WandaVision – Season 1 Episode 4
“We Interrupt this Program”
Wandavision starts to answer some of the questions established so far with a detour to the world outside the artificial sitcom reality.
Mysteries are always a tricky proposition in entertainment because they inevitably have to be solved and delivering a satisfying resolution in a way that feels organic is really difficult. In this case the first three episodes gave the audience a series of clues that can be interpreted in various ways which means that the answers to the lingering questions are far from certain or easy to predict. So far there has been evidence for the situation being something done to Wanda. Equally there has been ample evidence pointing towards Wanda being the one behind this and commanding total control over the reality. There are other clues here and there so there has been plenty to keep audiences busy with speculating.
This episode takes us out of the sitcom reality to start answering some of these questions while still retaining a great deal of the mystery. This is a good approach as it prevents the resolution coming across as reams of exposition all at once while making the structure of the story being told appear deliberate with specifically timed answers to keep the audience invested. There’s a real sophistication to it that suggests there is a distinct plan being followed. That’s not to say that all of the exposition delivered here feels organic because that is unfortunately not the case. Some of the early dialogue is very clumsy and clearly geared more towards scene setting than character.
The initial perspective is “Geraldine”, ore more accurately Monica Rambeau; the grown up daughter of Marie Rambeau introduced in Captain Marvel. We are properly introduced to her during the events of Avengers: Endgame following the Hulk’s snap bringing back all those who were lost. Monica reforms in a hospital that is in a state of chaos because of the volume of people appearing out of thin air. Avengers: Endgame accomplished a lot in its long running time but one thing it would never be able to show is the domestic impact of people suddenly returning after being accepted as lost. Spider-Man: Far From Home explored this in some detail and this episode gives us a different perspective on those events. Monica gets a lot of information in a short period of time such as learning that her mother died three years previously and that she herself vanished five years previously. Much of what she experiences in those early scenes confirms that the world went on for some while those who were snapped out of existence were put on pause and return as if no time has passed.
It isn’t something that a lot of time is spent exploring as the focus is elsewhere but seeing Monica readjust to her life by going back to work finding that things have changed significantly with the raised awareness of extraterrestrial threats. The direct consequence for her is that she is to be assigned to Earthbound assignments only following protocols put in place by her mother. It’s a source of frustration for Monica who wants to be in the air or in outer space but she accepts her assignment and gets to work uncovering the mystery that is Westview. Monica is immediately an engaging character who is played very well by Teyonah Parris. Her confused and frantic reaction to being brought back five years after disappearing works really well in the context of the story and she comes across as a competent presence who is well suited to investigating the mystery. She knows what she’s doing and is confident in her abilities while also having a lot of humanity. She isn’t in the episode much because she disappears early on to take on the role she inhabits in the previous episodes but she makes an impression in the time she has.
Much of this is focused through the perspective of Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings) -making her return from the first two Thor movies- and Jimmy Woo (Randall Park) -making his return from Ant-Man and the Wasp-. Darcy’s scientific expertise allows her to monitor the sitcom reality as it’s playing out and Jimmy’s FBI connections allow for identification of those trapped inside Westview. This clears up a few things. Firstly the neighbours that Wanda and Vision interact with are real people who lived in Westview before it was changed into the various decades of sitcoms though Dottie and Agnes noticeably remain unidentified for now. They have been altered by either Wanda or another external force and are playing out specific roles within that sitcom reality. Those outside of Westview deny its existence despite the conspicuous sign that would appear to confirm it.
Darcy and Jimmy are fun to watch together. They both have their roots in being comedic characters and naturally fit together in this setting. Darcy becoming invested in the sitcom playing out before her eyes as Jimmy gets drawn in with her makes for some really endearing bonding moments and the characters are on very similar wavelengths. It adds a lot of character to what might otherwise be a dry information dump. At all points these characters react to the information and show the impact that it has on them which keeps the mystery feeling character driven rather than a soulless plot playing out. Having them be as confused as the viewer and asking the same questions that have been asked over the previous episodes creates a natural connection while answering what prompted some of the events in the previous episodes as being various attempts to investigate. It’s also delightfully meta to have characters within a Marvel produced TV show literally watching a Marvel TV show looking for clues. It shows that Marvel really knows their audience and are prepared to have fun with that.
What has never been in doubt is that reality within Westview has been altered. There is a strong implication that Wanda has done it though what remains unclear is why. It’s a good bet that grief is the primary motivation considering her reaction to hearing the name Ultron and the brief visual of Vision with the hole in his head where Thanos ripped out the stone. Wanda appears to be in denial around what really happened and it seems likely that her powers are facilitating that denial by creating a reality where she gets to live a happy life. Why that reality takes the form of progressing decades of sitcoms is unknown but she certainly seems to be behind it at this stage. Her reaction to Monica referencing Ultron is very telling as to Wanda’s rejection of the truth as she immediately recognises Monica as not being part of this simulation and ejects her from it before too much time can be spent confronting the real world. It appears that Wanda is actively rejecting her grief and will do anything to make sure that this fantasy is preserved.
Once again, Elizabeth Olsen is excellent when it comes to portraying that. She plays Wanda in a great deal of emotional turmoil and comes across as really sinister when building up to using her powers. Assuring Vision that this is their home and that she has everything under control comes comes across as majorly unsettling and Vision’s brief troubled reaction before smiling and returning to accepting the false reality presented to him was a really strong subtle touch. In some ways Vision could be a metaphor for an abused partner being trapped in a relationship with someone who controls him though that might be a bit too dark for the Marvel Cinematic Universe to truly lean into. There’s also the added detail of the broadcast being monitored by S.W.O.R.D. censoring out any suggestion of the real world which helps create further intrigue while adding to the idea that Wanda may be actively rejecting the world outside the fantasy.
As of now we have too distinct settings with radically different feels. The Wanda and Vision sitcom setting is lampooning sitcoms over the decades and produced in line with the particular era. External to that is the makeshift S.W.O.R.D. facility on the edge of the town investigating it. In many ways this episode was reminiscent of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. in terms of how it was presented which is no bad thing. It establishes a clear different between the two realities and confirms that there’s a normality to return to. Filling the external setting with engaging characters and a focus on finding answers means that there’s clear purpose to it. S.W.O.R.D. is basically the new S.H.I.E.L.D. and slot naturally into that role. They aren’t a malevolent presence in the show which counters prior hints so there are still lingering questions around how and why this is happening. Another question that remains unanswered is what happened to the Agent who entered the town and had his radiation suit morph into a beekeeper suit. Presumably his personality shifted to conform to the reality around him based on what happened to Monica so is he off keeping bees somewhere? It is interesting that everything entering Westview is altered to match the aesthetic -or production design as Jimmy puts it- which creates a major problem when it comes to interacting with it from outside.
Another strong outing that provides a second distinct setting for the show to explore that delivers some answers while still maintaining the mystery. Seeing the people returning from being snapped out of existence and the chaos that caused was a really interesting touch that was framed nicely around Monica reacting to her own return as well as the world that had changed around her. She’s an engaging character right away and makes a strong impression in her relatively small screen time. Darcy and Jimmy Woo anchor the rest of the episode and do so very well with a natural back and forth that makes good use of their individual expertise as well as their comedic roles within the universe. Having them react to the information being presented and drive the plot forwards keeps the emphasis on character rather than plot.
The S.W.O.R.D. setting allows for the lingering questions to be explored and answered in a really organic way. A few of the details from the previous episodes are clarified but it’s still unclear why this is happening and how this is happening. All signs point to Wanda being behind it because her grief has created a state of denial that facilitated the creation of this fantasy setting that she will do anything to maintain. Elizabeth Olsen’s performance is excellent when she plays Wanda feeling threatened. She comes across as being very sinister and this bleeds into her assuring Vision that she has everything under control. The secondary setting adds an extra layer of intrigue to the situation as it presents new questions while answering some of the existing ones. There’s a general sense that everything being presented is purposeful and the drip feeding of answers gets around the problem of a large exposition dump. Some of the dialogue is less than natural particularly early on but generally the information is presented well and keeps coming back to the involved characters.
- Monica making an instantly strong impression
- showing an interesting domestic perspective on people returning from being snapped out of existence
- Darcy and Jimmy making for an engaging pairing
- their valuable perspective on learning answers to some of the questions
- always bringing the reveals back to character rather than having them be plot driven
- Elizabeth Olsen’s excellently sinister performance
- some of the exposition early on feeling noticeably clumsy
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