“WandaVision” was not supposed to be the first Marvel Cinematic Universe Disney+ debut. But due to COVID-19, the show became the historical first release, setting a grand stage for what’s to come. 

It’s  a brilliant step forward for the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), showing that the MCU is finally settling into the rich history of the comic books and putting out some of the best television in a while on the table. 

A mystery-comedy-thriller with a hint of horror, “WandaVision” focuses on the small New Jersey town of Westville. Something is amiss — and by amiss, I mean Westville has been sucked into a television show. 

“WandaVision” launches the viewer right into the mess with two of the MCU’s superheroes, Wanda Maximoff (played by Elizabeth Olsen), and her lover, Vision (played by Paul Bettany), starring in the leading roles of a spin-off of “The Dick Van Dyke Show” and “I Love Lucy” (aptly named “WandaVision”). 

If Wanda Maximoff and Vision playing house and having dinner with Ms. Hart (UR alum Debra Jo Rupp) and her husband isn’t an indicator that something weird’s going on, then the fact that Vision died in “Avengers: Infinity War” should alert the viewer to pay closer attention. 

With the exception of the final episode, “WandaVision” steps out of the generic MCU formula and isn’t afraid to get a little crazy — which makes it a gas! The refreshing format allows Olsen and Bettany to excel. 

“WandaVision” is an exploration of grief and trauma, which is a strange pairing for a show that takes a strong influence from sitcoms from the 1960s to 2000s, but it works. In fact, that’s what makes “WandaVision” soar. 

The contradiction from the easygoing mood of sitcoms creates a sharp contrast between the dramatic pauses of “WandaVision.” The too-cheesy sitcom inspiration also creates an unsettling feeling as the viewer waits for the other shoe to drop. 

Olsen delivers a stunning performance, and without her, the ship would fall apart. Olsen has a blast jumping through the decades and yucking it up with Bettany on the screen, but blink and she’s suddenly a person who’s only ever known loss and pain. Olsen’s destined for award season thanks to “WandaVision.” 

Bettany’s Vision is the viewer’s partner throughout the journey. He has no clue what is going on, which perfectly resonates with the viewers’ feelings. The viewer discovers the mysteries of Westville alongside Vision, which is a nice touch.

The supporting cast is stacked as well, with Nosy Neighbor (Kathryn Hahn) and all-grown up Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris) shining. Both deliver memorable contributions to the MCU — looking at you, Hahn — with a surprising anthem for the summer: “It Was Agatha All Along.” I loved the new and unexpected trio of the MCU: Darcy Lewis, Agent Jimmy Woo, and Monica Rambeau. The trio made the exposition needed for the show fun and bearable. 

I have to say that the message behind “WandaVision” doesn’t exactly hit the target. It’s an interesting take on grief, but can be better. “WandaVision” has two characters who’ve recently suffered a loss in their life through an extraordinary circumstance, but only one of them has the power that can bring back their loved ones. “WandaVision” does an amazing job at displaying the grief, but doesn’t do much to put the cap back on the bottle.

My heart strings were forcibly tugged at, and some episodes almost had me sobbing before my 9 a.m. lecture, but I will give “WandaVision” the benefit of the doubt that Wanda’s healing is a continuing story. Despite this, the show might not get a pass on its lack of attention to the emotional damage that Wanda inflicted on her surroundings, unintentional or otherwise.

“WandaVision” is almost a slam dunk. The only thing holding it back is the pacing, and the finale. The first two episodes of “WandaVision” are fun, but a little too slow. My disappointment in the final episode is that after managing to avoid the superhero clichés for eight episodes,why give up on originality right before you cross the finish line?

There was just too much trauma dug up in an amazing penultimate episode for it to be dealt with alongside some superhero fights. The secret behind Westville is really dark and well thought out, so for it to be mashed-together with a generic slugfest, even if they gave a stunning new look to Wanda, may or may not have been the best bang for Marvel’s buck. 

Despite those slight shortcomings, “WandaVision” is spectacular and builds excitement for what’s next for the MCU. “WandaVision” delivers a captivating story and showcases an excellent cast. “WandaVision” makes strides for what the superhero genre can be and is a touching reflection on the American sitcom. 

So long, darling. Until we say hello again, MCU (which will be this Friday, with the debut of “The Falcon and The Winter Soldier”). 

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