This article contains spoilers for WandaVision.
After over a year of waiting, rumors, and numerous teases, Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has officially begun, and the new chapter is off to an unusual start with WandaVision. The inaugural MCU offering has been confirmed to be set after the events of Avengers: Endgame, but the series started off in what looked like the 1950s, showcasing the married life of Wanda Maximoff and a resurrected Vision without any context.
As expected, this led to a stockpile of questions from fans, leaving everyone with a weekly dose of intrigue. The first three episodes of WandaVision made it clear that the blissful life of the MCU couple in Westview is not what it seems, and it's only a matter of time before a lingering secret will ultimately be revealed.
So far, WandaVision's “show within a show” approach has been doing a great job to cover up what's really happening in Westview, ranging from various sitcom tropes to entertaining back and forth between the titular characters. It remains to be seen if this is Wanda's creation or if some villain is pulling the strings.
Regardless of the reason, the fabricated reality has caught the attention of a mysterious organization, S.W.O.R.D. The group's presence was only hinted at during short glimpses from set photos and teasers, but a full-blown reveal was in store during “Episode 4.”
To familiarize viewers with the overall structure and history of S.W.O.R.D., The Direct has put together a breakdown of the backstory of this new organization from Marvel Comics while also analyzing how they could play a large role in the MCU moving forward, similar to S.H.I.E.L.D.'s in-universe influence in the Infinity Saga.
THE SPACE-BASED AFFAIRS OF S.W.O.R.D.
In Marvel Comics, S.W.O.R.D. is the space-based counterpart of S.H.I.E.LD., otherwise known as the 'Sentient World Observation and Response Department.' The agency first debuted in the pages of Astonishing X-Men vol. 3 #6 and was created by Joss Whedon and John Cassaday.
Originally, S.W.O.R.D. worked under S.H.I.E.L.D., but Nick Fury's departure ultimately led to a fallout between the organizations, thus making the former an independent entity. Special Agent Abigail Brand was the head of S.W.O.R.D. from the comics, and the agency's base of operations is an orbital space station known as The Peak. The main focus of S.W.O.R.D. is to monitor and neutralize any potential threats from the cosmos before they set foot on Earth.
S.W.O.R.D. played key roles in major comic-book events such as Secret Invasion and the mutant-centric Unstoppable storyline. Following Secret Wars, the institution was temporarily phased out, and they were rebranded as Alpha Flight. This new version became the superhero division of S.W.O.R.D., and it was led by Carol Danvers a.k.a. Captain Marvel.
In 2020, S.W.O.R.D. made a triumphant return as a reformed organization that is now closely tied to the X-Men. A good chunk of their workforce was mutants and Magneto became the agency's official mutant liaison. Abigail Brand was also retconned to be a mutant, and she was led a super-powered team that included Manifold, Cable, Frenzy, Wiz Kid, and Fabian Cortez. This development essentially means that S.W.O.R.D. is now a mutant-based space organization, hinting that the same could be true for MCU's version of the agency.
THE MCU'S S.W.O.R.D: ARE THEY THE NEW S.H.I.E.L.D.?
"Space is now full of unexpected threats.
Always was full of threats. And allies."
In the MCU, S.W.O.R.D. is known as the 'Sentient Weapon Observation Response Division'. The organization was founded by Maria “Photon” Rambeau, Carol Danvers' best friend from 2019's Captain Marvel. Currently, Tyler Hayward is the acting director of the organization, with Monica Rambeau (the daughter of Maria) acting as Captain.
In WandaVision, it wasn't revealed when exactly S.W.O.R.D. was established, but it was made clear that the organization has already existed for decades. Given that, it's fascinating that S.W.O.R.D. wasn't even mentioned during the Infinity Saga, and this goes to show just how secretive the agency really is. Despite that, it's safe to say that Nick Fury is aware of the organization, considering his close ties with Rambeau during Captain Marvel.
Still, it's odd that S.W.O.R.D. didn't even interfere slightly during major events such as the Battle in New York, and Thanos' invasion during Infinity War. However, “Episode 4" of WandaVision did hint as to why the agency was under the radar, and this could be because of the firm's astronaut training program that was being led by Monica.
There's a strong chance that the group is very much invested in the aforementioned program, considering that its main purpose is to monitor potential threats in the outskirts of space. This should very much explain S.W.O.R.D.'s absence in the modern-day MCU since they were off-planet most of the time, and could also hint that Danvers is their official liaison in space, a plot point that may end up being explored in the currently untitled Captain Marvel 2.
THE BLIP AND THE SOKOVIA ACCORDS — HOW THESE EVENTS SHAPED S.W.O.R.D.
Just like the rest of the universe, The Blip had a drastic effect on S.W.O.R.D., forcing the organization to take a step back due to the massive loss of personnel and the passing of their leader, Maria Rambeau. This led to the stoppage of multiple projects such as the astronaut training program, potentially putting an end to the agency's space-based efforts (at least during the five-year gap.)
As a result, S.W.O.R.D. regrouped and focused their efforts elsewhere. WandaVision confirmed that the firm experienced a revamp, starting with their name. Based on the latest episode, the words 'sentient weapons', 'observation', and 'response' (instead of creation) were integrated into the acronym S.W.O.R.D after The Snap, seemingly hinting that the company had another name beforehand.
On top of that, director Hayward also revealed that S.W.O.R.D. “shifted away from manned missions and refocused on robotics, nanotech, AI.” That said, there's a strong chance that Tony Stark could've been involved in helping the organization during the gap between Infinity War and Endgame, considering that there are still threats lurking in the shadows. It's possible that Stark gave the agency some notes on his technology, presumably with the aid of Stark Industries.
Meanwhile, the word 'sentient' could potentially allude to the organization's shift in priority from space-based threats to super-powered beings of Earth. The state of the Sokovia Accords is currently unknown in the post-Endgame MCU, but S.W.O.R.D.'s latest name change could hint at the agency's role in implementing the aforementioned decree. Now, this doesn't mean that S.W.O.R.D. uses brute force to go against The Avengers and other super-powered individuals, but their main task could just be to observe and monitor them to make sure that they are not posing a threat to anyone.
It's unknown if the Avengers who weren't victims of The Snap made contact with S.W.O.R.D. during the five-year gap. If they did, then this could potentially mean that a truce between them and the government was made, which makes S.W.O.R.D. the partner organization of the team, just like what S.H.I.E.L.D. used to do during Phase 1 of the Infinity Saga.
S.W.O.R.D.'S FUTURE AFTER WANDAVISION
Given that S.W.O.R.D. is now out in the open, it's safe to say that the organization is poised to become a major part of the MCU moving forward, and their role in WandaVision is only the beginning. It was confirmed that they are aware that Skrulls exist, which makes sense due to Maria Rambeau's connection with Talos. Still, it's reasonable to assume that they are also aware of other species from different parts of space, potentially coming from the intel of Captain Marvel.
During Spider-Man: Far From Home, Nick Fury was seen in some kind of space observatory alongside a battalion of Skrulls. It's entirely possible that this is the MCU's version of The Peak, the base of operations of S.W.O.R.D. from the comics that is (obviously) floating in space. It seems to only be a matter of time before this secret will be uncovered, and Fury appearing at the tail-end of WandaVision is not out of the realm of possibility.
Goodbye S.H.I.E.L.D.: All in all, S.W.O.R.D. appears poised to pop up in shows like The Falcon and The Winter Soldier and Secret Invasion, further cementing their role as the MCU's premier agency in dealing with threats not just in space, but on Earth as well.