The following is a recap and review of the first and second episodes of WandaVision, available exclusively on Disney+. Expect story spoilers and general Marvel Cinematic Universe spoilers.
When we last saw Wanda Maximoff (played by Elizabeth Olsen), she attended Tony Stark’s funeral at the end of Avengers: Endgame. However, the last time we saw Vision (played by Paul Bettany) he was lying lifeless on the ground after Thanos had ripped out the mind stone from Vision’s forehead in Avengers: Infinity War. Therefore it would be a massive understatement to say that it is more than odd to see Vision and Wanda together in a 1950s, or 1960s, sitcom-style television series in Marvel Studios’ first Disney+ series WandaVision.
But, nevertheless, this is indeed how we’re introduced to the show. It feels like these two characters have been thrown onto the set of shows such as The Dick Van Dyke Show, I Love Lucy, or Bewitched, and it is absolutely delightful to watch. It kind of felt like what Mr. Robot did in its second season when its main character was sent to a ‘happy place,’ which was communicated as a 1990s era sitcom show world where he would perhaps have an easier time enduring what was really happening to him.
Paul Bettany and Elizabeth Olsen are surprisingly well-suited for this type of show, and it looks like they had a great time filming the show together and acting alongside each other. Kathryn Hahn, who plays their overly curious neighbor with a no-show husband, also looks like she was born to be in a show like this. Before I talk about each of the episodes individually, I want to generally commend the production design, editing, and visual effects for managing to capture the eras and the look of these classic sitcoms.
The pilot episode mostly felt like a classic sitcom premise. In the episode, Wanda and Vision were trying to figure out what they had planned for the day. A heart-shaped symbol marked the calendar, and it made them grill each other in a joking manner over why they couldn’t remember anything. It turns out that the heart symbolized the fact that they were having the Harts over for dinner (Vision’s boss from work and his wife). Although Kathryn Hahn’s character made Wanda prepare an anniversary surprise for Vision. Of course, this all leads to some very cutesy sitcom hijinx as they have to think up a solution on the fly and use their many powers to entertain their guests and prepare a meal.
What is interesting is how they use the 1950s era black-and-white sitcom multi-camera setup to tell the story. Rarely, but sometimes, the canned laughter comes off as sinister, and there are times when the forgetfulness of the main characters is strange in a way that seems foreboding. Eventually, the boss chokes on the meal, and Wanda freezes because Hart’s constant questions about their past flummoxed her. Mrs. Hart told her husband to ‘cut it out,’ but, eventually, that line actually sounded like she was pleading with Wanda to stop him from suffering, which she does when she eventually asks Vision to help him.
I also think it is very interesting that there is a commercial break in the episode wherein we see a toaster with a blinking-red-light that sounds like a bomb. Importantly, this toaster was made by Stark Industries, and it does make you think back to how Wanda’s origin went. She hated Stark Industries, and, in a way, both she and Vision are creations of Stark Industries. Of course, at the very end, we also did get to see that someone ‘on the outside’ is watching the black-and-white episode on a screen. If you are a True Believer, you probably noticed the S.W.O.R.D. logo.
I thought this was a phenomenal episode that managed to have fun with the sitcom concept while still teasing us with the promise of a foreboding reason for the existence of a television show with Vision and Wanda.
The second episode is notably different in style, though it is still in black-and-white. Like the first episode, it has a cute sitcom title sequence, but the intro sequence is markedly different in the second episode, as it is now without a song but done entirely in era-appropriate animation. The second episode is also not entirely reliant on a multi-camera setup like the previous episode was. Stylistically it feels like we’ve changed things up a little bit, and the production design and clothing also seem more modern than the previous episode’s get-ups.
Once again, there are notable items in color. We see bright red blood, but we also see what looks like a toy helicopter in yellow and red (which also has the aforementioned S.W.O.R.D. logo). I find it interesting that some characters actually challenge Wanda to explain herself or come clean in both episodes, and whenever it happens it makes her flummoxed. In this episode, it also triggers a message from the outside heard through a nearby radio. Someone is looking for Wanda, and he is asking for details as to who is ‘doing this to her.’ However, it is not entirely clear that Wanda isn’t doing this to herself and others. As for the helicopter, I think it could be her imagination covering up the fact that an actual helicopter perhaps tried and failed to get to her.
Also, we see another commercial in the episode. This time around, the commercial is for a watch branded as ‘Strücker,’ which also had a H.Y.D.R.A. logo on its face. I actually also think that this watch sounded like a ticking bomb. Strücker, of course, refers to Baron von Strucker, the Hydra agent (played by Thomas Kretschmann) who held Wanda (and her brother Pietro) captive and experimented on her.
The episode, which is a not uncommon sitcom setup about fitting in or being yourself, culminates in Wanda asking the question on all of our minds: “Vis, my love, is this really happening?” His answer is prompted by a loud disturbance that they seek out outside. On the street outside their house, they see what looks like a beekeeper coming out of a manhole, and his appearance makes Wanda so upset that she chooses to rewind everything back to her question, their kiss, and the pregnancy that has also been conjured up out of the blue. As the world gets its colors, our grasp on what is real and what isn’t hasn’t improved, but we do get the sense that Wanda is in some sort of control, though perhaps not completely.
On the whole, I think this is a very promising opening to the series that showcased that Marvel Studios is willing and able to color outside the lines and experiment with their type of storytelling. After two episodes, WandaVision feels completely unique in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I like the small hints about the overall plot that they have already given us (True Believers may pick up on possible references to House of M, Mephisto, and more), but, while I do hope the show takes enough time to properly experiment with the show, I hope the show doesn’t start to drag.
– Reviews Written by Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen.