Three episodes in to the “WandaVision” miniseries and I’m still as deeply intrigued by this show as I was last week. I’ve never been a big fan of sitcoms, mainly because they tend to focus on what I find to be the worst kind of comedy: awkward interactions, absurd situations populated by absurd people, and lame punchlines that lack any kind of zip. And yet, I am finding enjoyment from “WandaVision” precisely because it is spoofing those very same tropes and cliches while slowly unraveling a mystery.
The episode “Now In Color” advances the TV tropes to the 1970s, including the wardrobe and hair styles that are so familiar for those who grew up watching reruns of The Brady Bunch and The Partridge Family from the same decade. The title sequence feels like a mix between the two programs and the set design of the house goes through another revamp to match the decade the episode is set in, including shag carpeting on the stairs leading to the upstairs rooms. Production Designer Mark Worthington and Costume Designer Mayes C. Rubeo had their work cut out for them with this show and so far, they’ve been exemplary in making sure each episode released has a unique style and setting that fits the progression through the decades.
The episode picks up quickly after the last one, with Wanda showing about four months pregnant in less than 12 hours. Even Vision is disturbed by this development, projecting that the baby will be born in only a few days. The fun of this episode is watching Wanda and Vision go through the preparations for their upcoming baby, with Vision spending much of his time reading up on infants and labor. Paul Bettany shines in these episodes as Vision knows that something isn’t right but is afraid to lose what he has with Wanda.
Elizabeth Olsen also does a terrific job in the episode, particularly at the physical comedy requirements of a pregnancy story. The constant use of old tropes where the pregnant woman doesn’t want anyone to know she’s pregnant are used, from covering her body with a large coat despite it being warm outside to using strategically placed objects like fruit baskets and potted plants. It’s kitschy and cute but not in a tired way (like if it had been used in an actual sitcom in production today). Olsen’s performance of Wanda this go-around is far more nuanced that she was able to provide in the Avengers movies, which I attribute to giving her some more weighty material and time to work through it. The scenes between Wanda and Geraldine (revealed to be an agent of SWORD in this episode) are excellently portrayed as Geraldine tries to backpedal from confronting Wanda when mentioning the death of her brother Piotr at the hands of Ultron. The quiet fury Olsen infuses into Wanda during that scene is quite frightening when one takes into account the almost god-like power that Wanda has been displaying since the onset of this series.
At this stage, I’m still not sure if Wanda is creating this suburban utopia of her own volition or if something is manipulating her to do it. It’s evident from this episode that she has a strong measure of control over not just this environment but the people in it. She reverses time again this episode when Vision begins to question the nature of their reality, prompting the android to refocus onto the topic of their impending parenthood. The other couples in Westview also try to let Vision know without directly speaking about it that something is very wrong in this place they are living. I’ve read a couple of theories on this and the one I agree with is given that Wanda grew up in an Eastern European country without much of an entertainment industry, she would have grown up watching reruns of old American sitcoms, which would explain the shifting nature of this environment they are in. And the final scene of Geraldine (who we know is actually Monica Rambeau from Captain Marvel) shows that the outside world knows there’s something happening in Westview, since it is under a severe military quarantine but we still don’t know how long it has been there and what exactly is happening. The breadcrumbs provided so far are keeping me on my toes, which is a feeling I can’t often say I encounter with TV shows or movies. I’m intrigued to see where this goes in the upcoming episode, which should be taking us into the 1980s.