Wanda and Vision are arriving on your screens in full technicolor! Which is apparently only surprising to them. Let’s get to it.
Wanda and Vision call over Dr. Nielson (Randy Oglesby) to check on how Wanda is coming along. He tells them that she is four months pregnant despite Wanda’s condition appearing yesterday. The doctor tells the couple that he’s leaving on a vacation with his wife shortly. Vision seems to know something is amiss, but the episode “rewinds” again and he forgets all about his suspicions. Later on, the couple are decorating their nursery and arguing about whether they would name a boy Tommy or Billy. Wanda feels a kick, which isn’t supposed to happen until six months, leading Vision to suspect that they will be parents by Friday. Wanda has a Braxton Hicks contraction, and it causes a number of unexplained phenomena, cutting out power to the whole block. Then Wanda has a real contraction, and Vision goes to retrieve Dr. Nielson.
While Vision is gone, Geraldine arrives to borrow a bucket due to the sudden flood in her home. Wanda is busy trying to hide her pregnancy as she tries to get Geraldine what she needs, and her friend gossips about her office and recent promotion. There’s a live stork in the house that Wanda can’t seem to get rid of, but Geraldine eventually notices the nursery and the pregnancy, and Wanda goes into labor on the floor of the living room. She gives birth to one boy right before Vision and the doctor show up. The labor continues and Wanda has twin boys, so they name them Tommy and Billy. Vision bids Dr. Nielson goodbye, asking if he’ll go on his vacation now, but the doctor doesn’t think so because it’s hard to leave small towns like the one they live in.
Agnes and Herb (David Payton) are whispering over the hedges; earlier, Herb was trimming his bushes and accidentally cut into the brick barrier between his house and theirs. The two neighbors seem distressed, but they can’t quite manage to tell Vision what’s upset them. Agnes does point out that Geraldine doesn’t have a home in their town. Inside, Wanda mentions that she used to be a twin, and says her brother’s name aloud before beginning to sing a Sokovian lullaby. Geraldine recalls that Wanda’s brother was killed by Ultron—Wanda notices that she has a pendant with a sword emblem and asks her who she really is. Geraldine can’t seem to recall. When Vision reenters the house, Geraldine is gone and Wanda claims she’s gone back home. In the real world, we see Geraldine thrown out onto grass and surrounded by trucks and cars. The town of Westview is clearly walled off by some sort of energy barrier.
We get to go full Brady Bunch slash Partridge Family in this episode, mostly down to the house reconstruction and obviously the fashion (and references to macramé). Of course, sitcom episodes that deal with pregnancy are common enough, but it is enjoyable to watch the show roll its eyes at how women were treated in the past with these issues. (Your baby is a fruit! Don’t be scared!) If I had a nickel for every time I watched a silly labor scene, or someone teaching Lamaze breathing techniques, I’d be able to do a grocery run right now.
Tonally, there’s a lot to enjoy about the show, particularly in the combination of sitcom laughs with persistent and impending dread. It strikes me that this is working as a metaphor for sitcoms at large; within the history of the genre, the audience is more aware than usual that they’re separated from reality when they’re watching a sitcom. This is partly down to their initial construction: the live studio audience, the laugh track, the single stage sets, a certain level of wink and nudge directed toward the audience. Sitcoms trade in artifice, and for a long time they were set up more like plays than other filmed media.
WandaVision is taking that known separation and making it “real” in essence. The artifice is frequently being prodded at by the denizens of Westview, who know that something is off about their lives. This in turn points to the inherently frightening conceit surrounding any traditional sitcom setup—worlds in which all action takes place in one room, where you know your blocking, where you set up your spouse or friends for a one-liner… but also worlds were everyone is expected to behave the same and look the same, where problems are neatly summed up in a half hour, and where any lack of uniformity has to be erased because it throws off an imaginary rhythm.
Of course there is underlying horror to this show. Sitcoms are a horrifying place to be.
My real question is whether the series will ultimately go any deeper than what we’ve seen, though—because superhero narratives have their own version of this exact problem, and more so where the MCU itself is concerned. We don’t get to see a lot of real emotional digging, of thoughtfulness beyond a brief word or shared look. This is bearing out right in front of us: Our two most emotional moments of the episode involve Vision, first with his realization that something isn’t right in their world, next when Wanda points out that she should remove his human “disguise” before holding his son for the first time. These moments are upsetting for different reasons—the first for the fact that a momentary breakthrough is clearly erased by Wanda trying to keep this world intact, the second for the reminder that hiding in plain sight has been something of a necessity for Vision’s entire life—but we don’t get to sit with either or those moments, or even reflect on them within the story, and it’s unlikely that we ever will.
The mystery is rapidly unravelling, with Geraldine (who is actually Monica) expelled for being unable to hold the line. It’s looking like Wanda has created her own mental prison and possibly trapped an entire town along with her. Agnes and Herb come close to telling Vision that they can’t leave, though Agnes stops Herb from saying it outright. Dr. Nielson is clearer on that front, however. If Wanda is doing this entirely on her own (it’s still possible that she isn’t, but very little that we’ve seen suggests otherwise, Hydra references aside), SWORD has got their work cut out for them. She’s not taking visitors well, and Monica’s inability to remember her own name when questioned likely means that people get overtaken the instant they enter Wanda’s world.
My hope is that they keep the conceit as long as they possibly can. Glimpses of the outside world are fine, but clinging to the sitcom history rundown is making the show tick irresistibly. Too much real world and we might as well be watching Agents of SHIELD. WandaVision deserves to be its own thing.
Thoughts and Asides:
- The commercial for this one gives even more away, an ad for “Hydra Soak” soap, that promises to help a person get away from all their cares and worries. Gee, wonder why someone might want to do that.
- That thing with the butterfly on Vision’s nose was too flipping cute, and I’m still thinking about it.
- Could Herb be Herbert Wyndham? The character has some important ties to Wanda and her brother within the comics, but it’s also possible that this is just a fun Easter egg misdirect.
- You might recognize Randy Oglesby from a number of places, but Trek fans will know him best as Degra on Star Trek: Enterprise. Rose Bianco, playing his wife, has also recently shown up in Cobra Kai on Netflix.
- Westview is apparently supposed to be in New Jersey, and shares some similarities to Leonia, New Jersey, which is where Wanda and Vision lived while married in the comics. It makes some measure of sense to be in Jersey for its proximity to New York state, which is where the final battle of Endgame went down. Its sign reads “Home: It’s Where You Make It”.
- This is really the first time Pietro has been brought up much since his untimely demise in Avengers: Age of Ultron. It’s an awkward reminder because his character was frankly handled poorly and killed well before we could get to know him. It’s also another example of ways that Wanda’s character development so far in the MCU has been rushed or nonexistent.
- Billy and Tommy are the names of Vision and Wanda’s kids in the comics. Billy is later known as Wiccan, and becomes one of the founding members of the Young Avengers—he’s also got an adorable boyfriend in a Kree-Skrull named Teddy aka Hulkling. Tommy is known also as Speed, with powers much like his Uncle Pietro’s. Both boys were introduced to comics in the mid-early aughts, and raised separately by non-super couples due to them being formed out of fragments of a demon’s soul that destroyed their host (his name is Mephisto) due to the power Wanda left them. Then they’re basically reincarnated. Yeah, it’s a lot. Not sure if that’s where WandaVision plans on going, but we should probably hope for something a little simpler.
Next week maybe the 80s?