WandaVision Is Serving Up Mayhem…for the Children

Wanda remarking to Vision how weird it is to feel the baby moving inside her.
Wanda remarking to Vision how weird it is to feel the baby moving inside her.
Screenshot: Disney+/Marvel

While WandaVision’s double feature of a premiere dropped us right into the swing of a warped, in-universe television reality with no real explanation or context to make it easier to grasp what the hell is going on, the series’ sudden jump into a new era started to paint a more nuanced, vibrant picture of the Visions’ lives. Episode three, which just started streaming on Disney+, actually had a lot more to tell us.

Illustration for article titled WandaVision Is Serving Up Mayhem…for the Children

When Marvel first revealed that WandaVision would introduce the Scarlet Witch and Vision’s twin sons Billy and Tommy, it was surprising because of how complicated and rooted in hardcore chaos magic the characters’ origins are in Marvel’s comics. Addressing the twins at all raised questions about how deep into magic WandaVision might potentially get—especially when you consider it’s an element of the Marvel Cinematic Universe that’s largely only been tackled in films. It would have been understandable if the babies didn’t make their WandaVision debuts until a later point in the series when things had begun to go awry in ways familiar to those who’ve read the Scarlet Witch’s dramatic, world-altering comics arcs. But WandaVision instead cut right to the chase with its third episode and made clear that there’s so much more to this story than what’s been let on so far.

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Aside from its very Mary Tyler Moore-inspired opening sequence that rolls right into something akin to the world of The Brady Bunch, the most curious thing about the way WandaVision’s latest episode opens is Wanda herself—specifically, the fact that she’s much farther along in her pregnancy since the last time we saw her. Though we’ve seen how most everyone in Westview was compelled to go along with the sitcom conceit twisting their reality—even when confronted with things that are out of place—both Wanda and Vision are, in different ways, obviously aware that the pregnancy and time itself are anomalies that need explanation. But both characters are only but so able or willing to fully confront the literal and figurative storks in the room before the “show” they’re in guides them along narrative paths they’re not necessarily in control of.

It’s potentially important to keep in mind how Wanda appeared to be very much in control of reality in the previous episode’s final moments, when she rewound time in response to being confronted by a beekeeper mysteriously emerging from a manhole in the middle of the road. In episode three, she gives off the overall impression that she’s playing along with WandaVision’s weirdness while her husband struggles and fails to grasp what’s happening to him. The in-universe show itself, though, immediately addresses Wanda’s overnight pregnancy as a “very special episode” by having the Visions’ doctor pay the expecting couple a home visit.

Vision, Wanda, and their doctor trying to figure out how she become so pregnant so quickly.
Vision, Wanda, and their doctor trying to figure out how she become so pregnant so quickly.
Image: Disney+/Marvel
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By the doctor’s calculations, Wanda’s about four months along, something that both she and Vision understand to be impossible given that they’d only had sex the previous night. But the doctor able to brush off Vision’s visible fears as the normal concerns of a father-to-be, and Wanda, interestingly, makes a point of calming her husband down with an assuredness that she’s nowhere near as inthe dark as he is.

Just as Wanda settles Vision into believing that everything’s going to go smoothly, though, she’s suddenly struck with unexpected contractions that, among other things, cause her powers to fluctuate wildly, to silly, comedic effect. The question running throughout this episode especially, but also WandaVision as a whole, is how much of what occurs is a result of Wanda’s direct manipulation of her surroundings. Much as her premature contractions scare the hell out of her when they make her cause things to go flying, everything about the story so far has pointed to this all being an elaborate fantasy that she’s, on some level, enjoying.

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But before you have a chance to sit with that idea too long, WandaVision takes a brief Calgon-inspired commercial break with an invitation to escape the hectic slog of everyday life by way of Hydra-brand “Hydra Soak,” a soap that’ll presumably give you the soft, supple skin of a deranged super Nazi obsessed with technological advancement. In reality, the Hydra Soak commercial’s every bit at straightforward as WandaVision’s other ads. In the context of this episode, though, the commercial’s brief story about a harried woman simply trying to get away from it all does feel like a gesture toward Wanda’s predicament.

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One of the other smaller, but significant details that’s highlighted in this episode is how Vision relies on his superspeed far more as he moves about Westview than he ever did in any of Marvel’s movies. Of course, it makes a certain sort of sense that you wouldn’t see him flying around willy nilly—both he and Wanda are still trying to hide their powers from their neighbors—but in moments like when Wanda accidentally knocks over a vase with her belly, the way Vision speeds over is curious. In part that’s because phase/flying in a straight line would have been faster, but also because it ends up drawing attention to the other speedster in Wanda’s life.

When the MCU’s take on Wanda’s twin brother Pietro died in Avengers: Age of Ultron, it wasn’t exactly surprising, per se, because of the larger complications around the cinematic rights to Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch. At the same time that Fox managed to strike surprising gold with Peter (Evan Peters) in X-Men: Days of Future Past, Marvel was in the process of introducing a different cinematic version of the same character to be portrayed by Aaron Taylor-Johnson who was first teased in Captain America: Winter Soldier. By killing Pietro off in Ultron, and then subsequently retconning the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver being mutants in its comics, Marvel was able to effectively avoid needing to address their canonical connections to one another so long as Fox was still making X-Men movies. But of course, 20th Century Fox owns the rights to both characters following Disney’s acquisition of the IP in 2019, meaning that they’re both, in theory, game for WandaVision.

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Vision catching a papaya.
Vision catching a papaya.
Screenshot: Disney+/Marvel

But in this moment, Wanda’s present demands more attention than her past, and when the sprinklers in their home trip in response to yet another contraction—the worst one yet—Vision rushes out of their house to find the doctor as he’s certain that the baby’s on the way. Truly shocking as it is that all of this is happening so early into the series, it’s also notable that the show wastes no time in having its characters say “Billy” and “Tommy” as they debate about what to name the baby once it’s born. Taken at face value, it feels that WandaVision’s at the very least suggesting that the MCU could, eventually, usher in its own version of the Young Avengers, considering America Chavez’s upcoming debut in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.

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It’s just as possible, though, that WandaVision will simply handle Wanda and Vision’s twins within the bubble of its sitcom reality, which confronts Wanda with a different sort of neighborly interruption when “Geraldine” shows up needing a bucket after her home, like the Visions’, has flooded. After watching Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, and Kathryn Hahn comedically chew up the scenery, Teyonah Parris’ turn to the Stylin’ 70s Friend™ just emphasizes how apparently everyone involved in this show came ready to have a damned good time on camera.

The longer Geraldine takes to regale Wanda with a winding story about something that happened to her at work the other day, the more Wanda has to a.) hide the fact that she’s pregnant, as Geraldine doesn’t know and b.) find ways to hide the consequences of her increasingly out of control abilities. It’s goofy, in a retro way, when Wanda conjures up a living stork in the living room out of thin air, but it’s fascinating to consider what that might mean about the scale of Wanda’s abilities within the larger world. Levitating things and creating energy barriers is one thing, but spinning living creatures into being is another. Regardless, Wanda does a valiant job of keeping it all under wraps until, finally, the first of her babies decides that it’s time for its big debut.

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Each of WandaVision’s episodes so far have featured Wanda and Vision “saving the day” in some way that could be considered superheroic in-context. What’s novel about this episode is that Wanda and Vision are the people in dire need of help, which Vision finds in the form of the doctor, and Wanda finds in Geraldine who talks her through the pain of labor. There’s a small moment just before Wanda begins to push when she locks eyes with Geraldine and repeatedly says that she “can’t do this,” to which Geraldine responds that Wanda can, because she’s so strong. It feels as if, in that moment, WandaVision is spotlighting some part of Wanda speaking to Geraldine, or perhaps Monica, about what’s happening in a desperate cry for help.

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It doesn’t seem as if Geraldine is picking up on that at first, though, as she’s too focused on Wanda’s pushing and the baby, Tommy, who she ultimately delivers before Vision is able to make it home with the doctor. What proceeds to happen is ripped out of almost every sitcom involving a surprise delivery where the father ends up being stuck in traffic, causing him to miss the birth of his child. Though Vision’s basically just exposed his secret to the doctor and Geraldine, he’s overwhelmed with a short-lived wonder at his newborn that’s interrupted when the second of the twins reveals himself, much to all their shock.

When both Billy and Tommy are safely cleaned up and swaddled, everyone in the Vision residence is overjoyed to welcome them into the world, but when Vision walks the doctor out onto the lawn to say goodbye, the physician says something strange about his plans with his own family that introduces this episode’s first real shot of potent dread. When the doctor explains that he’d intended to leave Westview for the weekend, the way his gaze lingers on Vision gives the impression that he truly was trying to “escape” the city, only for the synthezoid to drag him back to participate in Wanda and Vision’s “story.”

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As the doctor’s words unnerve Vision, Wanda’s goes through a similar moment of feeling off as she and Geraldine discuss the surprise of the twins’ birth, and Wanda brings up Pietro’s name for one of the first time in the MCU since his death. In addition to explaining that she, too, was a twin, Wanda begins to sing to them both in what is likely meant to be Sokovian, and the song causes Geraldine to falter as she begins to recall details about how Pietro died in a very public, worldwide way.

“Geraldine” realizing something in front of Wanda.
“Geraldine” realizing something in front of Wanda.
Screenshot: Disney+/Marvel
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While Age of Ultron might not be many people’s favorite Marvel movie, it’s exciting to hear its events acknowledged directly here, as it confirms that Geraldine is well aware, sort of, of the larger world’s history beyond Westview. But Geraldine’s mention of Pietro’s name sets off a response in Wanda that turns dark just as Geraldine herself seems to forget what she’s just said out loud. This entire sequence was featured heavily in WandaVision’s earliest ads in which we saw Parris’ character being flung out of a strong warp in space onto a green field where she’s rushed by government personnel.

The implication then was that Wanda forced Geraldine/Monica out of their reality in response to something, and this episode confirms it, as that’s exactly what happens in the episode’s final moments. But the legitimately ominous thing that happens here is the small conversation that Vision has with Agnes and their fellow neighbor Herb (David Payton) before he heads back into the house to join Wanda. After Vision catches the two whispering to one another about something that’s decidedly out of place for the kind of show they’re in, the two characters turn to face him, and Agnes begins to say things about Wanda—the Wanda we’ve seen in the past—and her life from before that disturb him. Agnes knows that, after losing her parents and Pietro, Wanda had no real biological family to speak of, and the way she says all of this is with an acuity that Westview’s residents haven’t really had up until now.

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Before Vision can prod Agnes and Herb more about what they’re saying, though, the pair wander off to deal with their own plotlines, and Vision enters his home to find a very foreboding, but loving Wanda standing above her babies. As many times as everyone in WandaVision’s uttered the phrase “for the children” in the series, it definitely feels like the twins’ birth will become even more significant in subsequent episodes. But if all of this is, indeed, some kind of warped construct of Wanda’s mind, just what she’s trying to get at by whipping up dream babies is anyone’s guess.

WandaVision airs Fridays on Disney+.

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io9 Culture Critic and Staff Writer. Cyclops was right.

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DISCUSSION

greycobalt
greycobalt

This episode was spectacular. The way they combine the absurdity and cheesiness of sitcoms with the dread and seriousness of an MCU production is incredible. There’s no way it should work, but it does, and very well.

- I think there’s a distinction between Wanda being “in control” of the reality and manipulating it. Something so far makes me think she’s just manipulating it, and isn’t in any overall control, as her attempts at banishing the stork seemed to show.

- The entire scene with Wanda and Geraldine had my heart racing. It was so well-done, and so ominous, I had no idea who was the bad guy there, if there was one at all. Geraldine clearly didn’t “come with” the city, it’s pretty heavily implied she got there through the crashed (now toy) helicopter, so I imagine her layer of reality is weakest of all. I think between seeing all the stuff go nuts with the powers, hearing the names Wanda and Pietro close together, and then hearing Sokovian, she started to remember a profile she’d read on Wanda.

- I don’t quite get what Herb “breaking” was implying, if he was close to snapping out of his reality too or if Wanda’s malfunctions were affecting him. He seemed ready to spill it all to Vision before Agnes interrupted him, so that seems to confirm that on some level she’s involved in what’s going on.

- A lot of people have been saying the SWORD tech outside is keeping Wanda contained, but those just looked like floodlights to me. It seems more like something triggered Wanda into all this while she was in Westview, and I hope it stays that way. It’d be way more interesting to have a villain manipulating her grief and powers than for her to just have randomly gone crazy after Endgame.

- I know Evan Peters is on the cast list, and I hope he’s either unrelated entirely or the alternate (FOX) universe version of Quicksilver. If they got ATJ back to be our Quicksilver, that’d be amazing. Her powers are going nuts, let her resurrect Vision, have some kids, and bring her brother back. Why not!?

This show is killing me with the small doses and long waits. It’s definitely better for it though. This is going to be remembered as a high-point in the MCU I think, if for nothing else than the style and production.