In Spring of 2020, known colloquially as ‘lockdown one’, I set about correcting my woeful pop culture knowledge by watching all 23 Marvel Cinematic Universe films, most of them for the first time. With that joyous task well behind me, I am now over the moon that we finally have some new MCU releases coming our way. So My Marvel Diary will continue, reviewing each new chapter of the MCU as it arrives.
MCU Phase: Four
Creator: Jac Schaeffer
Starring: Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, Teyonah Parris, Kathryn Hahn, David Payton
May contain spoilers.
Here we go. The 70s are here, the fashion is ridiculous, and the fabric of reality is falling apart. I get the sense that as WandaVision moves along, more and more of the thriller, bigger-picture elements of the story are going to seep into the period sitcom conceit. I do hope, however, that the writers don’t abandon this wonderfully inventive idea entirely by the end. In this episode, there is a wonderful balance between committing to the sitcom illusion world and dropping further clues as to what on earth is going on.
I found that there was a much scarier undercurrent to this episode than the other two. In the first chapters there was the sitcom, and then the break for the serious stuff. This time the two are more interwoven, as when Vision subtly slips from joking around into a realisation that all is not well in their neighbourhood. When Wanda promptly rewinds and wipes his questioning we are seeing one of our lead characters lose his agency. Not only does this emphasise that the ‘Wanda’ is more important than the ‘Vision’, but it makes everything quite unsettling.
Far more of the characters appear to be aware of their own place in this constructed world now, with Herb and Agnes seeming straight-up fearful of something. The smile on Wanda’s face at the end, having disposed of Geraldine, is near-horrifying. It suggests a darker, more ruthless side to potentially one of the MCU’s most powerful characters. It is also the perfect encapsulation of the nightmare existing underneath the cheerful sitcom exterior.
Now let’s talk about all those clues, shall we? The one thing that is clearest at this stage (other than the first-base idea that the sitcom world is not in fact reality) is that SWORD is somehow involved. The logo for this agency (something like a new, more sinister SHIELD maybe?) appeared on the notebook at the end of Episode One, on the beekeeper’s jacket in Episode Two, and now on ‘Geraldine’s’ necklace at the end of this segment.
I used inverted commas there because, as I mentioned last time, it has been announced that Teyonah Parris is playing Monica Rambeau from the comics, not bloody ‘Geraldine’. Given her mother’s close friendship with Captain Marvel, I am assuming that Rambeau is, roughly speaking, on the right side of the fence. So is she in there trying to rescue Wanda? Snap her out of the illusion? Or is it possible that she’s up to something more sinister? Quite frankly, it could be any and all of the above.
The most intriguing part of it all is the role Wanda herself plays in this. On the one hand, she seems in control of it, re-winding at will and expelling Geraldine from this world at the end. On the other, the voice on the radio in Episode Two (speculated by many to be Jimmy Woo from Ant-Man – who we know is in the series at some point) suggests someone is ‘doing this’ to Wanda. She appears fragile when the sitcom veneer breaks, and not entirely comfortable throughout. Quite what this set-up is remains a mystery, but I think this latest instalment is the clearest evidence yet that Wanda is at least partly in this altered reality by choice.
As I said last time, when WandaVision is playing its conceit straight and essentially just being a sitcom pastiche, it is loads of fun even without the superhero stuff. This episode continues the trend of blending jokes that are both amusingly shit and also actually amusing at the same time. And a final word for Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany. They’re both so good at the comic stuff, yet able to snap us out of that world at a second’s notice. Clearly having the time of their lives, WandaVision is, if nothing else, a brilliant vehicle for its two leads.