Welcome back to our episode-by-episode exploration of WandaVision. There are spoilers up ahead; this article assumes you’ve seen up through the fourth episode. Also, if there are Marvel Cinematic Universe movies of recent vintage you haven’t seen — everything since 2018, say — you might want to check those out before continuing, as those will be pertinent to our discussion here.
Like lightning from a clear blue sky, in a plot twist I did not even sort of see coming, WandaVision ep.4 appears to offer up more answers than questions, and now I hardly know what to do with myself. You do remember I said a certain scarlet associated person warps reality, yes?
Our story this week begins with Geraldine (Teyonah Parris) — who’s actually Monica Rambeau; you may remember her as Captain Marvel’s friend Maria’s daughter, Lieutenant Trouble, in Captain Marvel (2019) — coming back from the dead, along with everyone else who was a victim of Thanos’s extinction of half the life in the universe back in Avengers: Infinity War (2018). If we’re gonna go full geek with it — and this blog is called the Opposite of Cool, so full geek it is — we’ll recall that all the victims of Thanos got brought back at great personal cost by the Infinity Gautlet-wearing Hulk in Avengers: Endgame (2019). This event is known as the Blip (as opposed to the original Thanos event, which is called the Snap), first noted in Spider-Man: Far from Home (2019).
Monica has no sense or memory of either Snap or Blitz. The last she remembers, she was in her mother’s hospital room following a successful surgery. Monica learns she’s been presumed dead and gone these past five years. Her mother died from cancer three years ago.
Monica returns to her job at S.W.O.R.D., or tries to; her card no longer works, and a former colleague, Tyler Hayward, has been installed as director of the organization while she’s been gone. Monica is given what’s intended to be a softball assignment assisting the FBI on a missing persons case in Westview, New Jersey, overseeing the use of a high-tech S.W.O.R.D. imaging drone.
The FBI agent in charge of this operation is James ‘Jimmy’ Woo (Randall Park), who made his MCU debut in Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018). He needs the S.W.O.R.D. drone because not only has his contact in a witness protection program gone missing, none of the contact’s friends or associates have ever even heard of him. More, the local cops Jimmy has enlisted claim point-blank, not ten feet from a Welcome to Westview sign, that the town of Westview doesn’t exist.The police claim they’re from Eastview, and the stencilling on their car would appear to back that up. As Monica sums it up, Jimmy can’t reach anyone inside the town, and everyone outside of it has selective amnesia.
“Why haven’t you gone inside to investigate?” asks Monica.
“Because it doesn’t want me to,” says Jimmy. “You can feel it too, can’t you?”This put me in mind of Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot (1975), 12-year old Mark Petrie cutting Susan Norton’s adult rationalizations regarding a vampire king off at the heels: … Continue reading
Monica’s S.W.OR.D. drone, S-57, disappears into the energy field surrounding the town, mystifying Monica and Jimmy; shortly after that, investigating the field up close, Monica disappears into it as well.
24 hours later, a full federal response has been set up oustide Westview at a makeshift S.W.O.R.D Response Base. Astrophysicist Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings), from Thor (2011), is one of several experts brought in to help solve the Westview mystery (other fields include nuclear biology, artificial intelligence, and chemical engineering). Darcy discovers a ‘colossal’ amount of CMBR, Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation, connected to the energy field surrounding the town. She also discovers another wavelength superimposed over the CMBR…and tunes in to the WandaVision sitcom we’ve all been watching.
“Is that…?” Jimmy asks.
“It looks like her,” says Darcy. “Look, I know it’s been a crazy few years on this planet, but he’s dead, right? Not blipped. Dead.”
“Is this authentic?” Director Hayward asks.
“I’m not sure how to answer that,” says Darcy. She admits she doesn’t know where the broadcast is coming from, if it’s happening in real time or pre-recorded.
“So you’re saying the universe created a sitcom starring two Avengers?” asks Jimmy.
Darcy tells him it’s a working theory. She watches the end of WandaVision ep. 1, with its I Love Lucy style credits, and we see the notebook with the S.W.O.R.D. logo. This happens almost exactly at the halfway point of the episode.
The response team begins identifying real-life townspeople who have been cast in the sitcom, including Monica, who’s been woven into the tapestry of the show. Meanwhile, a S.W.O.R.D. agent in a hazmat suit had been sent through the sewers to try to make contact with Monica, and provide a first-hand account of what’s going on. This agent in the hazmat suit turns out to be the beekeeper who popped up out of the sewers at the end of episode 2, prompting Wanda to impose her rewind.
Darcy comes up with an idea to match the broadcast frequency of the show, attempting to communicate with Wanda through one of the radios seen on the set. We saw the results of that in episode 2 while Wanda was cleaning up with Dottie — it was Jimmy Woo’s voice saying, “Wanda? Who’s doing this to you, Wanda?” — and Darcy notes a strange editing effect at work. She never sees the broken glass and blood on Dottie’s palm, which has apparently been removed entirely from the broadcast.
Jimmy and Darcy are watching episode 3, ‘live’, following the birth of Wanda’s twins (“Twins! What a twist,” says Darcy), when Geraldine / Monica mentions Ultron. “Did she just say the name Ultron?” asks Jimmy. “Has that happened before? A reference to our reality?”
“No. Never,” says Darcy.
Jimmy and Darcy see the beginning of Wanda and Monica’s episode 3 disagreement, and then…cut straight to closing Brady Bunch style credits, Wanda and the Vision sitting on the couch with their twins. “What happened? Where’d she go?” says Jimmy.
“God, not again,” says Darcy. She rewinds the recording. “There’s nothing here. One second, Monica is standing right there, and the next, she isn’t. Someone is censoring the broadcast.”
An alarm sounds, reporting a breach of the energy field.
Darcy and Jimmy don’t see it, but we do: what really happened between Wanda and Monica at the end of episode 3:
“Who are you?” says Wanda.
“Wanda…I’m just your neighbor.”
“Then how did you know about Ultron? You’re not my neighbor. And you’re definitely not my friend. You are a stranger and an outsider. And right now, you are trespassing here. And I want you to leave.”
Wanda violently expels Monica from Westview, blowing her through walls and fences (she fixes the property damage with a wave of her hands). The Vision enters shortly after. “Where is Geraldine?”
“Oh, she left, honey. She had to rush home.” She turns to the Vision, and for a moment sees him dead, pale and colorless, a ruined, violated space on his brow where the Mind Stone that animated him once sat. She looks away and clears her head, and he’s back to normal (or what passes for normal in a reality-warping sitcom with a synthetic man who’s supposed to be dead).
“We don’t have to stay here,” the Vision tells her. “We can go wherever we want.”
“No, we can’t,” Wanda tells him sadly. “This is our home.”
“Are you sure?”
“Oh, don’t worry, darling. I have everything under control.”
Outside Westview, dazed and hanging on to consciousness as we saw her at the end of episode 3, Monica makes a startling declaration as to the cause of the anomaly: “It’s Wanda. It’s all Wanda.”
Back in the WandaVision reality, Wanda and the Vision settle down on the couch for a bit of television. Roll Brady Bunch style credits, to Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Voodoo Child (Slight Return).’
High diving head-first into the shallow end:
- Monica Rambeau is the super-hero known as Spectrum in the comics, created by Roger Stern and John Romita Jr.; her first appearance was Amazing Spider-Man Annual #16, Aug 1982.
- We have confirmation of S.W.O.R.D.’s involvement, though the acronym, and presumably the mission statement, has been changed somewhat. In the comics, S.W.OR.D. stands for Sentient World Observation and Response Department; here in WandaVision, it stands for Sentient Weapon Observation Response Division. Going by the name, I’d guess that the MCU’s S.W.OR.D. is an outfit dedicated to winning (or at least keeping pace in) the super-human arms race (though I’d caution that’s just speculation on my part). S.W.O.R.D.’s first comics appearance was Astonishing X-Men #3, Sep 2004, and they were created by Joss WhedonThe same Joss Whedon that would go on to direct Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron. and John Cassaday.
- Jimmy Woo is a character whose existence predates Marvel Comics altogether. His first appearance was in Atlas Comics’ Yellow Claw #1, Oct 1956, created by Al Feldstein and Joe Maneely. Jimmy Woo is notable for being the rare (if not only) Asian protagonist in the comics of this period. His first official Marvel Comics appearance was Strange Tales #160, Sep 1967, story and art by Jim Steranko. Where the Jimmy Woo of the MCU is kind of a comedic figure, the Jimmy Woo of the comics is exceedingly crafty and capable. Lots of secrets, lots of plans.
- No confirmation in this episode as to whether my Agnes as Agatha Harkness or Dottie as the Enchantress theories are true. Then again, neither do we have confirmation that they’re not true. According to the S.W.O.R.D. response team’s board, Agnes has a sheet but hasn’t been matched up to a driver’s license or ID yet; Dottie doesn’t have any sheet at all. Same deal with AIM. There’s nothing definitive that tells me AIM is involved with all this, but neither is there anything definitive to tell me they aren’t. All those Hydra commercials and that beekeeper…it’d be quite the coincidence if all that added up to nothing, wouldn’t it?
- More AIM / Hydra: is it just me, or does Director Hayward’s stroll with Monica through S.W.O.R.D.’s Mission Operations area, and his accompanying speech — “The world’s not the same as you left it. Space is now full of unexpected threats.” — evocative of Nick Fury’s speech to Captain America regarding the threat-identifying (and -eliminating) helicarriers in Captain America: Winter Soldier? Hmm.
- Yet more AIM / Hydra: Might be something, might be nothing, but an associate of Opposite of Cool pointed out the number on the ‘Eastview’ police car is 1966. The Scarlet Witch’s first appearance is 1964, the Vision’s 1968, Hydra’s 1965, Jimmy Woo’s 1967…but AIM? You guessed it. 1966. And lest we forget, AIM started as a Hydra division.
- The number on Monica’s SUV is S-8512. Again, might be nothing, but…Agatha Harkness makes an appearance in Vision and the Scarlet Witch #3, Dec 1985. It’s also the issue where Wanda gets the idea to use magic to make herself pregnant. Just sayin’.
- The number on Monica’s imaging drone is S-57, which, as we’ve noted, alludes to the Vision’s first appearance in Avengers #57, Oct 1968. This is the same drone re-imagined as a toy helicopter that Wanda picks up out of the bushes in WandaVision ep.2.
- Kat Dennings’s character, Darcy Lewis, has no analog in the comics; she’s a character original to the MCU. Metatextually, Darcy is herself something of a sitcom chacter, with her snappy joke-a-second dialogue and demeanor. She wouldn’t be at all out of place on The Big Bang Theory (2007 – 2019), say. Dennings is probably best known for her work on a sitcom, 2 Broke Girls (2011 – 2017).
- It pleases me to see characters recognize Wanda and the Vision right off the bat. While many super-heroes in the Marvel Universe have secret identities, many do not. Avengers tend to be household names and are often famous on a global scale. It totally tracks for me that people would immediately recognize a pair of Avengers, even in this unexpected context.
- The shape of the energy field around Westview is hexagonal. We’ve seen plenty of hexagonal imagery up to this point in WandaVision. The I Love Lucy credits at the end of episode 1 feature a hexagon, as do the Bewitched credits at the end of episode 2. The opening Brady Bunch-style credits of Episode 3 feature hexagons instead of squares.
- The tether connecting the S.W.O.R.D. agent / beekeeper turns into a plastic jump rope when it crosses the boundary of the energy field. I haven’t seen one of those in a long, long time. Took me a moment to place it!
- I don’t know for certain if this is what’s happening — I still suspect Hydra / AIM / Enchantress shenanigans — but it makes me a little weepy to think that Wanda Maximoff in her unbearable grief may have created her own controllable reality and pulled it in after her.
- That said, it makes me happy to see, for once, an MCU character given the full mythic scope– maybe — of her abilities. The Scarlet Witch of the comics has the power (and the personality) to do something like what we’re perhaps seeing the Wanda Maximoff of the MCU do here. She’s a hero, yes, but one possessed of a terrible (and terrifying) power.
I hope you’ll let me know if you have any questions, or if you see something I missed (though mind the spoilers). See you next week, when we’ll pass the halfway point of WandaVision!
|↑1||The police claim they’re from Eastview, and the stencilling on their car would appear to back that up.|
|↑2||This put me in mind of Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot (1975), 12-year old Mark Petrie cutting Susan Norton’s adult rationalizations regarding a vampire king off at the heels: “Can’t you feel how bad he is? Doesn’t that house make you afraid, just looking at it?”|
|↑3||The same Joss Whedon that would go on to direct Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron.|