There’s no question that the Marvel Cinematic Universe is a success. The movies make bank and turn actors into global superstars, and the fandom reaches across generations. There is, however, a weak spot that haters routinely jab at. To them, the MCU is nothing but empty calories served by a giant fast food chain. I think that anyone who actually engages with this franchise in good faith could clearly see that that is not true, but artistic value isn’t as easily measured as box office. Award shows are the closest we have to a clear metric for that otherwise indefinable value. The more Emmys a show gets, the better it is (on some level—because clearly award shows are a deeply flawed metric).
That’s why WandaVision’s staggering 23 Emmy nominations feels like a well-deserved triumph. WandaVision is quite possibly the most ambitious feat ever achieved in the MCU. It’s an intimate work that articulates so much about humanity’s relationship with trauma. Of course WandaVision deserves 23 nominations—and Wanda herself, Elizabeth Olsen, deserves one of those nods (for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited or Anthology Series or Movie). As the series’ lead character, she plays all of the emotional complexity to perfection—and there’s one tiny scene in the penultimate episode that somehow, magically rises above everything else she did in the series.
“Previously On” is WandaVision’s low-key riff on a clip show. Via the magic of Agatha Harkness (Emmy nominee Kathryn Hahn), Wanda relives some of the most painful and plot-relevant moments of her past. We see why she loves classic sitcoms and how they’ve been her companion through the darkest days of her life. And when you live in the MCU, “darkest days” include being held captive by a terrorist organization and grappling with the fact that you killed a bunch of people with your ill-defined powers. You need a lot of Malcolm in the Middle to drown out all that pain.
But the scene in question takes place roughly a week before. In it, Wanda Maximoff strides into S.W.O.R.D. HQ looking to claim Vision’s remains. This isn’t a covert mission; it’s broad daylight and Wanda enters through the front door. She approaches the front desk worker (who is definitely not paid enough to deal with this) and, over the next 30 seconds, demands to know where Vision is.
This one scene says so much, even if Wanda only says:
“I know you have him. Please… please—When I came back, he was gone. His body. And I know he’s here. He deserves a funeral, at least. I deserve it.”
If you look at this scene on a macro-level, this is a powerful superhero demanding that an outer space super spy organization hand over the remains of a robot, the robot she loved. That’s ridiculous, sure, but it’s not how Olsen’s playing the scene.
Olsen is playing the gutted, emotional truth of the scene: this is a woman demanding to see her partner one last time, demanding that he be shown respect and that her love for him be respected. The emotions that Olsen runs through with every single word—! You can feel her restraint at first, how she knew this is exactly how this convo would go down. Then her face makes a grave shift as puts her all into communicating the seriousness of this situation—that she can’t be waved away. The short, simple sentences, cutting to the point of her pain—the way she chokes on the word “body,” as if that’s the first time she’s had to acknowledge out loud that the man she loved is now just a body. Then she quickly cuts through the bullshit (“And I know he’s here”), letting everyone know that she’s not just going to leave. There’s justified malice in her voice when she says “I deserve it,” matched by that stone cold look on her face.
All of that emotion—anxiety, impatience, weakness, despair, grief, resolve, indignation, determination—in 30 seconds and 30 words. Pair that with the scene’s staging in a sterile lobby and Wanda’s antagonist being faceless bureaucracy and this scene feels searingly real. This is everyone who has ever gone through hell at a hospital, couched in a superhero show on Disney+.
And it all works because Elizabeth Olsen did the work. The entirety of WandaVision is proof of Olsen’s genius as an actor, one able to play multiple genres at once while balancing stacks of motivation and tone. But this one scene is where WandaVision, one of the most fantastical stories in the MCU, became painfully real.
Stream WandaVision on Disney+