SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you haven’t seen “The Series Finale,” the ninth and final episode of “WandaVision” on Disney Plus.

“WandaVision,” the first big television show of 2021, ended up being both an oddity and an inevitability. While the Disney Plus series is from the powerful production house of Marvel Studios, it also proved to be a deliciously strange, surprisingly poignant reflection on grief, family and community. Watching Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) wind her way through decades of sitcom history, layers of her own trauma, and an increasingly tragic love story with her considerate (and synthetic) counterpart Vision (Paul Bettany) became a weekly event that united viewers in a pressing need to know what on earth was going to happen next.

As the series evolved, though, it became clear that fans were watching and appreciating “WandaVision” very differently depending on their level of affection for the ever broadening Marvel Cinematic Universe. Some came to the show with years of knowledge of the comics, the movies, or both; others went in relatively cold, deciding to give it a shot despite not knowing all the ins and outs of what had happened to the characters before they ended up in the mysterious town of Westview. Both fanbases, however, had plenty of strong opinions about how the show unfolded and, as of March 5, ended.

And so to look back at “WandaVision” as a whole, Variety Senior Entertainment Writer Adam B. Vary and Chief TV Critic Caroline Framke got together to talk about how differently they experienced this unusual series, their thoughts on that finale, and what they’ve learned about Marvel Studios’ approach to TV since tuning in to The Wanda Show.

Caroline Framke: Let’s get this out of the way now: I’m one of those people who had to watch the little recap package Disney Plus put together for neophytes going into “WandaVision,” having not rewatched any of the “Avengers” movies in a hot minute. Even though I always liked Wanda and Vision as characters, I’m a casual Marvel viewer who wasn’t about to remember their every interaction, so was worried about how lost I might get while watching a series all about them.

But after watching the first three episodes, I was pleasantly surprised. At that point, “WandaVision” was a series of clever sitcom homages that were extremely friendly to anyone who might not have understood all the Marvel backstory leading up to that point. Olsen and Bettany were great, the songs were near perfect, and the subtext of Wanda plastering a broad grin across her face lest it shatter under the pressure of her own grief was powerful enough to keep me intrigued. I knew better, but I couldn’t help but wonder if “WandaVision” might have the room and guts to pull off maybe the boldest Marvel show of all, aka a Marvel show that could tell a self-contained story without having to tie back in to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The fourth episode, of course, is when “WandaVision” takes its first turn back into the Marvel-verse, which is fine, or at least inevitable. And hey, I’m never mad about spending more time with actors like Teyonah Parris, Kat Dennings and Randall Park, who anchored those segments with real presence and charm. But there was nonetheless a part of me that was disappointed to realize that “WandaVision” was, in fact, made to serve the bigger picture after all — a feeling that only intensified after the finale, which is almost entirely a Big Boss sky battle in the style of basically every Marvel movie to date.

Adam, as someone who knows the comics and Marvel basically inside out, I know you had a wildly different experience of “WandaVision” than I did. With that in mind, what was it like for you to watch this show week in and out?

Adam B. Vary: First, I have to say, Caroline, I’m so pleased to know that you were able to follow “WandaVision” from the start. As someone who has seen every MCU movie at least twice (yes, even “Iron Man 2”), I found those early episodes to be remarkably brave for how little they bothered to explain who Wanda and Vision even are, let alone how they got their powers or where they came from. Those first three episodes are a real tightrope walk, forging ahead with a story that makes little sense both to the uninitiated and the core believers. Yes, “WandaVision” draws from several comic storylines in Marvel history, but none of them were explicitly set in a sitcom fantasyland mere days after Wanda and the rest of the MCU vanquished Thanos and half the population of the universe was blipped back into existence. So I truly had no idea where “WandaVision” was going, and I loved it all the more for that.

As the show progressed, it also became increasingly clear that “WandaVision” wasn’t just a show about grief, but about feeling alienated from your own life, and seeking refuge in the cozy comforts of home — even if those comforts are a high-gloss pastiche of family-friendly situation comedies. Of course, there’s no way that head writer Jac Schaeffer and director Matt Shakman could have known when they were making this show that it would debut 10 months into a once-in-a-century pandemic that has riven the world with overwhelming loss. But clearly, some kind of chaos magic was in the air over at Marvel, because I think a large part of what made “WandaVision” such a sensation — what allowed it to captivate Marvel newbies and diehards alike — was that it spoke directly to our lives now in a way the MCU has never quite managed before.

If it seems like I’m avoiding your question, it’s because I am trying not to admit that the part of “WandaVision” that in some ways worked the least is the part that feels, at first glance, the most Marvel-y — i.e., S.W.O.R.D., a.k.a. S.H.I.E.L.D. But For Space Stuff. Obviously, there has to be some kind of external reaction to what Wanda’s doing in Westview, but as…


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