fbpx

‘WandaVision’ Weekly: A Marvel two-in-one

Disney+
 

Welcome to WandaVision Weekly, your home for baseless speculation, crude humor and summaries of the new Marvel television show ‘WandaVision.’ This article contains spoilers for the show, so get out of here if you haven’t watched it. Also, it features a deranged editor talking to himself about a television show in a faux-interview format. It has been preserved in its entirety for accuracy and posterity, should said editor finally snap when he’s forced to rewatch ‘Iron Man 2’ for an article.

***

Nick Johnston: Nice to have you back from Sundance, dude. How’d you like the digital festival this year?

 

Nick Johnston: Honestly, this was probably the best take on the streaming fest yet — they really had the infrastructure in place, they had apps for streaming boxes, and the selection was really strong. There were a few things that could have been improved, but congratulations to all involved. How’d you enjoy your week off?

Well, kind of like Donald Blake in the Thor comics, I really sort of cease to exist when I’m not present in these comics. So I guess it was restful, not having to think or do anything. Speaking of which: are we going to have a power struggle for control of your body when this is all done?

Come on now. You’re just a rhetorical device to help me write about WandaVision without reciting the minutia of a sitcom plot, not an actual split personality.

Or am I?

No, you’re not. Anyway, don’t we have two episodes to write about this week?

Yeah, let’s get started. First up was the one we missed last week, “We Interrupt This Program,” which saw us leave the Westview bubble and enter the S.W.O.R.D./FBI encampment outside of it.

There’s a lot to like about this episode, from some fun little details — as many pointed out, the slight-of-hand trick that Jimmy Woo does when he first meets Monica Rambeau is a fun little call-back to his relationship with Scott Lang — all the way up to the context that it provides for the rest of the series. I don’t really know if WandaVision is a great show, but it’s slowly starting to put together the pieces in a way that makes some sense.

Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, we should probably mention the cold open, when Monica re-materializes in her mother’s hospital room, and how that feeds into the rest of the episode.

Yeah, that was a great touch. As someone who never particularly appreciated the way that Spider-Man: Far From Home used “the Blip” (a name that I still personally don’t care for particularly much, especially since “the Snap” would have just sufficed) for an extended piece of comedy, I really liked how it presented us just how utterly horrifying that moment would have been for the average folk of the MCU. A lot of superhero films can ultimately estrange themselves from the people on the ground — if you’re at all close to a hero, there’s a good likelihood that you’ll wind up either a villain or with your own Iron Man suit — and it’s nice to be reminded that there’s a whole world around them that suffers the consequences of these figures’ existence.

Right, and that must really suck to come back to reality to discover that your loved ones are now dead and that the rest of the world has had a five-year head start on healing from the collective trauma that they’ve all suffered.

And now they’re all re-traumatized by the sudden re-appearance of everyone they thought was permanently gone, so I guess they’ll be able to heal together. Anyway, Rambeau attempts to go about her life again — she worked for S.W.O.R.D. back when they were focused on threats in space, which makes a lot of sense — but she finds out her keycard has been deactivated, and her old pal Tyler’s been promoted to Acting Director. He tasks her with a big mission, and she heads out to Westview, where she meets up with Jimmy Woo.

I still love Randall Park in this role.

Yeah, he’s great, and I’m glad that they’re starting to talk about an Agents of Atlas show, because that would be a ton of fun.

But here’s another question: Why did they give Monica such a dinky-looking surveillance drone?

I mean, they want to obviously make it easier for the viewer to make the leap that it’s the helicopter that Wanda finds on her lawn in “Don’t Touch That Dial,” but I like to think that it’s because S.W.O.R.D. had its budget cut after the Snap. They had to get some shit from Radio Shack.

It disappears when it hits the TV snowy force-field surrounding Westview, and then so does Monica. Do you think Marvel had to pay Annihilation writer Jeff VanderMeer royalties?

I guess not, given his pithy tweets about the subject. Also, it’s key to note that “Westview” doesn’t actually exist, according to the sheriff’s deputies that that Woo was talking to. And then we smash-cut to a day later, where we get to the plot development that I’ll probably get hate mail over not liking. S.W.O.R.D. brings in everybody’s favorite know-it-all nerd, Darcy Lewis, and a whole bunch of other dorks to the encampment they’ve set up outside of the “town.”

What, are you not a Kat Dennings fan?

No, I love Kat Dennings — I had a huge crush on her in high school. I don’t like Darcy.

Really? That’s pretty fascinating, given how people seemed to really miss her the minute she disappeared from the Thor films.

Yeah, I’m not among their number. I’ve never liked Dennings’ caustic approach to the character, probably because I’ve been that type of person in real life.

Hey, I’m just a “rhetorical device,” not your therapist. Keep it focused on the show.

Your rates are too high for me, anyway. But I really think the reason Thor: Ragnorok worked so well is that it jettisoned Thor’s supporting cast, and I think it’s kind of weird that Selvig isn’t the one they’d call for a job like this.

I’m pretty sure they make reference to him basically being a Neil DeGrasse Tyson figure in the MCU after the Snap in Far From Home.

Yeah, whatever. If you’re going to ask me if I’d rather have Stellan Skarsgard’s goofballery or lame-ass Darcy talking shit the whole time, I’m gonna take some Swedish slapstick.

I think she’s fine here, and I think she’s a nice tonal contrast to both Woo and the squeaky-clean world of the sitcom.

Good for you! But let’s move on: Darcy’s able to figure out that the field is comprised of cosmic-microwave background radiation, and somehow they’re able to broadcast the show out of there, only on period appropriate televisions. So we get this great montage of the events in the show up to that point, showing each intrusion into the world from the perspective of those outside of the bubble, and S.W.O.R.D. bringing in different TVs for each era as it progresses.

It’s really interesting that Wanda’s also acting as a network censor here, too: the S.W.O.R.D. people only see what she wants them to see, and all of the little moments that we’ve seen of those “intrusions” from her perspective are cut.

I’m a bit puzzled by the helicopter, though — why would she let that through?

Maybe it’s being done to acknowledge to them that she is, in fact, aware that they’re watching her?

That’s a fair explanation, actually. What’s also kind of lame is how they explain away the beekeeper — he’s just a dude in a radiation suit, which is transformed by the sitcom logic into that garb, complete with honeybees — given how striking of a moment it was early on.

Yeah, it was kind of a letdown, but it is always funny to see the fan-industrial complex get a theory tossed out the window quickly.

It’s not at the same scale of something like “Snoke’s gonna be the new Palpatine,” but it’s similar. And you know what? Maybe I was wrong about bringing Darcy back: I’ll admit that I kind of like seeing Woo and Darcy chat over the TV show, analyzing each frame for clues, acting as audience stand-ins, or Statler and Waldorf. I said this on Twitter this past weekend, but I honestly would love to see a commentary track for the first three episodes featuring the pair in character.

I think that’d be fun too, but, then again, we are the same person.

Yes.

Anyway, this episode ends with us finally catching up with Episode 3, after Monica’s shot out of Westview by Wanda, and as she wakes up on the ground, she whispers — It’s Wanda! It’s all Wanda!

Fun ending! It feels like the show, and the viewer, can finally start moving forward again. We’re all on the same page now. Also, props to the team for keeping this one nice and short, especially with how power-packed full of revelations this next episode is.

Oh boy: I’m hyped to talk about “On A Very Special Episode…” since it broke the internet at the end of the last week.

I’m of two minds about Pietro’s appearance. Part of me, the comic book movie fan, is pumped to see Evan Peters, one of the few parts of the most recent X-Films that truly worked, pop up in the MCU, and to see where this goes with bringing those mutants into this world, and another part of me is just sort of depressed, given the monopolization of the industry under Disney that the MCU’s success at the box office helped to fuel. In the context of the show, it’s handled very well.

Especially since the entire episode is about things starting to spiral out of Wanda’s control, what better way for it to end than her dead-ass brother showing up totally unannounced like John Stamos?

Yeah, I suppose we should double back and discuss the beginning of the episode. In the opening scene in sitcom-world, which has now moved on to the ’80s, complete with goofy-ass theme song, we discover that Wanda can’t make her baby boys stop crying with her magic, and then Agnes arrives, and we get our first hint at some weirdness to come — Vision refuses to let her pick up the baby, and Agnes asks Wanda if she wants to re-do the take.

We’re getting a lot of hints about Agnes now. She’s aware of what’s going on in the town, though she’s deferring to Wanda, and she’s also present every time the twins shoot up in age.

It’s an interesting development, for sure. That probably ties into why she wasn’t on the whiteboard of “missing persons” in the last episode too.

The sitcom parody is also way, way better now.

Totally. I think saving a lot of the pivotal plot stuff for an era where the writers and crew are very familiar with the pace and form of the work they’re parodying was both a blessing and a curse. It’s a really decent blend between the two worlds now, perhaps because the sitcom stuff now requires less effort on the part of the writer and crew. It was a curse, somewhat, earlier on, because the parody took up entire episodes and was far more slapdash in its execution. Now, the show really sings.

I disagree about the first three episodes being “a curse,” but whatever floats your boat. I do think this “very special episode” plot is the most innocuous possible choice they could make, but that’s Disney for you.

You don’t want to really rock the MCU boat with a “neighbor Charlie’s addicted to that rock” stuff, so I think kids reacting to a dead dog is a decent compromise.

And Agnes probably killed that fucking dog, too!

Poor Sparky. You were around for twenty minutes and, somehow, you still got a better send-off than Jimmy Olsen did in Batman v. Superman.

Meanwhile, on the outside, Monica and the team discover that “the Hex” is literally able to mold whatever things someone brings into it at a molecular level.

I never realized how much I wanted a pair of Kevlar bell-bottoms until right now, but maybe Disney can get into the home defense market now. If there are Hello Kitty handguns, how about a Frozen semi-automatic? Country Bear-brand bear mace? I joke, but you have to wonder if it came across in at least one board meeting.

So, continuing on: it becomes clear that Monica’s BFF in charge of S.W.O.R.D. is trying to kill Wanda, because he takes what the group learns — a thing of the era that the sitcom is in can pass through the barrier unchanged — and uses it to try and drone-strike her.

It’s a pretty jarring moment, and it’s a lot of fun when she comes out to fuck with everybody in S.W.O.R.D. after the attack fails — the green laser sights on the soldiers’ machine guns, Wanda changing the “Wall” to a blood red — and it goes to show you just how much she’s changed, both in power and in personality.

Totally. Also, it’s nice to see that the power-creep that’s been going on behind the scenes is getting acknowledged by the showrunners, and that it’ll be explained at some point in the future. But what I really walked away from with that scene — especially since I went into it with the knowledge of Pietro’s appearance — is just how Magneto-like it was, when she brainwashed all of the assembled soldiers and got them to point their rifles at our evil Acting Director. It’s a really cool way to reference that aspect of her character, and a nice detail to pour over in recaps like this.

Vision’s arc is pretty cool as well, and there’s another excellent supporting performance from the spotlighted towns-person, “Norm,” played by Asif Ali.

Yeah, I agree with that. The closest this show ever comes to being the surrealist horror show that I think Jac Schaeffer wants it to be is whenever it demonstrates the weird cruelty of being trapped in this bizarro paradise, and that includes Vision’s freak-out at the end of the episode. I like a lot of the shades in Paul Bettany’s performance here — yes, it’s right for him to be upset that he’s being manipulated and he does understand why, but I also think it’s really cool how he’s playing up his confusion by being hyper-emotional, as if he’s experiencing feelings for the first time, like Wanda’s overwriting his programming.

Their fight is hard to watch, and I think the uncomfortable juxtaposition of that kind of emotion with the idyllic land of the sitcom makes it really, really awkward. Nothing is supposed to go wrong there, and yet the parents are fighting.

Exactly, it’s the Too Many Cooks influence showing through. But I think it’s also complicating a lot of the narratives that people assumed initially. Wanda is as much of a prisoner as anyone there, as revealed when things slowly start to slip out of her control, and I don’t believe that she’s totally the villain here — more likely, she’s just been manipulated into doing this. You can see it in Woo’s hesitancy to declare her a villain earlier in the episode, even though he’s facing pressure to do so from a powerful person who sees her as a threat.

Speaking of the real-world S.W.O.R.D. stuff, who do you think the “aerospace engineer” that Monica Rambeau texted was?

I doubt it’ll be Reed Richards or anybody that big, but I think it’s likely to be some sort of surprise cameo. Maybe the adult version of one of the Skrull kids? Riri Williams? I don’t know, and I think it’ll be intentionally hard to guess. But kudos to them if they blow their wad on the FF reveal in this series.

Well, let’s start to wrap up. Was there a commercial in this episode? I can’t remember.

Yeah, there was, for a paper towel brand called Lagos, which is, of course, a reference to the disastrous mission Wanda went on with the Avengers in Civil War. Too bad she couldn’t clean up that mess, huh?

Oh, yeah. Man. These are all pretty sad, aren’t they?

They are, though it is pretty interesting to see them evolve alongside popular feminist praxis.

Any final thoughts?

Yeah, one. I think it’ll be interesting to see what they do with Pietro, even though that topic has already been well-and-fully digested at this point by the online community. It’s likely that this is an IP tease on the behalf of Feige, akin to the way that Terrence Howard looked at the second Iron Man suit in the first Iron Man film and said “Not today.” I’ll give him some serious props if it means that this is how mutants will enter the MCU, and I think it would probably be also good for Marvel TV to do so: proof that big world-altering stuff happens on their small-scale programming. Also, apologies once again to Rob Bricken.

Well, that’ll do us for this week. Join us next Monday for another installment of this weird, dumb column.