Disney is having hit-after-hit with The Mandalorian in the Star Wars universe, and now WandaVision the Marvel Cinematic Universe. What both these shows share — other than being on the streaming service Disney+ — is their release schedule. Their weekly release structure has, especially in the case of WandaVision been a point of contention for many recently. But its this exact weekly show structure that keeps WandaVision in the pop culture talk-box every week and makes the show’s cliffhangers so eventful. Honestly, if you’re complaining about the release structure of WandaVision, you’re wrong. It’s perfect the way it is, and I won’t hear otherwise.
Spoilers for WandaVision episodes 1-5 follow.
To a degree, I understood the complaints when the first two episodes dropped. Yes, the black-and-white sitcom adventures of Wanda Maximoff and The Vision weren’t exactly rushing to get to ‘the point’ of it all. I loved those first two episodes because of how funny and genuinely feel-good they were to watch— but I digress. Both of those episodes released back-to-back, and by the time the third episode rolled around, we had more than enough bread-crumbs to begin trying to piece together what’s going on. There’s no reason to complain that you “don’t understand what’s going on.” Not a single person other than those at Disney/Marvel know what is going on in the show. And that’s what makes it exciting!
The ability to binge shows and finish them hours after they’ve dropped on a service like Netflix has ruined the social fun of watching weekly television shows. Back before I’d podcast about shows like WandaVision, Game of Thrones or Westworld, I’d talk to my friends about them. I remember when Game of Thrones started; I’d watch the episode at my friends’ place before spending the next hour around his kitchen table discussing at great lengths what had happened in the episode, and what we thought might happen in the next one. True Detective, Death Note, Breaking Bad, The Sopranos and more had been weekly talking points with my friend groups.
To think that it’s only been ten years since Lost finished is crazy to me. That was a show built on weekly cliffhangers, insane moments and leaving its audience not knowing what was happening. We all ate that up. My entire family did. Everyone in my school was watching Lost and discussing it during lunch breaks. I’m not even opening the Twin Peaks can of worms. A show that pushed what storytelling can be told through weekly television like nothing before it ever had. And not a single person knew what the hell they were watching, but still tuned in every week.
Look, I don’t hate the idea of binging shows. Many tv shows are better suited for binging, and that’s because Netflix purposely produces a lot of their shows to be binged. They feel like one eight-to-ten hour movie where each episode leads into the next with a perfect pause for you to refill your glass and popcorn bucket. But not everything needs to, nor should it, be designed that way.
We went too hard in one direction, and now it seems things are starting to balance themselves out again. Everything was binge-able, and we all got a little too used to it. Now streaming services like Disney+, Prime Video, and Apple TV+ are pushing back in the other direction. WandaVision, The Boys and The Morning Show are great examples of how weekly release schedules work in favour of the show and how it wants to tell a story.
Just think about this past Friday’s episode of WandaVision. It ended with the mind-blowing cliffhanger reveal that Evan Peters Pietro Maximoff from the freakin’ FOX X-Men Universe had joined the show. You name the social media platform or the forum, and people have been nonstop with the theories and discussions since that moment. Yes, this is fantastic marketing by Disney as it keeps the show in the zeitgeist, but it also makes the show more fun to watch. Moments like that make for a ‘water-cooler talking point’ for yourself, friends, family and work colleagues. Imagine if WandaVision had dropped in one night. Not only would you have got to episode three before someone was making fan-cams of the finale of the show on Twitter, but the show would have been out of the pop-culture discussion in just a week or two– and all of that doesn’t sound very good to me at all.
There are examples of shows that would work better as binge-able releases. Even though we at the Explosion Network awarded Ted Lasso as our TV Show of 2020, it would have been better, and possibly been more popular, if the show had dropped all at once. But WandaVision? No, it’s perfect releasing the way it is right now.