Note: Contains spoilers for WandaVision
WandaVision is proving to be as successful as Marvel hoped, with the weekly show garnering positive reviews and a dedicated following. It has spawned fan theories and speculation, as well as created a hit song ‘Agatha All Along‘ (it’s a banger, fight us).
But when you sit down to watch WandaVision, there’s the implicit understanding on part of Marvel that you, the viewer, know and remember details that are not only relevant but deeply important to the characters, plot, and dramatic tension the show is trying to create.
A perfect example is in episode seven of WandaVision when Monica Rambeau, through sheer will power, fights her way through The Hex to reach Wanda to try and help her. As she pushes through, she hears voices from her past including Captain Marvel‘s.
It was a moving moment in which Monica not only gains superpowers but also steps into her own spotlight after being pushed aside by Hayward. However, if you don’t remember Captain Marvel – and have missed the so-far subtle-ish clues as to her past – then the moment is wholly lost on you.
Likewise, when Evan Peters turns up on Wanda’s doorstep as her brother, if you have no existing knowledge of the Disney-Fox takeover, what was for many a gasp-inducing reveal is simply a shrug. It is then the characters’ responsibility to fill us in.
And therein lies the problem. There is a lot of exposition necessary to ensure some of the more subtle beats in WandaVision have an impact on viewers.
One way around this was easy – Vision himself has no memory of his past, so when Darcy alludes to his death she then has to remind him (and us) what happened. It’s a trick that will only work so many times before characters are lumbered with hefty exposition.
When each episode is barely 30 minutes, these exposition breaks can suck the air out of the action. if you’re a dedicated Marvel fan, it can be jarring as you already know what she’s talking about. And if you don’t know what’s going on, the exposition is still jarring because you know you’re being explained to.
Whether or not the characters themselves could know the intimate details they’re divulging is another matter, and one up for debate amongst fans and journalists alike. But the fact that we’re questioning it at all means that, in part, it hasn’t worked.
Then there’s the question of what this means for the future of the MCU and in particular Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Kevin Feige has confirmed that you’ll need to have watched the show to know what is going on the film.
It’s hard not to baulk at this decision when there are plenty of people who don’t have Disney+, nor the time to dedicated to a host of weekly-airing shows. To the Television Critics Association, Feige said: “[T]here were lots of conversations with Sam Raimi and Michael Waldron, and the entire Doctor Strange team, that this movie needs to work for people who watched WandaVision, but more importantly, needs to work for people who didn’t, who maybe Endgame was the last time they saw Wanda, or one of the earlier movies. Or maybe she’s a character they’re meeting for the first time.”
He also said: “We try to make the stories unfold in a way that if you are following along and have seen what has preceded it, you’ll be right up to speed. And more importantly, if you haven’t, you’ll be up to speed.”
The problem is in the ‘how’ you’re getting your audiences up to speed. So far, WandaVision has steered clear of signpost-lines like ‘Why are you telling me this?’ but as the stories within the films and shows become more complicated and intertwined, there may be some clunkers Marvel actors have to muddle through.
Either way, you’re going to alienate someone – whether it’s the die-hard fans of the casual viewers — in order to make the gaps between serialised storytelling and cinematic storytelling as small as possible. Unfortunately, you’re never going to please everyone, and Marvel may lose some viewers along the way.
WandaVision is streaming on Disney+, with new episodes every Friday.
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