“So you’re saying the universe created a sitcom starring two Avengers?”
FBI agent Jimmy Woo (Randall Park) poses this question midway through the fourth episode of WandaVision as he, Dr. Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings), and several S.W.O.R.D. agents huddle around a vintage television screen. Woo may have been asking this to the people sharing the room with him, but really, he was speaking on behalf of everyone who spent the last two weeks watching WandaVision.
Before this fourth episode, titled “We Interrupt This Program,” each episode of WandaVision had been set in successive decades of classic sitcoms, starting with the black-and-white, I Love Lucy–era 1950s in the premiere before reaching the colorful Brady Bunch–era ’70s in the third episode. Each 30-minute program featured a different theme song, wardrobe, and character performances to match the times, and though there were hints at what was really happening outside of Wanda Maximoff’s alternate reality, WandaVision was—as advertised—a true sitcom series.
Not anymore. This week’s episode skipped the catchy themes and sitcom homages and—finally—opened the mystery box.
Just like WandaVision, we’re going to switch up the format for this week’s recap to focus on how the series tied the first three episodes together and where they fit within the greater scope of the MCU, before reacquainting ourselves with some familiar faces.
What’s Really Happening?
As if answering the pleas of every Marvel fan desperate for explanation, the fourth episode of WandaVision wastes little time jumping into the action. Monica Rambeau, formerly known in Westview as Geraldine, wakes up in a hospital weeks before the events of WandaVision take place. Although, “wakes up” doesn’t quite capture it: More accurately, Monica appears in the hospital, as her body comes together like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. We find her returning to the land of the living right in the middle of “The Blip.”
Let’s back up for a minute here. In 2018’s Avengers: Infinity War, the 19th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the inevitable Thanos wiped out half of all life in the universe with a snap of his fingers. At random, life-forms from spiders to Spider-Man turned to dust, leaving everyone else to question their existence like they were a character in The Leftovers. Five years passed between the fateful snap and the events of Endgame, and things had profoundly changed: Tony Stark and Pepper Potts had a child together, Steve Rogers became the leader of a support group, the Hulk and Bruce Banner learned to coexist, and Thor developed a much, uh, thiccer physique. After the Avengers and the remaining Guardians of the Galaxy banded together for a “time heist” to retrieve all six Infinity Stones that granted Thanos the power to cause the great Snapture, the heroes were able to reverse Thanos’s snap and its effects on the universe. As high school student Betty Brant describes the event in Spider-Man: Far From Home, “they called it ‘The Blip.’ Those of us who blipped away came back the same age, but our classmates that didn’t blip grew five years older.” (A convenient workaround for the purposes of a high school movie, I’d say.)
This week’s episode of WandaVision gives us our first glimpse at what the Blip looked like in real time, as Monica runs through the chaos of a hospital that is suddenly filling up with people who had been missing for five years. We also see some of the unavoidable tragedy of the Avengers’ world-saving efforts: The returned Monica searches for her mother, Maria, but as a doctor explains to her, Maria died of cancer three years earlier, two years after Monica’s sudden disappearance.
Three weeks pass before Monica returns to her work as an agent for S.W.O.R.D. (the Sentient Weapon Observation Response Division), the intelligence agency that has been disrupting Wanda’s sitcoms, much to the Scarlet Witch’s growing displeasure. Captain Rambeau is eager to return to the field, but the acting director of S.W.O.R.D. tells her that she’s been “grounded” and available for terrestrial missions only (we’ll circle back to that a little later), which leaves her stuck with a boring assignment helping out the FBI with a missing persons case in New Jersey.
But as we know from previous episodes, the boring assignment meant to ease her back to the workforce is anything but. Monica meets Agent Woo outside the town of Westview, which . . . apparently doesn’t even exist, according to some police officers from Eastview. Monica sends in a small helicopter drone, but once it reaches the town line, it vanishes into thin air. As Monica approaches it, she sees that there’s an energy field surrounding the town:
Against Jimmy’s warnings, Monica gets too close to the barrier, and before long, she’s pulled into the town like that poor kid who gets sucked into the TV set in Poltergeist. Monica never meant to go into Westview at all, which explains her confusion when she introduced herself as Geraldine in the second episode, or when she let it slip that she knew about Ultron just before Wanda hurled her out of Westview in the following episode.
Within moments of astrophysicist Darcy Lewis’s arrival 24 hours later, she (rather easily) picks up the broadcast of Wanda’s sitcom. What follows is a retread of all the big moments from WandaVision’s first three episodes from the perspective outside of Westview, as those living in the MCU get to experience the same confusion we all did through the first hour and a half of the series. “It’s a sitcom, a 1950s sitcom,” Darcy explains to Agent Woo, as they watch the black-and-white WandaVision premiere.
“. . . But why?” Agent Woo wonders aloud. (US TOO, JIMMY. US TOO.)
Starting with Wanda and Vision, Darcy, Jimmy, and Co. begin to piece together the identities of the actors who have unknowingly been cast in Wanda’s sitcom, as they attempt to uncover the mystery behind the so-called “Westview Anomaly.” And in what’s starting to look like a trend, Jimmy is asking all the right questions:
We learn that Darcy was the mysterious person studying the TV at the conclusion of the premiere, and that Jimmy was the voice on the other end of the radio transmission in the second episode. It also turns out that the creepy beekeeper guy was actually just some hazmat-suit-wearing S.W.O.R.D. dude named Franklin, and the colorful toy helicopter Wanda found in her front yard was the same drone that Monica sent in. Both the beekeeper suit and the retro version of the helicopter morphed as they passed from the outside reality into Westview, potentially to stay consistent with the production design of Wanda’s TV show. (If only such an excuse could’ve been woven into the plot of Game of Thrones to explain that whole Starbucks cup mishap.)
As Darcy and Jimmy eat chips—LAY’S CHIPS, that is; go buy a bag—and watch the third episode together, the crucial scene where Monica blows her cover as Geraldine begins to unfold. “Did she just say the name Ultron?” Jimmy asks Darcy. “Has that happened before? A reference to our reality?” But just as Wanda starts to threaten Geraldine, the episode skips ahead to the credits, passing by Vision’s strange encounter with the neighbors outside, and with no explanation as to what happened to Geraldine. As Darcy guesses, someone may be censoring the broadcast. The alarms at the S.W.O.R.D. response base begin to sound off, and Darcy and Jimmy run out to find Monica lying dazed on the grass. Meanwhile, the camera stays glued to Wanda, and in reverse of what happened at the end of last week’s episode, the aspect ratio resizes as we enter the world of Westview.
Though we witnessed Monica flying through the air at the end of the third episode and could easily conclude that Wanda was the culprit, this week we get to see that scene in full. “You’re not my neighbor, and you’re definitely not my friend,” Wanda menacingly says to Geraldine, while she begins to twirl her glowing red hands. “You are a stranger and an outsider. And right now, you are trespassing here. And I want you to leave.” Wanda then unleashes her powers on Geraldine, sending Monica through the side of her house (as well as the neighbor’s) before she eventually lands outside of Westview. Vision storms into their home, just as he did last episode, except this time, when Wanda turns around to look at him, the synthezoid isn’t looking so good:
The gray, lifeless Vision appears just as he did after Thanos tore the Mind Stone from his forehead at the end of Infinity War. If it wasn’t clear enough before now, the moment shows how much Wanda is still grieving, and that this entire sitcom reality is just a safe haven that Wanda has created for herself to cope with the loss of her lover. “This is our home,” Wanda tells a concerned Vision. “Don’t worry, darling. I have everything under control.”
As a still-worried Vision and Wanda sit down on the couch with the newborn twins in hand, the outside-the-bubble events of WandaVision officially catch up to where the sitcom left off. Now that the series has fully broken down the walls dividing the sitcom and the greater world of the MCU, it’ll be interesting to see how they split time between the two settings, or if the show will just jump right back into another new theme song next week, as Wanda and Vision meet the ’80s. (Here’s a still of Kathryn Hahn in a jazzercise outfit, as a preview.)
Familiar Faces from the MCU
Though Geraldine was fooling absolutely no one, this week’s episode finally revealed that Teyonah Parris’s true role in the series is as Captain Monica Rambeau. As I’ve mentioned in previous explainers, Rambeau was first introduced in the MCU as a child in Captain Marvel. And the first sounds we hear in this episode are pulled directly from the 2019 film, as a young Monica can be heard talking to Nick Fury about building a spaceship one day, along with her mother’s voice, and Captain Marvel calling her “Lieutenant Trouble.”
Though there’s still a lot we don’t know about Monica, the fourth episode does explain what S.W.O.R.D. is and how it relates to her mother. When Monica shows up at S.W.O.R.D. headquarters, a plaque on the wall honors Maria “Photon” Rambeau—a reference to Monica’s superhero moniker in the comic books. As the acting S.W.O.R.D. director mentions, Maria built the Sentient Weapon Observation Response Division from the ground up. And though the acronym is slightly different from what it is in the comics, with “Weapon” replacing “World,” it seems as if the agency is still essentially the space version of S.H.I.E.L.D. “Space is now full of unexpected threats,” Director Hayward tells Monica.
“Always was full of threats,” she replies. “And allies.”
Monica was no stranger to space threats and alien allies in Captain Marvel, as her mother’s New Orleans home suddenly became the refuge for shape-shifting Skrulls, as well as the base of operations for (a de-aged) Nick Fury and Carol Danvers as they took on the Kree. In the decades since the events of Captain Marvel, former U.S. Air Force pilot Maria Rambeau must’ve formed this new space-related intelligence agency, and Lieutenant Trouble grew up to follow in her mother’s footsteps. Now that she’s back from whatever limbo realm she existed in after the Snap and is finally freed from the backward reality of Westview (Monica has had a rough few years, huh?), Captain Rambeau will need to figure out how to put a stop to Wanda Maximoff.
Agent Jimmy Woo and Dr. Darcy Lewis
Jimmy Woo and Darcy Lewis finally made their triumphant returns to the MCU this episode, after their last appearances in 2018’s Ant-Man and the Wasp and 2013’s Thor: The Dark World, respectively.
Woo is a former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who had left for the FBI by the time we met him as Scott Lang’s parole officer in the Ant-Man sequel. In that film, Jimmy was mesmerized by the card tricks that Scott learned during his house arrest. In the years that have since passed, Jimmy has apparently mastered a few card tricks of his own, and he shows off his skills to Monica when he meets her outside of Westview. Other than that, Jimmy’s still got jokes and is still gainfully employed by the FBI, cleaning up the messes of superheroes.
Darcy, meanwhile, has had quite the come-up since we last saw her assisting Dr. Jane Foster and problematically making out with her intern in that Thor sequel with all the dark elves. (Honestly, all I really care to remember of that film can be covered by Matt Damon and Luke “Stubbs” Hemsworth in Thor: Ragnarok.) All these years later, Darcy has earned the “doctor” title herself, and she’s clearly a formidable astrophysicist— within minutes of arriving at the S.W.O.R.D. response base, she cracked the entire case and was running the entire operation alongside Agent Woo.
With Agent Woo and Dr. Lewis now in the fold, and with Captain Rambeau and S.W.O.R.D. properly introduced, WandaVision has graciously begun to explain what direction it’s heading in, while providing a brief reprieve from its weekly fake-sitcom format. As the series enters the second half of its only season, we’ll soon see how long it takes for the laugh track to drown out as Wanda continues down a villainous path.