Ultimate Nullifier. It was a writers cheat code and the only way four humans could actually beat a galactic entity that ate entire planets. And since that time Marvel has been one upping itself by creating the next amazing weapon or character who can beat all in the universe…except they can’t because…you know…story.

Speaking of story we have our Chekov’s gun –  the rune reveal – oldest trope in the book. The whole point of the room was to teach wanda about them so she could use them later. May as well have hung signs underneath them saying “will be necessary to the plot in finale. “ This is the kind of weak writing that was blatantly obvious in Knight Rider episodes. Honestly, I think the exact same plot occurred in an episode of Baywatch, but it was bikinis and it sapped the strength of men.

What was Agatha’s story arc, her resolution? She’s now the nosy neighbor…with no home? Ralph owns the home. Remember she introduced Ralph as her husband. So when she shows up at the house under a spell, will Ralph also be spelled to recognize her, or do we have a David Letterman stalker situation on our hands?

But we know she has to gain access to the house, so she can go into her basement, enter the room with runes, and break the spell to recover her memories. Beginning to think that Disney ala Marvel just aims as low as possible. They are the bunters of writing.

And a final note on the directors decision for the acting direction. And I blame the director because Kathryn Hahn is hysterical and subdeued. She was my favorite character in Bad Moms as unwatchable as that mess was. The Agatha character was annoying at best and downright distracting at worst. Her behavior, bordering on bad Disney witch level scenery chewing, makes no sense for a 340 year old person. That should be a subtle bored person. A “seen it done it, have a collection of the t-shirts in all the colors person. Not dramatic. 340 years old is Yoda, not a 20 year old version of Sydney from Parenthood.

Sigh

Hahn’s chewing scenery and overacting and was deeply distracting whenever she was onscreen. I wanted there to be a reason and purpose why she was behaving the way she was, like no human being behaves, controlled, manipulated…a skrull not quite knowing what it meant to be human. Nope, just bad directing.

In the comics Agatha was Wanda’s mentor. It was what the fans were expecting, and there was the opportunity in the story arc. When Agatha realized Wanda didn’t know what she was doing, she could have sympathized and worked with her. Helped her, even if it was for selfish reasons. Like, she’s afraid that Wanda will doom the world she should try to stay near her to see what’s happening and try to intervene, with absorbing her power as a last ditch effort in Multiverse of Madness. Nope, just a sudden decision because she’s the Marvel Universe version of The Parasite and it’s just what she does.

Lazy, lazy writing.

And, by the way, if spells are cancelled in the runes, how was agatha still flying? Logic called and wants consistency back.

Monica – aka Photon aka New Captain Marvel

Teyonah Parris is another terrific actress wasted on a one-dimensional character. The actress could quite frankly outdo Olsen for emotional depth and power, but was given no material or character arc to work with. Worse, Monica’s flawlessness is the same character problem we’ve seen recently with other female characters such as Captain Marvel or Rey Palpatine/skywalker – they’re boring characters. They’re flawless, with no adversity, no depth, and nothing of interest. They win every fight, face no challenge, and have no sense of wonder or fear at the power they’ve been given.

This comparison is made all the worse by a great performance of a deeply flawed character by Elizabeth Olsen.

The potential was there – a woman wrought with grief over the death of a mother that she missed while snapped out of existence, who is transforming into an energy being. How does she feel about this? Is she still human? Is she happy or sad about it? Does she see this transformation as growth? Can she still feel things as energy? Does she miss touch? Would her mother be proud of her daughter as a powered-being, or is she the very thing her mother fought against as director of Sword?

Nah, she just took 4 bullets to the belly without so much as a reaction. It’s all good!

And what was the point of the rover scene? They knew they couldn’t drive technology into the hex that didn’t match the time line – that’s why they had to get an old drone. Was it just to introduce another strong woke female engineer and subvert our expectations for Reed Richards?

Scarlet Witch

Olsen really does a good job with the character, outside of the intermittent accent, showing confusion, concern, anger, grief and pain, sometimes all at the same time. She’s shown she’s a powerhouse actress who can carry a series on her own. If only she had more to work with.

While her character had character arc, coming to grips with death and passing, as well as realizing you cannot hide in fantasy without causing others pain, it was an interesting journey that could have been told in a tight 90 minutes. A woman who witnessed her parents crushed in a bombing, her brother gunned down in front of her, and her husband dying not once, but twice and the first time at her own hand. What should have been the focus, was simply a quick series of expositional scenes in a single episode. As a result they seemed more “tell not show” with no time for emotional weight because we had to get to the next one, quick quick!

So instead of an intense character driven piece, we’re instead left with feeling that the entire point of the story was just to learn her code name. The scarlet witch reveal actually served to undermine everything that Olsen worked so hard to achieve with the character. It was just so unnecessary.

And it went well against the marketing. We were teased with big things, reveals, setups for future storylines. Had it just been what it was, a character study in grief and loss, it would have been more powerful. We could have explored different characters exposure to it and the impact. But no, we need to get the scarlet witch thing out there with a big grin.

Vision

Vision is not an emotional character. He’s an android constantly learning, engaged in feedback response loops to learn appropriate behaviors and responses to human situation. He is the ultimate fish out of water, safe to explore because of the support from Wanda. This would have been an interesting area to explore further within the spell, particularly as he is given a more human appearance at times, freeing Bettany from the makeup. The role requires a great level of subtley which Bettany pulls off with amazing precision.

But that means the character is not a lead, but always one step behind in the story telling. He is a reactor to the situation, unless the situation is one that is comfortable. The magic show hit the mark with that, having children was a lost opportunity.

And the writers forever have him avoiding confrontation with Wanda to move the plot without following the natural path that a married couple would follow, sharing. This is glaringly obvious in two ways – the first is when Agatha tells him he’s died in the Halloween night patrol. Instead of going back and confronting Wanda he heads out of the spell bubble. This goes against the character and motivations to further a writers idea.

The second follows his confrontation with White Vision when he does not tell Wanda he exists and has his memories back.

And speaking of which. Where did White Vision go? He regains his memories, including those of Wanda…and…flies off when she’s in danger?

How would this whole combat have been improved? Wanda and vision pull the traditional comic book combat trick and switch opponents. Wanda’s magic is 100% effective against vision and she could have done the reveal, while vision could go toe to toe with what is essentially an energy caster, by going incorporeal, or interrupting her when she tired to cast a spell by bouncing a car off her head.

It would have been interesting to see the opposing fights, and the conversations would have revealed the information to the audience and the opponent, but not necessarily to the protagonist.

Wanda and White vision would have had the Theseus Ship conversation while Wanda fought White Vision to prevent him from destroying the construct vision. This would have forced her to choose between the two while battling herself. And it would make a lot more sense, with her powers, to restore White Visions memories. And why he would then fly off. Maybe.

Construct Vision and Agatha Harkness would have had the same conversation with the reveal that she is the scarlet witch and an explanation which would have made Construct Vision doubt wanda and his existence.

And why not have White Vision and Vision merge as they did in the comic book?? That was the comic story arc – we would have vision back and his arc is completed. She would still need to murder her children, but it would be vision and Wanda together to find and get them back.

Quicksilver

Was just a kick in the dick. Literally with a punchline that was more flacid than a 90 year old without Viagra. Bohner. Jesus.

Here we were all excited about the possibility of the x-men being involved and the writers Rian Johnsoned us. Yes, that is now a phrase for when you subvert expectations just to piss fans off. Is that something that Jon Favreua would do? No. Has Disney and Marvel learned from the master? No. Are we, the fans, getting sick of that shit. Yes.

Jimmy Woo

Th ebreakout character from the series who needs to get his own show. An unusual character in that he’s a likeable, nice, outgoing guy who is oddly in law enforcement. Anyone who actually works with the FBI knows the two main careers for FBI agents are lawyers and accountants and Jimmy is not an unusual reality for agents.

But he’s also competent and has the most long term demonstratable character growth in the MCY. They’re going to screw him up by giving him powers, which would be horrific, and should never happen.

There was a character that you loved or hated in the DC unverse named snapper car. He was just a regular kid that hung out with the JLA and did odd jobs, like the grocery shopping and maintenance. It was an odd nod to reality and an interesting character to use from time to time to show how average people would react to this sort of stuff.

Here’s hoping that Woo is the snapper car of the MCU and they don’t change a damn thing about him.

Oh, wait, yea, complaint. In the last episode, when he escapes and magically unlocks a high security communication device that we just SKIPPED over how he did that to make a call to a friend. So that the troops can swoop in at the end to…arrest Hayward. Yea. It would be great if we stop doing that. Phones lock. Figure out something else.

Darcy

I hate darcy. Mainly because Darcy hates me. Darcy hates everyone. There has not been a less likeably character in the MCU, and I’m including Thanos who murdered half the universe. He’s a sympathetic character at some level. Darcy is just nasty. Again, this is a directors choice “play the snarky I don’t need no man” programmer character. We don’t like her. Please retire the trope.

SO while there were tons of missed opportunities in the characters, the show was billed as something that would set the stage for the next phase of Marvel movies and give us great things.

Much like agents of shield, it felt like they were allowed to hint, but never actually show.

For those of you who are casual viewers, here are some of the theories that blew up in all our faces.

Mephisto

Hayward is ultron

Kang the Conqurer – time lord

Bringing in the X-Men

Bringing in the Fantastic Four

Bringing in Magneto

Bringing in Wolvering

Bringing in Deadpool – multiverse thing

Bringing in wolverine and Deadpool.