‘WandaVision’ Episode 3 Review: Now In Color!
There are many layers to WandaVision, and the more you peel back, the more there are. Not all of them are pretty.
The Scarlet Witch is one of the most complicated characters in all of Marvel Comics’ history. Her general arc over the course of the last five years has been one of extreme grief and trauma, both inflicted on her and by her. The extent to which this now informs the Marvel Cinematic Universe Wanda becomes crystal clear in the third episode of WandaVision, even if everybody else in the strange town of Westview can’t quite put their finger on it.
“Now In Color” continues the sitcom homage conceit of the first two episodes, moving fully into color and into the borderland of the 1960s and 1970s. Wanda and Vision now live in a home that is the Brady home from The Brady Bunch down to the potted plants. The show also incorporates a fair amount of The Mary Tyler Moore Show in the candid scenes of the opening credits and in Wanda’s general behavior this episode.
The episode builds off of the revelation that Wanda is pregnant and launches straight into a sitcom bit about trying to hide Wanda’s escalating pregnancy from their neighbors even as the couple bickers over what to name their son. Wanda wants Tommy, while Vision wants Billy, for William Shakespeare, as ‘all the world is a stage.’ It is far more than he knows, and it’s this knowledge that something is wrong that wrinkles the edges of the fake plastic existence of Westview.
Vision sees his neighbor Herb sawing through a concrete divider between his property and Vision’s. It’s played for laughs, as everything is – the sitcom staginess of this world even more heightened here – but Vision brings his concern to Wanda. And then the show suddenly rewinds. Vision dismisses his concern and things progress more happily. But nothing is really progressing in Westview, because Wanda is literally and figuratively controlling other people. She’s editing them.
Whether or not Wanda is a victim herself in this strange scenario remains to be seen. The voice from the radio in episode two of WandaVision indicates there is some question about it, and it’s clear from the end of the episode that some of the neighbors in Westview are aware something is very wrong. The doctor laments never being able to escape. The mid-show ad, for a HYDRA Soak bubble bath, hints at an artificial reality – “Escape to a world all your own…”
But Wanda does maintain some agency, and she uses it to terrifying effect in what is one of the most comic half hours in the MCU. Her powers go awry as her pregnancy speeds through nine months in more or less nine hours. Pipes burst, storks appear, and so does Geraldine, now going by Foxy, who’s looking for a bucket to clean up the mess in her house. She ends up helping deliver Wanda’s twins (Tommy and Billy), and also a bitter reminder of the reality that Wanda is so desperate to avoid.
Wanda, in an unguarded moment of emotion, says that she too is a twin. For the first time in years, she discusses her brother Pietro, who died in Age of Ultron. Ultron himself is namechecked by Geraldine as she wakes out of the strange Stepford conformity of Westview. Geraldine knows Pietro died and that Ultron killed him. Wanda becomes disturbed and questions who Geraldine really is. As she does, her Sokovian accent creeps in and out of her voice, and the happy, plucky sitcom wife utterly disappears.
The mystery of what happened to Wanda’s accent is one of the runners in MCU fandom, but this episode makes clear it’s a victim of Wanda’s creeping unreality the same as Geraldine and the Vision. Wanda has been revising or denying aspects of herself for a long time now and here, somehow, she’s doing it on a macro scale that is truly terrifying. The cold, sober smile on her face after she dismisses Geraldine is a scary reminder of not just her power, but her capacity to avoid the truth.
That she would willfully manipulate the Vision, even if he is a figment of her imagination at this point, is testament to some of Wanda’s worst instincts in the comics. She infamously created the House of M, an alternate reality in which her family, led by her father Magneto, is in control of the world. The lie of this reality – born out of her inability to accept the death of her children (it’s complicated) – ultimately led to the now-iconic moment where she destroyed mutants with three words: ‘No more mutants.’
Wanda expels Geraldine from her reality by force. It’s a cruel demonstration of her powers and another layer in the complicated tapestry of the series. WandaVision isn’t just having fun with Wanda’s complicated comic book history, or sitcom tropes, but American history. The story of the sitcom is as much about how suburban culture conquered popular culture and the banishment of a black woman – minutes after she laments her challenges in finding a good job – is reflective of the historical and mythical moment this episode takes place in.
Suburban conformity here becomes something much more twisted, a metaphor for denying not just individual or group attributes, but grief and trauma. American culture, in general, suppresses its traumas, and Wanda, an immigrant with a powerful and tragic story, is erasing her own past by rewinding through the faux culture of American sitcom history. It’s a staggering gambit on the part of WandaVision and far, far beyond anything the MCU has attempted or was even capable of.
The episode ends with Geraldine ‘outside’ the reality of Westview in the present, and we see for the first time the boundary of this bubble Wanda lives in. It’s a physical thing, even if Westview is in some way real. The welcome sign on the border says: “Home is where you make it.”
- A deep Easter egg for fans of The Brady Bunch is the Kitty Karry-All doll that Vision scolds in the episode.
- Wanda’s children are Tommy and William in the comics. They are ultimately revealed to be magical constructs and not ‘real.’
- In the comics, Wanda used fragments of the soul of the villain Mephisto to create their souls.
- Wanda is not just in control of the diegetic reality of Westview, but the non-diegetic one as well. The aspect ratio of the episode changes dramatically at key moments, in particular the expulsion of Geraldine.
- Dottie is the wife of Phil, making concrete the idea that she could be Arcana from the Squadron Supreme. Arcana is a powerful sorceress in the comics and if Agnes is indeed Agatha Harkness, then Wanda’s grouping with other powerful witches in WandaVision may not be entirely her doing.
- Agnes wears an interesting broach, which features a character with a scythe. This may be an allusion to the Grim Reaper, a Marvel villain who plays an outsized role in both The Vision And The Scarlet Witch mini-series from the 80s and The Vision series from 2015.
- Geraldine hears a kind of chopping sound, which further suggests she likely ‘entered’ Westview on a SWORD helicopter (the red one Wanda found, altered by her power). Another real-life helicopter is seen in the closing scene.
- Wanda questions Geraldine’s necklace, a SWORD logo, but doesn’t get an answer.
- “Daydream Believer” by The Monkees closes out the episode, a perfect coda to this chapter of WandaVision. “Oh, what can it mean?”
Darby Harn is a contributor for Screenrant, CBR.com, Star Wars News Net, and Movie News Net. He is the author of the sci-fi superhero novel EVER THE HERO. His short fiction appears in Strange Horizons, Interzone, Shimmer, and other venues.