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But what is grief, if not love persevering? 3 min read
TV

But what is grief, if not love persevering?

It can be easy to forget that plenty of people don’t like the Marvel Cinematic Universe. There are people who don’t care anything about comic books or the films inspired by them. There are those who don’t necessarily object to comic book characters and plot lines but

By Cary Littlejohn

It can be easy to forget that plenty of people don’t like the Marvel Cinematic Universe. There are people who don’t care anything about comic books or the films inspired by them. There are those who don’t necessarily object to comic book characters and plot lines but haven’t participated in the 13 year investment into these particular films and now television shows. There are those who are lifelong DC Comics fans, and the thought of cheering for your teams biggest rival is off-putting. And there are those who ignore these films because they’re entertainment instead of cinema, or art.

I don’t begrudge these people such opinions. On a lot of grounds, I’m sympathetic. These are not the films of festivals and art house theaters, both of which I love. These are not quiet or original or auteur-driven. But if one is not too serious, not too pure, they are entertaining. I don’t see any shame in admitting that.

The penultimate episode of WandaVision, the MCU’s newest installment and first foray into the streaming arena, provoked, as these things tend to do, an outpouring of admiration and condemnation.

Much of the praise and ridicule came for one line in particular. In the episode’s flashback, Wanda Maximoff is mourning over the death of here brother, Pietro, after the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron. Vision, then a newly created synthezoid being, sits down to keep Wanda company while she grieves. He tells her he doesn’t know what she’s feeling, but he’d like to know, if she wanted to talk about it. She snaps at him. And then she apologizes, confessing that she’s just so tired.

It’s understood to be the pervasive fatigue that accompanies profound sadness. The kind of exhaustion that comes from a disrupted diet and disrupted sleep patterns and an overtaxed brain that has to work too hard for a moment’s peace.

W: It’s just like this wave washing over me again and again. It knocks me down and when I try to stand up, it just comes for me again. It’s just gonna drown me.

V: No, it won’t.

W: How do you know?

V: Well, because it can’t all be sorrow, can it? I’ve always been alone, so I don’t feel the lack. It’s all I’ve ever known. I’ve never experienced loss because I have never had a loved one to lose.  But what is grief, if not love persevering?

The deeper theme of the show revolves around grief and Wanda’s magical response to it (or, more accurately, her avoidance of it). It’s one of the longest audiences have been able to linger on a single of these superheroes as they grapple with the very human feelings that accompany all of the world-saving they do.

The reality that humans gifted with extreme, otherworldly powers, are still, in fact, human is what makes the stories appealing to us. They feel the same as we do.

Wanda and Vision fell in love, and he died tragically. She’s trying to process that grief in whatever way she can and still survive, just like any of us would do. The only difference is she has reality-altering powers, and the grief that lives in her so supercharges those powers that she creates a whole new life for herself, essentially replacing it with a version of idealized events that never got the chance to be.

Who among us haven’t experienced a sadness so deep that we would miss the thematic underpinning of the show? Who among us don’t have experiences for which we simply want the option to turn back the hands of time? Who among us haven’t hidden in fictional worlds in a book or TV show or movies, for a short while or perhaps longer, because it was easier and more manageable than reality?

None of us. So why people want to pretend that line about grief being a manifestation of love persevering isn’t profound and beautiful is beyond me. It is writing of the highest level. It’s short and memorable, but rings with the truth and resonance that hundreds of years’ (and hundreds of thousands of words’) worth of literature and poems and song lyrics have been trying to tell us in a longer format.

IndieWire’s review summed it that sentiment perfectly:This last line is such a powerful statement, such a succinct encapsulation of a profound feeling, it’s hard to believe it’s just eight words long.

Or, more succinctly, as Vulture’s review put it: (Sheesh, what a line. Goddamn it.)

The internet will come for the show’s fans and adherents. The mob will shoot it down as trite or unoriginal or unremarkable in some way. But, to me, that reads as willful ignorance. It doesn’t take a diehard fan of the show or a Marvel devotee to appreciate the truth, and therefore the beauty, of that line. A decade of following the characters, investing in them and rooting for them, allows for it to land a bit heavier in the moment, sure; I’ll concede that. But that line was the epitome of a thing that’s so obviously true that it’s hard to believe it’s not a well-established quote, like a song lyric that perfectly captures the way you feel about something and all you can do is say, “Damn, I wish I’d written that.”