The way WandaVision subtly expresses gore and violence is one of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s most impressive creative accomplishments so far.

WARNING: The following contains spoilers for WandaVision Episode 5, “On a Very Special Episode…,” now streaming on Disney+.

Part of the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe lies with its ability to tell stories about superheroes battling malevolent evil-doers within the limitations of a PG-13 or TV-14 rating. This allows the franchise to touch on more mature themes and ideas geared towards older viewers while at the same time serving up action and humor that’s considered acceptable for non-adults. Disney+’s WandaVision, however, is unique in that it expresses gore and violence without being any more explicit or graphic than most other MCU projects.

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Seeing as the MCU exists within Disney’s family-oriented brand, the property doesn’t really have the creative license to show true gore, much less be overtly artistic in its representation of violence. The big exceptions so far are the live-action Marvel Netflix series, particularly Daredevil and The Punisher. Of course, because those shows were produced by the now-defunct Marvel Television, they aren’t necessarily regarded as being part of the MCU proper. What’s more, whereas those series were quite explicit in the way they depicted acts of violence and bloodshed on-screen, WandaVision has proven that a little can go a long way by using visual metaphors for gore instead.

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To a degree, WandaVision‘s general approach is the result of the show’s need to remain faithful to the tone of the classic sitcoms it homages while at the same time operating within the same confines they did. For example, in its first two episodes, WandaVision used wry innuendo to show just how horny Wanda and Vision are for one another, in ways that recall the 1950s and ’60s TV shows that inspired them. The first episode similarly featured a memorably unnerving moment where Vision reached his hand through his boss’ throat to stop him from choking, in the process evoking the visual of him ripping someone else’s throat out without featuring a single drop of blood.

WandaVision Episode 2 featured another quietly violent image during its opening credits, in which Vision phases through the ceiling of his and Wanda’s home, revealing bones and what appeared to be the Grim Reaper’s helmet in the house’s plumbing system. The episode later followed that up with some actual gore in the scene where Wanda’s neighbor Dottie crushes a glass cup in her hand, her red blood contrasting vividly with the episode’s black and white scenery. Indeed, the shot of Dottie’s bloodied palm wasn’t shocking because it was really all that graphic, it was more to do with the way the episode used red to symbolize something terribly wrong in a monochrome world.

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Obviously, Wanda’s glimpse of a dead Vision in Episode 4 is perhaps WandaVision‘s most unabashedly violent images so far, yet even then it managed to be unsettling without including any actual gore. Episode 5’s opening credits were far more subtle in their suggestion of violence by comparison, showing a magically enchanted brush filling in Vision’s head with red watercolor as it painted in the shades of a portrait sketch of Wanda, Vision and their sons. The episode’s Lagos commercial likewise showed a bright-red drink being wiped up by paper towels, once again implying the presence of blood without actually showing any.

Dead Vision hallucination from WandaVision Episode 4

The most powerful images on WandaVision so far have been expressed through the prism of Wanda’s mind as she tries to come to terms with the events that led to her current situation. For that reason, it would tricky for a more grounded MCU project to be nearly as provocative in its use of violence. Even the upcoming The Falcon and the Winter Soldier may struggle to match the impact of WandaVision‘s “gore,” despite earning a maturing rating closer to Netflix’s Daredevil. Simply showing Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes pummeling bad guys with their fists won’t have the impact of WandaVision‘s visual metaphors for the traumatic effects of violence.

Really, if there’s any impending MCU title that could match WandaVision in this respect, it would likely be Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Between Wanda’s confirmed role and Sam Raimi directing, the Doctor Strange sequel promises to serve up some genuinely unsettling imagery through the lens of magic in the MCU. Even then, though, the film would be building on foundation laid by WandaVision, which only makes the show’s quiet use of gore and violence perhaps the franchise’s most sublime accomplishment to date.

Written by Jac Schaeffer and directed by Matt Shakman, WandaVision stars Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch, Paul Bettany as Vision, Randall Park as Agent Jimmy Woo, Kat Dennings as Darcy Lewis, Teyonah Parris as Monica Rambeau and Kathryn Hahn as Agnes. New episodes air Fridays on Disney+.

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