WandaVision: How Marvel’s Riskiest Project Became An Instant Hit

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After two months of cliffhangers, nostalgia, big twists, and shocking "Please Stand Bye" screens, WandaVision has finally come to a close.

After the season finale aired , it's safe to say that Marvel's first Disney+ outing has exceeded even the loftiest of expectations. And while it's easy to label this project as an instant hit, it's also important to take a look back at how it got to this point.

After many delays threw a wrench in Marvel Studios' Phase 4 plans following the Infinity Saga , the next wave of the MCU was kicked off by its most risky and ambitious project yet in WandaVision . And while the success of this show was rather uncertain at first, looking at the hurdles it had to jump to make it to the top of the world makes its success something special.

WandaVision started this game with two outs, and this is how they rallied.

WHAT WANDAVISION OVERCAME

First Marvel Project Following the MCU Drought

Following the biggest year ever for the MCU in 2019 when Avengers: Endgame debuted and Spider-Man: Far From Home brought a close to the Infinity Saga , audiences were then met with the biggest drought between MCU movies anyone has ever seen. So leading into the first episode of WandaVision a year-and-a-half after the last MCU installment came out, we were all over-the-moon excited — maybe too excited.

Fans were coming off of a few of the best Marvel movies they had ever seen, and the bar was as high as it has ever been. And adding an eighteen-month gap between projects doesn't help ease the load that WandaVision had to carry either.

WandaVision had to exceed expectations of its viewers while also being the reminder that the MCU is here to stay and involves much more than just Wanda and Vision.

Captain America: Civil War Wanda and Vision
Marvel Studios

Working with MCU Bench Players

For the first project in the new era of the MCU, audiences were presented with a show titled after two characters that have previously been "B-List" MCU characters at best.

While Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany had appeared in a total of nine MCU movies between the pair, neither of their characters ever played more than a supporting role to the Infinity Saga .

First Disney+ Project in the MCU

On top of the pressure of being the first Phase 4 project and working with less than superstar names, WandaVision also had to blaze the trail for long form, TV style storytelling in the MCU. And with the polarizing past of Marvel Television, fans did not quite know what to expect.

The stigma of Marvel TV along with the fact that WandaVision also had to tie into the MCU movies had certain audiences nervous about the execution and production of this show in the streaming space.

Despite this, Marvel Studios found a way to reach audiences via their parent company's streaming service in a way that even the biggest names in the streaming game aren't able to compete with.

WandaVision shot straight to the top of the world's watch list in a matter of eight weeks. Not a bad feat for the MCU's first venture into this style of storytelling.

WandaVision and Guardians of the Galaxy
Marvel Studios

The MCU's Weirdest Concept Yet

Have you ever tried explaining what WandaVision is to a casual superhero movie fan? It's not that easy.

WandaVision's pitch to the general populous promoted itself as a TV show within a TV show that goes through the history of sitcoms starring two B-List Avengers — one of which who's supposed to be dead, and the other who may or may not be running the whole show without even knowing it. That's... a lot to dive into.

But this reminded some fans of another particular Marvel pitch that many thought would fail; a pitch of a talking raccoon and his sidekick tree, along with a gray Dave Bautista and a green Zoe Saldana, teaming up with Andy Dwyer from Parks and Recreation to save the galaxy.

Just like they did with 2014's smash hit Guardians of the Galaxy , Marvel Studios had to convince audiences that this even wackier story with WandaVision was worth the investment. And it worked.

Victim of Early Expectations and Wild Theories

If the pressure of being the first installment of Phase 4 and the first MCU series in the Disney+ era wasn't enough, there was also the pressure of audiences' expectations of the stories that would be told in WandaVision .

While general fans had trouble understanding the plot at first, even the most novice of comic book fans had their own expectations to see adaptations of some of the most acclaimed and historic stories told in Marvel Comics panels.

It was known that WandaVision's creators took inspiration from several Marvel Comics staples such as House of M, The Visions, Avengers Disassembled. Because of this, some fans immediately expected to see a payoff relevant to their favorite Marvel source material if they saw even the slightest hint to it through WandaVision's eight-week run.

WHAT WANDAVISION WAS ABLE TO ACCOMPLISH

Despite all the factors mentioned that were working against WandaVision , it somehow still became a project that will creep towards the top of MCU rankings across the internet.

Now it's time to take a look at what director Matt Shakman, showrunner Jac Schaefer, lead star Elizabeth Olsen and the entire WandaVision team did to accomplish this seemingly impossible feat.

Long-Form Storytelling

When WandaVision debuted on January 15, Disney+ released "Episodes 1 and 2" in the same week in an effort to familiarize audiences with the foundation of this wacky plot. That was the first of many decisions made that maximized the viewing experience of this show.

Throughout this venture through Wanda's world of Westview, the production team constantly left us wanting more while simultaneously providing answers for a slew of questions each and every week. The execution and pacing of this show was praised and admired from day one, and it held up all the way through "Episode 9."

Turning Benchwarmers into All-Stars

If you put all of your money in Wanda/Elizabeth Olsen or Vision/Paul Bettany stock before January 15, you'd probably be reading this article on a private island somewhere. No one has had the rise in fame or favor on the internet quite like this fine pair saw during WandaVision's run. Taking what we're primarily side characters and propelling them into top-tier players is a sign that if your favorite hero gets a Disney+ show of their own, you're about to be very, very happy.

Marvel Studios

Side Characters... ASSEMBLE!

And they didn't stop there.

When Captain Marvel hit theaters in 2019, no one thought that Maria Rambeau's little girl in that movie would see this type of rise to fan-favorite as an MCU superhero. But amidst all the twist, turns and craziness within this show, we also got the origin of what is surely going to be a huge player in Captain Monica Rambeau moving forward.

And on top of the Monica's come-up, fans also got some incredibly fun development for Dr. Darcy Lewis and Agent Jimmy Woo — neither of which would have been expected to appear again any time soon.

No side character is safe from getting a glow-up in the Disney+ era, even if their presence doesn't mean much else to the greater MCU.

#WandaVision

For the first two months of the year, Fridays have been equivalent to Christmas morning for die-hard MCU fans.

WandaVision has been the focus of fan theories, discussion and debate week in and week out. Even though it has been under a microscope since mid-January, WandaVision is constantly surprising audiences and subverting expectations. And while not every question was answered, the ones left on the table lead into Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness in a very mysterious and efficient way, as well as a couple other MCU projects too.

WandaVision Elizabeth Olsen
Marvel Studios

More Than Superheroes

Much like Iron Man did when it released back in 2008, WandaVision has set the tone for the new era of the MCU. That is the forgotten responsibility of the maiden projects in these moments. WandaVision will be the gauge that Phase 4, Disney+ projects and new stories are measured up against for the foreseeable future.

WandaVision embraced that role with ease. Through this show, not only did we get a lot of fun mystery and plot twists, but we also got one of the most profound and in-depth looks at Wanda's grief, depression and loss.

You won't find a superhero film or show quite like WandaVision , and that's largely because it wasn't afraid to go there. And putting the acting talents of Elizabeth Olsen at the center of it made the show thrive in a way that no one could've seen coming.

WAS WANDAVISION WORTH IT?

The risk-reward factor of this Disney+ show was about as wide as it could have been. Considering the generally strange concept of the series, the characters that Marvel chose to lead it, and the expectations that audiences had for it, WandaVision could have very easily been a disaster.

However, much like Iron Man in 2008 and Guardians of the Galaxy in 2014, WandaVision not only found its unlikely success but also thrived and became an instant hit in an untapped MCU environment.

Serendipitously, WandaVision was the perfect project to welcome in the new era of the MCU. And if this is just a taste of what's to come in the next few years, then fans everywhere can expect the Marvel Cinematic Universe to only get even better from here.

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