This week’s new WandaVision clearly marks the end of act one of the nine-part event series, changing the stakes of the fantasy world in which the main characters are living as well as giving us our first peek at what’s really going on. As with the first two episodes, the bulk of this chapter is just a solid retro sitcom in which Wanda and Vision are dropped into a stock comedy scenario that’s complicated by their secret abilities. “A couple is feeling unprepared for their new baby,” cranked up to 11. But the cracks in the illusion are becoming harder to ignore, and the ratio of light comedy to suspense is tightening. The three lead performers — Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, and Teyonah Parris — all really nail the physical comedy of this episode, but each member of the ensemble also gets their moment to sell the horror living underneath the surface of this technicolor dreamland.
Avengers: Maternity Ward
Episode three kicks off with a fun Partridge Family-inspired credits montage and theme song reintroducing us to Wanda and Vision as expecting parents, but when the show properly begins, Vision informs us that almost no time at all has passed since the previous episode. Whatever spell keeping him from noticing that it’s just become 1970 doesn’t suppress his confusion over how Wanda became several months pregnant instantaneously. It does, however, transmute that confusion into comical “new dad” anxiety that only amplifies as the pair discovers that Wanda’s likely to give birth in a matter of hours.
Vision hasn’t been precisely the same character that we remember from the Infinity Saga (though it’s charitable to assume that, in that massive cast, we should remember him very much at all). The WandaVision incarnation of the character seems to be an extrapolation and exaggeration of the face Vision wears during his private moments with Wanda in Civil War and Infinity War before his death, warm and sweet but also a bit boyish and awkward. In this episode, there’s a brief moment in which the more analytical side of Vision, presumably his “real” self peeking through the illusion, asserts itself as he begins to notice the strange behavior of his neighbors and maybe even the falseness of his world. This Vision is unwelcome here, and is immediately reset the moment he gets close to a revelation.
After having Wanda’s pregnancy confirmed by the neighborhood doctor (Randy Oglesby, Star Trek: Enterprise), Wanda and Vision have a very typical-for-television debate over whether to name their son Tommy (Wanda’s choice) or Billy (Vision’s preference). By the end of the episode, Wanda has given birth to twins who they name Tommy and Billy. But was she always carrying twins? Did Dr. Nielson simply fail to notice from his cursory examination? Or does Wanda end up with twins because they had two names picked out, letting both parties get what they want and cleanly resolving even the most banal of conflicts within thirty minutes?
We Had a Hedge Back Home in the Suburbs / Over Which I Never Could See
While Vision tries to track down the doctor to aid in the delivery, Wanda receives a visit from her chatty and effervescent friend Geraldine (Teyonah Parris, If Beale Street Could Talk). Geraldine befriends Wanda in episode two, where she unwittingly becomes part of Wanda and Vision’s magic act. Geraldine’s arrival this episode is inconvenient given that Geraldine saw Wanda perform in a skintight leotard yesterday and would likely be taken aback to see her in her current state. Meanwhile, Wanda’s contractions are wreaking havoc with her powers, giving her additional strange happenings to try and hide from Geraldine. Again, WandaVision pulls off the kind of broad comedy that, on another show, might make me change the channel and wonder how my TV got set to CBS. It is truly amazing what you can get away with in comedy when you have a strong cast and a self-awareness that is sincere rather than crass. (By the time we get to the 90s, though, some crassness should be expected.)
Eventually, the jig is up, and a barely-rattled Geraldine helps Wanda to deliver what turns out to be the first of two twins, who is born totally clean, looking about four months old, and already wrapped in a blue blanket (which is a really good gag). At first, one would assume that Geraldine is simply taking the weirdness in stride the way everyone else in the TV-land of Westview does. But, in fact, it’s because Geraldine is not an ordinary resident — she’s a spy from outside. When Wanda (already on her feet about two minutes post-partum) cracks open the window to real-world vulnerability by recalling her late brother Pietro and singing an old folk song to her newborns, Geraldine tries to open it the rest of the way by revealing that she knows how Pietro died. She overplays her hand, blows her cover, and finds herself ejected from the illusion, presumably by Wanda herself.
Geraldine lands back in the “real” world — identified by its modern cars and helicopters, deep widescreen aspect ratio, and dramatic movie lighting — where the town of Westview is surrounded by a government cordon. This, combined with an eerie scene happening at the same time between Vision and neighbors Agnes (Kathryn Hahn) and Herb (David Payton, Chicago P.D.), seems to indicate that Westview and its residents are real people around whom reality has warped. The drone and beekeeper from Episode 2 were not culprits, but more likely part of a reconnaissance mission into the magical hot zone, hoping to rescue the poor souls who are trapped living someone else’s fantasy and gradually developing the will to communicate its terrifying implications.
Rambeau: First Blood
We have once again reached the point in the recap in which we move past the text we’re given into the land of meta- and para-text, so if your goal is to watch and enjoy WandaVision week by week and receive information in the order in which the storytellers intend, this is your exit. I’m proud and envious of your patience and resolve.
The rest of us brain-damaged nerds are gonna talk about Monica Rambeau, Wiccan, and Speed.
Marvel Studios has made no secret as to who Teyonah Parris really playing on WandaVision, that “Geraldine” is actually Monica Rambeau, last seen as a precocious child in Captain Marvel. (In the comics, Monica holds the title of Captain Marvel years before Carol Danvers.) Until the end of episode three, it was only unclear whether Monica was just another unwilling participant in the WandaVision fantasy. Now, we know that she was sent into Westview as a spy, apparently for S.W.O.R.D., the successor to S.H.I.E.L.D. that was teased at the end of Spider-Man: Far From Home. (IMDB credits for stunt performers on WandaVision confirm that S.W.O.R.D. is indeed in the mix.) In the comics, S.W.O.R.D.’s jurisdiction is outer space, but evidently the MCU version has a different mandate. If anyone was wondering how Kat Dennings’ or Randall Park’s pre-existing Marvel characters were going to fit into this series, we now have a pretty good idea.
And speaking of the way Marvel likes to cross-pollinate its projects, the birth of Tommy and Billy has some potential implications for a wave of Marvel projects yet to come. In the comics, Tommy and Billy grow up to become teen heroes Speed and Wiccan, members of the Young Avengers. While Young Avengers was not on the massive slate of upcoming projects Marvel offered its investors late last year, YA teammates Kate Bishop, America Chavez, Cassie Lang, and Loki will all be appearing in the MCU over the next few years. It’s no stretch to assume that Marvel is building up a younger (and less expensive) cast for one of their patented mega-crossovers. Time is meaningless in WandaVision and the babies are magic — Marvel can have ‘em up to fighting age whenever they please.
Look, I’m not the one who turned film and television into the Road to WrestleMania. Marvel Studios head honcho Kevin Feige simply knows how to work the smart marks in the crowd, and regrettably, here we are, dirt sheets in hand, fantasy booking the next billion-dollar blockbuster that we will all go see instead of giving our hard-earned money to better films. I can’t help it if they’re very, very good at this.