Can You Watch ‘WandaVision’ If You’ve Never Seen an MCU Movie or Show?

The  question arises every time a new Marvel Studios project  comes out: “Do I need to watch the old thing to understand the new thing?” The base answer is it’s not absolutely necessary, but it does help. So which MCU movies do people need to know to understand what’s going on in their first TV series, WandaVIsion

No two parties are liable to answer exactly the same way. However, it’s worth noting that especially recently, Marvel movies have tended to run long. People may not want to set aside six hours or more to catch up to a half-hour TV show. The good news is, there’s no shortage of resources to help. 

What’s the premise of ‘WandaVision?

Cast and crew of 'WandaVision'
Cast and crew of ‘WandaVision’ | Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Disney

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What’s mysterious about the buzz around WandaVision is that even the people who made it don’t know how to describe it. And that’s not just because of Marvel’s ironclad Non-Disclosure agreements. Paul Bettany is one of the leads of the show, and on more than one occasion has called it “bonkers.” 

But here’s the basic gist: Wanda, a mutant who can bend reality to her will, and Vision, a robot humanoid, had been a romantic couple in the movies. They are now happily married and living in suburbia – except suburbia looks an awful lot like 1950s and 1960s television so far. The first two episodes seem to be modeled on I Love Lucy and Bewitched, with mostly black and white images and the 4:3 aspect ratio of old televisions. What are Marvel heroes like these doing in a place like this? 

That’s the central question of the show. Even those not steeped in the MCU can tell that around the edges, something is wrong. Wanda seems to have occasional bouts of disorientation, and a mysterious force just might be controlling the whole scenario. Those who are familiar with the movies know that Vision died in Avengers: Infinity War, while Wanda was consumed by the “Thanos snap,”  although she returned in Avengers: Endgame and almost killed Thanos by herself.

The general theory goes that Wanda has created the TV shows to try to cope with Vision’s death, but the illusion can’t hold forever, and when it falters, Wanda will suffer a dangerous psychotic break.  

What do fans say is necessary viewing?

Marvel fans often differ when it comes to questions regarding their favorite franchise, and the  matter of how much you need to catch up is no different. When a fan on Reddit said that his or her mom wanted to watch the show, fans had conflicting advice. There’s another new Marvel show on Disney+ called Marvel Legends that offers short character bios, but fans disagreed on how effective those would be. There is no narration in or other background in the shorts – just a compilation of already seen footage. 

One fan wrote. “I thought Legends kinda fell short of accomplishing this goal. As someone who knew all the context of the things they were showing, it was fine, but I think it’ll be overwhelming and confusing to someone with no background info. I think it needs a little bit of narration to  really get new fans to understand.”

Another fan countered, “Disney/Marvel isn’t dumb, the show will be for all viewers, not just the ones who’ve seen every movie. This is a way to build (an) audience for the next phase, they won’t alienate the audience. My guess is there will be enough exposition or flash backs to explain everything. Your mom will be fine.”

‘WandaVision’: Catch-up videos might be of help

One thing to keep in mind about WandaVision is that it’s attracting viewers who might not normally be into superheroics, as the Reddit thread notes. Some people are watching more for the TV references and the comedy, so they may not be apt to spend at least three hours watching a superhero movie with a ton of action.

The last movie featuring Wanda, Avengers: Endgame, runs three hours and very much assumed viewers had seen at least the other Avengers movies. 

More to the point, there’s an entire industry of videos devoted to catching people up to any given chapter in a continuing story. Googling “WandaVision catch up” will offer a bounty of explainers, which should get any newbs at least a basic understanding of what went on.

Perhaps by then, they’ll understand how WandaVision leads into a future Marvel movie, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.