I don’t know whether it’s a symptom of lockdown (as well as crying, obsessively weighing myself and burying my entire head in a packet of Walker Sensations poppadum crisps), but recently I’ve been getting nostalgic for the TV programmes of my youth. When I came home from school as a bored 12- year-old, my favourite programme was that fun, misogynistic tale of housewifery and black magic, Bewitched.
God, I loved it, even though I could never figure out why somebody like Samantha, who could orchestrate chaos with one cutesy little nose wrinkle, still had to play second fiddle to Darrin, a sweaty and useless advertising exec who always seemed one step away from total nervous collapse. But, like the plotline of its often-repeated counterpart I Dream of Jeannie (woman in a bottle wearing a bikini does nice things for a man) there wasn’t much point in thinking too hard about it. It was just magical, enjoyable, fluffy escapism, with terrifying and unknown female superpowers at the centre of the action.
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These days, kids aren’t allowed to go to school, but they do have WandaVision, which is essentially Bewitched if Samantha and Darrin were trapped in a retro simulation, masterminded by sinister forces within the Marvel Universe. It stars Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff, AKA the Scarlet Witch (Marvel’s answer to Samantha, but with goth-night-at-Spiders-nightclub-in-Hull vibes) and Paul Bettany as Vision (annoying android with unwieldy head). Their idealised suburban adventures follow all the tropes of a classic episode – nosy neighbours, dinner magicked out of nowhere, hilarious misunderstandings with the boss – except something is REALLY NOT RIGHT.
Having spent the last 10 years being forced to take on board various aspects of the Marvel Universe as part of the parenting contract, I wasn’t exactly looking forward to it. Chris Hemsworth isn’t even in it, and there’s no hilarious stoned space raccoon either. And it really is quite a departure, in that the show’s old-fashioned qualities don’t just extend to the concept. Marvel fans, despite being perfectly capable of sitting through almost four hours of Thanos fondling a bejewelled glove, are complaining that the pace is too slow.
That, though, is exactly what’s great about it. Underneath the mugging and the gags, shocking, dark glitches start to appear in a slow-burning way that becomes genuinely compelling. The boss’s wife malfunctions, the neighbours pause to talk about something sinister over the hedge, weird sounds occur in the background. And as it’s being released one episode at a time, it unfolds like a serialised comic book, which means that my Gen Z kid can experience entertainment the old school way – waiting for it to arrive, rather than having it instantaneously blasted into their eyeballs. Now all I need is the power to wrinkle my nose and make another bag of Walkers Sensations appear. Magic.
WandaVision is on Disney+