WandaVision, the first original television series produced by Marvel Studios, isn’t quite like anything Marvel has released before.
It’s absurdist and pays authentic tribute to some of the best American sitcoms produced in the 1950s, ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s, including Bewitched and The Dick Van Dyke Show. WandaVision is still a Marvel Studios show, however, and that means it ties into the greater Marvel Cinematic Universe. The first two episodes, now streaming on Disney Plus, set up a key organization that ties WandaVision into the current Marvel Cinematic Universe’s moment, while also setting up the enticing “cosmic universe” era it’s about to enter.
[This is your mandatory spoiler warning. Stop reading here if you don’t want to know anything that happens in the first two episodes.]
The first episode finds Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany) living a charming suburban life in a fictional town. Although the show takes place after Avengers: Endgame, there’s no reference to anything that happened — no explanation for how Vision is suddenly alive, why they’re living in an alternate, dreamlike world, or why they can’t remember anything that came before moving into their new house.
Throughout the first episode, there are a few hints that all is not what it appears for Wanda and Vision. Vision reiterates that Wanda came from Sokovia, and during a dinner scene, Wanda is transfixed by one specific question: “Why did you come here?” It’s not until the end of the episode, however, that WandaVision finds its most interesting reveal: the presence of S.W.O.R.D.
What is S.W.O.R.D.?
S.W.O.R.D., or Sentient World Observation and Response Department, is a cosmic version of S.H.I.E.L.D. Most MCU fans know S.H.I.E.L.D. It’s the organization that Howard Stark and Peggy Carter started and Nick Fury oversees, designed to employ superbeings as Earth’s mightiest defenders from supernatural threats — Loki’s attack on New York City or Ultron’s attack on Sokovia. S.H.I.E.L.D. was famously infiltrated by Hydra, as seen in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and that’s key as WandaVision includes a reference to Wolfgang von Strucker. In the MCU, von Strucker was a Hydra sleeper agent within S.H.I.E.L.D. who is seen holding custody of Wanda and her twin brother Pietro in a Winter Soldier post-credits scene and Age of Ultron’s opening battle. It’s these little moments that tie Wanda and Vision back to the MCU-at-large.
Fine, that’s S.H.I.E.L.D.; what about S.W.O.R.D? The organization first appeared in Astonishing X-Men #3, which was written by Joss Whedon back in 2004. (Fun fact: the first appearance of anything S.W.O.R.D. related in the MCU is a tiny Easter egg in Age of Ultron, which Whedon also directed.) The organization was originally created to defend the entire universe from extraterrestrial threats. Run by Abigail Brand, a woman who is basically a space-based, mutant version of Nick Fury, the whole idea was to act as an intelligence agency based outside of Earth.
The most memorable nod to S.W.O.R.D. arrived in the form of a Spider-Man: Far From Home post-credits scene. Fury, seemingly on vacation, walks out onto the deck of a spaceship while a bunch of Skrull (those green aliens from Captain Marvel) are walking around. It’s clear that Marvel Studios is setting up S.W.O.R.D. to appear and possibly connect the fourth and fifth phases of the MCU, but what does it mean for WandaVision?
It all ties together
Interestingly enough, S.W.O.R.D’s name in WandaVision is changed slightly to Sentient Weapon Observation Response Division. This could just be a title change (the definition of S.H.I.E.L.D in the MCU is slightly different from the comics), but it could also point to Wanda being imprisoned in a fictional world where S.W.O.R.D. is watching her. Monica Rambeau, who originally appeared in Captain Marvel as Maria Rambeau’s (Carol Danvers’ best friend) daughter, is now an adult and an agent of S.W.O.R.D., based on official Topps playing cards released ahead of WandaVision’s launch.
Small, visual glitches that appear in the sky insinuate Wanda and Vision are trapped in an artificial world, and the final scene of the first episode confirms that S.W.O.R.D. agents are watching their every move. In the second episode, even more clues appear. A voice coming through a radio (it sounds like Ant-Man’s Agent Jimmy Woo) asks Wanda, “Who’s doing this to you?” Later on in the episode, Wanda suddenly becomes pregnant. She asks Vision if “this is really happening,” and after he first reflects that something seems off, time suddenly rewinds and he changes his answer to a simple, “Yes, this is really happening.”
The most important moment happens when Wanda and Vision are standing in the middle of the street after hearing a noise. A beekeeper emerges from a manhole, the S.W.O.R.D. logo on his back. Wanda, fear-stricken, utters a simple “no,” and everything goes back to normal — well, her version of normal. If the title change does mean Wanda is being watched as a possible sentient weapon (we still have no idea what happened to Vision’s actual body), it would play slightly into her arc in the House of M comics, where Wanda creates a fictional reality to cope with a devastating loss.
Here’s where some fun predictions come in. Marvel Studios needs to unite its new group of superheroes, many of which are tied into other planets. Remember when Captain Marvel told the makeshift council of Avengers in Endgame that when Thanos snapped his fingers, it devastated a bunch of other planets, too? The way they can do that is through S.W.O.R.D. We already know that WandaVision connects to Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. In the House of M comic series, Professor X reveals that he brought in Doctor Strange to try to break Wanda’s fictional reality. It doesn’t work, but it’s possible that Doctor Strange could work with S.W.O.R.D. in WandaVision to try something similar.
It also seems likely that Monica Rambeau will also appear in Captain Marvel 2. The character was in the first Captain Marvel, and, considering that Fury seemed like he was working with S.W.O.R.D. at the end of Far From Home, it’s not too much of a stretch to assume that Carol Danvers, Nick Fury, and Monica Rambeau all know and continue to work with each other.
Remember: WandaVision wasn’t originally supposed to air until the end of this year, closer to Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and Captain Marvel 2’s release date, and after The Eternals. Not to mention that with X-Men and the Fantastic Four under Feige’s belt — and a new Fantastic Four movie in the works — using S.W.O.R.D. to connect everything the way S.H.I.E.L.D. did for Iron Man, Captain America: First Avenger, Thor, and The Avengers, is a good way to do it.
It seems like WandaVision will spend its first season determining whether S.W.O.R.D. is an ally or an enemy. More importantly for the MCU, having fans dive into S.W.O.R.D. before The Eternals, Captain Marvel 2, and other cosmic movies is a good place to get people acquainted with the agency.