I was less than impressed with WandaVision‘s premiere episodes, I’ll be first to admit, the sitcom-styled surreal aesthetic is an intriguing concept but mostly shallow set-dressing for two 30-minute episodes. With its third episode though, WandaVision starts to rock the cradle. And I mean literally.
The final moments of episode two (“Don’t Touch That Dial”) gave us an overt glimpse at the unease that permeates the too-idyllic town of Westview, with Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) seemingly rewinding any unpleasantness she and Vision (Paul Bettany) might have glimpsed. Not content with being a mere bender of reality, Wanda is also, apparently, quite pregnant, which is where our third episode begins.
Befuddled by the immaculate conception, the Visions are consulted by a bumbling Doctor Nielsen (Randy Ogelsby) and seem to advance months at a time in their baby’s arrival… In a matter of days. It isn’t entirely new ground, but the idea of superpowered parents is handled with WandaVision‘s trademark goofy carelessness in an endearing way, Olsen and Bettany’s chemistry as a genuine on-screen couple coming through as more than a simple “weird world simulation” — though we’re starting to get a hint of that as well.
With the denizens of Westview acting increasingly off (“Hey Herb! I think ya mighta taken the hedge-trimming a little far there old chum,” Vision remarks as a neighbor saws through their adjoining fence) the veneer of WandaVision‘s faux-vintage suburbia is being rapidly peeled away, both for the Visions and the audience. Short of outright spoiling the episode’s ending, I’m curious to see if we’re moving full-speed ahead with dismissing what is so clearly the farce WandaVision initially presents us and its characters with. Which, frankly, would be to my delight! These are talented actors and the “breaks in the simulation” tension of its world ripe with potential, but it’s felt as if WandaVision has been treading water from the start.
Interesting from a technical standpoint though, is the advances in WandaVision‘s aesthetic composition with this third episode. The world of Westview brought into lush faux-Technicolor, the costuming and set decoration subtly advances with the perceived advance in technology. Whereas Vision was neat and tidy in a sweater during the previous monochrome episodes, the influx of color sees his hair grown out some and a pair of blue denim bellbottoms swaying with his gait. Not only are Wanda and Vision being put through an odd acceleration, but it’s as if the world around them lept from the ’50s to the ’60s overnight.
The aforementioned advances in WandaVision‘s presentation went a long way for my enjoyment of this third episode, perhaps subconsciously. As the characters break out of their farcical roles in a make-believe sitcom, the show itself would seem to be following that trend, with intrigue hinting at ulterior motives of some of the Westview locals, with a particular light cast on Geraldine (Teyonah Parris), a fellow newcomer to the neighborhood.
I mentioned in my previous recap that the series would seem to use the period aesthetic without confronting the social means of the era alluded to, though the neighborhood suspicion that falls on Geraldine, a Black woman, does seem to hint at the racism and tokenization that would tinge much of the culture of the era WandaVision parodies. I don’t expect any further social commentary–nor would I consider the characterization laid out thus far anything of genuine merit, but it is a little disappointing to see such a distinct part of American history brought to the screen by such a tremendous budget only to focus on the kitschy aspect of period drama.
For doubts that may still linger, I’m happy to say that WandaVision is at least holding my attention with its third episode, the seeds of intrigue planted long ago, but the show seems to be ready to finally act on them. Increasingly I’m convinced that this is entirely Wanda’s show (literally!), with the events taking place here all some sort of… fever dream, perhaps. Time will tell, and we shall see if motherhood throws any further wrinkles in the Scarlet Witch’s cape.