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WandaVision Review: Marvel’s Endgame Boom Made This Experiment Possible

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WandaVision, Marvel Studios’ first ever TV series, inspired by decades of American sitcoms, was one of the funniest entries yet. But it was also one of its saddest. At its heart, WandaVision was about its protagonist, Wanda Maximoff/ Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), navigating a deep and personal loss. Wanda might be an Avenger and have superhuman abilities, but her heart is still human. Spoilers ahead. And she’s led the most heart-wrenching of lives, as WandaVision reiterated, having literally lost everyone she has ever cared for: her parents Iryna (Ilana Kohanchi) and Olek Maximoff (Daniyar), her only brother Pietro Maximoff (Aaron-Taylor Johnson, not Evan Peters), her lover Vision (Paul Bettany), and her — real? — twin boys, Tommy (Jett Klyne) and Billy (Julian Hilliard).

The Marvel Cinematic Universe series’ central conceit, in how most of WandaVision’s episodes were modelled after sitcoms, was a way for Wanda to grapple with her emotions. As we see in WandaVision episode 8, a young Wanda (Michaela Russell) grew up on American sitcoms in Sokovia, before her parents were wiped out in a bombing. That she (and her younger brother) managed to survive in a conflict-riddled nation no doubt left them with lifelong scars, but for Wanda, the misery continued as she lost Pietro when the Avengers tried to stop Ultron (James Spader) — in Avengers: Age of Ultron. In the aftermath, Wanda found a new connection in Vision, someone who was as alone in the world as her. But then she lost Vision too during the events of Avengers: Infinity War.

Not just once, but twice — it’s actually thrice now after WandaVision episode 9. To keep the Mind Stone — the yellow gem embedded in Vision’s forehead that gives him life — away from Thanos (Josh Brolin), a sobbing and broken Wanda agreed to “destroy” her lover. But all that pain was for nothing, as the big purple brute reversed time and took it anyway, killing Vision for a second time in the process, all while Wanda watched helplessly. And before she could even begin to process his death, Wanda was wiped away in Thanos’ Snap, along with half of the universe. As Wanda returned to the land of the living after the Blip — WandaVision is set just a few weeks after the events of Avengers: Endgame — it was the first time that she was able to properly grieve.

Paul Bettany as Vision, Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff in WandaVision
Photo Credit: Disney/Marvel Studios

Grief is usually the first act of a story, more so for the likes of Marvel that are in the business of making action epics for the big screen. In Guardians of the Galaxy, after losing his mother, a young Peter Quill is transported across the stars and becomes Star-Lord. In Star Wars: A New Hope, after losing his guardians, Luke Skywalker throws himself into a galactic conflict and trains to be a Jedi. The protagonists, propelled by the loss, launch themselves into an adventure. Grief is the catalyst, not a destination. But not so for WandaVision. Moreover, its longform nature allowed WandaVision to explore a character’s inner life like never before. No other MCU property has had this amount of time to navigate how a Marvel superhero is feeling. Even the three-hour Endgame had to get on with its plot after a point.

Of course, it helps when you’ve a talent like Olsen. The 32-year-old has never had the space in Marvel films previously — she’s always been the supporting player, across two Avengers films (Age of Ultron and Infinity War) and Captain America: Civil War, in addition to a cameo in Endgame — but here on WandaVision, Olsen showcases what she’s truly capable of. Olsen kept up with the demands the sitcom beats asked of her, even as they changed every episode. And though the dramatic beats were more akin to what she’s done before in the MCU, there were scenes on WandaVision episode 8 that allowed her to dig deep into Wanda’s emotions. And she delivered. Through its five-hour-plus runtime, Olsen proved that she is a terrific actress.

A non-exhaustive list of WandaVision’s sitcom inspirations

  • Episodes 1 and 2: Bewitched, I Dream of Jeannie, I Love Lucy, and The Dick Van Dyke Show
  • Episode 3: The Brady Bunch, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and The Courtship of Eddie’s Father
  • Episode 5: Family Ties, Full House, Growing Pains, Step by Step, and Who’s the Boss?
  • Episode 6: Malcolm in the Middle
  • Episode 7: Modern Family, The Office, and Parks and Recreation
  • Agatha All Along: The Munsters, and The Addams Family

Wanda’s grief manifested itself as the Hex — as Dr. Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings) termed it — which she created after crumbling and giving into “chaos magic” at the site of the Westview, New Jersey home that Vision had earmarked for their future, as we saw in WandaVision episode 8. The ever-changing sitcom eras (that Olsen nailed) were essentially Wanda’s coping mechanisms, because she was unable to live with the pain and suffering she had endured. For WandaVision, that became an early selling point, in that it would pay homage to American sitcoms through the decades. Across its nine-episode run that ended Friday, WandaVision traded on over a dozen of them, including the likes of The Dick Van Dyke Show (from the ‘60s) and Modern Family (from the ‘00s).

WandaVision may have started as a homage to sitcoms, but it became a reveal-driven show as it went on. In WandaVision episode 4, we learnt that all of Westview was Wanda’s doing and that she exhibited complete mind control within the Hex. In WandaVision episode 5, “Pietro Maximoff” (Evan Peters) stumbled in out of nowhere, hinting that we might get X-Men in the MCU. Marvel was just trolling us. In WandaVision episode 7, Agnes (Kathryn Hahn) revealed that she was in fact a witch called Agatha Harkness who had been manipulating events (including Pietro’s introduction), setting herself up as the MCU series’ villain. In WandaVision episode 8, we were given a secondary villain in “White Vision”, who had all of his powers but none of the soul.

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Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris) becomes a superhero in WandaVision
Photo Credit: Disney/Marvel Studios

And because it’s also a Marvel property at the same time, WandaVision also had to do the obligatory work of setting up future MCU entries.

For one, it served as the origin story of Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris), with the Hex helping to turn her into a superhero — as we saw in WandaVision episode 7. Parris is already part of the Captain Marvel 2 cast, alongside Brie Larson’s Carol Danvers/ Captain Marvel and Iman Vellani’s Kamala Khan/ Ms. Marvel, who’s also set to get her own Disney+ series later in 2021. Captain Marvel 2 will no doubt continue her story as the WandaVision episode 9 mid-credits scene confirmed, which includes supposedly meeting Talos (Ben Mendelsohn). It will no doubt also tell us why Monica doesn’t like talking about Carol — which we were shown in WandaVision episode 5. In the comics, Monica once owned the Captain Marvel moniker, before Carol ever existed. Could Captain Marvel 2 put a spin on this? It’ll be interesting to see that, more so in light of their less than cordial relationship.

Then there’s the direct continuation of WandaVision’s story that Marvel has repeatedly talked about: Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, slated to release in March 2022. Olsen is an official part of the Benedict Cumberbatch-led Doctor Strange sequel, which will find the titular sorcerer unleashing “unspeakable evil”, the synopsis states, as he faces former ally Karl Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor). At the end of WandaVision episode 9, Wanda said she plans to fully understand her powers, which suggests that she might seek out Strange to train her. But the WandaVision episode 9 post-credits scene hinted at a different storyline, one that involves Wanda trying to find out how her twin boys Tommy (Jett Klyne) and Billy (Julian Hilliard) are still around.

WandaVision might have also set up Marvel’s far-off future, if the twins are indeed alive — and it’s not a trick. In the comics, Tommy and Billy grow up to be the superheroes Speed and Wiccan, respectively, who are both part of Young Avengers.

Given what we know of the MCU’s upcoming nature, something tells me this will link into the multiverse — it’s right in the title of Doctor Strange 2. The multiverse is said to be first explored in Spider-Man: No Way Home — out December 2021 — which also features Cumberbatch and will also tie into Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. The same also goes for the Tom Hiddleston-starrer Loki series, premiering June 11 on Disney+ and Disney+ Hotstar.

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Jett Klyne as Tommy and Julian Hilliard as Billy in WandaVision
Photo Credit: Disney/Marvel Studios

MCU Phase 4 movies and series in 2021

  • January–March: WandaVision
  • March–April: The Falcon and the Winter Soldier
  • May 7: Black Widow
  • June–July: Loki
  • Mid-2021: Marvel’s What If…?
  • July 9: Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
  • November 5: Eternals
  • Late 2021: Ms. Marvel
  • Late 2021: Hawkeye
  • December 17: Spider-Man: No Way Home

That’s two different series (WandaVision and Loki) and one movie sequel (Spider-Man: No Way Home) all playing into another sequel. WandaVision, hence, seems to be the start of a new interconnected era for Marvel, where it can — and will — do even more links than ever before. While films set up future (Avengers) get-togethers previously, now it’s going to become more like a spider’s web. And that’s partly thanks to the arrival of Disney+. For us fans, to have the best MCU experience, you will need to stay updated on all the series and movies. But for some, this might begin to seem like homework. After all, there are 10 MCU entries alone in 2021.

But Marvel’s success — it’s the biggest franchise of all time with over $22.5 billion (about Rs. 1,63,711 crores) at the box office worldwide, and WandaVision is said to be one of the most streamed original series — shows that people are willing to go on the journey. It’s why virtually every Hollywood studio has attempted to copy this model (with varying degrees of lesser success), now including its own sister studio Lucasfilm. After The Mandalorian shot off to global popularity, Lucasfilm used the Star Wars series’ second season to launch its own cinematic universe. Marvel did try The Mandalorian route earlier, with MCU extensions on Netflix and elsewhere (à la Daredevil and Jessica Jones), but it never truly exploded. With Disney+, it’s now bringing its film stars to television screens.

Star Wars has yet to do that, save for that Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) cameo in The Mandalorian season 2 finale. Lucasfilm still seems to be keeping its big screen aspirations separate from its Disney+ forays. The MCU has always been one giant TV show in some ways. Its movies always felt like they were designed as episodic adventures, except they played on IMAX screens and had budgets running into hundreds of millions. The latter bit stands true for WandaVision and other upcoming MCU series, except they are now being beamed straight into our homes, in a piecemeal fashion.

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Kat Dennings as Darcy Lewis, Randall Park as Jimmy Woo in WandaVision
Photo Credit: Disney/Marvel Studios

And that’s what makes WandaVision the first true MCU TV show. While most Marvel movies are about two hours long (unless you’re called “Avengers” in which case you get 30 minutes to an hour more), the Disney+ series had no such constraint. WandaVision episodes ranged from 22 minutes to 47 minutes. Marvel chief Kevin Feige has said that others (like Loki and The Falcon and the Winter Solider) will be even longer, with episodes ranging from 40–50 minutes — longer than most TV dramas though shorter than the hourlong fixtures that Netflix has (unfortunately) made a habit of.

The longform approach helped the storytelling on WandaVision, and so did the fact that it wasn’t beholden to being an out-and-out actioner. That said, this is not true across the board. The Falcon and the Winter Solider — premiering March 19 — looks a lot more like what Marvel has offered on the big screen. But WandaVision has shown that Marvel isn’t taking its position on top of the world for granted. It’s willing to try out new things — the studio delivered the biggest movie of all time with Endgame, so why not experiment — on the same giant canvas as its blockbusters. Go back a couple of years with the help of Doctor Strange’s Time Stone and try telling someone that Marvel would soon give us a sitcom with Avengers, which in actuality would be about a superhero processing their trauma. That’s WandaVision.

All nine episodes of WandaVision are streaming on Disney+ and Disney+ Hotstar.

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REVIEWS

Jabra Elite 85t Review: The All-Rounder of True Wireless Earphones

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Although India tends to see a lot of launches in the budget true wireless audio space, the globally relevant premium segment has also been heating up quite a bit. The Apple AirPods range is usually favoured by iPhone users, and Android fans have a fair bit of choice now, with many new options from Sennheiser, Samsung, LG, and Oppo launched in the past few months. With the new Elite 85t, Danish audio brand Jabra has also updated its true wireless product range going into 2021.

The successor to the Elite 75t, the Jabra Elite 85t is priced at Rs. 17,999 and has a big new feature – active noise cancellation. There’s also the promise of good performance on voice calls thanks to Jabra’s expertise in the field, and of course great sound as well. Does the Jabra Elite 85t match up to these expectations? Find out in our review.

The Jabra Elite 85t has a secure, noise isolating, in-canal fit

 

Three microphones on each earpiece, wireless charging on the Jabra Elite 85t

Although there are small changes to the design, the Jabra Elite 85t largely sticks to the familiar styling and fit of its predecessors, and looks a lot like the Elite 75t which was launched in 2020. The inner moulding does see some changes, in order to offer a better fit and passive noise isolation. There are also now three microphones on the coloured outer portions of the earpieces.

As with previous products in the Elite range, the Jabra Elite 85t is very comfortable, offers excellent passive noise isolation, and looks good as well. I’ve grown to really like Jabra’s distinctive styling, which is iconic in its own right, and characteristic of the company’s Scandinavian roots. Each earpiece has a physical button with an LED that shines through it to indicate the status of the earphones. Three pairs of silicone ear tips and a USB Type-C charging cable are included in the sales package.

The charging case of the Jabra Elite 85t is nearly identical to that of the Elite 75t as well, with a compact shape and size, magnetic lid, USB Type-C port at the back, and indicator LED right below the logo at the front. Usefully, there’s also Qi wireless charging for the case of the Elite 85t, which wasn’t present on previous models.

Each earpiece has a large physical button, and the headset’s controls can be customised through the Jabra Sound+ companion app (available for iOS and Android). You can choose between playback controls, invoking the voice assistant, and cycling through sound modes (ANC, hear-through, or both off), with single, double, or triple-presses.

jabra elite 85t review app Jabra  Jabra Elite 85t

ANC and hear-through levels are customisable through the Jabra Sound+ app

 

The buttons have additional functions for receiving and placing calls, and the two earpieces can be configured separately. Although there’s no way to adjust volume, the rest of the controls are easy enough to learn and use. The buttons are easy to press, and even frequent use didn’t upset the secure fit of the earpieces.

There are also sensors in the earpieces that automatically pause playback when either one is removed, and resumes when it’s worn again. Unlike many new true wireless earphones, the Jabra Elite 85t has a master-slave configuration; the right earpiece connects to the source device, while the left earpiece connects to the right one. You can therefore use the right earpiece independently, but not the left one, which also needs to be in close proximity to the right earpiece to work.

The Jabra Sound+ app has a custom profile for the Elite 85t earphones, and automatically detects the headset when it’s connected to the source device. It’s an excellent app that’s presented well, and generally gets its job done efficiently. Apart from button customisation, you can also adjust the equaliser, control the ANC and hear-through levels, update the firmware, and more. Other interesting tools such as Jabra’s My Moment sound mode settings and Soundscapes are also available. My Moment lets you set up custom sound profiles depending on your surroundings, while Soundscapes play different kinds of soothing sounds directly through the app.

The Jabra Elite 85t has 12mm dynamic drivers, and six microphones – three on each earpiece – for active noise cancellation and voice-based functions. The earpieces are IPX4 rated for water resistance, and will be able to take a few light splashes of water without risk of damage. For connectivity, the headset uses Bluetooth 5.1, with support for the SBC and AAC codecs. The lack of support for advanced Bluetooth codecs remains a drawback for Jabra.

jabra elite 85t review logo Jabra  Jabra Elite 85t

The buttons on the earpieces can be customised to control playback, noise cancellation, and more

 

With active noise cancellation on and at moderate volume levels, I was able to get around five hours of battery life on the earpieces, with an additional three full charges from the case of the Jabra Elite 85t, for a total battery life of around 20 hours per charge cycle. This is decent, given the feature set and specifications of the headset.

Good sound, great ANC on the Jabra Elite 85t

Jabra’s ‘flagship only’ approach to the true wireless segment has resulted in some excellent products in the past few years, and the Elite 85t is an expected step up in the range. However, the core experience is familiar; the Jabra Elite 85t is an all-round performer, offering a competent and capable experience across all functions. Whether you’re listening to music, taking calls, or watching videos, the Elite 85t does its job well.

The Jabra Elite 75t, while sounding good, has a tendency to be a bit aggressive with the bass; that problem is less pronounced on the Elite 85t, which offers a more balanced sonic signature with a greater focus on detail and cohesiveness. The equaliser, which can be set through the app, was quite responsive to changes, but the natural factory-tuned sonic signature was perfectly suitable for most popular genres.

Starting with Waiting by Oliver Heldens with the volume at around the 70 percent level and active noise cancellation turned on, the Jabra Elite 85t was immediately engaging and incredibly responsive. While the sonic signature isn’t as punchy with the lows as that of the Elite 75t, there’s definitely enough tightness and attack in the bass to make for an enjoyable listening experience. The mid-range and highs also held up well in Waiting, giving this fast-paced dance track a distinctly detailed feel.

The news of Daft Punk calling it a day had me revisit some of the group’s more popular tracks, including Get Lucky. While the lows felt distinct and pronounced, Pharrell Williams’ vocals and Daft Punk’s signature synthesised robotic voices were equally sharp and distinct. It’s a beautifully natural and adaptive sonic signature that adjusts well to all kinds of music. The Jabra Elite 85t was able to provide plenty of detail and character in these tracks.

jabra elite 85t review tip Jabra  Jabra Elite 85t

The Jabra Elite 85t is an all-rounder among true wireless headsets, offering good sound, ANC, and performance on voice calls

 

Bluetooth codecs aren’t necessarily everything, and good tuning can make up for being limited to even the basic SBC and AAC codecs. Jabra’s excellent tuning of the Elite 85t does largely make up for the lack of advanced Bluetooth codec support. I had few complaints about sound quality, but the 85t does fall a bit short of some competing options such as the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro and Sennheiser CX400BT in this department.

Both those headsets push the boundaries when it comes to detail and cohesiveness, and the Jabra Elite 85t doesn’t quite go as far. That said, this would likely only make a significant difference if you’re listening to high-resolution audio tracks. If you plan on sticking with streaming services such as Spotify, YouTube Music, or Apple Music, the Jabra Elite 85t will get as much as is possible out of the source device and tracks.

Active noise cancellation on the Jabra Elite 85t is very good, and it is largely on par with our top picks in the true wireless segment in this regard. The silence isn’t quite as stark as on the AirPods Pro, but there’s a significant reduction in background sounds whether indoors or outdoors, and the level of quiet doesn’t go as far as to feel unsettling. The hear-through mode is decent as well, but not as natural-sounding as I’d have liked. Usefully, both ANC and hear-through levels are adjustable through the app.

Jabra’s expertise with devices for professional voice-based applications has long paid off on its consumer products lineup, and the Elite 85t is an excellent headset for calls. Sound was clear on both ends of the call, and stable connectivity over reasonable distances in my home meant that I could conveniently use the earphones even while standing about 4.5m from the source device.

Verdict

I’ve usually enjoyed my time with Jabra’s true wireless headsets, and the Elite 85t is an excellent pair of earphones just like its predecessors. What particularly appeals to me about this pair of earphones is that it gets all the important bits right: sound quality, active noise cancellation, and performance on calls. It’s also completely device-agnostic and works well regardless of the source and inputs.

Although it doesn’t offer the best experience in any single department even for its price, you should consider the Jabra Elite 85t if you have various devices you want to use earphones with, and use them for everything they’re meant for. Options such as the AirPods Pro, Galaxy Buds Pro, and Sony WF-1000XM3 might be better for specific use cases, but the Jabra Elite 85t is a great mix of the good bits of all three.


Is HomePod mini the best smart speaker under Rs. 10,000? We discussed this on Orbital, our weekly technology podcast, which you can subscribe to via Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or RSS, download the episode, or just hit the play button below.

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