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WandaVision Episode 1 – Review

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Golden ‘Vision’ or TV dog’s dinner?

WandaVision Episode One Image
Marvel Studios

Episode one of the long-awaited WandaVision series from Marvel is here, streaming now on Disney Plus, but is it any good, here’s our review.

SPOILERS: If you’re reading this then you’ve probably seen the show, but if not there are spoilers ahead.

WandaVision is the first new Marvel material since Avengers: Endgame and Spiderman: Far From Home in 2019. It’s also the first element of Phase 4 of the MCU. It was originally scheduled for release midway through 2020 but, needless to say, COVID delayed production.

Given the delay and the lack of new MCU material, anticipation around this series has inevitably been heightened. I’m sure that the episodes will be gobbled up by Marvel obsessives like Vision gobbles up…well, nothing because he’s an android.

The nine-episode series fuses the MCU with homages to iconic sitcoms from the 1950 to the present day. With Wanda Maximoff aka The Scarlet Witch and Vision playing the classic sitcom couple.

Needless to say, the couple gets themselves into the usual scrapes you’d expect from a mainstream sitcom. But this all happens as the reality around them starts to crack. Consequently, Wanda becomes increasingly edgy as she realises their idyllic sitcom existence isn’t real. These cracks become bigger & bigger as the series progresses. Although the series appears to take place in the 1950s, the date on their calendar is 23 August. That would suggest it takes place immediately after the events of Avengers: Endgame in August 2023.

Easter egg hunting

Half the fun of watching the MCU canon is looking for the references to other films and TV shows. The same goes when writing this review of WandaVision episode one. The powers that be have given us plenty of Easter Eggs in this series as well. Without making this article the length of War and Peace, or more appropriately, ‘Infinity War and Peace’, we can’t cover every single one, and that would ruin the fun for viewers looking for them. But there are some whoppers in there so let’s talk about those!

As the show ends, the credits roll and we pull back to reveal that someone is watching it like an old TV show in the present. We discover that the ‘episode’ was directed by Abe Brown, who is the name of one of Peter Parker’s classmates.

The person watching the show, although we don’t see their face, is almost certainly Darcy Lewis from the Thor films, played by Kat Dennings. Formerly the star of a sitcom herself, it wouldn’t be a surprise if there was a reference to 2 Broke Girls later in the series.

The person is monitoring the show and making notes in a S.W.O.R.D. notebook. S.W.O.R.D. is the sister organisation of S.H.I.E.L.D., with specific responsibility for dealing with extraterrestrial threats. The makers of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. wanted to incorporate S.W.O.R.D. in that show but were refused permission. It looks like now is the time Marvel has decided to bring S.W.O.R.D. into the MCU.

American TV cultural references

As regards the production itself, it is a love letter to classic sitcoms like Leave It To Beaver, I Love Lucy and The Dick Van Dyke Show. There are also references to Bewitched, although the references to that are even more pronounced in Episode 2. The decision to shoot in 4:3 rather than the modern standard of 16:9 to lend authenticity as sitcoms of that era pre-date widescreen.

There is a deliberate obvious canned laughter track, as has been used in sitcoms since time immemorial. This is despite the fact that there was apparently a studio audience watching filming in Georgia. I guess escaping reality to watch an alternate one is understandable in Georgia these days.

TV tropes

The commitment to the classic sitcom and TV tropes of the time is admirable. The 50’s style advert made for the ‘commercial break’ of the show featured the ToastMate 2000 made by Stark Industries. Stark Industries is Tony Stark’s company, created by his father Howard. The light on the appliance blinks red, which is the only thing in colour in the episode. This is a reference to the bomb that killed Wanda’s parents in Sokovia, which was also made by Stark Industries. The ToastMate, like the bomb and Iron Man’s suit, makes the repulsor sound as it starts up.

There is a wine bottle used at the dinner where Vision and Wanda are trying to impress his boss. The bottle is from ‘Maison du Mepris’, which is translated as ‘House of Contempt’. That is a reference to the House of M comics in which The Scarlet Witch creates an alternate reality for herself, which is the premise for WandaVision.

The show has a great supporting cast including Debra Jo Rupp, steeped in roles in hugely successful sitcoms Friends and That 70’s Show, and Kathryn Hahn. She plays Wanda and Vision’s neighbour Agnes, in another classic sitcom role of the slightly nosy, neighbourhood busybody. She is making constant jokes about her, as yet unseen, husband Ralf. Her name is an amalgamation of Agatha Harkness, who is a sorceress from the Marvel comics who assists The Scarlet Witch, Wanda’s alter ego. As the series progresses and the false reality splinters further, we may well see Agnes take on her true identity.

Sitcom or drama?

Is this supposed to work as a sitcom in its own right, or is it simply an amuse-bouche for the avalanche of MCU material coming this year? If it is the former, then I hope the scripts improve, as this was spectacularly unfunny. Although this is supposed to be a 50’s sitcom, the comedy in classic shows of that era still stands up as being funny today. Surely there was a way that some stronger jokes could have been written that would work in a contemporary sitcom, despite it being set over 60 years ago.

But for the millions of MCU fans around the world, this is manna from heaven for those starved of Marvel action. They will lap it up, no matter how deliberately hammy the acting or how weak the comedy is. It is immaculately produced, with a clear love & respect for the characters, fans and legendary comedy shows. A review of the first episode of WandaVision is tough if you’re not well versed in the world of the MCU, but we can assume that more will be revealed in the coming weeks.


CULTURE CROSSING SCORE 6/10


Thank you for reading our review of WandaVision episode one. Do you agree or disagree with our points or have anything to add? If so, leave us a comment below.


Read more about the MCU phase four HERE.

Read IMDB information about WandaVision HERE.

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Cobra Kai Season 4 – Review

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Cobra Kai Season Four image
Netflix

Cobra Kai season four is out now on Netflix and the All Valley is back and better than ever. Here’s our review.

SPOILERS: If you’re reading this then you’ve probably seen the show, but if not there are spoilers ahead.

It’s January, and new shows are popping up everywhere. This brings us to the show that I and my friends have been holding our breaths for: the fourth season of the hit Netflix series Cobra Kai! After three seasons, I wondered if there was anything left to mine from the Karate Kid lore or the Johnny/Daniel dynamic. I am happy to report that this might be my favourite season yet! It manages to not only expand upon the universe it has created, but to bring in a new villain, who is so bad that he threatens to outdo even John Kreese!

Alliance

Season four sets us off where the third left off, with Johnny and Daniel having joined forces to fight Cobra Kai. Their friendship arc is the glue that holds this season together. The story focuses largely on whether they will be able to pull it together and make their partnership work. As in previous seasons, their relationship has its ups and downs. The stakes are heightened, however, as the season leads up to the All-Valley Tournament. A bet between the three senseis – Kreese, Daniel, and Johnny – means that losing the All Valley is losing the title of sensei.

This season explores the ways that both Johnny and Daniel work with the kids. It also examines the kids’ struggles as they prepare for the All Valley while dealing with conflict within the ever-changing network of friends and enemies in the dojos. Robbie has left juvenile hall and decided to join up with Cobra Kai as a means of inflicting revenge on both his dad and Daniel. Tori and Sam continue their rivalry. And John Reese’s old friend Terry Silver (of Karate Kid 3 fame) shows up to kick Cobra Kai into high gear.

Daniel’s son, Anthony, who has largely been absent until now, faces his own dilemma when his friends begin bullying Kenny, the new kid in town. This soft-spoken middle school character brings us into the world of the younger kids, setting up yet another storyline. Kenny becomes the victim of a gang of kids (including Anthony), enduring round after round of bullying before Robbie takes him under his wing. After his induction into Cobra Kai, the formerly shy middle-schooler becomes a bully himself.

Shades of grey

This brings me to one of my favourite things about the show. The constant back and forth dynamic between characters makes us feel that anything is possible. There is no black and white in the world of Cobra Kai. Where the Karate Kid told us that Daniel was good, and Johnny was bad, this show gives us a very different point of view. It’s a world where we’re never sure who to root for. In this season, we even see Hawk make a return to the “good guys” side after giving up his spot at Cobra Kai.

With Eagle Fang (Johnny’s new dojo) and Miyagi-Do teaming up, the kids – and the adults – have to learn to work together. Of course, complications ensue. Johnny becomes jealous of what he perceives as Miguel’s preference for Daniel over him. Sam wants to learn both her dad’s karate style and Johnny’s, despite her father’s discouragement. Meanwhile, at Cobra Kai, Kreese is losing his grip on the dojo. His former war buddy, Terry Silver, puts off a rather benign appearance in episode one, growing more and more evil with each episode.

This season is lacking in many of the big fight scenes of the previous seasons, instead choosing to focus their energy on the characters. The All Valley Tournament features several great karate matches and offers a satisfying conclusion to Johnny and Daniel’s arc. In the end, Cobra Kai takes the tournament win, but Johnny and Daniel have reached an understanding.

New champions

Tori defeats Sam to take the women’s All Valley trophy but later overhears her sensei paying off one of the referees. It’s clear that Cobra Kai has pulled yet another fast one. But the season ends on an even more ominous – and unexpected – note. Terry Silver assaults the over-aged former Cobra Kai member, Stingray, sending him to the hospital. He then makes a deal with Stingray to blame the crime on Kreese. We end the season with Kreese in handcuffs, Terry Silver set to take over Cobra Kai, and the future of Eagle Fang and Miyagi-Do uncertain. In a last shocking twist, Miguel leaves town in search of his biological father.

Although some may miss the school hallway throw downs, I found this one satisfying in a different way. It just goes to show that the ever-expanding Cobra Kai universe can keep bringing surprises season after season.


CULTURE CROSSING SCORE 9/10


Thank you for reading our review of Cobra Kai season four. Do you agree or disagree with our points or have anything to add? If so, leave us a comment below.


Check out our Hawkeye episode one and two review HERE.

Read IMDB information about Spider-Man: No Way Home HERE.

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