TV REVIEW: WandaVision Episode 4 (2021)
A massive thank you to WandaVision for allowing me to create an entire new segment for these weekly reviews of the series, delving into the Theory Zone and discussing what exactly is going in the show. Along comes its fourth episode and effectively gives us answer to most of the bigger question the show has thrown at the audience. Whose voice was on the radio? Where did the red toy helicopter come from? What does Geraldine’s necklace mean? Who was the beekeeper? “We Interrupt This Program” exits the show’s format entirely and catches us up on the real world outside of the energy field surrounding the non-existent town of Westview. WandaVision is doing something special.
With Geraldine, or should I say, Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris) as your guide, you’re taken on a fast, if a little rushed, journey through the first three episodes from the outside looking in. Monica, an agent of S.W.O.R.D. (Sentient Weapon Observation and Response Division), has her own history with the extra-terrestrial, having met and helped design Captain Marvel’s superhero outfit back in the 90s. When she gets inadvertently sucked into an energy field, the outside taskforce (led by Ant-Man and the Wasp’s Jimmy Woo (Randall Park/Jim Halpert) must work to rescue her and find out what the hell is going on.
Special attention must be paid to this week’s stellar opening scene. Taking place in the immediate aftermath of Endgame, in which everyone is snapped back to reality, Monica scampers around a hospital in chaos as doctors, patients, and visitors alike return to the world instantly. It’s a harrowing sequence, harkening back to the Infinity War post-credits in which Nick Fury and Maria Hill are snapped out of existence, and a tremendous example of the brilliant story the MCU has told so far. The Snap first occurred nearly three years ago in real-life time (five years in MCU time), and yet its impact on the MCU is still being felt without ever losing its impact. An incredible sequence, and a series highlight so far.
This week was the most MCU-style entry into WandaVision so far, but the change of format gives the series a new lease of life. If you thought you had the routine all figured out, think again. With the return to widescreen format seeing the return of fan favourites like Woo (complete with magic tricks perfected in the years since the Snap) and the long-awaited return of Dr. Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings), and the slightly-less anticipated return of the patented Marvel humour. It may not be laugh-out-loud funny, but there is a charm to it that feels comforting, as if we’ve returned to normality. We have the generic Marvel soundtrack, the ever-moving camera work that slowly zooms and retreats from characters at every given moment, and nonsense science-fiction jargon as they semi-explain why WandaVision has taken the form of a sitcom for the last three weeks. It’s good to be home.
There are still moments of creativity dotted throughout, as the sitcom and the real-world splice together; following the scientist in a hazmat suit be morphed into an old-timey beekeeper as he crosses into the 1960s was extremely well done, and the meta moments in the script as the characters on screen discuss the sitcom episodes already shown on Disney+ is a clever way to integrate the audience into the action, as if we were the SWORD agents all along.
The oddity of it all being a sitcom is the only mystery left standing, though the concept of “the universe creating a sitcom starring two Avengers” is just about enough to tide me over as the ridiculous idea that it is, though some may want a little more meat on those bones. By episode’s end, you’ll be hard pressed to find a question left unanswered. Monica flew the helicopter into Westview, Woo was the voice on the radio, and the townsfolk of Westview are trapped SWORD agents playing along with a fantasy orchestrated by the strongest Avenger, Wanda Maximoff. Presumably created by Wanda to live out her familial aspirations of raising a family with Vision, the peek behind the curtain is most welcome. Most notably, the look at Vision’s body without Wanda’s head canon colourful recreation of him was a moment of real horror, further compounding both the effective storytelling of the MCU and the brilliant balancing of tones the show has managed thus far.
Do not be surprised if the show tries to balance its time between sitcom and reality simultaneously, and you have to wonder how well the clashing tones will mesh. Now that we’ve seen the outside world, the impact of next episode’s trip to the 80s will either lose the spark the first three episodes had or be a welcome tonal shift back to the norm we’ve with which we’ve become so comfortable. It does feel as if WandaVision is about to enter uncharted waters.