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WandaVision episode 1.04, “We Interrupt This Program…” reminds us there’s a big vast world which keeps spinning outside Wanda’s sitcom bubble and connecting the two is a very hard job…
Welcome to the second act of our nine episode arc of Wandavision ladies and gents. This is when the world gets bigger and we start introducing a larger conflict.
It’s difficult to know people’s thoughts about this season (and this episode in particular) without having read any reviews of this episode on the interwebs. Though, I suspect there are probably two camps of thought:
- The MCU purists who see the first three episodes as a waste of time because they are too episodic and don’t really connect to the MCU on the whole. In other words, a cute but failed experiment in something new. As such, this episode is very much for them.
- The people who see the first three episodes as art, and a deconstruction of trauma through the lens of one of the most powerful beings on earth — who just happens to have a connection to the MCU. As such, this episode is probably not for them.
My question is this:
Why can’t it be an artful episodic experiment in trauma that lacks the narrative cohesion to exist without it’s connective tissue to the MCU.
Yes, I acknowledge how pretentious that last sentence may sound, but that doesn’t make it any less true. While the reality of Wanda’s sitcom bubble is an intriguing journey in shock and emotional suffering, we can only measure that level of trauma against the actual reality of the world surrounding Wanda. So, we need context.
Is it jarring to to undergo such a drastic about-face in the story-telling? Absolutely. In addition to switching our visual language of coloring, aspect ratio, and frame blocking to resemble the more modern feel of an MCU film, even our main character switches from Wanda to a fairly obscure player in
Geraldine Monica Rambeau. The switch, albeit drastic, affords us an opportunity to catch up on the world since half the universe re-appeared after The Avengers defeated Thanos in Avengers: Endgame.
In what is truly the most effective sequence of the episode, we witness what it’s like to suddenly re-materialize from the Blip. No, it’s not some happy-go-lucky moment of harmony springing unicorns and rainbows from all walks of life. Rather, this occasion is marked by confusion, panic, and in Monica’s case, anguish.
Without any warning or understanding of her condition, Monica discovers her mother has died and it happened YEARS ago. There is also a heart breaking moment of when a man reappears and his first instinct is to call his wife who — for all he knows — could have since moved on to another partner in the five years since his disappearance.
Monica’s reappearance (mirrored in style from how our heroes “dusted” in Avengers: Infinity War) and the brief panic we hear from the man who wants to call his wife is a perfect justification for why a show like WandaVision should exist.
Like Wanda’s grief over her brother Pietro, there simply isn’t enough time in the tentpole films to explore the plight of common people in this world — let alone give us the texture we need to understand the severe trauma from which the world suffered. Instead of telling us in some bland expository dump from one Avenger, or S.W.O.R.D. agent, to another, we are shown what happened in a meaningful and impactful way.
By the way, this doesn’t mean there are no emotional stakes explored in the first three episodes. There are plenty of resonant consequences examined, but they are more specific to Wanda’s perspective in an environment she created to specifically temper the reality of those stakes . As such, a more discerning engagement is a pre-requisite for the viewer to capture the intended narrative and messaging.
Exposition services the natural structure and narrative DNA for this episode as it catches us up on the larger storyline at play within the MCU. Monica returns to work a mere three weeks after being dusted in the Blip. Her status is questioned via an old key card, but is then reaffirmed by her boss Tyler Hayward, only to realize that all her work in setting up S.W.O.R.D has been cast aside because of her disappearance. So she is sent off to a low end drone search mission to cooperate with the FBI in a missing persons case located in some remote town of New Jersey.
In terms of characterization, these set of circumstance formulates an immediate connection to Monica for the viewer. In the immediate, Monica is the opposite of Wanda — someone who lacks control over her story, is selfless, and cooperative. Yet, at the same time, Monica is very much a mirror of Wanda.
Monica is undervalued, emotionally damaged after losing her mother in a quick span of a heartbeat, and now she searches for purpose after all of her focus and determination to better the world is forsaken. And, much like Wanda, she takes matters into her own hands when she enters this bubble without much thought or care to her moral and professional obligations.
The dichotomy generated between Monica and Wanda certainly sets a course for a big showdown at some juncture in the show, whether they are foes or allies remains to be seen. While showdowns are important to the value of what we’re watching – so to is the humanity and relatability that Dr. Darcy and FBI agent Jimmy Woo provides for the viewer.
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Ah, yes, the MCU of it all. Hey look it’s that intern from Thor And Thor: The Dark World –who is apparently a doctor now! Oh, and look, it’s that agent from Ant-Man and The Wasp who couldn’t make his card appear from thin air in that movie but now he can because he’s been working on it for the past five years!
Regretfully, their introductions are a little clumsy, the signature MCU humor does not land as well as it probably should, and the show makes it’s first big misstep in trying to bring up anyone who has not done the necessary homework of watching every MCU film since Avengers: Age Of Ultron.
Just as good as the opening scene was, the “briefing” scene to catch up all the agents about Wanda, her background, and origin of her powers was just as bad. I understand it’s necessary because not everyone is an MCU dork like me, or even you for that matter, and a “briefing” scene is the most elegant “in-world” avenue to the desired informational dump. But, man, is it clunky.
Despite all that, however, the value Darcy and Woo bring is the natural “every-man” surrogate-for-the-audience approach to the material. They have no idea what’s happening and are trying to figure it out as they go — just like us.
Through Darcy and Woo provide reasonable explanations about CMBR, which is the bi-product of all the radiation emitting from Wanda’s World and, oddly enough, the Big Bang. Whiteboards are splattered with easter egg-y words and connections to other pillars of the MCU like The Skrulls and more.
But, most importantly, there is an explanation for why the first three episodes are being told in the form of a TV show — we were simply watching what the outside world was watching once Darcy figured out she needed an old TV to translate an odd frequency originating from Wanda’s bubble. (We also discover that the person watching that old TV in the first episode was, in fact, Darcy.)
So, in a world so far populated by superheroes, mystery, and sitcom hijinks, Darcy and Woo are our way in to understand the bigger picture.
That bigger picture, however, literally transitions back from the MCU style 16:9 aspect ratio, to the more traditional 4:3 ratio at the end of the episode. This is very much by design. Yes, because it’s flashy, but also because it signifies we are transitioning back to Wanda’s perspective of the story and we are thrust back into the sitcom conceit to the re-emergent sound of the audience laugh track.
We’ve been caught up on the outside world, how our characters were placed here, what the stakes are, and what is potentially coming to destroy Wanda’s world if her sitcom getaway threatens the world in any significant way.
APROPOS OF NOTHING FOR WANDAVISION EPISODE 1.04 “WE INTERRUPT THIS PROGRAM…”
- CMBR is a really big deal, and it’s a very real thing. You can read about it here. Essentially it’s the measurement of how much the universe changed after the Big Bang. (That is a very VERY basic summation). But this is important because implicit in the CMBR revelation is how much Wanda’s powers are effecting the reality around her. She is legitimately rearranging reality and creating her own mini version of the BIG FRAKKING BANG.
- Yep, you saw that right – Vision is literally a walking dead corpse. He is revealed after Wanda uses her power to pile drive Monica
Geraldinethrough thirty walls and a the boundary of a cosmic bubble. (How did she manage to survive that impact by the way?) Once again though, implicit in this act is Wanda losing her focus at maintaining her world. Because she lost focus, Vision appears as his real state of being, as opposed to Wanda’s imagined version.
- Notice though that Vision once again transitions to that imagined version once Wanda says she has everything “under control” and the laugh track appears. That’s because Wanda literally back in control of her story.
- Upon Wanda regaining control, the aspect ratio transitions back to the “normal”, the laugh track appears, and the happy couple sits at the couch, once again, ready to intake their tv show.
- The beekeeper from season 2 IS a SWORD agent and that toy helicopter was the drone sent by Monica upon her arrival to Westview. But, they transformed once they entered the bubble…very interesting…
- That was Jimmy Woo’s voice on the RADIO!
- Monica is forbidden from going back into space because of her mother Maria’s last wishes and SWORD is mainly focusing on AI and nanotech. Is this how the Fantastic 4 will be introduced in the MCU?
- Notice that Agnes is not mentioned as a real person when they are identifying the “cast” of Wanda’s show. is that because she is Jimmy’s missing person who is in witness protection? Or, is he not a member of that community? Food for thought…
- The irony of Wanda saying she is totally in control is not lost. It feels like the show is building toward the House of M storyline — in which Wanda loses all control over her ability and reality for the entire world is warped. Also, food for thought…
- Lastly, the departing song is Voodoo Child (Slight Return). This is a brilliant choice when you consider the lyrics of the song in the context of this episode — creating islands, stealing time, chopping down mountains, and not taking no for an answer…
Well, I stand up next to a mountain
And I chop it down with the edge of my handYeah
Well, I stand up next to a mountain
And I chop it down with the edge of my hand
Well, I pick up all the pieces and make an island
Might even raise a little sand
‘Cause I’m a voodoo childLord knows I’m a voodoo child baby
I want to say one more last thing
I didn’t mean to take up all your sweet time
I’ll give it right back to ya one of these days
I said I didn’t mean to take up all your sweet time
I’ll give it right back one of these days
If I don’t meet you no more in this world then uh
I’ll meet ya on the next one
And don’t be late
Don’t be late!‘Cause I’m a voodoo child voodoo child
Lord knows I’m a voodoo child
Hey hey hey
I’m a voodoo child baby
I don’t take no for an answer