Film Crit Hulk has been writing good pieces on WandaVision. Here’s his article on the last episode. He came to the same conclusion I had, which is that the writers of the show loved the idea of dropping the viewers into a sitcom world with no explanation so much that they let that guide the show in ways that squandered opportunities for better storytelling. In short, there’s a reason you don’t start a joke with the punchline: it’s only funny if you do the setup first. He also goes into how they pulled back from having Wanda face real consequences for her actions, which I agree with. Her story as established in Captain America: Civil War is all about her inability to control her powers. Here we have her do something else awful (controlling the people of Westview), so the questions should be, can she learn to control her power? Can she be a hero despite what she’s done?
[Spoilers for the whole show and particularly episodes eight and nine.]
Setting that aside, I agree that the show could be restructured to allow for better setup and payoff, keeping most of what we saw in the final show but moving scenes around a lot. Here’s how I’d restructure WandaVision. (Not that I’m qualified to give such advice, but at least this lines up somewhat with Film Crit Hulk’s ideas, and he’s written an actual book on screenwriting.)
Keep episode one intact but with two changes. Cold open with a quick bit with Wanda and Vision together. It’s post-Avengers: Age of Ultron, they’re together and in love. We set up a couple’s in-joke that we can use in the sitcom later as needed. Just a little thing. Then we have shot of Vision’s death in Avengers: Infinity War. Now we cut to the sitcom theme song and show the whole Dick Van Dyke episode. At the end, show us a little more of the SWORD base such that we understand that this is a show that some agents outside the real town are watching in a van which will become the makeshift base.
Now we move episode eight to be second. Show us Wanda growing up in Sokovia, loving American television, her home getting destroyed, etc. This lets us see the connection to her fantasy world of the idealized family unit.
Meanwhile we’re cutting back to Salem where we see a coven of witches with the Darkhold magic book discussing a super power witch who’ll be able to control reality. They’re about the say the name “Scarlet Witch” when Agatha interrupts them and kills them, so we think she’s the one they were talking about. This will strengthen our reveal at the end of e8 that Wanda is actually the one they were talking about, the “Scarlet Witch.” This is a name the fans might know, but now we’ve attached some weight to it. Agatha is still our villain, yes, but she’s also trying to stop the Scarlet Witch who she believes will destroy the world (though of course doing so by trying to take her power for herself).
We’ll end with Wanda coming to the empty lot in Westview and a flash of hex magic as it transforms the town. Before that, though, a few vignettes of the residents of Westview. We see that they’re real people who have stuff going on in their lives. Importantly, leave some dangling threads that Wanda’s magic will leave hanging. This can be as heavy as we want it. Someone on the phone with a relative who really needs them to get on a plane and come see them, but they won’t be able to because they’ll be turned into a cast member for Wanda’s show. A mother about to walk up the stairs to see her kids. These are the cast members we’ll see in the show but now we know what their lives were like before they were taken over.
Episode three (previously two) can proceed more or less as it did but with the added menace that 1) we know Wanda is forcing all these people to act our her fantasy life 2) we know Agnes is messing things up on purpose. (Aside: This does sacrifice the punch of the “It was Agatha All Along” song. Maybe that can be preserved somehow? This is where being the Monday Morning Script Doctor is fun because I can just say, “it’s the writer’s job to figure that out” and move on.)
Now we can more or less keep the show as-in, but ideally also spend more time figuring out why Monica Rambeau is in this show (and Darcy for that matter). Also we can pull back real hard on the bad agent guy being such a jerk. Just keep hitting on how Wanda has enslaved this whole town and it gives him motivation for wanting to stop her and lets us build up our central theme for Wanda (aside from her grief) being that she wants to be a hero but isn’t in control. Then when we reveal that she, not Agatha, is the bad witch from the prophecy, we show that SWORD was right to want to be stopping her. Ideally toward the end of the showdown with Agatha is where Monica steps in and maybe reminds Wanda what being a hero really is—she knew Captain Marvel after all. She talks Wanda down but I’d like for it to leave with a little more condemnation on her.
I realize all this makes it seem like I didn’t like the show. There was a ton I enjoyed, I just think it was undermined by its own structure. The performances were great. It had a few great sitcom jokes. I like how Wanda trapped Agatha with the runes (which worked because they did a think they’d set up before. See?). I don’t really want to see a second season, though. More of Wanda, yes, which I guess we’re getting in the next Doctor Strange movie, but it was necessary and correct to end with Vision still dead or it would have taken away from his death (in a way comics do too often).