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: Teyonah Parris, Randall Park, Kat Dennings, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany
May contain spoilers.
I’m not entirely sure what I thought of this episode of WandaVision. On the one hand, it was exciting to see all that has been going on outside the altered reality of Westview. Yet on the other, I did miss the sitcom conceit and the inherent fun and delightful weirdness that brings. There were a lot of positives to the episode, despite it not being what I expected or particularly wanted it to be. It feels necessary though, to fill in some narrative gaps and introduce a new perspective on all the shenanigans.
Perhaps most disappointing was that there were no great surprises in this episode. Nothing in the ‘real-world’ sequence of events that was especially shocking or intriguing. Instead, it was 30 minutes of confirmations, telling us everything we kind of knew already. We knew Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings) and Jimmy Woo (Randall Park) would appear, we knew that Teyonah Parris was Monica Rambeau, not ‘Geraldine’, so none of this was a revelation. Then, the basic idea that ‘WandaVision’ is a constructed reality, done at least in part by Wanda, is something we’d all worked out already.
That said, there was a pleasant satisfaction in seeing all our theories played out elegantly on screen: Jimmy calling to Wanda through the radio; the reveal that it was Darcy sat at the desk at the end of Episode One; actually seeing Wanda cast Monica out of Westview. We couldn’t assume any of these things either, so this episode was hardly pointless. With the bigger secrets still kept under wraps, this instalment serves as a good jumping-off point for the business end of the MCU’s first TV show.
Also, as usual with the MCU, what we saw was well-made and well-acted, if not that thrilling this time. It was good to see Parris actually as Monica Rambeau, starting to grow that role into something that feels really significant. With the help of a charismatic performance, Rambeau is a character we can root for, and perhaps in fact the real hero of this show. It’s also good to see Woo back, as Park is an immensely likeable actor and the character never really got a lot to do in the Ant-Man films. Similarly, Dennings provided some of the stronger moments in the generally disappointing first two Thor films as Lewis. The return of these bit-part players also serves to give a warmth and texture to the wider MCU which helps increase audience affection for it.
There were a couple of intriguing reveals here, too, most notably perhaps that Jimmy Woo initially discovered Westview because he had someone in witness protection over there. At first I thought this could just be Wanda, but he referred to a ‘he’, and therefore I’m left wondering who the mystery man is. Then there’s the brief reveal that S.W.O.R.D. is not Sentient World Observation and Response Department as in some of the comics, but the potentially more nefarious-sounding Sentient Weapon Observation and Response Department. You sense that S.W.O.R.D. could play a massive role going forwards, so this is a significant detail.
By far the stand-out moment of the half-hour though was when we briefly joined Wanda and Vision back in their sitcom reality. One shot of vision essentially dead, with his head all grey and a rather large dent in there too, was both shocking and of vital importance. It is a reminder that Vision is dead and that Wanda knows this deep down. It is further evidence of her control over the altered reality and that this control is slipping away. Then, when we see the vengeful, darker side of Wanda fling Monica into another world, the importance of Wanda as a character is underlined yet again. Her enormous power could be key to the MCU’s future, and she might not always be a ‘goodie’ either.