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Review: A guide to ‘WandaVision’

“WandaVision” stars Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany in their recurring roles, Wanda Maximoff and Vision. Photo courtesy of Disney+.

Writer’s Note: This review contains spoilers for “WandaVision”  and other films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe

“WandaVision” follows two of the most beloved characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe: Wanda Maximoff, otherwise known as the Scarlet Witch, and Vision, played by Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany, respectively.

From their introductions in the hit film “Avengers: Age of Ultron” and their budding romance in “Captain America: Civil War,” many fans hoped for a deserving happily ever after.

We all know the horrific ending to Wanda and Vision’s story: Wanda being forced to use her telekinitic and energy manipulation powers to destroy Vision’s Mind Stone so Thanos, a titan set on wiping out half of the universe, is unable to use it. A seemingly successful attempt, but a vain one, as Thanos used his already-collected Time Stone, turned time back, retrieved the stone and killed Vision for a second time.

While “Avengers: Infinity Wars” and “Avengers: Endgame”did not quite deliver their fairytale ending, it seems “WandaVision” has stepped in for the very purpose, or so it seems.

Episode 1: Filmed Before a Live Studio Audience

The curtain opens on an unusually nostalgic scene; Vision and Wanda, having just gotten married, appear on a black and white screen. A theme song reminiscient of a 1950s sitcom plays as they enter their new home. Both of the characters seem eerily normal, although it looks like they’re trapped in the wrong time period.

As the episode goes on, we’re introduced to Wanda and Vision’s neighbor, Agnes, who pops in as the classic sitcom comedic relief. The show cuts to a commercial break, featuring a toaster produced by Stark Industries.

All seems ordinary, for the two Avengers from the 21st century existing in a 1950s sitcom, until Vision’s boss and his wife come to dinner. While Wanda struggles to conceal her powers throughout the course of the visit, it is not until Mr. Hart starts questioning the couple on their history do things go downhill. Hart begins to choke on his food, as Wanda gains a blank, confused stare. In an ominous tone, Wanda tells Vision to aid Hart. After the incident, everything goes back to its perfectionist state.

The credits begin to roll, and a frame appears of a computer screen playing the episode of WandaVision. A logo appears on the corner of the frame: Sentient World Observation and Response Department (SWORD).

Review

So far, “WandaVision” has left many questions to be answered: Why are Wanda and Vision in a sitcom? Is Vision actually alive? What time period are they in? Who are the people in the town? Is Wanda responsible for this? Where does SWORD fit in?

The reference to Wanda’s past via the Stark Industries toaster oven could be indicating Wanda’s trauma as a whole. Wanda and her twin brother were orphaned at a young age in Sokovia, on account of a Stark Industries bomb. When the toaster oven was flashing, it emitted a sound reminiscent of the sound of a Stark Industries bomb going off in the original Iron Man movie. This, along with Wanda’s overall deeply tragic life, has led me to believe that she is at least somewhat responsible for the happenings within this town.

As a lifelong comic book fan myself, the complexities and secrets “WandaVision” holds are greatly satisfying. Hidden details and messages keep me, and I assume many viewers, wanting more. While this first episode was more to set up the sitcom narrative, I’m excited to see what the next episodes hold.

 

Episode 2: Don’t Touch That Dial

In episode two, we are transported to the 1960s. The setting remains the same, with Vision at his computational services job, the pair in the same home as well as the town: Westview.

The episode begins with Wanda and Vision being suddenly awakened by a loud thud outside their home, which they conclude to be caused by a tree. The plot of ‘Don’t Touch That Dial’ centers around the town’s upcoming fundraiser: Westview’s Annual Talent Show. Wanda and Agnes attend the committee meeting for the fundraiser, run by the “cul de sac Queen” Dottie. During this meeting, we encounter some new characters, but most notably, Geraldine.

From the committee meeting, the episode cuts to Vision attending a neighborhood watch meeting, where he accidentally ingests a stick of gum. Vision, being essentially an android, starts exhibiting weird personality shifts, which results in Vision displaying his inhuman abilities during his and Wanda’s performance at the talent show. Wanda is able to mask his performance under the veil of the nature of their act: a magic show. Prior to the talent show, it cuts back to the committee meeting where Wanda effectively apologizes to Dottie for her imperfect behavior during the meeting. In spite of this, Dottie confronts Wanda, questioning her and Vision’s identity and intents. Wanda resumes the concerned expression she had during the encounter with Mr. Hart in the previous episode.

As this occurs, the radio located across from the pair starts to shout out a message, “Wanda, Wanda, can you read me?… Wanda, Wanda, who’s doing this to you Wanda?” The radio and Dottie’s glass suddenly explode, cutting Dottie. In doing so, Dottie’s blood is the second display of color in the show thus far, the first being a red toy helicopter which landed in Wanda’s bushes. As the couple returns home after their performance, Wanda suddenly appears pregnant. As they’re enveloped in this blissful discovery, they suddenly hear a loud thud, similar to the one that the episode started on. After going outside to investigate, a beekeeper climbs out of the sewer on their street. Wanda looks directly at the beekeeper and simply says, “No.” The show rewinds all the way back to the pregnancy discovery, and the episode ends with the world suddenly appearing in color.

 

Review 

Episode two does not seem to have answered many of the questions left from the prior, but rather introduced more. The newly introduced Geraldine had an interesting encounter with Wanda at their introduction. It appeared that until Wanda shook her hand, Geraldine seemed at a loss for her own name. What makes Geraldine different from the other characters? While there is no conclusive answer, it does seem to reinforce my theory that Wanda is somehow in control of this whole situation.

That, along with Wanda being able to rewind the episode, and seemingly cut out what didn’t fit her quota: the beekeeper. This character, who still remains unidentifiable, has never been seen before, possibly because he entered Westview at that specific moment. Interestingly, as he entered, we heard same loud thud that we heard at the beginning of the episode. Could this sound represent someone new entering Westview? If this is true, who was the first new character to enter? The beekeeper also displayed a familiar logo, SWORD, which has been popping up in various ways. A connection linking the show with SWORD has yet to be found, but with Wanda’s immediate opposition to the beekeeper, there may be a potential conflict between the organization and our leading lady.

Like in episode one, the commercial breaks are a jackpot for easter eggs. ‘Don’t Touch That Dial’ displayed an advertisement for a Strucker watch. Marvel fans were quick to make the connection to Wanda’s past history with Baron Wolfgang von Strucker, a former leader of Hydra, who experimented on Wanda and her twin Pietro, ultimately giving them their superhuman abilities. Although Wanda’s involvement in the town is basically a fact, this Hydra clue may imply an outside, possibly evil, source.

Once again I am really impressed with the level of thought and detail that was put into this episode. With comic book or superhero-inspired shows, I tend to find myself disappointed, as many lack the level of imagination that these characters and stories should inspire. “WandaVision” has been a breath of fresh air with its incredibly intelligent storyline and writing.

 

Episode 3: Now in Color

Keeping with the theme, episode three is now a decade forward in the 1970s. “Now in Color” largely focuses on Wanda’s pregnancy, which is developing at a rapid rate. As Wanda and Vision prepare for their new addition, they worry about concealing the abnormality of the pregnancy.

When Vision discusses the near misses and unusual circumstances they’ve had with the people of Westview, such as Mr. Hart in episode one, the show rewinds, and Vision’s worries are cut out. As Wanda starts to go into labor, Vision rushes off for the doctor and Wanda is surprised with a visit from Geraldine. A commercial break ensues, depicting a bath product called Hydra Soak, which is advertising an escape from all the troubles of reality.

While attempting to hide her pregnancy, Wanda’s powers seem to be uncontrolled as she experiences contractions, which cause numerous disturbances. Sprinkles going off, kitchen appliances turning on and the painted stork in the nursery suddenly coming to life.

Alas, Wanda’s best efforts are no match for labor and Geraldine ends up delivering the baby boy before Vision returns with the doctor. Just as all seems to calm down, Wanda starts screaming in pain as it occurs she’s delivering another baby. As Vision walks the doctor outside, he asks if he’ll return to his vacation plans, in which he responds, “Small towns, you know…so hard to escape.”

It cuts back to Wanda and Geraldine with the two baby boys, Tommy and Billy, where Wanda mentions the fact that she is also a twin, referring to her brother Pietro. Geraldine assumes an expression of realization and mentions suddenly that Pietro was killed by Ultron. Wanda, shocked with this level of truth confronts Geraldine and notices the symbol on her necklace: SWORD.

The scene returns to Vision having a conversation with his neighbors Agnes and Herb. Nervously, they ask about Geraldine and start to explain to Vision her questionable status, given that she’s brand-new to town, has no family or husband and no home. Herb begins to explain Geraldine’s circumstances, “She came here because we’re all…” but seems unable to complete his statement, especially with Agnes stopping him from continuing. Vision rushes inside to find Wanda alone with the babies. The episode ends with Geraldine being thrown outside of what seems to be a barrier enveloping Westview, surrounded by a government response.

Review 

With episode three, we finally are starting to see some potential answers. While in the previous episodes, small pieces of evidence were left to give viewers the impression that Wanda was manipulating reality into this sitcom universe, ‘Now in Color’ is proof. Wanda’s revision of Vision’s statements, the commercial break, which seems to be a reflection of reality, describing a way to escape reality and ultimately Geraldine’s banishment from Westview when mentioning Pietro’s fate. Wanda seems to be in full control of this town, possibly using Westview as a coping mechanism following the death of Vision and her prior tragedies.

But in true “WandaVision” fashion, we can’t be left without at least a few questions. With the adorable introduction of Tommy and Billy, many fans remember the fate of Wanda’s children in the comics. Unknowingly, she created her twin babies through her witchcraft abilities, but they only actually existed in her reality. This doesn’t seem to be the fate of Tommy and Billy, as the other characters have the ability to see the pair, but as is most things in the show, the reality is very skewed and we probably won’t know the truth behind the twins for a while.

The last major point that I noticed was Vision’s strange encounters with his neighbors. All three of the characters seem to have some level of awareness, like a sense that something is wrong. The doctor demonstrates the idea of being trapped in Westview, and Herb and Agnes sense that something is off with Geraldine. It seems as though they know they’re in a dire situation and that Geraldine was sent on a mission to relieve them, and with all of the references to SWORD, that seems very probable. But why are these characters suddenly aware? If they’re really in danger, why does Agnes prohibit Herb from informing Vision? What level of awareness does Vision actually have?

Viewers are assuming that with Geraldine’s forceful exit into the real world, we are dealing with some alternate reality situation. Hopefully, the coming episodes will enlighten us with explanations behind the many easter eggs.

 

Episode 4: We Interrupt This Program 

We enter episode four with a haunting image: Geraldine returning from the Blip (Thanos’ catastrophic event which dissolved half of the universe’s population) and awaking in an empty hospital bed. Geraldine rushes around the hospital as chaos ensues, searching for her mother. In reality, Geraldine is actually Monica Rambeau, daughter of Maria Rambeau, who we were introduced to in Captain Marvel. In Rambeau’s three-year absence, her mother Maria had passed away from cancer to Monica’s horror, as in her reality no time had ever passed.

Three weeks pass, and Rambeau returns to her work at SWORD, where she finds her mother’s position as director filled by Agent Hayward. According to her mother’s guidelines, Rambeau is benched from extraterrestrial missions and finds herself pursuing a missing person case with the FBI in Westview, New Jersey. There she meets FBI Agent James Woo, familiarized by his role in Ant-Man and the Wasp. Woo explains that the missing person is under witness protection and was last located in the town of Westview.

When the agents encounter the local sheriffs, they discover that they and all citizens outside of Westview have no recollection of the town. Through Rambeau’s investigations, she finds an energy field covering the entirety of the town, and as she reaches out through it, she gets herself sucked in.

As a result of Rambeau’s disappearing act, people from all branches and organizations start to set up around Westview. Among those people is Darcy Lewis, previously assistant to Jane Foster in the first two “Thor” films. Darcy, now an expert in Astro Physics, makes the breakthrough discovery in the search for Captain Rambeau. She discovers a broadcast frequency being emitted from Westview and is able to tune into WandaVision. From there, the team works to gather intel and identify as much as they can from the show.

Darcy and Woo join forces and attempt to send a signal to Wanda’s radio. While from their end it seems unsuccessful, we see Woo’s message is the same from episode two, the event that caused Dottie’s glass to break. The outside world begins to coincide with the happenings of Westview. SWORD sends an agent up through the sewer to try and locate Rambeau, and as he breaks through the barrier, he transforms into a beekeeper. The same occurred with their drone, it appeared to be altered to fit a “production design.”

As Darcy and Woo follow along as viewers, we experience their reactions to the twists and turns of the show. They watch as Monica references Ultron and Wanda’s unusual exhibit of emotion, but the show immediately cuts to the end credits, censoring Wanda using her powers to send Monica out of Westview. Suddenly the base’s alarm goes off, and they rush out to find Monica returned. The missing footage suddenly plays, and we see the entirety of Monica’s encounter with Wanda, questioning her and her knowledge, and sending her through the barrier. The episode ends on an ominous note, “It’s Wanda. It’s all Wanda,” Monica said.

Review

This episode greatly differs from the previous episodes, as we see it from a whole new perspective. Now we see that the widely accepted alternate reality theory is accurate and that while some would rather not villainize Wanda, as Monica said, it’s all her. I was delighted with the introductions of Woo and Lewis, as their characters add an element of humor to this seemingly dark turning show. Many of the questions so meticulously placed by the writers were answered. The motivation behind the Westview anomaly seems very clear, and it would seem as though Wanda has become the ultimate threat so far.

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