Written by David Holland
This weekend the first TWO episodes of WandaVision dropped on Disney+, and the general consensus seems to be… confusion? How does this half-hour sitcom sprinkled with brief hints that the world is not as it seems fit in with the action-packed, universe-saving Marvel Universe we know and love? Let’s break it down.
As with the first episode, there is a surface level story and then there are the breadcrumbs to the larger plot. On the surface, Vision and Wanda are preparing a stage magic act which they will perform at a talent show to raise money for Westview’s Elementary School (Their stage names, “Glamor” and “Illusion”, are a reference to two comic characters, superpowered stage magicians who were friends of the couple and small-time burglars). Then they go their separate ways – Vision to a Neighborhood Watch meeting populated by the town’s men and Wanda to a planning committee meeting made up entirely of the town’s women. The Neighborhood Watch is little more than a place for the husbands to gossip, and in an effort to appear normal Vision accepts the offer of a stick of gum. When he accidentally swallows the gum, it causes him to act drunk.
Wanda, meanwhile, leaves for the planning committee. On her way she finds what appears to be a red and yellow toy helicopter in her front bush – not only is this the first color we have seen in the series, but the helicopter also bears the same symbol as the journal we saw at the end of last episode. Before she can think on it, Wanda’s friend Agnes arrives and she has her first encounter with Dottie, the tyrannical ruler of the local housewives. Dottie is in charge of planning the fundraiser, and she uses her position to shame, humiliate, and control the other women. This is where we get another break in the perfect sitcom world – while a voice over the radio asks “Who’s doing this to you, Wanda?”, Dottie looks to Wanda in terror and asks “Who are you?”. Then Dottie breaks a glass, the moment is over, and normalcy is restored. Dottie’s blood, by the way, is also red.
Finally, at the talent show, Vision’s “drunk” state causes him to use his powers carelessly. Wanda uses her own to keep up the charade that they are normal humans, and their act is a hit. At their home, Wanda begins showing signs of pregnancy in an instant (I’ve never been pregnant, so I’m not an expert, but I don’t think this is how it works). A noise brings them outside and, upon seeing a mysterious beekeeper climb out of a sewer, Wanda simply says “No”, and rewinds time back to her discovery of her pregnancy. As she and Vision kiss, color is restored to the world around them.
Theories and Questions:
1. SWORD’s involvement is all but confirmed – the logo on the helicopter and the beekeeper’s jumpsuit are the same as the logo we saw in Episode 1. But what exactly is the organization’s role? Are they keeping the couple in this alternate reality? Observing them? Or trying to rescue them? The beekeeper toward the end of the episode isn’t an overt reference to comics lore that I know of (that’s not saying much, I’m definitely an amateur), but it seems like SWORD is one of the major mysteries that will be unraveled throughout the series.
2. Who populates Westview? Of course, this is all under the smaller question of “What is this world in which Wanda and Vision are living?” but let’s take a bite-sized piece of that. If we’re living in an alternate dimension, are the other people of Westview just figments of Wanda’s imagination, like Matrix-style programs? I don’t think that’s the case. When I first watched episode 1, I thought Mrs. Hart got stuck when her husband was choking and she kept pleading “Stop it”. On a rewatch, I think she switches from telling Mr. Hart to “Stop it”, to begging Wanda, as if to say “Wanda, please stop this!”. In this episode, Dottie seems to have a moment of lucidity when the voice comes over the radio. Even Geraldine doesn’t seem to know her own name until she takes Wanda’s hand. It seems like these are real people whose minds have been altered to keep them content in Westview.
Related to this question, let’s talk about children. As in, where are they? Any time the fundraiser is mentioned, someone says that it is for the children, and the others repeat “for the children” in a super culty way. It happens at the planning meeting, at the talent show itself, and (most disturbingly) is said together by Wanda and Vision as they wind down the evening. The whole thing gives off some Hot Fuzz vibes.
Shortly after repeating the cult mantra, Wanda is suddenly showing. I mentioned Wanda’s pregnancy and children in last episode’s recap. It does not end well.
3. Wanda’s Powers – The Scarlet Witch’s powers are sort of poorly defined in the comics and therefore fluctuate wildly on the power scale. Her hex bolts can manipulate probability and she is trained in magic by Agatha Harkness, an incredibly powerful magician in her own right. Her powers alone are responsible for the “House of M” storyline, in which she remakes reality so that Magneto defeated the X-Men, and the “M-Day”, in which she depowered 90% of the world’s mutants (a convenient way for Marvel to pare down the number of canonical mutants, which had gotten out of hand). In the MCU, Wanda is also remarkably powerful. She has demonstrated a fair amount of power over whatever reality she is in now, including freaking time travel when the beekeeper showed up. How are her mind and powers connected to the larger reality?
4. Commercials – In episode 1 we saw a “commercial” for a Stark Industries toaster oven. In this episode we saw the same two people in a different commercial, this time for Strucker Watches. Stark’s relationship to the MCU is obvious, but remember that Baron von Strucker oversaw the experiments that gave Wanda and her brother their powers. He was a bigwig in Hydra, which infiltrated SHIELD. That organization may be gone, but SWORD is definitely involved. Does Hydra still have a role to play? In the comics they never really go away.