Here we are, folks! Today and for the next 7 weeks, I’ll be recapping WandaVision, the latest entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the first entry to be a mini-series on Disney+. As a lifelong Marvel fan, and fan of Paul Bettany and Matt Shakman I have been very much looking forward to this series, so let’s not waste any more time and dive right in!
Seriously. Spoilers galore are coming. You’ve been warned.
The episode begins with the Marvel fanfare we know and love transitioning to black and white image, narrow classic aspect ration, and mono sound. After the picture fades to black, we hear the click of an old-timey TV being turned on and the intro to a 1950s style sitcom about a newlywed couple moving to a new town, complete with visual gags like Vision carrying Wanda to a threshold and then proceeding to walk through the door, and her landing on the porch.
In the opening scenes of the actual story, Wanda offers to make Vision breakfast to which he responds “I don’t eat food.” They notice a heart drawn on today’s date on the calendar (August 23rd) and a brief argument where they each try to goad the other into admitting they’ve forgotten what the heart means. As Vision heads to work (nearly forgetting to put on his human face), their neighbour Agnes (Kathryn Hahn) shows up with a welcome gift of a plant.
Agnes asks what a single woman is doing in such a big house by herself and Wanda insists she’s married despite not wearing a ring. When pressed about how long she has been married Wanda replies “it’s like we’ve always been together” after a moment’s hesitation. After letting Agnes know they have something to celebrate this evening (but dodges the questions when asked again what it is), Agnes goes home to get a magazine article she read to help them plan the night. “This is going to be a gas!”
At work, Vision completes a large pile of “computational forms” and hands them to a coworker. The coworker asks if his music (Yakkity yak! by the Coasters) and vision asks for clarification: “do you mean in terms of the distraction from work or the largely nonsensical nature of the lyrics?” After clarifying that the music isn’t bothering him for any reason, Vision then presses the coworker on what exactly they do at their jobs. They don’t buy or sell anything, or produce anything other than computational forms, but gee willikers if productivity isn’t up 300% since Vision showed up.
Visions boss Mr Hart (Fred Melamed) then walks in and says he’s looking forward to dinner this evening. Vision then realizes what the heart on the calendar meant. After it is made clear that the dinner is a make or break event for Visions career at the company, he calls home. They have a classic 1950s TV conversation where he and Wanda are talking about tow different things: he’s telling her that his boss is coming over. They need to “impress the wife”, and she’s planning a romantic evening for them and intends to “impress the husband”.
In the midpoint of the episode, we get a commercial for the Stark Industries ToastMate 2000™, smart homemakers’ smart choice. In the commercial as the housewife inserts toast and presses the level down, the Iron Man repulsor noise can be heard, and the blinking light on the front is the only bit of colour in the entire episode. “Forget the past; this is your future.”
As Vision arrives home with the Harts to a darkened room, he runs into the kitchen to find Wanda, she sneaks out in a nightgown, puts her hands over Mr Harts eyes and asks “guess who?”, to which Mr Hart is, of course, offended until Wanda and Vision explain that it is a traditional Sokovian greeting and that Wanda is “from Europe.”
They run into the kitchen and sort out the miscommunication that the heart on the calendar was an abbreviation. “You move at the speed of sound, and I can make a pencil float through the air, who needs to abbreviate?!” Wanda asks. Vision goes out to entertain the guests (and again presses his boss on what exactly he does at his job), and Wanda calls Agnes to help, who happens to have a four-course meal laying about her house. As Agnes arrives, she drops a pot and causes Mrs Hart to want to go to the kitchen, where Wanda is, of course, having a disastrous time and Vision distracts Mrs Hart with a rendition of Yakkity yak and then suggests a singalong.
Wanda finally manages to turn the ingredients for a four-course gourmet meal into breakfast for dinner, and the four sit down at the table. When asked where they moved from and what their story is, neither Vision nor Wanda can answer the question, and both look perturbed as Mr Hart becomes agitated that they don’t know. There’s then a super awkward scene where Mr Hart starts to choke on his food, Wanda and Vision are paralyzed with indecision, all while Mrs Hart keeps telling Mr Hart to stop it.
After just a moment too long Wanda tells Vision to help Mr Hart, and he uses his phasing ability to remove the food from Hart’s throat. The Harts then leave, and Wanda and Vision sit down on the couch and remark that they are an unusual couple and don’t have an anniversary or a song, and decide that today is a good day to be their anniversary and Yakkity Yak is a good song to be theirs. They then lean their heads together and look directly into the camera as it pans out and 50s style credits roll. As those credits roll, the camera pulls back and reveals a vintage television on a desk surrounded by modern computer equipment, and a pair of hands working a remote of some kind.
So this was a fun first episode that establishes that nothing is what it seems, that Wanda and Vision are in the dark about what exactly is going on, but that they are being controlled or monitored from somewhere by someone.
The period-specific details of the episode are immaculate, but Kathryn Hahn is the MVP of this episode for me both because she has the best lines and because she commits so fully to the 1950s mid-Atlantic accent and even her body language is something straight out of I Love Lucy.
Paul Bettany is also a delight in this one, leaning into that 50s V husband energy of being well-meaning but slightly dimwitted. He also gets a ton of good lines, and it turns out that he’s an excellent physical comedian. Elizabeth Olsen is good in her part as an analogue for Samantha Stephens, the person with powers adjusting to domestic life.
Visions persistence in trying to find out what exactly he –and the company he works for– does lends a lot to the feeling that nothing is quite right in this world they are inhabiting, too, and that dinner scene is awkward as all hell. I do like the very end though where they sit on the couch and do seem genuinely happy to be together, both moving past (for the moment) that something is very off.
Lastly, I really enjoyed that this episode drops us right into the world and doesn’t explain, well, anything. Vision is dead, so how is he back? Why are they on a sitcom? Why don’t they remember how they got there? This is an episode of questions without answers, but it’s also the first of nine episodes, so that’s exactly what you want. I can’t wait to watch next weeks episode with you all.
- Seriously, Paul Bettany is excellent in this. It reminds me of his breakout role in A Knights Tale, which was also a very physical performance.
- Kathryn Hahn is always a win.
- Not much that I caught in the way of easter eggs or references, which is good because I like the slow rollout of mystery in stuff like this.
- I wonder if the look and feel and tone of this episode might be lost on people younger than me, or maybe loved by people older than me. I watched a lot of 50s and 60s sitcoms when I was young, but how many people under 30 grew up with the likes of Bewitched or I Love Lucy airing endlessly on one of the five channels they got on TV (yes, I grew up in a rural part of the world).
- I did appreciate the Iron Man sound effect coming from the Stark Industries toaster.
- Review of episodes 1-3: ‘WandaVision’ is delightfully weird and intriguing
- Recap: Episode One: “Filmed Before a Live Studio Audience”
- Recap: Episode Two: “Don’t Touch That Dial”
- Recap: Episode Three: “Now in Color”
- Recap: Episode Four: “We Interrupt This Program”
- Recap: Episode Five: “On A Very Special Episode…”
- Recap: Episode Six: “All-New Halloween Spooktacular!”
- Recap: Episode Seven: “Breaking the Fourth Wall”
- Recap: Episode Eight: “Previously On”
- Recap: Episode Nine: “The Series Finale”