WandaVision Explained is our ongoing series that keeps tabs on Marvel Studios’ sitcom saga about TV’s happiest tragic couple. In this entry, we turn our channel toward the WandaVision premiere — the first two episodes — and consider the grim future ahead. Yes, prepare for spoilers.
From the earliest images and trailers, we knew WandaVision would be a bold play for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Mirroring every episode of your first season after various classic sitcoms could easily alienate your viewers who’ve never turned a dial, let alone watched a black and white anything. With the first two half-hours now unveiled, it’s even clearer that studio honcho Kevin Feige and showrunner Jac Schaeffer are not interested in holding their audience’s hands. This show is using their love for yesteryear programming to mask a sinister narrative.
Vision (Paul Bettany) is dead. Thanos popped his skull when he snatched his Infinity Stone from his forehead at the end of Avengers: Infinity War. Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) had mere minutes to scream her grief before dusting into oblivion after Thanos completed his snap. She got to exercise some rage on the Mad Titan during the climactic battle in Avengers: Endgame, but while resurrection was possible for her, there appeared no magic cure for her beloved.
WandaVision marries the two sweethearts and dumps them on a near-replica of the set of The Dick Van Dyke Show for episode one and a near-replica of the set of Bewitched for episode two. Their powersets and personalities remain intact, but despite the world around them being meticulously researched and replicated, it’s about as genuine as a bowl of wax fruit. There is glee to be had in how exceptional Olsen and Bettany inhabit their nostalgic non-reality, but agony leaks behind every smile.
We are not the only ones watching. At the conclusion of the first episode, after the black-and-white image clicks off, the camera pulls away from the boob tube, and we discover it to be a monitor for some governmental operator. To the left of their station is a symbol depicting a sword inside a circle. Comic book readers know this to be the emblem of S.W.O.R.D.
In the comics, S.W.O.R.D. stands for Sentient World Observation and Response Department. It was first introduced in Joss Whedon and John Cassaday’s Astonishing X-Men and were initially explained as an offshoot of S.H.I.E.L.D. tasked with monitoring extraterrestrial threats. Whoa. So does that mean Wanda and Vision are caught in some terrible little green men situation? Uh, not necessarily. In fact, probably not.
Posters have circulated online, revealing a slight alteration for the show’s acronym: Sentient Weapon Observation and Response Division. Goodbye, “World.” Hello, “Weapon.” This tracks much more with the tiny disturbances we see in WandaVision‘s first two episodes.
Wanda is a sentient weapon. We’ve only scratched the surface regarding her capabilities. As Okoye recognized in Avengers: Infinity War (“Why was she up there?”), Wanda is an omega level superhuman. We already know from the films that she can do more than lift objects with her mind, but in the comics, she has the ability to reshape worlds with a thought.
In her tremendous state of grief, could Wanda have willed this shiny sitcom universe around her? Absolutely. In the comic book series House of M, Wanda, reeling from the loss of her children (more on that in a second), revamped the planet, so every hero lived the life they always wanted. When Wolverine sniffed trouble and sought to end her magical reign, Wanda uttered the phrase “No More Mutants,” returning reality to what it once was minus most of its Homo Superior population.
WandaVision sees Wanda working her way through the five stages of grief. Right now, she’s planted in denial. The outside world, represented by S.W.O.R.D., cannot sit back and let her wallow. Who knows what side effects are occurring beyond her sitcom bubble?
Also, she’s not alone inside this realm. We encounter a few invaders who seem to know more than they’re letting on during the premiere episodes. The first person we meet beside the happy couple is nosey neighbor Agnes (Kathryn Hahn). She’s more than a mere pest, butting her head into matrimonial matters. Most likely, she’s a powerful witch in her own right.
Agnes is likely Agatha Harkness, a significant character for Wanda’s comic book counterpart. She’s a nearly ageless creature who observed the sinking of Atlantis and survived the Salem witch trials. In the pages of Fantastic Four, she served as nanny to Franklin, the son of Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Woman. She was there when Franklin obliterated Mephisto (Stan Lee’s twist on Mephistopheles) and scattered his soul across the cosmos. She was also there when it was revealed that Wanda took those fragmented soul shards and made two twin sons from them.
WandaVision‘s second episode makes some strong suggestions that these kids are coming. As Wanda desperately attempts to establish herself as part of her community (going so far as to put on a magical act talent show), the neighbors ominously utter their mantra, “For the children.” The phrase crops up multiple times throughout the episode, and it always arrives with a cultish monotone cadence.
Is Agnes manipulating Wanda into bringing new life into this sitcom scenario? We can’t connect those dots just yet. It’s possible. Agnes could have her hands in some nefarious pockets, but traditionally, the character serves more as a mentor than a threat to Wanda.
WandaVision‘s ultimate villain could actually be hiding in plain sight. During the first episode, we’re treated to a commercial break advertising the ToastMate 2000 from Stark Industries. Wow. Neat-o. In the second episode, we get another commercial promoting the Swiss Made Strücker wristwatch. The ad concludes with, “Strücker: he’ll make time for you.”
The last time we saw Strücker (Thomas Kretschmann) in the MCU, he was a corpse in a photograph, apparently murdered by Ultron. However, you can not trust that psychotic robot to follow-through. We should expect Strücker to strut into WandaVision sooner or later.
He was the Hydra henchman who oversaw the genetic enhancement of Wanda and her twin brother, Pietro (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). Strücker would most definitely like a new set of twins as his playthings. With the evil organization still reeling from the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, a couple of baby bombs born from Wanda’s immense imagination could prove quite useful.
But not all WandaVision invaders are villains. In the second episode, we also meet Geraldine, played by Teyonah Parris. She’s one of the few friendly faces within the intense Bewitched community. She stutters on her name, seemingly pulling it out of thin air, but that’s because she probably did just that. Geraldine is not Geraldine, but Monica Rambeau, the daughter of Captain Marvel‘s Maria Rambeau, all grown up.
Rambeau is most likely working on behalf of S.W.O.R.D. Following in the footsteps of her mother, Rambeau wants to fight the good fight. She’s working on the side of the angels. She has a Captain Marvel sequel in her future, after all.
In the WandaVision premiere’s final moments, a loud rustling forces husband and wife into a bizarre confrontation just outside their home. As they observe from their yard, a manhole cover opens down the street, and a shadowy beekeeper emerges with the S.W.O.R.D. logo stamped on his back. Sensing dread, Wanda utters, “No.” The tape rewinds, and the two return to their living room.
Just as Bewitched transitioned from black and white into color after two seasons, WandaVision‘s second episode introduces a rainbow’s spectrum during the climax. Seeing her husband in all his fuchsia glory brings a chuckle and a smile to Wanda, but the brightness does not last long. The theme song chimes, the camera pulls back, and a honeycomb hexagonal shape closes in on the final shot.
The honeycomb, in combination with the beekeeper, is troubling. These are symbols of A.I.M. (Advanced Idea Mechanics), a terrorist cell in the comics that splintered out of Hydra. Of course, in the MCU, we’ve already seen A.I.M. as a limp wannabe supervillain group originating from Iron Man 3‘s baddie, Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce). With that chump dead, or not, Strücker might be merging the two cells into a more viable menace.
Whatever the case, it’s clear that there are some incredibly dark currents thrumming beneath the nostalgic glitz and glam of WandaVision‘s premiere. Our hero is recoiling in pain from Vision’s death, and wretched vultures are circling above to take advantage. The joy will be in how Wanda and Vision reveal themselves as the titanic powers we know them to be. Heads are gonna get busted, but we’ve got a few more decades of television to navigate first. Bring on That ’70s Show.
Stay tuned for the next installment of WandaVision Explained with the release of the third episode on Disney+ on January 22nd.