With the click of a television screen, WandaVision begins, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe takes its first step into the world of TV. And, as expected of a sitcom starring a witch and her robot husband, the new era is off to a very strange start.
For those who avoided watching any trailers or reading any previews about Disney+’s inaugural MCU TV show, WandaVision’s two-episode rollout on Friday probably feels like a blindsiding. Anyone expecting to sit down to the familiar sights of an action-packed superhero spectacle was met with a black-and-white sitcom pulled straight out of the 1950s, laugh track and all. With heavy influences from classics like I Love Lucy, The Dick Van Dyke Show, and Bewitched, WandaVision’s first episodes feel like a show displaced in time—a feeling that is decidedly shared by our newlywed heroes Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany).
Following the opening theme song, the premiere wastes little time in reintroducing us to Vision and the Scarlet Witch. Using her magical powers, Wanda floats plates and glasses around the kitchen as she cleans, accidentally nailing Vision in the head with a plate as he enters the room. “My wife and her flying saucers,” Vision deadpans, holding a morning newspaper in hand.
“My husband and his indestructible head,” Wanda responds with a smile.
Long gone are the epic battles to save humankind from genocidal robots and purple-skinned aliens, as Wanda and Vision do their best to assimilate to suburban mid-century life. Wanda—arguably the most powerful superhero in the entire MCU—stays at home, cooks and cleans, and repeatedly receives unprompted homemaking advice from next-door neighbor Agnes (Kathryn Hahn). Vision, meanwhile, wears a suit and tie (along with a human face) to work at Computational Services Inc., a company that he’s helped increase productivity by 300 percent despite having no clue what it does. (CSI inadvertently broke into the age of artificial intelligence decades before any of its competitors.)
While the first episode’s aesthetics mirror I Love Lucy, the second episode begins to resemble later sitcoms like Bewitched or I Dream of Jeannie. The set and costume designs, performances, camerawork, and theme songs all evolve from episode to episode as Wanda and Vision apparently jump through decades of television history. Though WandaVision wasn’t originally intended to be the first MCU television entry—that honor was once meant to belong to the more traditional The Falcon and the Winter Soldier—it now feels very fitting that Marvel’s beginning its big-screen convergence with TV with an homage to the medium itself.
With WandaVision’s first two episodes running around a quick 30 minutes each, as well as being a true sitcom in nature thus far, Marvel is surely running the risk of losing some viewers in Week 1. Yet for those willing to wait, showrunner Jac Schaeffer seems to be slowly building up the mystery, laying the foundation for the series by fully immersing it into the sitcom world that has become Wanda and Vision’s new reality. Because between the wacky dinner situations and talent shows (for the children), the cracks keep showing in the idyllic suburb of Westview; some outside world is trying to get into the twisted, dated society that Westview’s residents appear to be trapped in. So, with this week’s introduction to WandaVision, let’s begin this double-episode recap by exploring ...
What’s Really Happening?
Beneath the sitcom facades that shroud the true nature of WandaVision’s world, it’s clear that there is something amiss in Westview. In the premiere, Wanda and Vision can’t seem to remember what the heart symbol marked on their calendar denotes—and for that matter, they can’t seem to remember anything at all. While their apparent amnesia serves as a consistent source of some good ol’ light-hearted sitcom humor, as well as the setup to the unexpected dinner with Vision’s boss, Mr. Hart, and his wife—played by two classic character actors, Fred Melamed and Debra Jo Rupp—the tone begins to darken as they sit down for the meal.
“So, where did you two move from? What brought you here, how long have you been married, and why don’t you have children yet?” Mrs. Hart asks in a rapid-fire series of questions, earning some laughs from the studio audience. Wanda and Vision both begin to stumble in their responses, and Mr. Hart starts pressing the confused couple to answer the questions—and then he starts to choke on his food. Wanda remains in a dazed state, the room starts to shake, some eerie Twilight Zone–style music cues in, and the camerawork quickly becomes more dynamic in its tracking. Mrs. Hart—laughing, for some reason—tells her husband to stop, but before long, she turns her attention to Wanda, almost pleading for her to “stop it” instead. Wanda eventually commands Vision to help Mr. Hart, and after Vision phases through his boss’s neck to yank out the food, the camera returns to its normal state, and Mr. and Mrs. Hart act as if nothing happened.
Instances like the dinner scene begin to appear more frequently in Episode 2. Early in the episode, Wanda hears a loud thud in the front yard, and finds a curious item lodged in a bush: a red-and-yellow toy helicopter with a sword symbol on it. The toy is the first instance of color in what was otherwise a black-and-white world, but before Wanda can figure out its nature or origin, Agnes arrives to depart with Wanda for a planning committee meeting for the town’s talent show.
Later, the power-hungry leader of the planning committee, Dottie, cuts her hand and (literally) bleeds color into the world of Westview. As she begins to tell Wanda that she knows everything about her and Vision, a nearby radio starts scrambling in the background. “Who is doing this to you, Wanda?” a voice calls out to her through the static. Dottie forgets who Wanda is, seemingly breaking character as her face fills with panic. In an instant, the radio explodes, and Dottie shatters the glass in her hand, spilling red blood into a scene otherwise devoid of color. Just like Mrs. Hart, Dottie quickly goes back to normal (normal?), and the show’s laugh track soon returns.
And lastly, after Wanda and Vision’s dazzling magic performance in the talent show that featured a drunken Vision (due to some Big Red gum clogging his gears) using his actual powers and Wanda disguising his mess by using powers of her own, we see the first outsider to successfully enter Westview. Just moments after the suddenly-pregnant Wanda asks Vision whether everything is “really happening” (we’ll get back to that pregnancy later), there’s another loud thud. Wanda and Vision watch as a man emerges from a sewer. For whatever reason, he’s wearing a bee-keeping suit branded with the same sword symbol that appeared on the toy helicopter. After he locks eyes with Wanda, she simply says, “No.” With that, the scene rewinds and the narrative course-corrects, ensuring the encounter never takes place at all.
Through two episodes, there are far more questions than answers. The sword symbol will look familiar to comic book fans, as it ties to the intelligence agency known as S.W.O.R.D. (Basically, it’s the space version of S.H.I.E.L.D., which has been around in the MCU since Iron Man was released like 200 films ago.) It remains to be seen whether S.W.O.R.D. will function the same as it did in the comics, but the bee-keeping guy is now the third instance of the logo appearing—the first one popped up on a desk at the end of Episode 1—and whoever they are, Wanda wants no part of them. For now, it seems, she wants to continue life with her resurrected husband in her suburban sitcom land, regardless of who else may be trapped inside of it with her.
Who to Watch Out For
One of the characters introduced in the second episode is a member of the planning committee who goes by the name of Geraldine (played by Teyonah Parris), but even she seems to be unsure of who she really is. Just as Dottie breaks character when the man on the radio attempts to make contact with Wanda, Geraldine hesitates for a moment when Wanda introduces herself.
Beyond this small shared moment, the main source of doubt about Geraldine comes from the simple fact that Parris’s character had already been previously revealed to the public ahead of the series as being Monica Rambeau, a name that should excite any Marvel comic book fan. Though Episode 2 may have been Parris’s first appearance in the MCU, it isn’t the first time we’re meeting Rambeau. The last time we saw the Louisiana native was in Captain Marvel, when she was just a Fresh Prince of Bel-Air-loving child of the ’90s. Now decades later, Monica—I mean, “Geraldine”—has somehow found herself stuck in Westview. Given her role in the comics, where she was once Captain Marvel herself, there will surely be more in store for her than assisting in a talent-show disappearing act. How Marvel manages to connect the two timelines will be an interesting story line to look out for as the season continues.
Wanda and Vision’s Children
At the end of the second episode, just before the black-and-white sitcom world of WandaVision turns to color at last, Wanda very suddenly becomes pregnant. Now, naturally, there are a lot of questions here. The first one being, well, Vision is a robot … so, how does that work? Does Vision even have a penis? (Sorry, this is probably not the image you wanted in your mind and there are surely children watching this show. Paul Bettany claims it’s purple, though, in case you were wondering.) As The Ringer’s Charles Holmes recently wrote, Wanda and Vision’s romantic relationship has a long, complicated history in the comics. In the 1970s, Avengers writer Steve Englehart told fan magazine FOOM, “It’s always been my opinion that the Vision could not be a natural father.”
And yet, in one of Wanda and Vision’s story arcs in the 1980s, Wanda gives birth to twin boys named Tommy and Billy. Before long, the children are revealed to be mere products of Wanda’s magic, and they disappear whenever Wanda leaves their presence, scaring the living hell out of unsuspecting babysitters in the process. Even worse, these magical baby projections (?) are at one point stolen away by a demonically-enhanced villain, who essentially uses them for limbs. I wish I was making this stuff up, but comic books were truly wild in the ’80s. Check out this nightmare fuel:
Anyway, now that we’ve addressed one terrifying possibility raised by Wanda’s very sudden pregnancy, it’s totally possible we never see WandaVision go down this disturbing path. (Baby arms are probably a step too far.) Wanda and Vision’s children were later reincarnated in the comics in the 2000s, and grew up to become Young Avengers themselves. It’d likely be a bit too much to try to pack in new heroes like Wiccan and Speed into this short season, but at least we know there’s a happier alternative lying around in Marvel’s mountains of IP.
The WandaVision Commercials
Though it’s very possible that there were things that I missed in the first two episodes—help me out, reddit—WandaVision has been surprisingly light on Easter eggs for an MCU property so far. (Aside from the actual eggs Wanda makes when she accidentally deages a live chicken.) The only notable ones have appeared in the form of commercials: one for Stark Industries and one for Hydra.
In the premiere, the first commercial comes as a bit of a surprise. A man wearing a suit promotes the Toast Mate 2000 by Stark Industries. “Is your husband tired of you burning his toast?” he asks with a cheap grin, as WandaVision continues to overtly poke fun of the misogyny of the era. The Toast Mate 2000 is evidently one of Howard Stark’s creations, and while it might not be as impressive as one of the fancy suits his son would eventually build, it’s pretty cool that this toaster can heat up anything from meat loaf to a slice of cherry pie.
Following suit, the second episode features a commercial for a watch crafted by Strucker, a likely reference to Wolfgang von Strucker (or like his grandfather or something, I guess?). Strucker was the leader of the evil organization Hydra and appeared in Avengers: Age of Ultron, the film that introduced both Wanda and Vision in the MCU. The Hydra symbol is placed smack dab in the middle of the watch, but given that Hydra would later only secretly identify each other by gently whispering in their comrades’ ears, I’d imagine the Strucker watch would’ve been discontinued not long after this commercial was made (if it even existed outside of Wanda’s imagination in the first place, that is).
With the meta-nature of WandaVision’s sitcom reality continuing to unfold, it seems as if we’ll keep getting these Easter-egg commercials moving forward. But eventually, whoever it is that’s trying to get into Wanda’s world will succeed—even the Scarlet Witch is unlikely to be able to keep altering the fabric of this reality. Once that happens, self-referential commercials may be replaced with something closer to what we’ve seen on the big screen over the past decade.
WandaVision is off to a slow, weird start through its first two episodes, and content-hungry Marvel fans may not like the odd direction it’s taking. But if we’ve learned anything from its vast web of interconnected films, Marvel always has a plan.