WandaVision loses a bit of the charm in its endgame
After kicking off a new era for Marvel in a delightfully bizarre fashion, WandaVision mostly stuck the landing. But the show's endgame could have benefited from more fully embracing what made this series exciting in the first place.
By Friday's good but not mind-blowing final episode, appropriately titled "The Series Finale," the show has almost completely ditched the sitcom-inspired premise of its disorienting early episodes, instead providing the kind of action-driven climactic battle that might feature in a Scarlet Witch-centered summer blockbuster. That's all well and good, but for a series that started off offering such a change of pace for Marvel, it was an ending that felt a little too in line with what we've seen before in the franchise, something WandaVision allowed to seep into its reality a bit more often than it should have as it progressed.
Indeed, when WandaVision premiered in January, the idea of exploring grief by cycling through sitcom history and slowly teasing out a mystery as to the true nature of this reality was compelling and unique, and especially impressive was the way the show completely submerged us into Wanda's fake sitcom world. So it was a surprising choice when the bit was broken only four episodes in with "We Interrupt This Program," an outing set entirely outside of Wanda's "hex" that walked viewers through what's been going on so far, lest they need to put those pieces together themselves.
At first it seemed like the show might just be trying to get all of this non-hex material out of the way at once to establish a base reality for the rest of the season. But instead, episodes continued cutting back and forth between sitcom land and MCU land, with characters on the outside providing helpful comments to potentially confused viewers like "She recast Pietro?" (Later, a second non-sitcom episode was devoted heavily to exposition.)
Mixing in these scenes featuring the SWORD crew with Wanda's reality was an understandable decision, but cutting to the outside world took away from the audience's ability to be completely immersed in Wanda's experience. The show was ultimately expressing the idea that the world of television is a comforting place for Wanda to escape from her grief, and so it's devastating for her to leave this blissful life behind. But this could have been even more of a jarring shift in the finale if viewers hadn't already been leaving the sitcom world every few minutes for much of the season. More importantly, spending time in the standard Marvel world just never seemed as fun as exploring the weird little universe the show had created.
That brings us to "The Series Finale" in which Wanda faces off against Agatha Harkness in a series of battles that mostly involves the two flying through the air and blasting each other. Meanwhile, Vision faces off against White Vision, as the two androids fly around and shoot lasers at each other. Outside of a few moments here and there, had a new viewer tuned into just this finale out of context without watching previous episodes, they'd have almost no idea that this series kicked off with extensive parodies of The Dick Van Dyke Show and Bewitched.
It's not that the finale is unsatisfying, and WandaVision was of course always going to drop the sitcom bit by the end. But the same way action in the Ant-Man films stands apart through its inventive use of shrinking and growing, you'd think this final confrontation could have at least made more creative use of the fact that it's taking place inside a magical sitcom realm.
Even after saying goodbye to the sitcom send-ups at the end of "Breaking the Fourth Wall," WandaVision still spiced things up by delivering its grand evil villain reveal not in the form of a monologue, but in the form of a song, "Agatha All Along." It's no coincidence that this little moment that put a creative spin on what could have been a fairly boilerplate scene was one of the stand-out bits of the whole show, spawning thousands of memes. But there wasn't this same spark in WandaVision's finale. What we get is a conclusion that's solid, but pretty standard. For a show like this that has otherwise been such a bizarre blast, that just doesn't feel quite right.
The finale works best when it wraps up the action and moves on to its powerful final sequence, in which Wanda must return home with her family and finally say goodbye, accepting that, unlike in the world of her favorite shows, everything can't just go back to normal at the end of this episode.
All in all, even if its finale wasn't mind-blowingly inventive — and revealed the Pietro plot to not be anywhere near as significant as we thought — WandaVision was still a strong first outing for Marvel's Disney+ streaming shows. The show soared when it committed to the initial premise and was willing to be profoundly weird and quite sad. And the fact that it started off the way it did without alienating viewers or preventing it from becoming a massive hit is another lesson that Marvel can get away with mixing things up when it wants to. Next time, the studio should just carry this wildly creative spirit through to the very end.