Warning: spoilers ahead!
Disney Plus’ newest Marvel series WandaVision, which continues the storyline of phase: 4 within the MCU, has been unanimously praised by critics and fans alike. The show aired on January 15 with two episodes initially available for viewing, then releasing a new episode every Friday thereafter.
The show’s departure from traditional formats of streaming, wherein streaming platforms drop an entire show’s season for viewing, has erupted a frenzy of discourse week after week of fan theories, memes, and reactions.
One particular and rather important aspect of the show, that has continued to leave viewers in awe, is how accurately and carefully the show handles their heroine, Wanda Maximoff’s (Elizabeth Olsen), grief.
Upon witnessing Wanda’s new reality after combatting Thanos alongside The Avengers in Infinity War and Endgame and subsequently losing her lover, The Vision (Paul Bettany), viewers are surprised to see Vision quite alive, living with Wanda in a 1950’s setting, filtered in black and white. The show is contexted as beloved American sitcoms such as I Love Lucy and Modern Family, changing to a new popular sitcom within a future decade after each new episode.
Eventually, fans uncover the mystery behind the peculiar environment of Wanda’s new reality: it’s self-induced. In a fit of grief, Wanda accidentally created WandaVision, a fake show that portrays Wanda’s make-believe and ideal life with Vision inside of an energy shield located in a town called West View. WandaVision illustrates a life that is quaint, quirky, and peaceful despite the episodic antics Wanda must navigate. A life where she and Vision can live together, get married, and have children.
However, in creating this hex, Wanda is also subsequently holding the very real town of West View, which contains around 3,000 residents, hostage.
For Wanda, sitcoms represent time with her family, happiness, and youth. So, in a way to grieve all that she’s lost (a sense of normalcy after Thano’s snap, Vision, her brother Pietro, and her parents), Wanda designed a world in which no one can ever get seriously hurt nor hurt her. Interestingly, creating fantasies/daydreaming is a common coping mechanism for many people suffering from grief, depression, or other mental illnesses.
“Daydreaming can be an indication that someone is suffering from concentration difficulty, which is seen in many mental illnesses, including depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder,” Lauren Cook, a therapist, and author based in San Diego told Healthline.
Correspondingly, Laura Donney, a writer for WandaVision, wrote in a tweet regarding Wanda’s grieving process in the show saying, “It was paramount to the writers of #WandaVison to not just look at where Wanda has been but to spend time with her there. To give space and voice to her grief, to her loss.”
There is so much the writers of WandaVision get right about navigating grief. Firstly, the series showcases Wanda’s grief process in stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance; coupled with a few instances of PTSD. For example, Wanda tends to initially feel anger whenever her brother or Vision’s death is mentioned by another character without her consent.
As a result, Wanda tends to deny the reality of her loved one’s death by lashing out or literally shutting people out of her fantasy sequence. In addition, to convey the scope of her depression in episode seven titled, “Breaking the Fourth Wall,” Wanda is not presented in her usually stylish hair, makeup, and wardrobe how viewers grew accustomed to seeing her.
Instead, Wanda struggles to get out of bed. Her appearance is messy. She’s ambivalent about Vision’s absence. She even expresses to her two kids, “I’m starting to believe that everything is meaningless.”
WandaVision also explores the non-linear aspect of healing. Years after the death of her parents and brother, the weight of their absence still leaves Wanda feeling alone. In the eighth episode titled, “Previously On,” viewers look into a flashback of Wanda sitting in her bedroom in the Avenger’s compound, explaining this “wave [of depression] washing over [her] again and again” to an inquisitive Vision as he wonders how well she is coping after the loss of her brother.
What I’m most fond of surrounding how Wanda is allowed to grieve, is that her grief manifests in a way that’s complicated and messy; notably, without her grief becoming a punchline like Thor’s weight gain in Endgame. Wanda is very clearly coping through her grief in ways that disrupt the lives of others, an aspect of grief that can unintentionally happen.
However, the show notes that even though people who are grieving may not handle their pain perfectly, they are still deserving of empathy. For example, Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris), a new character introduced within the MCU, is shown to have permanently lost her mother, Maria “Photon” Rambeau (Lashana Lynch) to cancer during “the snap.”
Because of this, Monica is able to empathize with Wanda’s grief. Monica doesn’t get deterred by Wanda’s attempts to push her away; rather, she understands that sometimes people who are suffering will reject valuable help as a form of self-sabotage. In turn, Monica continues to offer Wanda the aid she needs to heal, which is simply – a friend who cares.
I also enjoy the show’s choice to release episodes every week. Not letting fans binge the storyline all at once has also allowed for watchers to digest Wanda’s grief in increments. This format additionally allows fans to discuss WandaVision on social media, forming a digital community as they assess the show week after week.
Apart from being a Marvel fan, WandaVision is one of my favorite shows at the moment and quite possibly of all time. Much of the show’s charm lies in its creative storytelling, which differs from Marvel’s usual long movie format. Olsen’s range as an actress is also well utilized to encapsulate the range of Wanda’s grief.
Overall, WandaVision accurately portrays grief as a messy, complicated, and non-linear range of emotions; humanizing even the most powerful sorceress. Notably, many people are feeling the continuous weight of grief, fatigue, and loss of their own because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Therefore, viewers can watch WandaVision not only for its continuation of Marvel’s larger plotline but for the way the show accurately mirrors the complexity of grief during a time when many of us have lost so much. Thus, audiences can connect with the storyline in a meaningful way and hopefully take away some constructive lessons of healing for themselves.
For as Vision perfectly deduces, “What is grief if not love persevering?” A new – even if new for some – sentiment and perspective on grief I hope people hold onto, long after the end of this amazing show.
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