Spoilers for the first four episodes of WandaVision. Proceed past the Spoiler Chocobo at your own risk.
Listen, I have had a first class ticket to the MCU hype train since The Avengers. The only one of these things I haven’t seen in theaters is Iron Man 2, and I guess that Hulk movie from the 2000s that some people like to pretend is a part of this web just because of that one general guy. I don’t know, I wasn’t sold on the Hulk as a character until The Avengers so I really wasn’t paying attention. It always seemed like that male fantasy of, if you get me angry I’ll be so unstoppable and it totally won’t be my fault, it’s YOUR fault I turned into a giant rage monster, you guys! Just very uncomfortable abuser undertones for me. I get that the character is supposed to be from the Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde mold but…same problem. The rollercoaster at Universal Studios Orlando is fucking great, except for the line. I don’t get it. Universal Studios is, like, God-tier when it comes to designing lines and this was the best they could do? Flashing green lights and industrial techno?
Oh, shit, I’m not here to talk about the Hulk or about ambient space design at theme parks. Guess those will have to be other articles (pick a ride at either Universal park and I could write an entire article about the line alone). My point initially was that I’ve been riding this train from the beginning, so of course I was going to watch WandaVision. I’ve been paying for a Disney+ subscription for a year now, and besides The Mandalorian, the way I’ve been making it pay for itself is rewatching Marvel movies while I cook or crochet. Based off the premise, I knew I was going to like it…I just couldn’t predict the intensity.
I have not been this engrossed in a television show in years. Every week I am actively counting down the days until Friday. I am looking up theories on tumblr and Reddit. I saw the trailer when it came out and almost wished I hadn’t because going into this show completely blind would be a trip, but on the other hand knowing the little bits I do know about where this is going hasn’t ruined a single second of my enjoyment. It’s just so cute! But also really scary. And there’s a lot of little callbacks and clues, and Elizabeth Olsen! And Paul Bettany!
Here, let’s have some organization before I devolve into high pitched dolphin noises.
The MCUiest Show of All the MCU Shows
This is not Agents of Shield or one of the Netflix Defenders shows, where references are made to the movies but otherwise don’t have much to do with them. Nick Fury shows up as a cameo in Agents of Shield and that’s it. Meanwhile, WandaVision stars two actual Avengers. If someone watched WandaVision first without having seen any of the movies, it’s not just that there would be so much they didn’t understand (like, potentially all of it), it’s that they would be depriving themselves of fully enjoying it.
The first three episodes all recreate sitcoms from different eras, and they go hard with it. The first episode, “Filmed Before a Live Studio Audience” is fully an episode of television from the time of The Dick Van Dyke Show, done without a single wink at the camera. The jokes, the special effects, the acting, the grainy black and white, the camera angles…it’s all done perfectly. Perfectly. There is about a minute and a half at the end of the episode pointing to something being wrong. Otherwise, it’s just a sitcom.
They continue with this until they break the fourth wall in the fourth episode. That’s three episodes of a weekly-released television show hinging on a gag. The thing is, though, if you’ve seen the movies, it’s not really a gag. You know instantly that something is wrong. In the MCU, it isn’t the fifties. Things aren’t in black and white. Wanda isn’t a housewife and Vision is dead. The show isn’t a good entry point into the MCU, and that’s on purpose. The show expects you to know these basic facts to make the first three episodes work as well as they do. And when it works, it works. I spent the first two episodes watching an average sitcom with every muscle in my body clenched tight waiting for something to go wrong. It’s great.
I Didn’t Realize How Much I Missed Weekly Theorizing
The last time I was this invested in the mystery of a show was Lost. Which, yeah, sounds super concerning given how that turned out. As I wrote in my thing about remaking Lost, though, one of the biggest changes they’d have to make is map out the whole thing from the beginning, and given that this is an eight episode miniseries that’s supposed to tie directly into a future movie instead of a one hundred episode multi-season show that didn’t know where it was going in the beginning and never figured it out as it went along, I have a lot more faith that the creators have a solid ending and thus will have a doomsday-event implosion if they don’t.
As soon as we finish an episode, I’m on Reddit and tumblr, looking for clues other people picked up that we missed. During the week I’ll check back in here and there to see if anyone has any good theories on what the fried fish sandwich is even going on here. It’s not quite as pure as it could be. The creators are still working off the comics, so some of the ‘speculation’ isn’t really speculation so much as just pointing to what happened in the comics. But this is not just a faithful remake of any comic, so there’s still plenty of room for guessing, and I fucking love every second of it.
My husband and I stopped binging shows around this time last year when we realized we couldn’t remember anything that happened. While watching, say, The Umbrella Academy one episode a week turned out to be a better way to stay invested, it was missing that piece of community created when everyone has to wait a week for the next episode. I’m so glad more streaming services are going back to the weekly model solely so I can go on the internet and freak out with everybody about the one episode before we get the next. The mystery at the center of WandaVision is made for this kind of viewing.
And The Show Knows It
The fourth episode, “We Interrupt This Program,” breaks the sitcom gag and shows what’s going on outside this reality bubble Wanda and Vision are stuck(?) in. SWORD is just on the outskirts of town, trying to figure out what the hell is going on just as hard as we, the viewers, are. They have their big white boards with all their clues written up and it’s all the same questions we’re asking, and then Darcy is cooing over the show because she’s gotten too drawn in, and the whole thing feels like a love letter to the chaos it’s created.
Darcy! Agent Woo! Monica Rambeau!
This is one of the little things I love about having all of these connected movies and series. Three minor characters from three different Avengers movies, brought together for this show. Darcy and Woo have a very cute working chemistry and I can’t wait to see Monica work with them now that she’s out of the reality bubble. If any of these people have a heel-turn I’m going to light myself on fire.
The First Few Minutes of Episode Four
I don’t blame Spider-Man: Far From Home for showing half the population coming back at the same time in a humorous way, because that wasn’t the point of the story and those movies have a lighter tone. That said, I really appreciated “We Interrupt This Program” showing how terrifying the ‘blip,’ as it’s called in the universe, could have been. The nurse desperately yelling, ‘we don’t have the capacity for this!’ really hit a sore spot, especially given the current situation. The two minute scene also highlights how selfish and shitty Tony Stark’s decision was. Totally in character. Very interesting from a story-telling perspective. But in-universe? Demand that everyone be brought back instead of resetting to before the snap just because you don’t want to lose one person your wife was probably pregnant with before any of this started anyway? Fantastically shitty, and the chaos of the opening minutes of episode four prove it. Monica lost two years she could have had with her mom because despite all of the selflessness he’s learned, sometimes Tony Stark still comes first.
I don’t want to end what was supposed to be a celebration of a show I’m excited about with a bitchfest about Iron Man, so here’s some other, smaller things I really like about WandaVision:
- Elizabeth Olsen is really nailing the way people acted in these sitcoms. Her mannerisms are completely different from the ‘real’ Wanda
- Paul Bettany is sort of channeling his Chaucer from A Knight’s Tale and I’m here for it
- Kathryn Hahn has slowly become one of my favorite comedic actresses over the years and she is just face-punchingly delightful as Agnes
- The crappy, era-correct special effects for Wanda’s abilities in the first three episodes, followed by the scene at the end of episode four where she uses her real abilities with the glowing red and the waving hands. She only uses her abilities the correct way when the ‘show’ isn’t being broadcast and when she’s fixing her reality
- “My husband and his indestructible head.”
- In episode three Vision is repeatedly shown using super speed. But Vision doesn’t have super speed. Wanda’s brother, Pietro, did.
- Wanda’s accent slipping back in when she talks about Pietro
- Whatever is going on, Vision is in no way in charge, and he’s getting suspicious (I’m not acknowledging what happened at the end of episode four because I don’t want to)
- The energy field around Westview looks like TV static
- Agent Woo learned how to do the card trick and Darcy got her PhD! Besides being subtle nods to the previous movies, these tidbits also tell the viewer that neither of these people were snapped.
- Agent Woo is incredibly kind and supportive of Darcy when everyone else there is treating her like a dumb kid and it’s soft and amazing and if either of these people turn out to be evil or a skrull I will rampage.
- “Listen, I know it’s been a crazy few years on this planet, but he’s dead, right? Not blipped, dead?”
- If you tell me ‘It’s all Wanda’ halfway through the show, I am forced to believe that it’s not all Wanda.