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WandaVision - Episodes 1 and 2 - Review - In a Real Magic Act, Everything is Fake

 

Marvel arrives on television at last!* For anyone tuning in who didn't know the backstory of WandaVision's main characters, an extended Wikipedia perusal was in order; for everyone else, even with the full backstory, these premiere episodes were sure to be head-scratchers in the best way. How did Wanda Maximoff wind up in a sitcom recreation with her lost love Vision, last seen dead after being murdered by Thanos? What technology and magic are behind its construction, and just how much control does she have over what happens? Even the most obvious theories carry an undercurrent of heartbreak. What will it cost Wanda to escape or does she even need to escape? Who and what are real? Finding the cracks in the "simulation" is half the fun of watching, and the minds behind the show are well aware we're looking for clues. Its pacing and scope make WandaVision the perfect binge........it weren't being released weekly. 


Though its first episodes are inspired by The Dick Van Dyke Show and Bewitched, WandaVision isn't aiming to make us laugh, although a wry chuckle or two are earned, except perhaps from nervous anticipation. We're waiting for the other shoe to drop, and the timer is ticking (sometimes audibly). Episode 1 is all about forgetting, something both Wanda and Vision in their new roles as contented newlyweds have done in spades. The setup is a comedy classic; neither spouse remembers what special occasion they are meant to be celebrating, and their only clue is a heart on the calendar. It turns out to be a dinner with Vision's boss and his wife whose last name is Hart. ("The heart was an abbreviation," Vision explains, to Wanda's bewilderment). Even before the dinner/breakfast ends up going south, the breadcrumbs are spread about plentifully. Vision works for a company where none of the employees have any real clue what they do or what they're computing. Despite being newlyweds, neither spouse can recall their wedding or any other details of their past. (I got major Watchmen Cal/Angela vibes). 


The first episode hinges on the chilling dinner scene where Mr. Hart begins choking, Wanda watches in something akin to dazed dismay, and Mrs. Hart begins to plead repeatedly for Wanda to stop it. The entire moment plays like a glitch, with Mrs. Hart's pleas on a loop. Vision, wearing his human face, draws back with a very disconcerting awareness and concern in his eyes and expression. Coming back from somewhere (within her mind?), Wanda orders Vision to help Mr. Hart. Everything about the scene is wrong. The way Wanda orders Vision around, the way everyone very briefly seems to drop an act, and the way they resume their sitcom existence as if nothing happened. 


The mysteries of WandaVision lie not in the overall questions about where Wanda and Vision are or how they got there but what it means for them as individuals and a couple that they are there. Is Vision really there, considering what we know of his fate? I venture the theory that he is, that Wanda is trying to finish the surgery that Shuri began in Infinity War that would allow Vision to be safely separated from the Mind Stone. Or at least that's what Wanda may have intended to do. These episodes give us very little reason to suspect anyone other than SWORD or Wanda is playing with the reins, but there's always a slim possibility. WandaVision draws its suspense plain and simple from the question of Wanda and Vision's fates. We can be absolutely certain that Wanda will survive whatever is happening, but will Vision? What does it mean if he doesn't? 


And what, if anything, went wrong with Wanda's plan? The voice on the radio, Randall Park's Agent Jimmy Woo, asks Wanda who did this to her, implying that her actual physical body is being watched over by SWORD. Are the people in the neighborhood constructs? We can be sure at least some of them aren't. Teyonah Parris's "Geraldine" remarks seriously "I actually don't know what I'm doing here." Wanda reassures Emma Caulfield Ford's Dottie "I don't mean anyone harm," which is decidedly not something that the new neighbor on the block would say. Agnes (Kathryn Hahn) pointedly tells Wanda that Dottie is the key to everything. The black and white world is disrupted thrice. Wanda finds a full color helicopter with SWORD's symbol, Dottie bleeds red, and a stranger emerges from a manhole in the middle of the night. This latter incident confirms Wanda's control when she hits rewind, taking herself and Vision back to an earlier moment. 


No matter when and where the show wanders, it orbits around Elizabeth Olsen. She had relatively little screen time in the Marvel movies by comparison to many other characters, but she never came across as anything less than a lead player. Tiny sparks of despair and determination appear on her face, gone in one blink. Her Wanda here is a cracked matryoshka, and the fracture spreads layer by layer as the walls come down, as reality threatens to pull her back to a place she seems unwilling to go. What will be the thing holding together the last version of herself in the end? She holds us as transfixed as the residents of Westview enthralled by the magic show they can all tell doesn't quite add up. In real magic acts, everything might be fake, but it's the talent that makes it look real. 


Easter Egg Painting: 

Will Wanda's ring stone be a garnet do we think or a ruby?

With each ominous commercial featuring a villain from Wanda's past (Stark Industries toasters, Strucker watches, etc), what product might we predict Thanos's commercial will highlight? 

The Vision head joke was too soon, am I right? 

Is Wanda making Vision forget or is he remembering more and more? i.e. the "elaborate props" line. 

 The Diane and Fred bit was funny! Paul Bettany and Elizabeth Olsen truly hit all the marks.

 Agnes's unseen husband....actual sitcom homage or something else entirely.