Christina and I may be a bit late to the party, but better late than never! Perhaps a surprise hit of late-pandemic-era streaming (suck it, Bridgerton), the Disney+ mini-series WandaVision quickly achieved cult status with Marvel fans and TV buffs alike. The series begins, quirkily echoing TV sitcoms of years gone by: I Love Lucy, The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Brady Bunch, Family Ties, Full House, Malcolm in the Middle, and even modern-day favorites like Modern Family and The Office. But the decade-by-decade progression of American TV had a darker secret belying it.
SEASONE ONE Episode Guide
Episode 1: Filmed Before a Live Studio Audience
I have a theory that you can’t really judge a TV show by its pilot. When I start to watch a show, I like to give it at least 3 episodes before I feel like I can rightfully decide if I like it or not. There is just so much to do in a pilot! You have to set the tone, introduce the characters, make viewers care about the characters, and you have to balance the information given. You can’t give away so much that it is predictable or boring, but you have to give enough to pique interest.
WandaVision started very well, in my opinion. We start with the couple living an old black and white lifestyle with a trope-y conundrum: unprepared for dinner guests! It is fast and funny, but absolutely did not clearly tell viewers exactly what was going on. For as many laughs as we were given, we had that many questions.
For some, this layout was a turnoff. I heard people calling the show “weird” and saying that it did not make sense. For me, I just enjoyed the ride. And hunted for Easter eggs and clues and tried to figure out on my own (and the multitude of fan theories) what was going on.
Episode 2: Don’t Touch That Dial
As we move forward to the second episode, we switch time periods, moving up in our pop culture references to the 1960s and the likes of Bewitched and The Dick Van Dyke Show. The irony of using a show like Bewitched, where Samantha tries to fit in to her local community, belies the theme of the entire episode — Wanda and Vision trying to fit into “normal” society in Westview.
To help their cause, the pair opts to participate in a talent show “for the children,” whom no one has seen yet in either episode.
The end product charms the town’s citizens, and Wanda and Vision are off the hook, at least for the time being. But the biggest surprise in the episode is the discovery that Wanda is pregnant… Comic fans, you knew what was coming.
Episode 3: Now in Color
In this episode, we are now in the 70’s genre of TV shows a la The Brady Bunch and we are, as the title suggests, in color. Wanda’s pregnancy is rapidly developing and we get to see her spend more time with the neighbor Geraldine who previously told Wanda that she had no idea what she was doing there. Wanda may, though, as she notices that Geraldine is wearing a S.W.O.R.D. necklace.
Smell anything fishy, yet? You’re hooked now, aren’t you? We are getting closer to answers! I told you that you have to watch more than just the pilot.
Episode 4: We Interrupt This Program
WandaVision continues to get more “meta,” as we spend more time outside of Wanda’s sitcom world and see her shows as the other characters do. The biggest reveal is that Geraldine (Teyonah Parris) is none other than Monica Rambeau, daughter of Maria, also known as Photon and the founder of S.W.O.R.D..
In an emotional and harrowing scene, we realize that Monica was returned to life, post-Blip, only to find that her mother succumbed to cancer three years earlier. Despite the protests of current S.W.O.R.D. director Tyler Hayward (Josh Stamberg), Rambeau returns to work and is sent to investigate the goings-on in Westview. Aiding her are Jimmy Woo (Randall Park) and the still-wry Dr. Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings), fresh off a doctorate program in astrophysics.
It is really only through Darcy’s investigations that they find the sitcom transmissions and begin to see what happens when S.W.O.R.D. tries to enter Wanda’s world. Hint: It’s not good. Wanda does not appreciate uninvited guests…
Episode 5: On a Very Special Episode…
We are now in the 80’s with a very Growing Pains, Family Ties, and Full House vibe. I think this was my favorite opening because I loved these shows when I was younger. Anyway, Vision is now starting to feel that things are off. His suspicions have nothing to do with their fast-aging twins, but rather the neighbors’ behaviors and Wanda’s.
Outside of the Hex we learn more about Monica and how she felt being inside the Hex. We also see some footage of what happened just before the town went missing.
There is also a special appearance by someone who triggered LOTS of fan theories and really stirred things up!
Episode 6: All-New Halloween Spooktacular!
As Wanda continues her evolution of American sitcoms, we find ourselves set in the late 90s and early 2000s, giving the show a “Malcolm in the Middle” vibe. In another nod to the classic comics, we see both Wanda and Vision in Halloween costumes that echo back to the original printed comic depictions of the duo, as well as those of Billy and Tommy. Uncle Pietro (and Wanda still can’t figure out why he’s the “wrong” Pietro) volunteers to take the twins trick-or-treating, since Vision insists he needs to be part of the neighborhood watch’s patrol, on the lookout for hijinks. But the hijinks he discovers are not of the town’s making.
Pietro tells Wanda that he knows she has the town of Westview under her control, which startles her. She can’t answer Pietro when he asks how she’s doing it.
Wanda’s world and the real world make an unexpected connection as Vision attempts to go beyond the Hex, causing him to disintegrate. Billy alerts Wanda to Vision’s situation, and she then expands the Hex, enveloping a portion of the S.W.O.R.D. base — and Darcy! Jimmy and Monica plot to get Monica back into the Hex, even though they have discovered that each trip inside causes molecular changes that can’t be explained.
Episode 7: Breaking the Fourth Wall
This title works on a couple different levels: we see Wanda and Vision breaking the fourth wall by talking to the audience a la Modern Family-style, but we also see the walls of their reality cracking. Wanda herself admits to feeling off and having a case of the Mondays.
Meanwhile, Darcy runs into Vision in the now-expanded outskirts of the Hex and outside, Monica is planning something to get her in there. And what’s that? One of the neighbors has a sinister side?
Episode 8: Previously On
Yet another episode that is more of a plot driver than mere device. We finally get to learn about Agnes, er Agatha Harkness, and her backstory. A true witch from Salem, Agatha was condemned by her own coven — including her own mother — for practicing dark magic. But due to her superior power, Agatha drains the life force from the entire coven, killing them all.
Back in present-day Westview, Wanda is trapped in Agatha’s basement lair, and Agatha forces Wanda to relive multiple painful and emotional memories, including the death of her parents in Sokovia and her connection with Hydra and initial encounter with the Mind Stone. The enforced reverie is concluded with happier memories of Vision and their early relationship. Wanda still doesn’t reveal what Agatha really wants to know: how Wanda is mind-controlling an entire town, and where her magic comes from.
In other memories of Vision, we learn that Haywar’s been lying to everyone. Although understandably upset, Wanda did indeed come to S.W.O.R.D. headquarters to claim Vision’s body, but after seeing the lab and failing to sense him, she left alone. Vision’s body was never stolen.
But the climax of the episode comes when Wanda leaves headquarters and arrives at a plot of land Vision had purchased for their future home together. In a fit of righteous grief, Wanda screams and the town of Westview is suddenly shrouded by the Hex. Well, this explains at least one thing…
Episode 9: The Series Finale
The episode picks up right where the previous one left off and not only do S.W.O.R.D. agents infiltrate the Hex, but so does Monica, and we also get to see a battle of the witches: Agnes (Agatha) versus Wanda, the Scarlet Witch. We also get to see Vision battle…well, someone. I can’t spoil this for you. The battles are great, the conversation is thoughtful, and while the ending may not be all that everyone thought it would be, there is still some satisfaction to it and in true Marvel fashion, there is an end credits scene!
SEASON 1 Analysis
Christina: I was hooked from episode one! I enjoyed the homages to the older TV shows and did not care that I really had no idea what was going on. I watched, laughed, and then re-watched to look for Easter eggs and to begin to create my own ideas of what might be happening.
Cathy: I agree, and I was totally blindsided by how quickly it got dark. It was totally fun listening to and reading other people’s opinions on what was going on, and what would happen next. (And for what it’s worth, I didn’t see it coming. Totally blindsided by the eventual shift in mood.)
Christina: Yes! I want to skip ahead and talk about that mood shift! It started off so quirky, so light, but then we realized we were dealing with two very dark things: Wanda’s grief and Agnes. To me that is one of the biggest differences between Marvel and DC when it comes to the silver screen (at home or in the theater): Marvel’s ability to evenly mix the light and the dark whereas DC is just dark and stays there.
Cathy: True. I think (or I hope) WandaVision’s success will help DC learn that skill. I think the comedic hommages and send-ups of early sitcoms was the perfect foil for the darkness of Wanda’s grief, plus we get the much-needed backstory of why Wanda would choose sitcoms to fabricate her happy little illusionary world. So. Much. Sadness. And. Grief. No wonder she’s a chaos witch. And speaking of Agnes (*ahem* Agatha. It was, after all, Agatha all along…), I still want to know how she hid herself so well in Wanda’s world. Even up through episode 6, I honestly just thought she was another townsperson, the wacky sidekick neighbor every show seems to have.
Christina: That is exactly how she hid for so long; she played the expected role perfectly. She fit into the sitcom world Wanda had created so well that she just blended in. So we’re going to talk about the ending, right? There were so many people upset because their theory did not come true!
Cathy: Well, that’s what they get for trying to outsmart the writers. The writers and show runners knew what they were doing. People can disagree until they’re blue in the face, but the arc was what it was supposed to be, with the characters needed, and now we’re set up for a second season!
Christina: While I enjoyed the show, I did feel like the ending was a bit anticlimactic, to just let Wanda walk away after all that she had done. Wasn’t she one of the biggest reasons for the Sokovia Accords? I’m not saying we punish her for grieving…maybe let’s get her some court-mandated therapy before she goes around and causes more trouble in the next Doctor Strange film…
Cathy: As a more casual MCU consumer, it didn’t affect me in the same way. I actually haven’t even seen all of the previous Marvel movies that include Wanda, so I was personally less vested. I think that is good for people who might be just entering the MCU — but you are right — it left more questions than answers about Wanda, her powers, her past, and her future. And I’m looking forward to getting them answered in any upcoming projects!
Christina: If you are not that familiar with Wanda, then I’d highly recommend checking out Marvel’s House of M. Maybe we can use that to hold us over until Doctor Strange 2 to see what is next for Wanda’s story.
WandaVision is available through the Disney+ streaming service.