The new Disney+ series set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe shifts to an homage of 1970s sitcoms in the latest episode. Did they manage to jump the shark?
Thankfully, I don’t think they did.
At the end of the SECOND EPISODE, the world Wanda and Vision inhabit went from the black and white of 1960s television to a more 1970s color feel, with a reveal that Wanda was now pregnant. That’s pretty impressive considering Vision isn’t, you know, human. But nothing in the world of WandaVision follows the rules of reality. After all, Wanda has control over mystical abilities and their house in this small community keeps changing its decor. The latest homage to classic television is, I believe, a Brady Bunch theme for the living room.
Wanda’s pregnancy is the crux of the episode. No, the couple isn’t trying to figure out how a human became pregnant by a synthroid, which still could have brought the funny. Instead, it’s the magical nature of her pregnancy, advancing from just starting to show a baby bump to going into labor over the course of a day. Instead of the usual morning sickness and swollen ankles, Wanda’s pregnancy side effect is her magical powers going wonky, confining her to the house as everything goes a little crazy.
Despite trying to hide her 24-hour pregnancy from the community – other than bringing in a doctor (who’s about to go on vacation) for a check-up – Wanda gets a visit from her friend and neighbor Geraldine. In the last episode, Geraldine was portrayed as another outsider. When she meets Wanda at the talent show planning committee, she admits to not knowing what she was doing there. There were so many ways to take that line: it could be a comment on Geraldine being a Black woman in a very white town (outside of Wanda and Vision’s neighbor Herb), but like almost everything in the show, there are multiple meanings to almost everything the supporting characters say and do.
Geraldine helps Wanda deliver her twins, and after Wanda admits to her friend that Wanda is also a twin, we get a break from the wacky world of the show, when Geraldine asks about Pietro and how he died at the hands of Ultron (in the second Avengers movie). The comment leads to one of the show’s trademark moments of discomfort, as Wanda begins to question who Geraldine actually is, especially once she notices Geraldine’s SWORD necklace. Angered by the seeming betrayal, Wanda sends Geraldine not just out of her house, but out of her world entirely, porting her outside the confines of the community where she’s surrounded by a military battalion keeping watch.
Vision gets his own moment where the world could have fallen apart earlier in the episode as he steps outside and sees Herb talking to Wanda’s friend, Agnes. The pair ask about Geraldine and if she’s inside with Wanda, and Herb – who has taken the hedge trimming a little too far by cutting into the stone wall dividing the two properties – nearly cracks and tells Vision about what’s actually going on. But it’s only the third episode, so we don’t get any big truth reveals just yet!
And when Vision talks with Wanda and starts to question everything that’s happen, Wanda again gets uncomfortable with the potential for truth, so she rewinds the moment again. On his second go, Vision is less questioning of the worldview and more supportive of his wife.
There’s so much going on in these half-hour episodes, throwing more plot points and hints at the viewer than a typical hour-long drama.
We’re still early into the show’s run, but it seems as though we’re in a world of Wanda’s creation, having experienced any number of trauma in the outside as part of the MCU. She’s using the comforting pastiche of old television reruns to give her a sense of belonging with Vision, trying to build a “normal” life that could only be considered normal by someone who was raised in captivity.
Knowing that SWORD agents are monitoring Wanda and Vision, not just from afar but within the world itself, opens up a lot of questions about who’s in on it, or if the town is truly just a complete set up. Is Wanda in control of all this, or is SWORD?
While I am a fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I’ve never taken a deeper dive into the minutia of Marvel Comics. I can pick up on a good chunk of references to the larger movie world (though I’ve only seen about half or 2/3 of the films), but a lot of the comics references go completely over my head. Even still, the third episode of WandaVision expanded on the core concept of something weird going on, and I am so excited about where the show goes.
The moments of the show that break the show’s internal conventions really elevate the narrative. If this was a seasons-long gimmick that kept us questioning what was happening for years, a la Lost, it would eventually become grating. But as a 9-episode limited series, to set up the next chapter of the larger MCU, it works so well.
Assuming we move into sappy 1980s sitcoms next week, I’m looking forward to the Family Ties/Growing Pains/Full House of it all.