WandaVision recap: A very special announcement
The newest episode of WandaVision gives us a peek behind the curtain at what's been going on outside of Westview.
Finally, we get some answers! There are no new sitcom parodies on this week's episode of WandaVision, but there are a couple old friends we haven't seen in awhile.
The episode title is perfect: "We Interrupt This Program." Like a news bulletin cutting through a sitcom broadcast, this episode rewinds time to show us what's been going on outside of Westview while these WandaVision hijinks have been occurring in sitcom land.
We open in a hospital room set at the climax of Avengers: Endgame, when Thanos' snap was undone by the Avengers. Monica Rambeau, apparently, is one of the people who got blipped and came back. When the snap happened, she had been watching over her mother, Maria, in the hospital. When she re-materialized in the same hospital five years later, she discovered that her mother had died in the interim; the kind of death there's no coming back from. R.I.P. Maria! I would say Captain Marvel will surely be bummed when she learns about her friend's death, but then I remembered Carol wasn't blipped either, so maybe she got the chance to say goodbye in real time.
Interestingly, Maria's real death puts her in a similar spot as Vision, who also died for reasons unrelated to The Blip and as far as we know hasn't come back from the dead. Clearly, Wanda is dealing with her grief in an unprecedented way. Monica deals with her grief over her mother by returning to work at S.W.O.R.D. In this show, the acronym is described as "Sentient Weapon Observation Response Division." Traditionally in Marvel comics, the acronym breaks down as "Sentient World Observation and Response Department." The one observable difference there is switching out "world" for "weapon," but that change does maybe answer the questions I've had since last week about why S.W.O.R.D. is involved in this situation at all. In the comics S.W.O.R.D. is always a space-focused organization, working out of a sword-shaped satellite base in Earth's orbit interacting with aliens and figuring out alien threats. Whatever's going on with Wanda's sitcom life, it doesn't seem to have anything to do with extraterrestrials (especially given the revelation at the end of this episode). But if this version of S.W.O.R.D. is primarily concerned with "sentient weapons," it makes perfect sense why they would be so interested in Wanda's disappearance. There's hardly a better (if somewhat cold) description of Wanda's reality-shaping powers than "sentient weapon."
Yet the main reason S.W.O.R.D. gets involved in WandaVision, we learn, is because of the Rambeau women. Before she died, Maria apparently issued protocols for what should be done with S.W.O.R.D. employees who might one day return from the snap (something she believed would happen). In particular, Monica is grounded from space missions, relegated to down-to-Earth work for now. So S.W.O.R.D. Director Tyler Hayward (a name that doesn't ring a bell in my Marvel brain) sends her to Westview to touch base with FBI Agent Jimmy Woo, who's flown out to the East Coast from Oakland.
Stream it! WandaVision, free with Disney+ subscription; disneyplus.com
The only problem is, Westview doesn't exist. Or does it? No locals can remember it, and when attempting to approach, Woo and Monica find their entry blocked by a forcefield. It doesn't seem like the most impervious of forcefields though, because Monica just walks through it, after which she vanishes from Woo's sight. This is when things really go into overdrive. S.W.O.R.D. sets up a whole response base outside the forcefield, and brings in none other than Darcy Lewis — formerly an intern, now a doctor in her own right! — as well as a bunch of other scientific experts to try and figure out what the hell's going on. Darcy detects a broadcast frequency being emitted from the town amidst radiation (Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation, to be exact) and when she gets people to bring her an old TV, she and the rest of S.W.O.R.D. start watching WandaVision on it.
I enjoy the meta aspects of this episode. Basically, Darcy and Woo are watching WandaVision and theorizing what it could mean, along with the rest of us! They're also wondering why hexagons are so involved! (My best guess right now is that it's all about the "hex" in hexagon). They have access to a bit more information than us, though. They realize that all the other residents of Westview are also missing persons who have been "cast" in their various roles. Cast by who, though? Who's controlling this? That's exactly what Woo asks Wanda through her radio when Darcy realizes it's possible to send a transmission.
Wanda doesn't respond, and once Monica gets sent back through the barrier as seen at the end of last week's episode, we realize why: Wanda is the one in control here! After flinging Monica away for breaking character with that Ultron reference, Wanda simply rebuilds the walls with her powers. This is the way she likes it, and my favorite shot of the episode suggests a reason why: Vision is still dead! After her confrontation with Monica breaks the sitcom reality for a second, Wanda temporarily sees Vision as he really is: A zombie robot with a hole in his head. And if Vision's still dead, being reanimated or imagined by Wanda, then those twins can't possibly be real, can they? Human-robot pregnancy is already hard enough to conceive of. But if that's true, then everyone should beware, because confusion over whether her twins were real or not is what sent Wanda off the deep end to mess with reality in the Avengers: Disassembled and House of M comic storylines.
That said, I'm finishing this week's recap by eating a slice of humble pie. So far my theories have not turned out to be correct. The beekeeper outfit was not A.I.M., but simply a S.W.O.R.D. agent whose hazmat suit got transformed into the more period-appropriate beekeeper after passing through the Westview barrier. And though Ultron's name was startling enough to temporarily disrupt the reality of WandaVision, it seems as though that's the extent of his presence here.
That's all for now, folks! Chancellor will chime in soon with his take.
Chancellor's Take: Wow, this is the episode I've been waiting for since Marvel boss Kevin Feige announced Kat Dennings' Darcy Lewis, last seen in Thor: The Dark World, was returning for WandaVision — because this was very much the Darcy (and Jimmy Woo) hour. Dennings effortlessly, at least to me, slipped back into Darcy's wisecracking, sarcastic shoes like no time had passed, and I loved how the episode was very much centered around her and Jimmy. It's funny, I'm normally wary of "let's rewind and explain everything" episodes like this one because the audience has often already figured out what's going on by the time they air; however, I liked this one because of its placement in the season. Making "We Interrupt This Program" the fourth episode achieves two things: First, it help WandaVision avoid frustrating the audience by withholding basic information about the show's world for too long in favor of creating a mystery, and second, it assures the audience that the mystery isn't the point. Yes, WandaVision still has to answer many questions, but "We Interrupt This Program" has bolstered my confidence in whatever the writers have planned for the back-half of the season.
Christian's addendum: So, while Chancellor was writing his take, I decided to do some more research into whether the name "Tyler Hayward" has ever appeared in Marvel comics related to Scarlet Witch. To my surprise, I found something! The 1992 comic series Darkhold: Pages From the Book of Sins features a storyline about a magical spellbook that can bring a demonic entity back to life. Though the main characters of the book are a team called the Redeemers, other Marvel magicians like Doctor Strange, Ghost Rider, and Wanda pop up throughout to help fight magical threats — alongside Wanda's mentor Agatha Harkness, who could be the real identity of our beloved Agnes. Interestingly, Agnes was not one of the Westview residents identified by Darcy and Jimmy during this episode. That must mean they're saving her reveal for later.
Anyway, in Darkhold #6, a World War II veteran named Hayward comes across pages from the titular spellbook, which incarnate his resentments about the Japanese into swarms of zombie fighter planes until Wanda and the others stop him. Though this Hayward is angered by the fact that his grandson Bobby Hayward couldn't get a job at a hotel, his own first name is never given. There don't seem to be a ton of connections between this character and what we know of acting S.W.O.R.D. Director Tyler Hayward so far, except for the last name and a connection to Wanda and magic, which is not nothing.
Some viewers may remember that the Darkhold has already appeared in the MCU, in the same Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season that also featured Ghost Rider. That show also featured a character named Hayward — Brian Hayward to be exact, who was an undercover HYDRA agent and member of the Centipede Project that was experimenting with a new supersoldier serum. Now, WandaVision's Hayward is telling Monica about how S.W.O.R.D. is pivoting to research into experimental nanotech. Hmmm. Hmmm. Now that my A.I.M. theory has been disproven and Wanda seems in control of the illusions, I'm hesitant to think there's a greater conspiracy going on here until we get more information. But it sure is interesting material to chew on, right?