Warning — This article contains spoilers for WandaVision.
Wanda and Vision struggle to conceal their powers during dinner with Vision's boss and his wife.
In an effort to fit in, Wanda and Vision perform a magic act in their community talent show.
WandaVision opens its two premiere episodes with a simple premise: a superpowered couple enters suburbia to try and lead a normal life. What could possibly go wrong?
It turns out, a lot. For the most part, "Episode 1" and "2" of WandaVision present simple sitcom premises that challenge Wanda and Vision's attempted assimilation into the neighborhood of Westview. The first episode is heavily inspired by 1950s television, like I Love Lucy, and finds the newly-wed couple trying to impress Vision's new boss at dinner. The second episode is a massive homage to Bewitched, a show from the 1960s. The episode follows Wanda and Vis as they prepare for a talent show to impress the inhabitants of Westview, though their performance goes a bit awry.
Both of these episodes revel in their quaint sitcom format, almost seeming unrecognizable in the context of the MCU. This works to the show's benefit though, making the installment one of the most distinct in the franchise's lineup up to this point. The plotlines are simple, but this leaves room for plenty of fun character moments and interactions.
One of the big surprises from both episodes is that Wanda is using her magic right from the jump. The Scarlet Witch lives up to her name by constantly warping reality to her whim, whether that be through controlling kitchen utensils or aiding Vision with his magical antics. Wanda's powers were somewhat ill-defined prior to the release of WandaVision, so it appears that the show will explore what she is truly capable of.
What is most compelling though is how the show infuses darker elements into its stories. An unsettling feeling permeates through Westview. A misplaced helicopter, a mysterious voice on the radio, a spooky beekeeper. The most interesting of these instances is an in-universe unintended plot point, where Mr. Heart starts choking on a piece of food. The episode breaks away from format, with Wanda even seeming to 'break character' to tell Vision to help Mr. Heart. These juxtaposing moments add a thrilling sense of foreboding and turn what appears to be a utopian, lighthearted sitcom into a show that really has something to say about Wanda Maximoff.
This leads into the ends of both episodes, with "Episode 1" revealing that SWORD is watching the events transpire. When a beekeeper, who is presumably a SWORD agent, attempts to infiltrate Westview at the end of "Episode 2," Wanda puts a quick stop to this by rewinding the episode to her liking. From this action, it appears that Wanda doesn't want anything to mess with her life in Westview, possibly alluding to her being responsible for its creation. Overall, the first two episodes have set up a fun yet dark narrative that will be interesting to follow as the series progresses.
With such a simple premise from the outset, the performers are given a lot of the heavy lifting. But luckily, they do not disappoint.
Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany return as Wanda Maximoff and Vision respectively, but are almost unrecognizable compared to the MCU heroes that fans know and love. But that isn't necessarily a bad thing. Olsen ditches the Sokovian accent entirely to play an all-American homemaker, whereas Bettany leans into his British heritage to give an extremely over-the-top performance. Both actors are clearly having a lot of fun, being given the freedom to explore different facets of their character which is afforded by the differing eras.
One moment from "Episode 2" demonstrates this perfectly, with Vision going haywire after getting some gum stuck in his gears. Bettany goes completely rambunctious and eccentric during this scene, to the point where he almost seems inebriated. It is moments like these that demonstrate how fun and versatile WandaVision can be, allowing its actors to explore a range of different performances. It can only be expected that Olsen and Bettany's performances will continue to change over the course of the show, adapting the 70s, 80s, 90s and beyond.
Kathryn Hahn is arguably the stand out here, hamming it up as the nosy neighbor Agnes. While she has yet to have a significant impact on the plot, Hahn elevates every scene that she is on screen, adding a lot of humor through her insistence in helping out a clueless Wanda. It is still early days yet, but it can be expected that Agnes will be many people's favorites once the show wraps up.
The second episode also brings Teyonah Parris into the fray, playing the confused 'Geraldine.' Though she has had little screen time compared to the other main cast, Parris fits perfectly into the principle lineup of characters. Briefly serving as a confidant to Wanda, Parris shares a lot of chemistry with Olsen, so should prove to be an interesting one to watch throughout the series.
PRODUCTION - CINEMATOGRAPHY, MUSIC, EDITING, ETC.
WandaVision stays true to its sitcom roots in its first two episodes, perfectly replicating the look of classic television series. Whilst the MCU is known for its staggering CGI visuals, the Disney+ series regularly imitates special effects possible during the respective era for the most part. From quick jump cuts combining single beds into a double to pots and pans being held by strings, WandaVision strives for authenticity to maintain its immersion, until it decides not to. The second episode takes this one step further, with an animated intro and certain animated sequences that pay tribute to segments seen in Bewitched.
That doesn't mean that WandaVision lacks its fair share of stunning VFX shots, far from it. The show maintains its high level of polish when breaking away from its sitcom format, such as its transition from the black-and-white 1960s to the full color 1970s era television. These moments are few and far between, but incredibly satisfying when the sitcom immersion is broken.
One aspect of the MCU that remains is its trademark humor, though it has been modified for television. Rather than utilizing quips and one-liners like the past 23 MCU films, WandaVision opts for jokes about Sokovian culture and tenderizing meats that would fit into its respective TV eras, which is accompanied by canned laughter. While not always necessarily laugh-out-loud, the humor adds a certain charm to each episode that will still have you smiling ear-to-ear. Also surprising is how far Marvel Studios' pushes the humor at times, despite the show's PG rating. WandaVision is not averse to making jokes about communists and...er, chewing, which is a breath of fresh air in many respects.
The music also deserves a special spotlight, particularly the intro themes from Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez. The theme songs perfectly capture the television eras that they're borrowing from, the theme of the first episode being loud and bombastic, with the theme of the second being quietly cheery and surprisingly catchy. If every episode has a unique theme tune like the first two, it will undoubtedly be difficult to pick a favorite by the end of the series.
A LARGER WORLD
For a series set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the first two episodes of WandaVision have a surprising lack of overt Easter eggs and references to the wider franchise. Kevin Feige and Marvel Studios seem to be conserving the wider MCU implications for the backend of the series, which ultimately allows WandaVision to stand on its own two feet. That said, there are a few key references of note that relate to the Marvel universe and retro television.
Multiple references are made to Wanda Maximoff's Sokovian heritage, with a joke being made about a supposed Sokovian greeting.
A product called the Toast Mate 2000 is shown off in a commercial, which is said to be made by Stark Industries. Iron Man's repulsor sound effect is also heard when the lever of the toaster is pushed down.
The names in the fake credits may seem irrelevant at first, but one is significant: Abe Brown. Brown is a character from Spider-Man: Homecoming, one of Peter Parker's classmates that notably uttered the phrase "Flash is wrong!"
"Episode 2"'s animated intro has some direct references to the 1960s series Bewitched, which also features an animated intro sequence. Both intros start with a shot of the moon, before the title character(s) flies from it on screen. The WandaVision logo for "Episode 2" also has very similar font to the Bewitched logo.
At the start of the "Episode 2" animated intro, six stars twinkle in the shape of a hexagon, resembling the shape of an Infinity Stone. Mind Stone imagery is also seen elsewhere in the second episode, notably on the front of the magic box that Wanda and Vision use in the talent show.
During the animated intro for "Episode 2," a sign that says "Auntie A's" is seen in the background of the supermarket. In "Episode 1," Agnes also says "Hiya, kids, Auntie Agnes is here." This could be a reference to Agatha Harkness, who was referred to as "Aunt Agatha" when caring for Scarlet Witch in the comics. This could also indicate what many fans have speculated: that Agnes is in fact the comic book supervillain Agatha Harkness.
Wanda and Vision's stage names for the talent show are Illusion and Glamor. These are names of obscure comic book characters, who are a stage magician duo. They are capable of altering molecules of objects and were neighbors to Wanda and Vision in the comics.
The commercial in "Episode 2" references a watch called the Strucker. This draws its name from the scientist Baron von Strucker from Avengers: Age of Ultron. The watch also has a HYDRA logo on its face.
While there have been no big connections, such as returning characters, as of yet, WandaVision includes a couple of minor Easter eggs for eagle-eyed viewers whilst staying true to its own narrative. The MCU is great for its interconnectivity, but it is also nice to watch something that isn't overshadowed by what has come before.
Wow. What a way to start Phase 4. Despite Black Widow originally being set to kick off the latest lineup of MCU projects, WandaVision almost seems like the better choice.
While there are definitely differences between Marvel projects, whether that be through genre, tone, or choice of characters, the MCU has mostly operated as a cohesive franchise that doesn't stray too far from the path. This changes all of that. WandaVision is bold and unashamedly sticks to its, well, vision.
This show ultimately proves that the MCU, at its core, is not about bombastic action sequences or grandiose special effects, it is about its characters. Any situation that Marvel Studios can put its heroes in is instantly compelling, because they have been developed with so much love and care from the start. WandaVision is an absolute treat, walking the line perfectly between charming retro sitcom and comical superhero antics. If the first two episodes are anything to go by, this will be a show to remember.