Television

The Casual Marvel Fan’s Guide to WandaVision

What’s that symbol? Didn’t Vision die? And can a robot make babies?

Vision dips Wanda, who appears to be wearing a wedding dress. They are surrounded by crudely drawn question marks.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Disney+.

This article contains spoilers for the first two episodes of WandaVision.

Can we start with some basics? Didn’t Vision die?

He did—twice. Facing no other choice, Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) used her powers to kill Vision (Paul Bettany) during Avengers: Infinity War in order to also destroy the Mind Stone embedded in Vision’s forehead before Thanos could get his purple hands on it. Then Thanos arrived and rewound events using a different Infinity Stone, the Time Stone. With Vision once again alive, Thanos ripped the Mind Stone out of him, and he fell to the ground, lifeless.

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And he wasn’t resurrected in Endgame with everyone else?

No. Iron Man & co. hit the undo button on the “Snapture” but not the deaths that had happened before Thanos killed off half of the universe’s population.

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What are Wanda’s powers again? Could she be making this whole hallucination (?) happen?

She’s “weird,” as another character put it in 2015’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, where Wanda debuted. According to that movie, the powers Wanda got from experiments using the Mind Stone include “neuroelectric interfacing, telekinesis, mental manipulation,” but we really don’t know the full range of what she can do.* Reality manipulation certainly doesn’t seem impossible!

OK, we’re three questions in and you’ve mentioned three Infinity Stones. Could they have anything to do with what’s happening?

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Ugh, we hope not—we thought we were done with the MacGuffins from the first 22 movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which were destroyed in the movies’ present-day timeline. But suddenly Vision is back, and so is the Mind Stone that’s part of him.

Any theories about the date from the first episode? Is that the date of the “Snapture,” as you called it, when Vision died?

No idea! Aug. 23 was not the date of the Snap, according to the MCU Wiki, which suggests that it took place in spring 2018, when Infinity War was released. Something that did happen on Aug. 23? The D23 Expo where WandaVision’s cast was announced. The expo itself is named after the year 1923, when Walt Disney founded the company. That said, it’s not always healthy to read too much into the number 23.

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Let’s take a step back. Which classic sitcoms are they referencing? I got an I Love Lucy vibe.

Elizabeth Olsen’s frazzled housewife in the first episode does owe a lot to Lucille Ball, but the biggest reference point seems to be The Dick Van Dyke Show, the first great workplace sitcom. The scene when Vision ushers his boss through the door of his house and into the living room looks like a direct homage to The Dick Van Dyke Show’s opening credits, and the sight of a frazzled Wanda trying to cook dinner for her unexpected guests recalls the episode where Mary Tyler Moore rustles up dinner for her in-laws while she’s high on pep pills. (Fred Melamed’s boss, meanwhile, looks like Richard Deacon’s put-upon Mel Cooley, but acts more like Carl Reiner’s imperious and little-seen boss.) The peppy plot summary of the first episode’s theme tune owes a lot to The Patty Duke Show, and the Kafkaesque nature of Vision’s job at “Computational Services,” where no one can seem to explain exactly what it is they compute, is right out of Billy Wilder’s movie classic The Apartment.

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The first episode’s scenes of Wanda using her powers to make dishes fly around the kitchen also has a strong whiff of the “I married a witch” classic Bewitched, which the series makes explicit with the animated opening credits of Episode 2.

Do we have any idea who the person is who’s watching them at the end of the first episode?
 
The one clue is the symbol next to the monitor—it looks like a logo for S.W.O.R.D., which is a secret governmental organization in Marvel’s comic books that’s like S.H.I.E.L.D. but for threats from outer space. (Perhaps coincidentally, S.W.O.R.D. was created by Joss Whedon, the director of the first two Avengers movies, during his run in the mid-2000s writing Astonishing X-Men.) A good guess might be that the mission of this group has been redefined for the MCU, but we don’t have much to go on yet. That said, you may have noticed that the same logo is on the helicopter Wanda finds in Episode 2, as well as on the outfit of the beekeeper who appears at the end of that same episode.

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Here’s a nerdier question. Is there any significance to the way each episode ends with a wipe in the shape of a hexagon?

This could be related to the honeycomb shape of the “Universal Neural Teleportation Network” system of space travel from the Guardians of the Galaxy movies—especially since there’s some evidence that, with Marvel’s Eternals set to come out later this year, the Marvel movies are headed to space. The honeycomb could also be related to the beekeeper from the end of Episode 2. Alternatively, the editor might just think it looks cool.

What about the trippy look of the closing credits?

Given that the closing credits sequence is made up entirely of red, green, and blue lights, it’s fair to say that it is meant to take us into the inner workings of 20th-century color TVs, which used a red, green, and blue (RGB) color system to produce their images. In other words, like the episodes themselves, the credits sequence appears to take us inside an old TV set.

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What are the popular theories about what could be happening?

The going theory seems to be that Wanda and Vision are trapped in some sort of reality-distortion field—though it’s unclear who has done the trapping, if one or both of them has something to do with it, and if anyone else in their town, particularly Agnes, is involved. But if Wanda’s powers can do anything, why not this?

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A related theory says that Wanda and Vision are on some kind of alternate Earth. The concept of the multiverse is set to appear in two upcoming MCU movies, including the MCU’s third stand-alone Spider-Man movie and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, with the directors of these three projects even trading notes to stay on the same page. Wanda is also in the Doctor Strange sequel. Anyway, it might be useful for you to remember the numbers 616 and 199999 (the designated universe numbers—this is a thing—for the core Marvel comics universe and the MCU, respectively).

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Do the neighbors know something? I think the neighbors know something.

Agnes (Kathryn Hahn) is a classic nosy neighbor, but a lot of fans have speculated that she’s really Agatha Harkness, a witch from the Marvel comics who at one point tutored Wanda Maximoff in the use of magic. Spooky.

And the friendly fellow newcomer played by Teyonah Parris haltingly introduces herself as “Geraldine”—but Disney has revealed that Parris is playing Monica Rambeau, the now-grown-up little girl who appeared in the MCU’s Captain Marvel, which takes place in 1995. What we don’t know is what Monica is doing in Wanda and Vision’s picturesque town.

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What are we to make of the scenes in which Wanda and Vision break the fourth wall? Why does Wanda look directly at the camera when she tells Vision to help his choking boss? Why does Vision point his remote control at the camera at the end of the first episode?

It’s not clear yet, but it certainly contributes to the air of unreality suffusing the whole enterprise. The moments when the characters look straight at the viewer add to the feeling that Wanda and Vision are, in some way, trapped. Who’s trapping them? Wanda herself? That mysterious viewer in S.W.O.R.D. HQ? Us, watching at home? Society, man?!

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Could the comics help make sense of this?

Sure could. When faced with personal tragedy and mental illness, the Wanda of the comic books used her powers to rewrite reality so that she, and members of her family, got whatever they wanted. The 2005 miniseries House of M climaxed with Wanda committing one of the more surprising and consequential acts to ever happen in a Marvel comic book, and though she’s not exactly a villain, she’s still a figure of great controversy within the Marvel canon.

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Another, less weighty reference point would be Tom King’s 2015–16 run writing The Vision, in which the character creates a family of “synthezoids” (androids) and moves to suburban Arlington, Virginia. It’s great.

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What do these comics tell us? That the manicured, synthetic-feeling suburbs are a good setting for a story about a robot trying to discover his humanity. And that when she’s facing incalculable loss, there’s no telling what terrible things Wanda will do.

What significance do the advertisements have?

As literal disruptions to the narrative, the commercials seem like they play a key role in hinting at what’s really going on here. The first is for a toaster manufactured by Stark Industries—Tony Stark being Vision’s literal manufacturer and “toaster” being Wanda’s affectionate nickname for her husband in Tom King’s comics. The toaster even looks a little bit like a robot’s face, with a blinking red light—the only spot of color in the first episode apart from the final shot—right where the Mind Stone fit into Vision’s forehead. But perhaps the most important piece of the ad is the slogan: “Forget the past, this is your future.” If WandaVision takes place after Wanda was forced to kill Vision, you can see why she’d want to forget her past, and create, one way or another, a future in which they can still live together.

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The concept turns up again in Episode 2, with its advertisement for a Strucker watch, featuring the tag line, “He’ll make time for you.”

Who’s Strucker again? 

Baron Wolfgang von Strucker was one of the secondary villains of Age of Ultron, a leader of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s evil counterpart, Hydra. Look closely at the face of the watch, and you’ll see who it’s manufactured by: Hydra.

Does this mean I’m going to have to rewatch Age of Ultron?

I’m sorry, but it might.

Could Vision and Wanda have a kid? Is that among Vision’s, uh, powers?

In the comic books, Wanda used her reality-warping powers to make it possible for a human and a synthezoid to conceive. It gets really complicated from there.

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Who’s the voice trying to get through to Wanda? Is that Chris Evans?

We don’t know, but maybe! The Captain America actor was supposed to have hung up his shield after Endgame, but Deadline reported on Thursday that he was nearing a deal “to reprise the role in the MCU in some form.” Alternately, an actor who we know is a recurring character in the cast is Randall Park, who played Ant-Man’s parole officer Jimmy Woo in Ant-Man and the Wasp and will reportedly play the FBI agent once again in WandaVision.

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Is that beekeeper a villain I should know of? “The Beekeeper” sounds like it could be the name of a supervillain.

According to the credits, he’s played by Zac Henry. However, Zac Henry is also the “stunt rigging coordinator” for WandaVision and a stunt man on a bunch of Marvel movies, so there might not be much we can read into that. Then again, there is a rather silly Marvel villain called Swarm, who is made of bees.

Would swallowing gum really have that much of an effect on Vision?

Almost certainly not. Indeed, Vision has previously endorsed gum, by appearing in a 1976 set of Marvel bubblegum cards. Hopefully this shocking continuity error will be explained in a future episode.

Correction, Jan. 15, 2021: This article originally misstated that Wanda’s powers came from the Space Stone.

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