WandaVision on Disney+ was Marvel Studios' first foray into episodic-style storytelling, exploring Wanda Maximoff's method for coping with grief and her evolution into the Scarlet Witch.
Throughout nine episodes released over eight weeks, the internet and MCU fandom was ablaze with speculation, discussion, and overall praise for the show's storytelling and the actors' performances. However, when the screen cut to black after that final post-credits scene, those fans who were expecting a major superhero cameo or a major tease to Doctor Strange In the Multiverse of Madness were left disappointed and perhaps even a little confused.
There are various reasons why some die-hard Marvel fans had mixed views about the surprise-less ending. But in the spirit of WandaVision theories, I have one of my own. The Mandalorian.
But first, let's back up for a sec.
A LONG TIME AGO, IN A MOVIE THEATER FAR, FAR AWAY
Back in 2019, Avengers: Endgame shattered box office records and was met with rave reviews from fans and critics alike. However, for Disney's other tent pole franchise, the situation was quite the opposite.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker was a box office disappointment by Star Wars standards and left fans frustrated with the Disney Sequel Trilogy's disconnected storytelling and dead-end plot points.
But a mere month prior to The Rise of Skywalker's theatrical release, The Mandalorian premiered along with Disney+ as Lucasfilm's first live-action Star Wars series and more than surpassed expectation. In many ways, The Mandalorian represented “a new hope” for the fan base.
This positive reception only continued throughout the series' sophomore season where characters from other Star Wars stories crossed over into Mando and Grogu's adventures.
The biggest cameo of all was that of young Luke Skywalker, an appearance fans had dared to hope for but never actually expected.
During Disney's Investor Day Event, Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy announced new Star Wars Disney+ series and more interconnected storytelling culminating in a major crossover event.
And if this sounds familiar to Marvel fans, that's because it's the MCU game plan.
THE MASTER AND THE APPRENTICE
It appeared that Lucasfilm had assumed the role of the Padawan learner, learning the ways of an interconnected universe from the MCU; and now that Lucasfilm executed this method so well with The Mandalorian in the Disney+ format, fan expectation for what Marvel could deliver with WandaVision was at an all-time high.
WandaVision premiered on January 15, 2021, about a month after Season 2 of The Mandalorian's final episode. Audiences streaming the first and second episode were dropped into a black-and-white, sitcom world with two Avengers, one of which was definitely dead. With no explanation or exposition, fans grabbed onto Easter Eggs and specific quotes from characters to make sense of the situation.
For weeks, fans struggled to understand what Marvel was trying to say through the show's use of commercials with hidden messages, the appearance of Fox's X-Men Quicksilver, a focus on neighbor Dottie, and references to an astrophysicist and missing person. The only thing the base was confident about was that Wanda was coping with grief and possibly being manipulated by nosy neighbor Agnes or Agatha Harkness.
And after the final episode, what the diehards thought all along was what was happening all along. Nothing more. The twist was that there was, well, no twist.
A TALE OF TWO VISIONS (LITERALLY)
So how does this relate to The Mandalorian?
At the end of Episode 5 of The Mandalorian's first season, a mysterious pair of boots with jangling spurs left fans speculating if Boba Fett had indeed survived that Sarlaac pit from Return of the Jedi.
Then, in the first episode of Season 2, Cobb Vanth appeared in Boba Fett's armor leading fans to believe Boba was indeed dead only for the character to actually appear at the end of the episode.
This use of misdirection contrasts to that employed in WandaVision because it was paid off while contributing to the story as opposed to being a dead-end for the sake of being a dead-end. It also contrasts with the MCU's hallmark of using a twist to contribute to the overarching storyline and the future of the franchise, such as Skrulls being the good guys in Captain Marvel, Spider-Man dating the Vulture's daughter, Thor's acceptance of Asgard's destruction in Thor: Ragnarok, and even Tony having the Infinity Stones in his gauntlet when Thanos attempted that second snap.
Due to Marvel's pattern of meaningful misdirection, coupled with Boba Fett's return in The Mandalorian, WandaVision audiences were thrown off by WandaVision's efforts to misdirect for the mere sake of doing so.
In addition, both before and throughout Mando's second season, all casting rumors and claims proved to be true and served the season's story from Katee Sackhoff as Bo-Katan Kryze to Temuera Morrison as Boba Fett to Rosario Dawson as Ahsoka Tano. The season even tied up rumors about Thrawn, confirming the Star Wars Rebels villain will have a presence in future seasons or another series.
If there was any disappointment, it may have been Sasha Banks as her character turned out not to be Sabine Wren; although, Lucasfilm never gave weight to that rumor to begin with.
However, WandaVision's casting of Fox's X-Men Evan Peters as Wanda's fallen brother Pietro was, in fact, just a tease. In addition, Jimmy Woo's missing person was never revealed, Monica Rambeau's astrophysicist was only a nondescript character, and Paul Bettany who played Vision teased him working with an actor he's always admired that turned out to be himself as White Vision.
Elizabeth Olsen, who plays Wanda, actually drew the biggest comparison between WandaVision and The Mandalorian when she indicated that there would be a surprise cameo rivaling that of Mark Hamill's Luke Skywalker after directly being asked about it. Exactly whom she was referring to is still a mystery.
THE LEGACY OF WANDAVISION'S EXPECTATIONS
So could WandaVision's reception have been different without The Mandalorian? Possibly.
The use of Easter Eggs and misdirection that contributed nothing to the story may still have seemed uncharacteristic for an MCU property; however, fans may have had different expectations and been more open to Marvel telling a different, personal story through the Disney+ medium.
Regardless, it seems that when Star Wars adopted the MCU playbook with great success, Marvel fans weren't expecting the MCU to change course.