The Best Shows on TV

An Untitled WandaVision Post

I haven’t written anything about Marvel’s WandaVision even though it seems like the kind of thing I would write about constantly. That mostly comes down to being out of sorts for a variety of reasons. But also, the online discourse has been exhausting. Between the people proclaiming it the best TV show in the history of the medium, the people who are mad at it for existing and the terrible coverage in the nerd media who are trying desperately to make it something other than what it is. No, this series isn’t going to introduce the X-Men. Know where they’ll do that? In an X-Men movie. No, every single reference to the comics isn’t a clue about where the series was heading. Yep, that’s the Grim Reaper’s helmet in the animated opening of the second episode. That’s called a joke. It’s not a hint that the guy whose power is having a scythe instead of a hand is behind an altered reality.

But it’s a show I’ve been thinking about a lot, and it’s really ideal for me. Weird superhero stuff using classic TV as a framing device? Sold! And holy smokes, did I ever love the Curb Your Enthusiasm musical stings in the 2000’s episode. I’d been looking forward to that one just for some Vision doing some Jim Halpert-style takes to the camera, but I certainly wasn’t expecting Larry David to get some love. That said, I’ve also wondered what people who don’t have decades of experience with the lead characters make of it. Wanda and Vision are not major characters in the movies and your average person who watches a Marvel movie once and doesn’t spend months thinking about it may not necessarily remember who they are.

For my part, I can see the guts of the story in Tom King and Gabriel Walta’s excellent Vision miniseries and in John Byrne’s terrible West Coast Avengers arc where Wanda can’t control her power and has to be punished. Women getting punished for being too powerful is an unpleasant trope in comics and one that Byrne revisits time and time again, but this is the only one that also involves an evil blowjob. I’m not kidding.

The most recent episode really provoked some strong reactions. My immediate take,which I recorded on my podcast immediately after watching (Have I not mentioned my podcast? Check it out! It’s not very good!), was that it spent a lot of time showing us things that we could have already extrapolated and I was a little let down. I should note that I had just worked a fourteen hour day and I was mentally fried. I thought this was going to be the season finale and I was all keyed up for Elizabeth Olsen and Kathryn Hahn to have a big magic fight. The reaction to the episode made me watch it again and I appreciated it much more when I had my wits about me. For one thing, the scene between Wanda and Vision is genuinely lovely and definitely necessary. I know their relationship from reading Avengers comics for decades, but for the majority of the audience, everything happened offscreen in between movies. After seven episodes of reality manipulation, we needed to see the relationship they actually had.

And for a lot of people, it all comes down to “But what is grief, if not love persevering?” (Plug time: My friend Summer made a shirt based on that line. It looks great and you should buy one. Or one of her other designs. Be cool.) It’s already become the cool Internet thing to dunk on people who found that moving, but come on. It’s a good line, and it’s something we need to internalize. Because here’s the thing. Rather than taking the path I was afraid of, this is a show that’s about dealing with trauma and, yes, grief. Even beyond Agatha’s manipulation, Wanda has been through it. She killed the robot man she loves to save the universe and then that turned out to be for nothing as she watched him come back and then die again and then she experienced her own death. And then seconds after returning to existence five years later, she had to fight the guy who killed the both of them. That’s not something you just deal with, and it’s cool that the Marvel machine has room for this kind of thing. In Iron Man 3, Tony Stark was still messed up from flying a nuclear bomb into space to kill a million alien invaders and this is a natural expansion of the concept. I know movies stopped happening, but once things get moving again, it’ll be interesting to see how they acknowledge that half the population died and came back to life and the other half spent five years in the remains of that world.

This show has been in the works for a while – I believe production shut down because of COVID, so it isn’t a specific response to the last year of our lives, but it works as one. We’re dealing with something we don’t know how to process and it hits hard because everybody else is also dealing with it but we can’t be together on any level. We can’t share. We can’t hug. We can’t look our best friends in the eyes. And you can’t even stop to just grieve because there’s somebody who has it worse and there’s so much that feels so petty even though it hurts.

I’ve been lucky. I haven’t lost anybody I love to coronavirus yet but I know a lot of people who had it and a couple of them are likely to suffer long-term effects. But even still, we’ve all lost something. Maybe you’ve lost friends to insane conspiracy theories. Maybe you’ve seen your co-workers post pictures of their big maskless gatherings and you know those people are going to be in the same building as you and they don’t give a shit if you get sick just so long as they get their drink on. I’m processing that right now and it sucks. It feels bad to share space with people who can force the consequences of their bad decisions on me. Maybe you’ve learned that people you encounter regularly but don’t necessarily know are weird anti-maskers and you’ll look at the lady who works at the gas station differently from now on. I’ve been fighting depression for a year now because everything that I could use to deal with depression went away and just left me with my dumb brain.

And you know what? It’s okay to feel grief even if you haven’t dealt with actual death. It’s not selfish. We have all lost something or somebody on some level. You don’t have to feel guilty about struggling with that. It’s not a contest for who’s lost the most. It’s something we all live with separately until we can live with it together. I know I’m well beyond my pay grade here and this is just a dummy struggling, but there’s just something about that moment and that conversation that’s very comforting to me right now. And you can pick at whatever your want, but it’s something we needed to hear. It took a minute, but the dang robot made me cry.


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