Jac Schaeffer reminds us how to feel with Disney's "WandaVision," a show about grief's many different shades that sort of looked like a Marvel product. What the Jewish creator and head writer of the latest television phenomenon did was craft a heartfelt human story inside of a wild and unkempt (in a good way) cosmic world, otherwise known to entertainment consumers these days as superhero stories.
But Wanda Maximoff's (a never-better Elizabeth Olsen) battle with loss was and always will be more insightful and revealing than any tiny red ball of doom she can conjure up in her hand. After losing her brother and boyfriend in some of the Marvel Cinematic Universe's most electrifying finales, Wanda could have dealt with her pain in a more normal way. Pick a cabin, seclude herself there, and just drift through time and space. Instead, she created an evolving weird sitcom set inside a New Jersey town; one that she created herself, equipped with a very-much alive Vision (Paul Bettany, showing versatility packs a punch) and their children in a classic American home from a land far, far ago.
When a comic book adaptation can become as emotional as a Martin Scorsese cinema fever dream, a special level has been attained. But cinema and television show consumers can be a cynical bunch that suffer from good movie amnesia at times. In other words, they look for Marvel's first true stumble (no, it wasn't the first "Thor" sequel, which is just okay). "WandaVision" was far from it, and Schaeffer should get a lot of credit for delivering another gem, only one that looked a little different.
Wanda is just the beginning for the writer/director of an under-appreciated 2009 film called "Timer," which explored the theory of a countdown until one would meet their soulmate. This spring, film audiences finally get to see "Black Widow," an at last solo mission for Scarlett Johansson's Avenger/spy/assassin. Schaeffer shares a story credit on the iconic Marvel heroine. The creator may have placed Olsen into that conversation with the Disney show, which broke ratings and launched hundreds of online fan theories about what the heck was happening.
The "Wind River" and "Martha Marcy May Marlene" star leaned into her latest portrayal of the MCU's most powerful member, but one that lacked true introspection. Granted, movie fans got to see her in action in "Avengers: Age of Ultron" (her chest-ripping sequence with the villain still hits hard) and the subsequent sequels. But they never got to see her like this: brandishing a sly sense of humor and a wide array of costumes in a show that wasn't easy to pin down-at least for 5-6 episodes. While some of the finale's hijinks and fight sequences weren't necessary or overlong (hitting the Marvel quota, I guess), the emotional climax between Bettany and Olsen was real and sincere. It packed an emotional resonance and relevance that just gets better with viewings.
"You are my sadness and my hope. But mostly, you're my love," Wanda tells the love of her life, one overstuffed with tragedy and turmoil of all shapes and sizes. How she started off as a kid with special abilities who watched her family and home crumble, both as a child and adult. Someone who started off trying to end the Avengers would soon find safety and refuge on their team. The first time we saw her, it was a quick post-credits cameo. Eventually, she was helping them save the day, but that bond started to decay with the passing of her brother, Pietro aka Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). It worsened after she inadvertently blew up the floor of a building in "Civil War," which led to Avengers taking sides and fighting each other.
Oh, and then she had to kill Vision in order to try and save the world from Thanos (Josh Brolin), only to see the supervillain rewind time and kill him all over again. So, after the world was saved, she tried to get it all back. Love. Romance. A husband and kids. Nice house. A happy ending. But, just like heroes dying in fairy tales, a dream-like state still can't defeat reality. So, over the course of the ten episodes of "WandaVision," Schaeffer let us inside her head, showing us the sadness and madness that can lead to explosions and dueling magic fights in the sky.
But, thankfully in the end, we got to understand Wanda at nearly the same time as she was fully understanding herself, as in her powers and what they can do, and sadly can not.
Schaeffer, Olsen, and Bettany-along with a great supporting cast in Teyonah Parris, Kathryn Hahn, Randall Park, and Kat Dennings-made sure that the final moments of their collective "Vision" resonated as deeply as the humor and action. Consider Marvel's palette to be officially changed. It's a female-powered movement these days.
"Captain Marvel 2" will most likely involve Parris' superpowered agent. Wanda will most likely join Benedict Cumberbatch in the "Doctor Strange" sequel. Chloe Zhao, who is going to clean up at the Academy Awards in April with "Nomadland," will kickstart the next phase of the MCU later this year with "The Eternals." Jac Schaeffer is a big part of that rise. She finally gave Olsen's Wanda the center stage, and is a part of the next big release on May 7 with Johansson joining forces with Florence Pugh and Rachel Weisz.
She reminded the world that superheroes can feel too. Think about it. Some of Marvel's greatest moments have revolved around the aftershock of battle or the dignified preludes to war, and spending time examining the grief that stems from it. Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) blaming himself for Spider-Man's (Tom Holland) demise, and then the tearful send off after saving the world. Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch) giving Brie Larson's "Captain Marvel" a pep talk.
You can place Wanda and her perfect Vision sharing their last embrace to that group. Thanks, Jac. Keep creating and writing!