VERIFICATION: WandaVision – Episode 2
I think I was a little hasty when I mentioned Bewitched in the review of the pilot. Episode 2 of WandaVision goes from the 50s to the 60s, with the title sequence being a fitting parody of the Magic Wife series. But while the first of the series was a breath of fresh air, the sequel gave birth to a new kind of comedy series that is about to run out of steam.
The first scene of the second episode of WandaVision is devoted to transitions, where the sound seems to move along with Wanda’s mystical fiddling with the switch. Suddenly she becomes the bravest of them all when Vision falls and hears strange noises that eventually turn out to be a strange tree branch. Then they share two beds, and the conversation turns to physical passion, hardly for the last time. Episode 2 is a little faster, a little funnier, a little more subversive.
After all, the outward signs of time are not noticeable until they light up: Meeting the talented Wanda is more of a cult, with the Queen praising a Kool-Aid and the neighborhood watchdog Vision in hopes of joining her – it’s really just gossip for the spouses. Wanda threatens to scandalize the town by wearing pants while everyone around her wears flowery dresses. The addition of Black characters in larger roles suggests a change in racial mores throughout the history of television. These changes are correctly received, without judgment or awakening; they are simply necessary for us to appreciate. I hope they stick to it, and not just WandaVision.
There are other transitions that are made in episode 2 of WandaVision. Bewitched began in black and white, but switched to color in its third season, and WandaVision pays tribute to it by slowly introducing color into a black and white scheme, a bit like Sin City. It’s a nice effect, and it’s used sparingly so as not to be distracting or give the impression of being a gadget; besides, it has a sensational performance. The change in visuals also allows for a shift to a more polished comedic style, especially in the climate game where Wanda and Vision presented a magic show.
This is also the moment when episode 2 of WandaVision begins to rip. The magic show isn’t as funny as they think and goes on for a while, making what should be the highlight of the episode tiresome. The viewer pretends to be drunk – there’s a pack of gum stuck in his mechanical guts, which for some reason has the same effect – but he’s drunk on television, a kind of exaggerated drunkenness that sitcoms often inflict on their characters. I realize this is a comment on this trope, but that doesn’t make it any more fun. They try to have a little fun with it by having Vision betray her stupidity almost over and over again, while Wanda uses her real magic and disguises it as fake magic, but it doesn’t work and things drag on and on. This episode is actually longer than its predecessor, proving that WandaVision benefits from brevity, at least for now.
And that’s the crux of the matter. Episode 2 of WandaVision shows the limits of the gag We’re in a sitcom. It used to be fun, but it gets old fast. Perhaps it’s partly because the change in tone and style of humour between the two episodes isn’t sharp enough, making it seem more like the same thing. But I hope they were aware of that when they did the show, because I don’t see them keeping it up for long. WandaVision is promising, and I don’t want it to become obsolete.
But I think they’re laying the groundwork to prevent that from happening. In the second episode of WandaVision, there are more clues that there is more going on behind the scenes of TV Land, and that the weirdest couple in Marvel are trapped inside. Suddenly, a voice from a nearby radio station comes and asks Wanda what they’re doing to her, and the final moments reveal not only that whoever is behind it is rewinding the sitcom, but also that there is a beekeeper watching the sewers, someone whose appearance breaks Wanda’s spell, if only temporarily. This proves once again that Wanda does not and will not agree with this; it also suggests that Vision is still dead and that it is Wanda who is doing the sitcoms for her. They should reinforce this point as the series progresses and the format becomes smaller.
However, it is not bad and the performance of the second series of WandaVision is good, although not as good as the first series. Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany adapt well to the new era, though they feel less withdrawn, especially with Olsen. She seems more herself this time, although Vision is still a long way from the live computer he saw in the movies. Kathryn Hahn is another neighbor, and she’s just as funny and beautifully represented in Enchanted World as Wanda’s guide to the neighborhood’s social hierarchy. Unfortunately, Debra Jo Rupp is only set this time and Fred Melamed only appears in the animated title sequence (though he still seems to be the boss of Vision). Buffy’s Emma Caulfield turns out to be Dottie, the domineering snob who handles all women’s affairs, and she’s closer to Cordelia than Anya. Teyona Parris doesn’t have much to do, but I’m sure that will change over time, given who she’s asked to play.
Episode 2 of WandaVision is decent, but not as fun as episode 1 and shows the limits of the set. If they evolve beyond the sitcom tribute, they could easily overcome this potential problem, but the series could lose its reputation if it gets too comfortable.
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