Technology US

In WandaVision’s third episode, the devil really is in the details

It’s just a jump to the left and a step to the right for Wanda and Vision, who have time warped from the ‘50s and ‘60s to the 1970s.

The third episode picks up right where the last ended: Wanda is pregnant, but she and Vision are still trying to figure out how they ended up in their perfect suburban life together with no past memories. It’s a wackier installment than the first two episodes, but it’s also key to piecing together what might play out over the next six weeks — including what it could possibly mean for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.

[With that said, here is your spoiler alert for WandaVision’s third episode.]

If the beginning of WandaVision’s third episode sets up that something isn’t right, as Vision tells Wanda when they realize how quickly she’s running through her pregnancy, it’s the end of the episode that hammers that point home. The arrival of twin boys, a reference to Age of Ultron, a necklace, and a security base just outside of Wanda’s fictional world all provide some clues as to where the series may take us, and which comics it’s pulling from.

Let’s start with Monica Rambeau. She’s an agent of S.W.O.R.D., the intelligence agency that was hinted at in the first episode, but her appearance in the episode brings more questions than answers. Is Monica watching over Wanda to ensure the Scarlet Witch doesn’t destroy reality while trapped in her own prism? Or is she trying to help Wanda escape the fake world she’s created for herself? Possibly both! Even though Wanda doesn’t recognize her, it’s Monica who helps deliver her twin boys — Tommy and Billy.

This is pretty important. Thomas and William Maximoff were originally introduced in the comics as Wanda and Vision’s children. At least, that’s what Wanda and Vision thought. Tommy and Billy were merely constructs, created via magic using her mutant abilities. In order to give her sons proper souls, Wanda used life fragments from a villain named Mephisto, who later devoured the babies to regain control of the fragmented souls embedded in their bodies.

Who is Mephisto?

For those who may not remember Ghost Rider, Mephisto is an old Marvel comic book character. In the comics, Mephisto is a demonic devil-of-sorts who has caused trouble for a number of characters, including Doctor Strange, Wanda Maximoff, and even Doctor Doom. His possible appearance could become another crux to all of WandaVision and help set up a way for Doctor Strange to appear in the show as Disney executives have previously announced.

After debuting in Vision and the Scarlet Witch in 1986, it’s not until 1989 and a storyline in West Coast Avengers that the twins die and our speculation starts. Mephisto is the person who effectively absorbs Wanda’s fictional children, leaving her in an unbelievable amount of emotional pain. (Actually, the twins were absorbed through a villain named Master Pandemonium, but he was effectively operating under the control of Mephisto, so we’ll skip over the beautiful but often frustrating intricacies of comic book story lines and try to stay on course.)

Although we have not seen Mephisto in WandaVision, having Tommy and William enter the show at a time when Wanda is creating a fictional universe for herself in a subconscious that people are trying to break through seems to suggest that Mephisto will appear. Which brings us to our next character in this Inception-like layer of intermingling alternate realities: Kathryn Hahn’s Agnes, Wanda’s next-door neighbor.

The Agatha connection

If it seems like Agnes isn’t really an innocent bystander in this situation, that’s because she probably isn’t. In the new episode, Agnes is seen wearing a very particular necklace. It’s similar to the necklace worn by Agatha Harkness in the comics. Harkness is a witch — actually portrayed as one of the original witches in the Salem Witch trials back in 1692. Although she suffers a terrible tragedy, she becomes best known for two things. The first is becoming a protector-of-sorts of Franklin Richards, son of Sue and Reed Richards, members of the Fantastic Four. Longtime fans will know where this is headed, but Agatha Harkness also played a very specific role in Wanda’s life after Mephisto absorbed her twins, and continued to do so long after.

Following the traumatic absorption of her children in the comics, Wanda has her mind wiped by Harkness in Avengers West Coast. It’s easier to erase her memory than trying to save the children by removing them from Mephisto. Grim! (Don’t worry, they return in a new form as members of the Young Avengers named Wiccan and Speed). In the comics, however, Harkness also becomes a mentor to Wanda, teaching her to harness her hex powers.

My assumption is that Frank, the husband Agnes keeps referencing in the first two episodes, is actually Mephisto. Remember her line about wanting to make her husband disappear in the second episode while Vision is performing his magic trick? In that same episode, when Wanda and Agnes’ neighbor Bev remarks, “the devil’s in the details,” Agnes jokingly replies, “that’s not the only place he is.” Mephisto is often referred to as the devil within Marvel comics. It could be nothing, but it could also be foreshadowing.

The bigger speculation is what this is all leading up to. We know that whenever Wanda realizes that’s something out of place, she has the ability to adjust her world to her liking. When she begins talking about her brother Pietro at the end of the episode, which causes Monica to slip up and ask Wanda if he was killed by Ultron, Wanda uses her powers to physically throw Monica out, back into the real world, onto S.W.O.R.D.’s base. Earlier I asked if Monica is keeping an eye on a dangerous Wanda or trying to help. It seems like Wanda is trapped inside her own subconscious, where Mephisto wants her to be, until the children start to show mutant abilities. Then, he can absorb them and their powers. Mephisto could be controlling Wanda within her own universe by letting her play out the fantasy life she wanted.

Again, this is Marvel. Specifically, this is the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The show may be a self-contained story, but it’s playing into the bigger picture. This time around, the bigger picture is…

Doctor Strange promotional image

Image: Marvel Studios

…folks, it’s Doctor Strange

Look, not everything has to build up to Doctor Strange, but at this point in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, things are building up to a multiverse centered around Doctor Strange. Mephisto and Doctor Strange have had multiple encounters in the comics and have played around with the multiverse narrative.

Plus, at one point in the comics, Doctor Strange literally steps into a version of hell to save the Fantastic Four from Mephisto — so if that’s not everything coming together nicely for Marvel’s next phase, I don’t know what is. I mean, one of Mephisto’s most famous storylines involves Peter Parker, and we know Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is connected to Spider-Man 3 thanks to Kevin Feige’s recent confirmation. Mephisto could be part of the connective tissue.

There’s still a lot we don’t know. We don’t know how Jimmy Woo or Darcy Lewis play into the story, although I’m operating under the assumption that Woo is an agent of S.W.O.R.D. following the events of Endgame. We don’t know what Monica’s main job is, and we don’t know what happened to Vision’s body — if anything — after Endgame. What we do know, however, is that WandaVision is setting up something bigger than Wanda’s never-ending dream. Marvel’s DNA is finally starting to poke through.

Entertainment USA

‘WandaVision’ Recap: Wanda Gives Birth To Twins & Begins To Remember Her Past

The third episode of ‘WandaVision’ continued the build-up to the show’s ultimate endgame. Wanda remembered her beloved Pietro and had a confrontation with Geraldine.

The new episode of WandaVision features Wanda and Vision in the 1970s. Wanda is still pregnant and her pregnancy rapidly progresses in a short amount of time. Before there’s even time to catch your breath, Wanda is ready to give birth.

Geraldine is there — just in the nick of time — to help Wanda deliver a baby boy. Vision arrives after the birth. The little boy is named Tommy. Suddenly, Wanda gives birth again to another baby boy she names Billy.

Wanda has twin boys in episode 3. (Courtesy of Marvel Studios)

Later, Wanda has a very telling conversation with Geraldine and begins to remember her past. “I was a twin,” Wanda says. “I had a brother. His name was Pietro.” This is the first mention of Pietro (a.k.a. Quicksilver). Wanda begins to sing what appears to be a Sokovian lullaby.

“He was killed by Ultron, wasn’t he?” Geraldine asks, trying to get Wanda to remember more about her life. The glass house Wanda is trapped in metaphorically has just cracked. “What did you say?” Wanda replies as a tear falls down her face. Wanda confronts Geraldine, who’s wearing a S.W.O.R.D. necklace, regarding what she said about Pietro.

Elizabeth Olsen
Wanda’s twin brother, Pietro, died in ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron.’ (Courtesy of Everett Collection)

Wanda doesn’t back down. She demands to know what Geraldine is talking about. When Vision walks back into the house, Geraldine is gone. She’s been thrust back to the present, likely by Wanda’s powers. Geraldine is quickly surrounded by agents. Earlier, Agnes and Herb became suspicious of Geraldine. Given the theory that Agnes could be the villainous Agatha Harkness, Agnes could ultimately know that Geraldine is actually Monica Rambeau, who is clearly trying to get through to Wanda.

The WandaVision commercials within the show have given key hints about the return of HYDRA. The ad in the third episode is a HYDRA Soak commercial. Could these HYDRA hints be Wanda’s way of letting the viewer know who’s behind these alternate realities? With time, all will be revealed. New episodes of WandaVision air Fridays on Disney+.

Technology US

WandaVision is an ode to sitcoms

When times are tough, the sitcom is a refuge. Like late-night talk shows, the multicamera sitcom is one of the oldest formats in television. It’s affordable and efficient for the people who produce it, and comforting and familiar to viewers. Problems are introduced and solved in 30 minutes or less, usually with the realization that they were never that big of a deal in the first place. Characters have signature tics and catchphrases we love them for; in time, they come to feel like our friends. The best of the bunch are syndicated long enough that we’re able to introduce them to our children. What a pleasant thing it is, to retreat into the uncomplicated pleasure of a sitcom — a half-hour white lie to tell ourselves whenever the real world feels like a little too much.

Perhaps this is why WandaVision, at least at the start, takes the form of a sitcom. The new series, which premiered its first two episodes on Disney Plus today, is the first Marvel Cinematic Universe TV show made for Disney Plus. It’s also the first MCU project following 2019’s Avengers: Endgame, arriving after a year without any new MCU installments. As a comeback, it’s an odd one: the first image you’re greeted with is two Avengers side characters inexplicably being reintroduced as a married couple in the theme song to a black-and-white ‘50s sitcom. They’re driving to their new home, she in a wedding dress, he in a dapper suit, delighted to start their idyllic life together. But something feels off.

The boldness of this play — and the way it is precisely the opposite of what we know Marvel movies to be — makes it a perfect return. It’ll be intriguing for super fans curious about what the point is and how it might connect to the larger franchise, and it will be intriguing to those who might feel a little burned out on superheroes.

Marvel projects are gilded genre lilies. They like to pay lip-service to one genre of entertainment — Ant-Man has the cadence of a heist movie, for example, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier is kind of a conspiracy thriller — while they mostly serve as vehicles for generic action sequences. WandaVision, in at least its first two episodes, seems more sincere than that: the first episode plays its conceit of classic sitcom homage almost entirely straight.

As WandaVision presents it, Wanda Maximoff and Vision are a married couple who have just moved into a well-to-do suburb. They’re trying to fit in while also hiding the fact that he’s a robot of sorts and she’s got superpowers. In the premiere, this manifests in a very Bewitched-esque plot where Vision invites his boss home for dinner without telling Wanda. (She saves the day by using her powers to create an impressive meal without anyone noticing.)

Quietly, however, things get stranger. The ads in the show seem a little off. In the second episode, there’s an unremarked-upon time jump; the iconography of the ‘50s gives way to the fashion of the ‘60s. There’s also no allusion to Maximoff and Vision’s career as Avengers or anything they’ve been up to in previous Marvel movies. (The show does not mention that Vision, as far as we know, is dead — killed by Thanos at the end of Avengers: Infinity War and not brought back to life for Avengers: Endgame.)

Slowly, the fantasy starts to crumble. The characters joke about how Wanda and Vision do not have an anniversary or favorite song; and then, more overtly, the show offers glimpses behind the curtain to suggest that Wanda and Vision are being watched or that things that do not belong in this Pleasantville-like setting are somehow seeping in. The comics-literate will tell you that there is a good reason for all of the mannered strangeness. The Wanda Maximoff of the comics literature has been known to manipulate reality, and it would make sense that WandaVision might be building to that kind of revelation.

But no matter how and when WandaVision decides to explain itself, the comics lore of it all is only as good or interesting as the story it’s embedded in. WandaVision works well enough without too much knowledge of the decade of films preceding it. Fundamentally, you’re watching a superhuman couple that’s seemingly trapped in a sitcom. It makes even more sense, however, when you recall these characters shared a moment of severe trauma the last time they were together. It makes you wonder if maybe this is where they want to be. Sitcoms are a great place to hide when the world gets to be a little too much.

Technology US

WandaVision welcomes a new line of Earth’s first defense in the Marvel Cinematic Universe

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.]

A S.W.O.R.D. agent watching Wanda and Vision.
Image: Disney

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.

A man in a beekeeper outfit with the S.W.O.R.D. logo on the back.
Image: Marvel

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.”

Monica Rambeau talking Wanda.
Image: Marvel

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.

Entertainment USA

‘WandaVision’ Recap: The Key ‘Ultron’ Connection You May Have Missed & What It Could Mean

‘WandaVision’ made its grand debut on Jan. 15. Wanda and Vision seem to be living the perfect sitcom life, but nothing is what it seems. There was one particular moment that hints at trouble ahead.

The first two episodes of WandaVision launched on its premiere day, and the second episode began to set the stage for the unraveling of what’s really going on. Wanda and Vision are still living out their black and white sitcom life without a care in the world. Wanda goes to a get-together in honor of the upcoming talent show with the other ladies of the neighborhood, including Agnes and Geraldine (a.k.a. Monica Rambeau). Wanda also meets the leader of the pack, Dottie. After everyone leaves, Dottie tells Wanda that she’s “heard things” about Wanda and Vision.

Wanda is caught off guard and assures Dottie that she doesn’t mean anyone “any harm.” Dottie replies, “I don’t believe you.” Suddenly the radio turns on and someone calls to Wanda. “Can you read me?” the mystery man asks. Dottie asks Wanda who is on the radio before turning to Wanda and saying, “Who are you?”

Elizabeth Olsen stars as Wanda Maximoff. (Courtesy of Marvel Studios)

The voice continues to call out to Wanda. “Who’s doing this to you, Wanda?” the man asks. Wanda is in complete shock. A few moments later, the radio and the glass in Dottie’s hand explodes. When Dottie starts bleeding, it’s in color.

The next scene is a commercial for a Strucker watch. A close-up of the watch is shown, and there are some very telling clues about what’s at the heart of this story. The watch bears the HYDRA symbol and “HYDRA” is written in plain sight. The Strucker watch is a clear nod to Wolfgang von Strucker, one of the leaders of HYDRA. HYDRA has been one of the MCU’s biggest threats since Captain America, and it appears HYDRA may be far from extinct.

Elizabeth Olsen Paul Bettany

Strucker, Wanda, and Wanda’s brother Pietro were first introduced in a credits scene following Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Strucker showed List where the Scepter was and introduced him to Wanda and Pietro, who were being held prisoner in separate cells. This led right to Avengers: Age of Ultron. Strucker was eventually arrested by the Avengers and later killed by Ultron.

The reasons behind Wanda’s alternate reality are not explained in the first two episodes. If HYDRA is making a comeback, then it will be met with full force by S.W.O.R.D., the subdivision of S.H.I.E.L.D. that stands for Sentient World Observation and Response Department. The S.W.O.R.D. symbol is seen on the toy helicopter Wanda found in her yard and on the back of the Beekeeper’s suit at the end of the second episode.

Technology US

WandaVision can be weird because Marvel has already won

WandaVision is the Marvel universe’s most comic book show yet, if not in content at least in concept. It’s a dense-looking storyline that will be released on an episodic basis, with characters and a setting that are virtually impenetrable to new viewers — so much so that Marvel Studios even went so far as to produce a clip show recapping the critical moments of the 23-odd films that precede it.

It may seem like WandaVision would be barreling toward the same issue that has hounded traditional comics for years — a high barrier to entry with complex storylines, character dynamics, and lore that span decades and serve to confuse and drive away new readers — but WandaVision arguably doesn’t have that same problem.

Pick up a random issue of Spider-Man or Iron Man, and you’ll likely be confused by the contents, unless you’ve found a particularly accessible entry ramp like a creative reboot (for example, Jonathan Hickman’s recent run of the X-Men books) or a self-contained crossover. Comic sales are doing just fine, but the industry itself is a drop in the bucket compared to the massive pop culture impact of the Marvel blockbusters. Even the bestselling books of all time can’t come close in popularity.

Image: Marvel Studios

The fact that WandaVision isn’t particularly accessible to new viewers isn’t a mark against it: it’s a spinoff of what’s arguably the single most popular film franchise ever made and a direct follow-up to Avengers: Endgame, the biggest movie in history. Comic book movies and shows are no longer tiny underdogs trying to lure in new viewers who aren’t the traditional comic audience — they are popular culture now.

WandaVision doesn’t have to cater to a new audience; it’s free to get as weird as it wants for the unprecedentedly large audience it already has, an audience that Disney is hoping will sign up for monthly Disney Plus subscriptions to watch it. (The same goes for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and Loki and Hawkeye and Ms. Marvel and all of the other Marvel shows heading to the service.) After all, why sell customers a $15 movie ticket to a giant blockbuster only once when you can get them to subscribe to your streaming service for $8 per month forever?

In fact, Disney Plus’ very existence incentivizes Disney to make WandaVision more obtuse to new viewers. After all, all of the Marvel movies that you’d need to understand WandaVision are already on the streaming service. If someone opens up WandaVision on Friday and decides to shelve it while they work their way through the rest of the MCU on Disney Plus, then Disney wins just as much as it would have had they watched WandaVision itself. Even Marvel Legends — the recap show — requires a Disney Plus subscription to view, and it ends each episode with a list of movies (also streaming on Disney Plus) people should watch to better understand WandaVision.

The Mandalorian

Photo: Lucasfilm Ltd.

It’s a strategy that we’ve already seen Disney use to great effect with Star Wars. The Mandalorian’s second season tied in heavily to past Star Wars shows like The Clone Wars and Rebels. For fans who were up to speed on the older shows, The Mandalorian was delivering payoffs that were years in the making. For fans who weren’t, they suddenly had a great reason to keep those subscriptions going after the season finale to catch up.

WandaVision is by all accounts one of the strangest Marvel entries yet. It’s not the show the studio was hoping to use to kick off its TV efforts. (That title goes to the delayed — and more mainstream — The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, which will follow in March.) It doesn’t need to cater to new fans because of the sheer momentum of the Marvel machine, even though the first few episodes also demonstrate that it’s weird enough — and detached enough — from the main films that people can still come to it as its own thing.

But Marvel’s entertainment juggernaut is so big and consistent that it doesn’t really matter which show kicks off Disney Plus. The company has already won over viewers. All WandaVision needs to do is give them a reason to subscribe.

Tech News

Review: WandaVision Is Unlike Anything in the MCU

WandaVision — Marvel’s first (mini)series on Disney+ and Disney+ Hotstar — is a weird delight. It features Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) doing the dishes and Vision (Paul Bettany) belting out his dulcet tones at a dinner party. Two of Marvel’s most powerful superheroes, who’ve been busy saving the world over and over, have suddenly been relegated to homebody stuff. In that sense, it’s very much like our collective experiences over the past year, as we’ve found ourselves stuck at home. The initial episodes — I’ve seen three — are largely in black-and-white, filmed in a 4:3 aspect ratio. And oh, did I mention that it’s set in the fifties? WandaVision is Marvel’s first new offering since Martin Scorsese compared Marvel movies to theme parks and complained they didn’t constitute “cinema”, and the new Marvel series seems like a direct response to those remarks.

Of course, part of that is merely accidental. WandaVision is the first entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Phase Four — that’s an insider term that refers to the post-Avengers: Endgame era — but it wasn’t planned like that. Scarlett Johansson-led Black Widow was set to kick things off last April, with The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, starring Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan, to follow up on TV as the MCU began its Disney+ journey. WandaVision was going to be third in line, but then the pandemic swept over us and delayed everything. In a way, it’s worked out well for Marvel. Black Widow and Falcon and Winter Soldier look a lot like Marvel’s existing offerings, in line with Scorsese’s criticisms. WandaVision is unlike anything in the MCU, and its boldness augurs well for Marvel’s Disney+ start, something Marvel chief Kevin Feige also acknowledged.

WandaVision’s monochromatic Academy-ratio look is inspired by dozens of classic American sitcoms it pays homage to. That includes the likes of I Love Lucy, The Dick Van Dyke Show, I Dream of Jeannie, Bewitched, Family Ties, and Full House. And just like some of those shows, WandaVision transitions to colour as it progresses, adopting new tropes and styles along the way. It starts off as a Hollywood Golden Age sitcom with a laugh track — episode 1 was shot with a live studio audience — and silly jokes at a staccato rhythm, and then moves through the decades as it employs physical comedy, animated sequences, and pops of vibrant colours. WandaVision even has period-appropriate title sequences new to each episode, and they come with opening theme songs crafted by the Frozen duo of Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez.

But WandaVision isn’t just that. The sitcom appearance is a façade for a larger mystery lurking beneath the surface — it technically takes place after the events of Endgame, and will lead into Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, which stars Olsen — one that gets the briefest of mentions early on. In that essence, it feels closest to Westworld (whose creative team included lover of mystery boxes J.J. Abrams) and seems set to spawn endless theorising after each episode. And just like with the HBO series, I’m sure enthusiasts and Redditors will figure out WandaVision’s true nature within the first few episodes.

The first Marvel Disney+ series opens with a “just married” sign on the back of an old-timey car. The couple in question is Wanda and Vision, who have just arrived in the idyllic suburban town of Westview. They both acknowledge they are an unusual couple even apart from the whole superpower business — they have no wedding rings, no wedding pictures, and even no memory of a wedding — but Wanda wants them to “fit in”, and that’s what they do. She does her best to be a housewife, prepping meals and organising local events with other women. Vision spends his days typing out forms in a 9-to-5 office job. He once wonders what the company really does, but no one seems to know, in what feels like a jab at bureaucracy and being a cog in the machine.

There are early signs that something is amiss, with both Wanda and Vision struggling to remember the importance of an upcoming day. The two also have trouble recollecting anything from their pre-Westview days, as they discover when a dinner guest asks them the simplest questions. Exasperated, said guest screams, “What is your story?”, in what reads like a question being asked by the series’ audience. After all, Vision died — twice, at the hands of Wanda and the big bad Thanos — in Avengers: Infinity War, but he seems to be alive and well on WandaVision. What is their story? The Marvel series — crafted by creator Jac Schaeffer, an in-house Marvel talent who has worked on Captain Marvel (uncredited) and Black Widow (story) — is in no hurry to provide answers though, with the early episodes functioning as sitcom episodes for the most part.

In the first episode, Wanda and Vision have to manage an impromptu dinner party, which goes hilariously off the rails. In the second, the two sign on to do a magic show for a local fundraiser — it comes across as Chaplin-esque in parts — which also goes hilariously off the rails. And in the third, they must deal with a life-changing event that is progressing much faster than it usually does. In between and all around this, WandaVision sprinkles in jokes on Wanda and Vision’s dual personalities, which play on the fact that the audience knows more than the show’s other characters do.

Speaking of other characters, WandaVision has three from the larger MCU: Monica Rambeau (Teynoah Parris) from Captain Marvel now an adult, Dr. Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings) from Thor and Thor: The Dark World, and FBI agent Jimmy Woo (Randall Park) from Ant-Man and the Wasp. The only new entrant is Agnes (Kathryn Hahn), a nosy neighbour.

Teyonah Parris as Monica Rambeau in WandaVision
Photo Credit: Disney/Marvel Studios

WandaVision has its rare dramatic moments too. They explore Wanda’s familial worries and maternal desires, the death of her brother (who was killed in Avengers: Age of Ultron) and the mental anguish it has caused. These are all moments she’s never been allowed before, because Marvel movies don’t have room to process those feelings, and even more so because Wanda is a supporting character and has never had a standalone film.

Just as the trailers hinted, the sitcom world seems like a construct manifested by Wanda in pursuit of a normal life she’s never had. Or maybe as a refuge from a danger of sorts. There are hints early on in WandaVision that this supposedly virtual state might not be of Wanda’s own making, with fake commercials further serving as proof of the same. Feige has admitted that the bigger truths about the show will come out of these ads.

It’s a credit to Matt Shakman, the director best known for It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (40+ episodes) and Game of Thrones (“Eastwatch” and “The Spoils of War”), who shows himself able to handle both the light and the heavy, and bring a soft touch to darker notes. Of course, the true test of his abilities lies in the remaining six episodes, which Disney has not made available to critics prior to the show’s release. WandaVision is different than everything we’ve gotten previously. There’s nothing cookie cutter about its approach, something Marvel has been rightfully accused of in the past. But how will it fare as it approaches its endgame? After all, its creators have already spoken about it being like a big action MCU movie in the third act. Will it remain very unlike Marvel throughout or will it eventually dissolve into a generic MCU actioner?

WandaVision premieres January 15 on Disney+ and Disney+ Hotstar. Two episodes will air in week one, with one weekly thereafter until March 5.

Source link

Technology US

As WandaVision arrives, Marvel Studios is about to enter a never-ending cycle

If Marvel Studios has its way, people will get a new entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe nearly every week.

Everything starts with WandaVision. Marvel’s new nine-episode show, which follows Elizabeth Olsen’s Wanda Maximoff and Paul Bettany’s Vision living out an absurd suburban life in an alternate universe, kicks off on January 15th. Two episodes will premiere, with new episodes releasing every week for the rest of the season. Just two weeks after WandaVision ends, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier will arrive. It’s then three weeks until Black Widow hits theaters (unless it’s delayed again) and Loki lands on Disney Plus. By the time Loki ends, it’ll be time for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.

You get the picture.

Before Disney Plus launched, Marvel Studios solely worked on films. Television shows fell under Marvel Entertainment’s separate TV division. This includes the Netflix suite of series (Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage), shows on Hulu (The Runaways), and ABC titles like Agent Carter and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. It’s what kept the Marvel Cinematic Universe separate from everything else, even if those events were referenced. When Disney Plus came along, everything got shuffled. Disney needed new Marvel shows to bring in subscribers and keep them (like The Mandalorian did). Jeph Loeb, former head of Marvel TV, was effectively ousted as everything came under Marvel Studios chief and MCU architect Kevin Feige.

Under Feige, the MCU is now expanding. The various shows and films will interweave with one another. WandaVision will feature characters from Thor, Ant-Man, and Captain Marvel and will connect somehow to Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. While former Disney executives told The Verge that viewers won’t need to watch every movie or show to keep up, the strategy is designed like comics — references made to events that happened elsewhere that fans may want to watch to understand the full context.

Depending on people’s opinions of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, having a new Marvel thing each week is either a blessing or a curse. The question is when does it tip into oversaturation? Some people may feel like we’ve hit that point. While studios and networks are making more movies and TV shows than ever before (including outside the superhero genre), few things dominate the box office and conversation like Disney properties, most notably Marvel and Star Wars. Ushering in a never-ending wave of Marvel TV series, on top of three or four films a year, could be what tips the world over into total franchise fatigue.

Except it likely won’t. Franchise fatigue is a popular phrase that gets thrown around, but it’s ultimately flawed. Superhero movies remain some of the biggest box office successes that drive people to theaters at a time when US audiences are, on average, attending fewer movies a year. In China, Marvel movies remain some of the best performing films made by US studios, and the Chinese box office is the second largest box office demographic. This isn’t to imply that Marvel movies are the be all, end all of film (far from it), but mainstream audiences aren’t tired of them. Prior to Infinity War and Endgame, entries like Black Panther and Captain Marvel drove some of the MCU’s largest successes — and those were new characters within the MCU, not Captain America. The audience demand hasn’t disappeared.

Marvel Studios and Disney’s more pressing concern isn’t franchise fatigue — it’s trust. Think about Star Wars. With the exception of Solo, each Star Wars film released over the last five years has performed exceptionally well, but critical opinion of the films has soured. People argued The Force Awakens is just a remake of A New Hope, The Rise of Skywalker is consistently dunked on, The Last Jedi sits at the center of its own ongoing debate, and Solo feels like two movies mashed into one messy affair.

Productions were plagued by directors and writers being fired, with Disney rushing to get out a Star Wars film a year, leaving little room for proper rewrites. Disney arguably lost the trust from fans over its ability to make consistently good Star Wars movies — or, as analyst and venture capitalist, Matthew Ball, says, it’s “accrued disappointment.” Disney tried to rush everything. It didn’t seem like there was a 10-year plan for Star Wars. Marvel Studios’ greatest asset is that Feige was able to archetype what the universe should look like. It’s not exactly quality over quantity — they keep making more MCU movies every year — but quantity without losing the overarching story thread.

Ironically, Star Wars also points to how having more Marvel can still work. Like Rogue One before it, The Mandalorian succeeds because it’s familiar but stands on its own. It’s obviously Star Wars, and there are enough references to key Star Wars figures and moments that diehard fans can dig into the nitty-gritty. It’s also new and unique enough, however, to not feel like a rushed entry in a universe that generates a ton of money for Disney. The Mandalorian’s creators, Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni, were given time to figure it out.

By all accounts, WandaVision is in the same boat. The characters are familiar, but the show is so different from anything within the MCU that it hopefully feels entirely refreshing. Keeping people’s trust and avoiding accrued disappointment is playing to streaming’s opportunity. Experimentation should be encouraged. If it works, the opportunity for success and ongoing profitability has no ceilings.

If it doesn’t, it’s more forgivable on a streaming service, where people are paying monthly for new content on top of their favorite films and TV shows. It’s not the same as paying $10 or more for a movie ticket or tens of millions of dollars in losses for Disney. Reserve safe bets for big, splashy tentpole movies that more than return on the original investment and marketing campaign; experiment on Disney Plus where people are looking for something to satiate their appetite.

Streaming’s main pitfall is thinking because there’s a monthly demand from subscribers that speed is a priority. Consistency is, but consistency also means quality and originality — especially with properties like Marvel and Star Wars. The stakes are higher; there’s a precedent for great, a precedent for awful, and a hungry fan base that will only accept sub-par movies or TV for so long.

The good news is that Marvel Studios just needs to keep doing what it’s already doing. Feige — an architect who designs Marvel storylines a decade in advance, figuring out how to make a giant universe feel tangible and new — is now in charge of ensuring that same level of attention gets applied to the Disney Plus world. We’re about to enter a period where there will constantly be a new piece of Marvel Studios content. It sounds exhausting — but it doesn’t have to be.

Entertainment USA TV

WandaVision’s Elizabeth Olsen Now & Then: See Mary-Kate & Ashley’s Younger Sister Through The Years

Elizabeth Olsen will end the MCU dry spell with the premiere of her new series, ‘WandaVision,’ on Jan. 15. See her through the years, leading up to this Disney+ project!

Long before she was a major Marvel star, Elizabeth Olsen was known as the little sister of the famous Olsen twins: Mary-Kate and Ashley. Of course, the 31-year-old actress now has an impressive reputation of her own. Elizabeth is one-half of the iconic Wanda Maximoff and Vision superhero duo from the Avengers film series who will be now leading their own TV show, WandaVision, which will premiere on Disney+ on Jan. 15.

Elizabeth got her start in acting by making cameos in multiple ’90s projects that starred her famous sisters: Our First Video, Olsen Twins Mother’s Day Special, The Adventures of Mary-Kate & Ashley and How the West Was Fun. She even appeared on a 1995 episode of their famous sitcom, Full House!

Elizabeth didn’t get her serious start in commercial acting, though, until years later as a young adult. She was 20 and 21 years old when two movies in which she played the leading role — Silent House and Martha Marcy May Marlene — came out in 2011. Martha Marcy May Marlene was a hit at the Sundance Film Festival, leading Elizabeth to be nominated for many critics awards (six of which she won).

A portrait of Elizabeth Olsen taken in 2011, the year she starred in her first major films: Silent House and Martha Marcy May Marlene. (Photo Credit: AP Images)

This set a great precedent for the rest of Elizabeth’s film career, which took off right as her older sisters were retiring from the business (Ashley’s last movie appearance was in 2009’s The Jerk Theory, while Mary-Kate’s was in the 2011 film Beastly). Indeed, it’s like the twins passed on the acting baton as they moved on to the world of fashion design. During this time, Elizabeth was also studying at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, where she graduated from in 2013.

Elizabeth went on to co-star alongside How I Met Your Mother star Josh Radnor in the 2012 film Liberal Arts, and had a leading role alongside Dakota Fanning in the 2013 movie Very Good Girls. The younger Olsen entered a whole new realm of fame, however, when she made her debut in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Wanda Maximoff (whose superhero alias is the Scarlet Witch) in a post-credits scene from the 2014 film, Captain America: The Winter Soldier. She then made her official Marvel debut in Avengers: Age of Ultron in 2015, and has reprised the role in multiple Marvel films: Captain America: Civil War, Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, and will do so again in 2022’s Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. 

Elizabeth Olsen
Elizabeth Olsen as her Marvel character Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch in Avengers: Infinity War. (Photo Credit: Everett Collection)

And that leads us to Elizabeth’s most current project: WandaVision. Fans are eagerly anticipating this new show, which will be Marvel’s first live-action Disney+ series. Unlike the past MCU films Elizabeth and Paul Bettany (who plays Vision) have starred in, this project is quite different — for starters, their characters are essentially living in a sitcom reality. Elizabeth even revealed if this means the series will include a “wink” at Full House.

Outside of acting, Elizabeth became romantically linked to musician Robbie Arnett, 27, in March of 2017. They reportedly became engaged in July of 2019, and are still happily together. Elizabeth is all grown up! You can see more photos of the actress through the years in HollywoodLife‘s gallery above.

Tech News

Inside WandaVision, Marvel’s Love Letter to Classic Sitcoms

With WandaVision — premiering January 15 on Disney+ and Disney+ Hotstar — the Marvel Cinematic Universe embraces a format it’s never tackled before: a sitcom. Though it’s technically set after the events of Avengers: Endgame, many of WandaVision’s onscreen events are depicted in the style and look of American sitcoms from the ‘50s, ‘60s, ‘70s, and beyond. Think I Love Lucy, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Family Ties, or Full House (which had WandaVision star Elizabeth Olsen’s sisters Mary-Kate and Ashley). Why is it like this? That would naturally be a spoiler, but the WandaVision cast and creators want you to know that it all comes from a place of love.

Everything You Need to Know About WandaVision

“I watched too much TV as a kid, and TV meant a lot to me and I found comfort in television families,” Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige said Sunday over Zoom in a virtual event for WandaVision. “The one thing we talked about early on is: these are not parodies. This is not direct satire. We love these [family sitcoms] and they meant a lot to us, dated and silly as they may seem now. There’s a comfort factor there. And so that was the primary factor behind, and the comic inspiration, of course, [in] what led us to putting these ideas together.”

Olsen noted she drew off the work of Mary Tyler Moore (of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and The Dick Van Dyke Show) and Elizabeth Montgomery (of Bewitched fame) to craft her performance, and “accidentally threw in some Lucy in the ‘70s [episode] just because there was so much physical comedy.”

True to sitcoms from that era, the first WandaVision episode was filmed in front of a live audience. Olsen said: “It was so nerve wracking. There was a lot of adrenaline, there were a lot of quick changes, and it totally confused my brain, the idea of not playing to an audience, but feeding off an audience and having a camera. I was really grateful when we added the fourth wall.”

“Doing it in front of this live studio audience, which is this quasi-theatre-TV thing, it really adds to it,” WandaVision director Matt Shakman — he helmed all nine episodes of the Marvel miniseries — said. He screened “a ton of old television episodes” prior to filming for the cast and crew. After viewing, they would discuss how comedy was changing across the decades. They also hired coaches to teach actors how people sounded and moved in that era to “make it as authentic as possible”.

From WandaVision to Tandav, Here’s What to Stream in January 2021

Shakman and Feige even had lunch with Dick Van Dyke himself to further help in that regard. Shakman said: “You watch The Dick Van Dyke Show today, and it’s just as good as it was back then. So what’s the magic behind that? And I remember, Kevin and I had this amazing lunch with Dick Van Dyke that remains one of the great afternoons of my life. And we asked him you know what was the sort of governing principle behind The Dick Van Dyke Show. Why did it work so well? And he said, if it couldn’t happen in real life, it can’t happen on the show, right. So if you’re doing something that’s grounded, it’s real, and it’s resonated with everyone’s experience at home, you can do crazy things.”

Kathryn Hahn as Agnes in WandaVision
Photo Credit: Disney/Marvel Studios

Marvel in the fifties

Of course, WandaVision isn’t just a sitcom. The two trailers we’ve gotten have strongly hinted that the Marvel series’ suburban American setting is a construct of sorts, one that has either been created by Wanda Maximoff/ Scarlet Witch (Olsen) or one that she’s trapped within. There’s ample evidence to support this. For one, [spoilers for a two-and-a-half-year movie] Vision (Paul Bettany) is dead. He was killed by Wanda and Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War. Then we have the returning now Dr. Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings), previously assistant to astrophysicist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) and now an expert herself, Shakman revealed.

For that tonal shift — from comedic to dramatic — the WandaVision creators looked to a classic series that explored mysterious beings and strange happenings in suburban American settings: The Twilight Zone. Shakman said they drew inspiration from Rod Serling’s late ‘50s creation in terms of shooting and the look of it.

Skip this box if you wish to avoid potential spoilers for WandaVision.

Every episode of WandaVision features a fake commercial that makes references to the larger MCU. Many of them involve Hydra, the evil organisation that served as the primary villain in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Naturally, the WandaVision creators wouldn’t reveal what they are about, but Feige did say this: “In regards to how other truths of the show are beginning to leak out, commercials were an early idea for that. If this is the very first MCU thing you’re watching, it’s just a strange version of a ‘50s or ‘60s commercial that you’ll have to keep watching the series to understand. If you have been watching all the movies, you might be able to start connecting what those things mean to the past.”

WandaVision creator and head writer Jac Schaeffer added: “Twilight Zone is an enormous influence on me personally, I really think that’s actually kind of how I learned to tell stories. And it was so incredibly deft at that turn. You think you’re in one sort of thing and then suddenly it’s flipped on its head. And so we were all incredibly enamoured of that.

“And then I think there are a lot of current shows right now, like prestige series that are doing this very exciting thing where you watch a couple episodes and you think the show is one thing, and then by episode four or five, it flips the script. So that’s really, I think, where the more contemporary references come in, in terms of kind of boundary pushing in genre.”

More of Wanda and Vision — and beyond

At the same time, WandaVision gives Marvel fans a lot more time with its leads, whose appearances had been limited to Avengers movies for the most part. Wanda was first seen in a post-credits scene attached to Captain America: The Winter Soldier and then made her full debut alongside Vision in Avengers: Age of Ultron. Both returned in Captain America: Civil War, an Avengers film all but in name, and were part of the mega get-together Avengers: Infinity War. Put together, they have had several minutes of MCU screen time. In WandaVision, they will get several hours.

“Wanda and Vision, as a couple, their love story has been so very tragic but also really kind of warm and intimate,” Schaeffer said. “We’ve seen them in these really beautiful kind of stolen moments in the MCU. It’s actually been a small amount of screen time but very powerful and very soulful.

“But what we have with WandaVision is really, I think, a treat for all is we’re sort of opening up the stage and the space for them. And they’re in this like domestic sphere, and we get to see them doing dishes, in the kitchen, and being cute. Just all this sort of like homebody stuff that you would never get to see a superhero participate in. We really go from these enormous dramatic moments and kind of fraught moments in the MCU and then in WandaVision, it’s a lot of cute-cute until it’s not.”

wandavision monica rambeau wandavision

Teyonah Parris as Monica Rambeau in WandaVision
Photo Credit: Disney/Marvel Studios

Thanks to the extended runtime, WandaVision will also have room to explore other characters. Top of the list is Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris), a grown-up version of the 11-year-girl from Captain Marvel who chose the title character’s (Brie Larson) signature red-and-blue costume colours. Parris’ Monica will also be part of Captain Marvel 2 alongside Carol Danvers / Captain Marvel (Larson) and Kamala Khan / Ms. Marvel (Iman Vellani). Parris’ comments hint that WandaVision might even have flashbacks to her past.

Parris said: “In WandaVision, we pick up with who [Monica] is now as a grown woman, and through the course of the show, we find out what she’s been up to, what’s happened for her. Between that gap in the years, and how she’s grown and evolved or… not. […] We actually get to learn what those things are that Monica has seen and gone through, and how they have shaped her life. I don’t want to give too much away because we will actually touch a lot on that through the course of the show.”

Made for Disney+

After an eight-month delay caused by the pandemic, WandaVision will kick off the belated Phase Four of the MCU. (Black Widow was originally slated to do so, but it’s now delayed to May 7.) It’s unlike anything Marvel has done, which holds both promise and cause for concern.

Feige said: “I hope it says, ‘Get ready for the new and the different.’ […] With the Disney+ opportunities, it has allowed us to creatively expand what we do. Yes, the original plan was The Falcon and the Winter Soldier was going to debut first last year, followed very soon behind with WandaVision. Creatively, we didn’t reshuffle. Part of having a long lead plan is having the ability and the ideas of how to shuffle, should the need arise. I’m not saying we were prepped for a global pandemic. We were not.

“But the unexpected has often served Marvel Studios well, and it has served us well in this case. Because [WandaVision] being our first one, I love how bold it is, I love how different is, and I love it is something you can only see on a Disney+. We have things that you will only be able to see initially in theatres, we have things that are made for that. And this is very much made to be seen, week after week on television, which is very different for us.”

WandaVision premieres January 15 on Disney+ and Disney+ Hotstar.

Source link