By Ariel Steinsaltz
Warning: The following contains spoilers for episodes one and two of ‘Wandavision.’
On Friday, Marvel Studios debuted its latest, and perhaps weirdest, project: ‘WandaVision.’ Where the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has previously been about epic battles with world-threatening enemies, the first two episodes of this Disney+ show are in the style of an old-timey sitcom, complete with wacky shenanigans, laugh tracks and voices over the radio that suggest all is not as it seems.
The first episode opens with a 1950s-style theme song, and has newlyweds Wanda Maximoff and Vision moving into their new home in a suburban neighborhood. Immediately, the viewers have questions: the character Vision died in ‘Avengers: Infinity War,’ and the couple’s story did not take place in the 1950s, nor in black and white. How they ended up in this show’s setting is unclear, but the two still have their powers — Wanda can move things with her mind, and Vision is a robot.
As the two adjust to their new lives, they begin to realize things aren’t quite right. A heart on the calendar suggests it is a special day, but the two cannot remember what it is. When Vision goes to work, he notes that their company makes computational forms, but nobody can give him a straight answer on what they’re for. This pokes fun at classic sitcom jobs that aren’t well-defined but also leads Vision to question his reality. He also learns what the heart on the calendar meant: today he and Wanda are hosting dinner for his boss, Mr. Hart, and his wife. Wanda, meanwhile, gets to know her neighbor Agnes, and learns what the heart means as well: today is her and Vision’s anniversary.
A classic sitcom mishap ensues, dinner is a chaotic mess, and Mr. Hart starts to choke before Vision saves him by phasing his hand right through his boss. He is told he’s on his way to a promotion, and all is well. But not quite. As they sit together on the couch and Wanda creates them wedding rings out of thin air, the camera pulls out of their black-and-white world to reveal that someone is watching them on a monitor. This world they’re in, clearly, is some kind of simulation. But why?
The second episode has a more 1960s-style intro, and the clothing and hairstyles have moved on to the ‘60s as well. Wanda and Vision prepare an act for the talent show, then Wanda goes to a planning meeting with other women in the neighborhood and Vision to a neighborhood watch meeting with the men. As Wanda fails to impress Dottie, who runs things in the area, Vision accidentally swallows gum, which gets caught in his gears, causing him to malfunction.
More hilarious hijinks ensue at the talent show as they win everyone’s approval. But Wanda has been distracted all day: first, a strange toy helicopter appeared, bright red in this black-and-white world. Then, while she was talking to Dottie, a voice came over the radio, asking “Wanda? Who’s doing this to you?”
Dottie cut herself, and her blood, too, was red.
At the end, the final strange thing occurs: Wanda and Vision are in their home when suddenly she looks down and is heavily pregnant. They hear a noise outside, and a man appears on the street in a beekeeper’s uniform, leading Wanda to say “no” with recognition in her voice. Then, the show rewinds, and the two rejoice at Wanda’s pregnancy as color suddenly floods into their world.
This show is incredibly strange, to say the least. It’s very much not what people who have watched Wanda and Vision in the MCU are used to, and many of the references to classic sitcom-style might be lost on the show’s younger viewers. But strange is not a bad thing; indeed, it is to be expected, given that the show is going to tie in to the upcoming movie “Dr. Strange and the Multiverse of Madness.”
The theories run rampant: is Wanda being trapped in this simulation by HYDRA? By some other sinister villain? Or, perhaps, is Wanda creating this simulation herself, unable to cope with the death of Vision and the way her life has been uprooted? Comics canon suggests the latter, but viewers of the show have to wait to find out what’s going on, and why.
On their own, these episodes are charming, but not much to speak of. The sitcom hijinks are predictable to most people who have ever watched a sitcom before, and the style is a bit too cutesy for a modern audience. But taken into account with the sinister undertones that something is clearly wrong, the show becomes something entirely different. Viewers of the MCU know that Wanda is insanely powerful, surely enough to create this simulation if she so chose. But if it is indeed someone else doing this to her, the idea of someone able to overpower her is also a terrifying thought. After watching these two episodes, I definitely want more.
Given the 1950s and 1960s style of these episodes and the shift to color at the end, it is likely that the show will continue to go forward in decades, having a 1970s sitcom with the next episode and so on. This is an interesting prospect as it can continue to make references to classic television of different eras while poking fun at the genre of sitcoms as a whole. While perhaps not quite as fascinating as the dark twists that are sure to be revealed, this aspect of the show is still enjoyable and something I look forward to as well.
This show is definitely worth watching for anyone who has seen the Marvel Cinematic Universe and knows anything about the characters of Wanda or Vision. It’s fun, uses the characters in exciting new ways, and rewards viewers with easter eggs about the MCU. It might not hold as much appeal to viewers who are going into it blind, but that just provides a perfect opportunity to watch all the movies before jumping into the show.