Written by David Holland
Spoiler Warning: This post contains spoilers, not just for the first episode of WandaVision, but for the larger MCU and various Marvel comics. Proceed with caution.
Today the first episode of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s “WandaVision” dropped. Having conquered movies, the MCU is now moving to television, particularly Disney+. WandaVision is just the first MCU show of several that are already in the works, including “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” and “What If?”. These moves represent Disney’s consolidation of the Marvel television properties, grabbing them out of the hands of other platforms such as Netflix. So let’s take a closer look at the first episode:
What Did We Know Going In?
Wanda Maximoff, aka The Scarlet Witch, and Vision have a complicated comic book history. Astute viewers suspected that when the two debuted on the big screen in “Avengers: Age of Ultron”, they would eventually be romantically involved. After all their comic book characters married, leading to story arcs like “Avengers: The Vision and the Scarlet Witch” and “Vision and the Scarlet Witch: A Year in the Life”. In both of these storylines, the couple attempts to retire from superhero life, move to suburban New Jersey and live peacefully. Of course, peace is hard to come by, even in the suburbs.
WandaVision looks like it is going to draw inspiration from these stories, putting the pair in what seems like an idealized life televsion tropes only to show us something more sinister going on behind the scenes.
The surface layer of this episode is quite straightforward. Married couple Wanda Maximoff and Vision exist in a 1950s style black-and-white sitcom. Where in the MCU movies Wanda’s powers have been much more telekinetic/telepathic, in this first episode she acts more like Samantha Stephens, the main character of “Bewitched”. Her red mist has been replaced with finger snaps and blinks, set to an audience laugh track. Vision, meanwhile, walks through walls and doors and cracks jokes about his density and pretending to be human. A comedy of errors ensues as a result of a miscommunication – Vision’s boss is coming over for dinner, but Wanda believes the night is special because it is their anniversary. Fortunately, her magic helps her prepare an excellent meal, Vision is promised a promotion, and no one seems the wiser.
Except we are the wiser. Last time we saw Wanda she was close to ripping Thanos limb from limb in a one-on-one fight that MCU boss Kevin Feige says she absolutely could have won if Thanos hadn’t started bombing his own troops. Last time we saw Vision he was… well… dead. So how are they here? And who are the other people that populate this world? When Vision’s boss, Mr. Hart, appeared to be choking, his wife simply repeated “Stop it”, like it was a joke or she was stuck. Maybe they are simulations or programs. Or maybe they are also trapped in this world just like our heroes. When Hart asked Wanda and Vision where they came from, how they got there, and how long they had been married, they had no answers. And finally, as credits rolled a figure watching exactly what we just watched on a screen closed a journal marked with a symbol that, to my knowledge, is new in the MCU.
Last little bit of trivia – Mr. Hart presses the couple on why they don’t have children yet. In the comics, Wanda does give birth to twins, despite previously believing she and Vision were incapable of conceiving. The twins are ultimately revealed to be extensions of Mephisto, the Lord of Hell, and when they cease to exist Wanda nearly goes insane. It’s… not great.
Let’s consider a few possibilities after one episode in decreasing order of my confidence:
1. SWORD – the emblem spotted in various places in the very last scene looks a lot like the emblem of the Sentient World Observation and Response Department. In the comics, SWORD exists as a counterpart to SHIELD. As their names suggest, SHIELD is about defending the Earth whereas SWORD is about studying and, if necessary, investigating other worlds and dimensions. Scarlet Witch is supposed to appear in “Doctor Strange: Multiverse of Madness”, so perhaps SWORD is looking into threats from around the multiverse. Regardless, it’s not clear what SWORD’s role is exactly and all we have is a glance at a symbol, but given that Wanda and Vision are two of the most powerful beings in the MCU and that SHIELD was infiltrated by Hydra, it seems likely that they are observing and probably using the pair.
2. Vision’s Company – Throughout the episode Vision asks both his coworker and his boss what exactly their company does and he never receives a satisfactory answer. All he is told is that they perform computations, and that no one can perform them as fast as he can. Wherever Vision and Wanda are, it seems likely that Vision’s computing power is being used to solve some sort of problem or perform real world computations, probably for SWORD.
3. New styles in each episode – I suspect that future episodes will eschew the “I Love Lucy” classic television style. I expect new episodes to experiment with new styles as WandaVision’s fake reality continues to shift around them.
4. The Matrix/The Truman Show – Obviously the world in which Wanda and Vision are living isn’t reality. So what is it, exactly? Are their physical bodies in the real world somewhere? Of course we need answers about how Vision could be alive given the last time we saw him in Infinity War. Are we looking at a “Matrix”-style simulation, in which a program puts the couple through a series of television-worlds, trying to find one in which they exist in perfect contentment while *someone* (lookin’ at you, SWORD) uses their minds? The style of this episode gave me strong “Truman Show” vibes too. I don’t think the goal is the same – Wanda and Vision aren’t the stars of a TV show in the MCU – but the effort to make the fake world as real as possible while calling back nostalgically to a previous age of television just kept reminding me of that voyeuristic Jim Carrey movie.
5. The Mind Stone – The Infinity Arc is over so I am not sure how much the Stones will continue to play a role in the MCU, but both Wanda’s and Vision’s powers are drawn from the stone. In the comics, Adam Warlock’s world exists inside the Soul Stone, and people can live inside it. I wonder if it’s possible that Vision and Wanda somehow ended up inside the Mind Stone after it got put back in the timeline.
Good news, everyone! Episode 2 dropped on the same day as this one. Maybe that will hold some more answers!