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WandaVision, Ep.2: Don’t Touch That Dial

Note:  Welcome back to our episode-by-episode exploration of WandaVision.  There are spoilers ahead; this article assumes you’ve seen the show up through the second episode.

It occurred to me more than once, watching this episode, that to this point WandaVision encourages a kind of active conspiracy theorizing.  You’re presented with events and information that not only don’t feel quite right; you question whether or not they’re tethered to objective reality at all.  What, if anything, here can be taken as ‘fact’?  So you begin this elaborate game of connecting the dots, searching for meaning and connotation where it’s possible none exist.  Mind you, like any committed conspiracy theorist, I think in this case meaning and connotation do exist…but can I prove it?  Gentle reader, I cannot.  Not at this juncture, at any rate.  This must be what those Q-Anon adherents feel like, minus the lunacy, sedition, and racism.

Still in classic sitcom black and white, WandaVision ep.2 begins with a cold open, Wanda and the Vision awakened in the middle of the night from their individual and ever-so-separate twin beds by a series of loud crashing sounds.  They eventually determine these sounds are being caused by tree branches blowing against the house in the wind.  But are they?

We’ll come back to this matter of crashing noises outside, but first, a note about these twin beds, which are first pushed together by Wanda and then magically combined altogether:  The Hays Code kept even married couples on television in separate beds until 1964, usually with a night-stand or something in between, so as not to foster any notions among impressionable viewers that the beds were being pushed together to create an indoor arena for that most questionable and damning of sports.  Curiously, Ozzie and Harriet had a double bed, but we never saw them sleep in it (and somehow that seems even more perverse and suggestive than if they had just slept in it).  The first couple to actually share a bed on American network television?  Darrin and Samantha Stephens of Bewitched (1964)…the very same show which, not incoincidentally, provides the inspiration / template for this episode’s animated opening credits.  And as we’ll see, it might be fitting in other ways, assuming my conspiracy theories are anywhere close to hitting the mark…but I digress.

Come post-credits daybreak, Wanda and the Vision prepare for their part in the local talent show, a benefit ‘for the children.’  They’re performing a magic act, Vision as magician and Wanda as assistant, with a ‘Cabinet of Mysteries’ that makes the person in the cabinet disappear.[1]I couldn’t help but think of Gob and his similar Aztec Tomb in Arrested Development, insisting to his brother that it’s an illusion; a trick, he says, is something a whore does for … Continue reading  Vision worries about the transparency of the disappearing act — it’s of course just a rotating panel in the box, nothing magical about it — but Wanda assures him that’s the whole point:  “In a real magic act, everything is fake.”  Indeed.

The Vision leaves for a gathering of the neighborhood watch at the library, while Wanda prepares to attend the seating committee for the talent show.  Before she has a chance to leave, she hears the crashing sound again.  She goes outside to search for the source of the sound, and finds a small toy helicopter in the bushes.  The helicopter is easy to make out, as it’s the only thing in this black and white environment that’s in color.  Red and gold.  Stark / Iron Man colors.  It’s also sporting a sword logo, like what we saw on the notebook from last week’s closing credits.

Before she has a chance to inspect it more fully, however, her friend and nosy neighbor Agnes arrives to drop off a pet rabbit for the magic act.  Wanda drops the helicopter back into the bushes, takes the rabbit inside, and then the two walk to the committee meeting.  The meeting is chaired by neighborhood mean girl, Dottie (Emma Caulfield Ford), who Agnes refers to as ‘Queen Cul-de-Sac.’  Agnes attempts to give Wanda a bit of friendly advice:  Dottie is the key to everything in this town, and that Wanda should be on her best behavior to ingratiate herself with Dottie.  “Or maybe I could just be myself, more or less,” suggests Wanda.  Agnes gives her a look that’s pure dismay; somewhere in  between Oh, honey…no and Are you fucking crazy?  The ensuing silence is just long and awkward enough to make an impact before Agnes breaks into nervous laughter.  It’s nice work by Kathryn Hahn and director Matt Shakman.

Wanda gets off on something of a wrong foot with Dottie at the seating committee, though to be fair, it’s probably hard not to get off on the wrong foot with Dottie.  Wanda claps at the wrong time, speaks at the wrong time, eats at the wrong time.  She does manage to strike up a friendly bit of conversation with a new acquaintance, Geraldine (Teyonah Parris), whose name is almost certainly not Geraldine.  We’ll get back to that in a moment.

Dottie, Queen of Cul-de-Sacs (Emma Caulfield Ford)

Meanwhile, the Vision attends the neighborhood watch gathering at the library.  Turns out the only neighborhood watching going on concerns gossiping, farting around, and eating danishes.  Someone gives the Vision a stick of gum, which he accidentally swallows, playing havoc with his internal parts.

Back at the seating committe, Wanda has been chosen by Dottie to stay behind after the meeting and help clean up (which means Wanda does all the work while Dottie supervises).  A strange conversation ensues:

“I’ve heard things about you,” says Dottie.  “You and your husband.”

“Well, I don’t know what you’ve been told,” says Wanda, “but I assure you I don’t mean anyone any harm.”

“I don’t believe you,” says Dottie.

And then the nearby clock radio, sitting on a lawn table, begins to screech with static and the Beach Boys’ ‘Help Me Rhonda’ — another heart reference:  Help me, Rhonda, yeah, get her out of my heart — before a man’s voice says, “Wanda.  Wanda, can you read me?  Wanda?”

Both women look at the radio, stunned.  “Who is that?” says Dottie, frightened.  “Who are you?”

“Wanda?” says the man’s voice on the radio.  “Wanda.  Who’s doing this to you, Wanda?”

The radio blows a fuse and the glass in Dottie’s hand shatters, cutting her palm and breaking the spell.  Wanda procures a towel for Dottie’s hand (her blood is in color), and as with the Lynchian choking scene in the last episode, just like that we’re back to ‘normal.'[2]David Lynch is the director of Eraserhead, Blue Velvet, and Mulholland Drive, and creator of the television show Twin Peaks.  Scratching the surface of the mundane to reveal the sinister strikes me … Continue reading

“Pop quiz, Wanda,” says Dottie.  “How does a housewife get a bloodstain out of white linen?  By doing it herself.”  It’s presented here as comedy, cued by the laugh track, though the line itself strikes me as deeply ominous.

Another of these in-universe commercial follows, this time for the Strucker brand wrist-watch, with the same actors as last week’s commercial for the Toastmate 2000.  Strucker, you’ll recall, is the Hydra goon who engineered Wanda and Pietro Maximoff’s powers back in Avengers:  Age of Ultron.  It’s the second episode in a row we have a commercial for an appliance or piece of machinery, which ends with a metronomic sound increasing in frequency and volume.

At the talent show, Wanda and her new friend Geraldine, acting as the stage manager, anxiously await the Vision’s arrival.  He shows up late and obviously impaired, the gum he swallowed back at the library still doing its number on him.  There’s no time to figure it out before the pair are whisked on-stage for their magic act.  Billed as Glamor and Illiusion, hijinx ensue from the Vision’s confusion:  he unwisely displays many of his various powers — flight, super-strength, intangibility — with Wanda covering for him, Bewitched style, with her magic.

The Cabinet of Mysteries

The Cabinet of Mysteries is the last of their magic tricks.  Vision shuts the door to the cabinet before Wanda can get in it, but thanks to Wanda’s magic, when the Vision opens the cabinet, it’s a somewhat puzzled Geraldine who steps out.

Backstage, Wanda figures out what’s affecting the Vision and removes the offending gum from his system with her powers.  The pair attempt to slink off back home, believing that Dottie and the committee will think they’ve ruined the show, but instead, they’re given an award for the ‘inaugural Comedy Performance of the Year’ and a standing ovation from the town.  “For the children!”

After arriving back home that night, Wanda and the Vision discover, with the strange logic of dreams — more David Lynch — that she’s several months pregnant.  “Vision…is this really happening?”  Their moment is interrupted by another loud crashing sound.  They go outside to investigate (the only people in the neighborhood to do so) and watch as a sinister figure in a beekeeper suit, bees buzzing around him, emerges from beneath a manhole cover.  He stands in the street, taking in his surroundings, before suddenly turning his gaze directly towards Wanda and the Vision.

“No,” says Wanda Maximoff, and we rewind, literally, back to, “Vision…is this really happening?”  This time, no crashing sound occurs, or perhaps is allowed to occur…and black and white gives way to technicolor with Wanda’s gaze, surprising her and the Vision both.  The couple kiss, with a Bewitched-style end credits overlay imposed, and then a repeat of the radio man’s voice:  “Wanda.  Who’s doing this to you, Wanda?  Wanda.”  Roll credits.

____

And here I was thinking, gentle reader, that this post would be shorter than the last one.  Wishful thinking.  Let’s tackle some of this in more depth, shall we?  You know you want to…

  • This episode takes a lot of its visual and thematic cues –including the animated opening credits and the sly nod to the double bed — from Bewitched, a series that ran from 1964 to 1972 about a suburban housewife, Samantha Stephens (Elizabeth Montgomery) who was a witch.  Indeed, she was from a whole family of people with witch powers, and like Wanda in this show, would use her magic powers to get in and get out of all kinds of trouble.  Wanda’s magic in this episode is often accompanied by a twinkling sound, similar to the sound that would sometimes accompany Samantha’s magic.
  • Wanda’s powers in this episode aren’t so much telekinetic or mind-affecting as we’ve seen in the past; here, they’re more straight-up magical.  Or reality-affecting.  Take your pick.
  • The toy helicopter with the Iron Man colors and the sword logo has a number 57 painted on it.  The Vision’s first comic appearance was Avengers #57, Oct 1968.
  • Fantastic Four # 94, Jan 1970 – First appearance of Agatha Harkness.

    I still think Agnes the nosy next-door neighbor might well be Agatha Harkness.  I’ve no proof of it, and it’d be a deep cut if so.  Of course, there’s no guarantee that even if she is Agatha Harkness, she’s anything like her comic book counterpart.  Agatha Harkness first appeared in Fantastic Four #94, Jan 1970, as a nanny / babysitter to yet another reality manipulator, young Franklin Richards.

  • No idea who or what Dennis the mailman / messenger might be.  My guess is it’ll be something we learn later.
  • Wanda is sporting a very Laura Petrie-ish fashion vibe with her sleek pant ensemble at the seating committee meeting.  Laura Petrie was Rob Petrie’s wife on The Dick Van Dyke Show, played by the iconic Mary Tyler Moore, and so far as I’m aware, she was the first woman to regularly wear pants on network television.[3]My TV expert / consultant tells me that Moore’s screentime in pants was carefully monitored by the network, with limits set on the time she could spend in them!
  • Time for some wildly unfounded conjecture concerning Dottie / Queen Cul-de-Sac and Her Merry Homemakers:
  • Dottie is normally a short form or nickname for Dorothy.  The most famous and obvious Dorothy, of course, is Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz (1939), a movie with which this episode of WandaVision has some parallels:  camera work that goes from black and white to color, and an odd dreamscape with one foot in reality, featuring people from real life cast in the fantasy land.  That movie culminates with a seemingly god-like figure behind the scenes revealed to be, well…not all that.  No Marvel Universe character named Dorothy is springing to mind, but bear with me on this Dottie business.
  • Agnes tells Wanda that Dottie’s roses “bloom under penalty of death,” an odd phrase.  It comes right before Agnes’s friendly advice about Dottie being “the key to everything in this town.”  And the first thing Agnes says to Dottie is, “Your roses are divine.”  Hmm.  Later, Dottie tells one of the women at the seating committee that the Devil is in the details.  “That’s not the only place he is,” says Agnes to Wanda.  That’s a lot of talk in a very short span of time alluding to death, divinity, and the Devil.
    Journey into Mystery #103, April 1964 – First appearance of the Enchantress.

    So…no one named Dorothy I can think of, or Dottie, for that matter, but Dottie sounds like daughter to me, which made me think of Angela Odinsdotter,[4]Thor’s sister in the comics, created by Neil Gaiman which made me think of Asgardians and divinity.  And that in turn made me think that there’s at least one Asgardian in the Marvel Universe who would most definitely be inclined to get all up in the Scarlet Witch’s business.

    Amora, the Enchantress.

    Hey, I told you it was wildly unfounded conjecture.

  • The talent show is ostensibly a benefit for Westview Elementary School children…children that are never seen or otherwise referred to anywhere.  People in the town associated with the talent show have a disturbing habit of repeating For the children like a mantra or prayer whenever someone utters the phrase.
  • “All of this,” says Dottie, “is for the children.”
  • More Bewitched:  the seating committee suggests a witch’s coven to me.  Indeed, there are three women at the seating committee, sitting apart from everyone else, who never say anything — except maybe for the children  — and who follow Dottie around.  Three is a number traditionally associated with witches and figures of prophecy.  Think the Fates, the Norns, and Macbeth’s three witches.  Again, might just be conspiracy theorizing on my part, attempting to assign meaning where there is none.  Somtimes a cigar is just a cigar.  And sometimes it’s three witches watering the roots of the World Tree.
  • “I’m Wanda.”
    “I’m…uh…Geraldine.”
    Oooookay.
  • Contrary to what we see in this episode, it’s my understanding that the Vision’s body isn’t full of gears and the like.  He’s a synthetic person, not a robot; think artificial instead of mechanical.  It’s true he doesn’t eat food — he’s solar-powered — nor does he require sleep, but in most respects he’s physiologically more human than a terminator, say, or C3P0.
  • Vision and the Scarlet Witch #9, June 1986 – Glamor and Illusion on the Tarot cards, and…holy shit, is that the Enchantress?!

    Wanda and the Vision’s ‘Glamor and Illusion’ personas are taken from the comics, sort of, as is their attempt to live like normal-ish people in the suburbs (Leonia, New Jersey in the comics!).  The tale of their suburban lifestyle can be seen in Vision and the Scarlet Witch (1985) #1 – 12, by Steve Englehart[5]Englehart, who wrote Avengers from 1972 to 1976, was the writer who first put the Vision and the Scarlet Witch together. and Richard Howell.  Glamor and Illusion were Glynis and Ilya Zarkov, neighbors of the Visions, and like Wanda and the Vision in this episode, they had a magic act augmented by super powers; they first appeared in Vision and the Scarlet Witch #4, Jan 1986.

  • Wanda and the Vision have a different front door than the one we saw in episode 1.  This episode’s front door is exactly like the Stephens’ front door from — you guessed it — Bewitched.  They also share a bedroom layout similar to the Stephens’ (note, if you’ve a mind to, the fireplace next to the bedroom window).
  • The fellow crawling from the manhole suggests one thing and one thing only:  Advanced Idea Mechanics, a.k.a. AIM, the mad scientist wing of Hydra, created by none other than former Nazi asshole Baron von Strucker.  They traditionally wear these bright yellow numbers that resemble beekeeper outfits.  And while most of what we’ve seen so far concerns Wanda Maximoff, it’d be the Vision that’d likely draw the interest of AIM.  AIM was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby; their first appearance was Strange Tales #146, July 1966.

    AIM ‘beekeepers’; art by Jack Kirby.
  • Wanda’s reaction to the beekeeper — “No.” — followed by a literal rewind is what I’d expect from the Scarlet Witch.  You do remember I said her powers warp reality, yes?
  • Wanda and the Vision are more or less in their traditional colors during the episode’s last scene.  The Vision in green and gold, Wanda in scarlet (what else?).

That’s episode 2!  Thank you for being here, and for allowing me to do my level best to melt your mind and exhaust your patience.  If you know something about TV that I don’t — not just possible, but likely — please let me know, and if you think I might know something about Marvel Comics that you’d like to know, ask away.  See you next episode!

References

References
1 I couldn’t help but think of Gob and his similar Aztec Tomb in Arrested Development, insisting to his brother that it’s an illusion; a trick, he says, is something a whore does for money…”or candy!” he adds for the benefit of the small children crowding about the Tomb.  Weird fact:  the pilot episode of Arrested Development the Tomb appeared in was directed by Joe and Anthony Russo…the very same Russo Brothers who would go on to direct Captain America:  Winter Soldier, Captain America:  Civil War, Avengers:  Infinity War, and Avengers:  Endgame.
2 David Lynch is the director of Eraserhead, Blue Velvet, and Mulholland Drive, and creator of the television show Twin Peaks.  Scratching the surface of the mundane to reveal the sinister strikes me as characteristic of much of his work.
3 My TV expert / consultant tells me that Moore’s screentime in pants was carefully monitored by the network, with limits set on the time she could spend in them!
4 Thor’s sister in the comics, created by Neil Gaiman
5 Englehart, who wrote Avengers from 1972 to 1976, was the writer who first put the Vision and the Scarlet Witch together.

4 replies on “WandaVision, Ep.2: Don’t Touch That Dial”

Bewitched was a childhood favorite of mine, so there was a lot of nostalgia in this episode for me. Great writing as always.

Thank you for reading! I’ve the nagging feeling that there are a whole lot of TV clues and references that are whizzing past me without notice. While Bewitched and I Love Lucy were more or less easy to identify, I imagine I’m still missing more than I’m catching, TV-wise.

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