REVIEW: WandaVision

Is WandaVision the internet’s favorite TV show right now because it’s the best thing on TV, or is just the only thing on TV? WandaVision is a new Disney+ original series that follows the characters Wanda Maximoff and Vision, who had not been featured in their own solo MCU projects up until this point. Starring Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany, the series riffs off of TV sitcoms through the decades, depicting Wanda and Vision trying to fit in with suburban life, only to discover that not everything is as it seems.

What makes the series so enticing is that it provides a much-needed release from the worn-out Marvel movie formula. WandaVision sticks out from the rest of the MCU stylistically, but it simultaneously patches up pre-existing plot holes in the MCU canon. The series explores some of the direct effects of the events of “The Blip” in Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, but mostly importantly, it proves Wanda and Visions’ each have a place in the MCU. Wanda and Vision have both been minor characters thus far, and their characters lacked personality and motivation as they were bounced around from director to director. I was excited when Wanda was first introduced as a new female character in Avengers: Age of Ultron, but she was subsequently pushed to the side and thrown into a seemingly rushed romance with Vision, who had just as little development. However, creator and head writer, Jac Schaeffer, has dug into the characters’ messy foundation, revealing their complexity and prepping them with compelling characterization for their future in the MCU.

Although Wanda and Vision are both fantastical individuals with extreme, otherworldly abilities, Schaeffer has highlighted their sense of humanity in this crazy fictional world by crafting a heart-breaking story about their bond. This transforms Wanda and Vision into characters that audiences can empathize with rather than dismiss as lovebirds that were thrown into the film franchise as an afterthought. Episode 8, “Previously On,” delves into Wanda’s past, explaining her choices that were previously glossed over, and provides context for her connection to Vision. The episode is seemingly specific to Wanda and the toll Vision’s death in Infinity War took on her, but the episode also acts as a general representation of grief. The episode is timely, showing that even something as silly as a sitcom can provide some sense of comfort during troubling times.

That being said, the penultimate episode of a miniseries is a strange place to insert a backstory episode. If the episode had not been so beautifully written or if it had not provided the much-needed backstory for the series’ titular characters, I would have been more upset with the pacing of the show. The show’s plot is rather slow most of the time with a sudden cliffhanger at the end of each episode. This has been upsetting for some fans, who have spent the past seven weeks developing elaborate theories, only to be underwhelmed by the show’s conclusion. However, I have come around to the way the series progressed – but only after I realized exactly what the show was about. The show is about wise Vision, who is an android created with artificial intelligence, yet he is the character who best understands human emotion and empathy. And it is about loving Wanda, who is not an object in need of protection, but someone who discovers strength in emotion.

PREVIEW: WandaVision

WandaVision is the newest Disney+ original series, starring Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany in their MCU roles of Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch and Vision. The series is Marvel’s first Disney+ original, and it also marks the first piece of media from the MCU since Spider-Man: Far From Home. The series follows Wanda and Vision trying to assimilate into suburban life, with the series stylized as TV sitcoms throughout the decades.


The series is said to take place after the events of Avengers: Endgame, but based on the 50s and 60s nature of the show, it’s unclear how exactly this story fits in with the larger MCU. The MCU has hinted at big changes and never-before-seen tropes and storylines to come, and with Elizabeth Olsen set to star in the Doctor Strange sequel, I’m hoping that WandaVision will not fall into the worn-out formula of the MCU.


The first two episodes of WandaVision are now available on Disney+, and episodes will drop weekly on Fridays with the finale premiering on March 5.

REVIEW: The Haunting of Bly Manor

The Haunting of Bly Manor is the latest installment in The Haunting anthology created by Mike Flanagan for Netflix. The series consists of nine episodes, and follows the story of an au pair who arrives at the haunted estate of Bly Manor.

The series uses horror elements in a very understated way; it elects to hide ghosts in the background that often go unseen rather than to have jumpscare after jumpscare. It has an overall eerie tone – a large, old house and two children who advise their governess not to roam the grounds after dark – but it is very slow burn, which becomes one of its faults. The series takes several episodes before a cohesive storyline begins to unfold, but once the inklings of an intriguing plot emerge, it becomes too complicated. Bly Manor has a massive cast: the au pair, the two children, their uncle, the housekeeper, the gardener, the cook, the dead parents, the previous governess, and many other characters introduced through flashbacks. What Bly Manor does well is showcase the talent of the many actors, however it fails to set up a clear, main storyline supported by the side characters. Instead, it gives each character a subplot and while all of the characters are genuinely well-written and interesting, the show does not give itself enough time to fully flesh out each subplot and tie them each into the main storyline.

The second-to-last episode, “The Romance of Certain Old Clothes,” is the weakest episode even though it is supposed to serve as the explanation as to why the estate of Bly Manor is haunted, what happened to the current governess’s predecessor, and why any of this is relevant to the current staff of Bly Manor. It comes across as a filler or even throw-away episode, and it adds another layer of confusion to the story. I understand that Flanagan wants to retain an air of mystery to keep the audience engaged, however when the story is so confusing for so many episodes, it becomes frustrating to watch. Ultimately, the series wastes a decent amount of time keeping the audience in the dark, resulting in a rushed conclusion of the ghost story before moving on to conclude the ongoing story of love and loss. That being said, one thing that Flanagan does well is create a bittersweet ending that emulates the central theme that to truly love someone is to accept that loving them is worth the risk and pain of losing them. However, though the last 15 minutes of the final episode carry the entire show, it cannot be ignored that the majority of the show is too slow, and that Flanagan adds another subplot in the second-to-last episode that only opens up more plot holes.

Finally, I cannot review Bly Manor without discussing its predecessor, The Haunting of Hill House. Hill House is overall a tighter and cleaner story that does a better job of balancing horror and very human themes – grief and guilt, in this case. Flanagan ties in fear as a projection of guilt and trauma in this series – rather than a separate and debatably related aspect – with a satisfying conclusion addressing family and forgiveness. However, Hill House also falls into a lull with the two episodes before the finale, but those episodes act more as a set-up for the finale rather than an entirely new addition to the story like in Bly Manor.

Overall, I expected both series to come to a huge, dramatic, maybe even disturbing conclusion, but what Flanagan choses to do instead is to subvert expectations and craft two conclusions that that are empathetic and wistful. The last fifteen minutes of Bly Manor and the finale of Hill House showcase Flanagan’s ability to depict compelling stories of human relationships, which is ultimately what draws a large fanbase to the two shows.

REVIEW: Succession

Succession is the most recent recipient of the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstand Drama Series. The HBO dramedy/satire follows the Roy family, led by patriarch Logan Roy, CEO of international media conglomerate Waystar Royco. With Logan’s health in decline, his four children and the rest of the company grow concerned over the future of Waystar. Produced by Adam McKay and Will Ferrell, full of scheming and betrayal with nine Emmys under its belt, it seems that Succession is well on its way to becoming Game of Throne’s bigger and better successor. The bar is low, but there’s no way HBO will repeat the same series finale catastrophe, right?

The show is so entertaining to watch because the characters all kind of suck. They’re all looking out for themselves and only themselves, they’re constantly in competition with each other, and they’re always stabbing each other in the back. They’re not just realistic because they’re inspired by the Murdochs (who own or have owned The Wall Street Journal, Fox News, and 21st Century Fox), but because they’re human beings in a modern-day setting, and they’re also simply human beings who are flawed. We hear about rich families like the Roys every day, and we also know normal people who are just like them. Take the character Tom Wambsgans, for example: he’s a people-pleasing Waystar executive, always cracking questionably funny jokes. And he loves having power. He bullies poor cousin Greg on the daily, but even so, he knows his place. He’s dating Logan’s daughter, Shiv, and is frequently shown trying to remain in Logan’s good graces, whether it’s trying to find the right birthday present for him or simply not verbally attacking people in Logan’s presence. Sure, Tom’s a little amped up in the show for satirical purposes, but you definitely know someone just like him. You may be thinking that Tom sounds like a horrible person and there’s no way you know anyone like him or relate to him at all, but I can guarantee that as you watch the show, you will be so entertained. You will love watching people tear each other down for their own personal gain. You will hope for the worst and the extreme. And does that not make you just as bad as the Roys?

I can’t praise the genius of Succession without crediting the show’s writer and creator, Jesse Armstrong. He has previously written for Black Mirror and Veep, so you know he knows what he’s doing. He’s delivered two impeccable season finales. In the finale of season 1, there’s this ~thing~ that happens. And as it’s happening, you know what’s going to happen. But when it happens, it happens – Armstrong fills you with dread, has the thing happen, and doesn’t stop there. He showcases the immediate aftermath and leaves you anticipating what it means for the characters, the plot, and the show as a whole going forward. The season 2 finale is more subtle, but after the ~thing~ happens, you realize he had left clues throughout the episode. Armstrong is very clever, and he should be regarded as such. He knows what we find entertaining, and he’s created a massive ensemble of characters who aren’t necessarily lovable, but you can’t help but be invested in their stories. Succession has already won Emmys for writing, acting, and directing, and it has a very promising future. As long as Bran Stark doesn’t end up as the next CEO of Waystar.

PREVIEW: CatVideoFest 2019

Are you tired of manually scouring the internet for feline entertainment? Do you have an insatiable thirst for the more beloved, graceful, and heavily worshipped four-legged domesticated companions that don’t bark or beg to be walked on the daily?

The annual CatVideoFest, playing this Sunday at the Michigan Theater, may be the purr-fect solution to your cat-video-shortage woes! Be prepared for 70 minutes of an adorable audiovisual experience of a lifetime- back by popular demand, the CatVideoFest is an artistic curation of the world’s most prized, individualistic cat videos- ranging from music videos to animations. Not only is this a beautiful communal experience with fellow cat-lovers, but also a fantastic way to support local shelters and animal organizations, joining them in their battle to mitigate the suffering of cats all around the world. Join us in this gleeful celebration of the beauty and hilarity of our feline friends Sunday, March 10, at 4 pm in the Michigan Theater!

Tickets may be obtained here: 



REVIEW: Pls Hire Us

Exam season is a cruelly bittersweet time. It is the blissful end to a long and arduous semester, a promise of a well-deserved break at the other end. During it all, though, the nights spent replacing sleep with study start stacking up, and the days fill with delirium. Personally, as I walked into Studio A for this show, I was rocking barely an hour of sleep in the past 36, as I’d been writing papers and preparing for an exam with such intensity that I was unable to fall asleep after I’d finished. Until my inevitable crash later that night, I would have to accept that I’d need to settle for the next best thing after sleep: laughter.

Unsurprisingly, quite a few other students were in the same boat; the place was packed. There was a list up front like the ones at exclusive clubs in the movies, but only those knew the performers were on it. I walked over to the back of the line. Luckily, I’d come early enough that I was let in before all the chairs had been filled.

As soon as the night of comedy sketches began, all of the day’s jittery exhaustion drained out of me. I was glad to find that the sketches were unrelated to each other, like in Saturday Night Live. Each scene was its own self-contained story, and despite their brevity, characters were developed, and the plot had enough detail to keep it interesting. Although the entire cast performed well, I did have a favorite; Emma Puglia really stood out to me. Her stage presence was amazing, following her even through the digital sketches, and her use of different comedic voices and tones helped her to be an invaluable part of the cast.

I don’t think a single member of the peanut gallery walked out of that room before having let out an embarrassingly ugly guffaw and/or wiped away a few tears from laughing so hard. It takes a truly talented group of people to write, perform, and produce something that can wash away the grime of exhaustion from a room full of students in the middle of their exam season. During that precious, golden time I had in Studio A, I could forget about the oceanography test I had suffered through just hours before, the paper I’d thrown together at 3:00 AM, the Wolverscreams session I’d missed while taking a nap. For that gift, I am so, so grateful.