I’m bawling. As someone who has grown up alongside the Marvel Cinematic Universe – watching Iron Man in 2009 for the first time and following every film in the series thereafter – I have become more and more disillusioned with the MCU as they kept giving each project just enough originality to make it worth watching but often stopping short of letting each film be what it could be, and what it might want to be. WandaVision, the first of the MCU television series from Marvel Studios (as opposed to Marvel Television’s Netflix shows), truly breaks that habit. It somehow manages to be an endlessly fascinating character study centred around grief, a surreal love letter to tropes and television, and a fun, action-filled, bonafide Marvel™ blockbuster. In the spirit of multi-camera setups and canned laughter, here’s my pick of the top 10 moments from WandaVision.
Major spoilers ahead:
10. “Wait, is that how mirrors work?”: A talent show in the 60s
Episode 2. A classic sit-com mix up leads to an out-of-control Vision revealing his powers, which look rather out-of-place in a 60s, neighborhood talent show. A fun bit of non-verbal comedy follows Wanda pulling off glib cover-ups for Vision’s powers, making his magic appear like, well, magic tricks. This reaches a point when Wanda reveals mirrors backstage (behind the curtains) to explain Vision moving a hat through his body. The crowd nods with an ‘Ah!’, because obviously they get it now. It’s a bizarre detail that is highlighted by someone in the audience asking “Wait, is that how mirrors work?”. She receives a prompt response to shut up (and enjoy the show). It’s funny, foreboding, and deconstructive.
9. The return from the snap
Episode 4. Possibly the only ‘outside-the-Hex’ part of the show that I thought was brilliant. Another aptly titled episode ‘We Interrupt This Programme’, begins with Teyona Parris’s Monica Rambeau (who we know because of her relationship with her mother’s friend, Captain Marvel) coming back from the ‘snap’. In another rare moment for the MCU, the show explores the absolute panic and chaos of half the world returning back to existence, all at once. The scene immediately pulls you in, and then delivers a devastating punchline: Monica, who was ‘snapped’ out of existence whilst caring for her mother in hospital, has come back a good couple of years after her mother has already passed away. Sniffles.
8. Wanda makes the credits roll, literally
Episode 5. Vision, having realised that something is very wrong about their American sit-com fantasy world, confronts Wanda. “You can’t control me the way you control them”, he says. “Can’t I?”, she replies. And cue some gentle piano over fictitious end credits (which are another Easter Egg). Vision refuses to let the episode end and their conflict kicks up a notch. It’s just one of the many brilliant, exciting uses of form, which reveals the darkness of Wanda’s constructed reality whilst deconstructing the traditional ‘sit-com’ ending.
7. American sitcoms in war-torn Sokovia
Episode 8. The first stop in the trip through Wanda’s past in the aptly titled ‘Previously On’, is a warm, family evening against the backdrop of cold-war Sokovia. Wanda’s father sells bootlegs but has a special collection of his daughter’s favourite sitcom episodes stashed away to watch with the family. Though it is never explicitly stated, the family, who have all been working on their English, is hoping to flee the country soon. Little Wanda’s face lights up as she watches the romance, the aspirations, and the comforts of American sitcoms. The emotional centrepiece to her grief-stricken choice of alternate reality. A powerful moment. And then an explosion, courtesy a Stark Industries bomb, orphans Wanda and her brother.
6. The Evan Peters reveal: X-Men’s Quicksilver plays the MCU’s Quicksilver
Episode 5. This one sent all the fans spinning, and for good reason. Evan Peters, beloved in his role as Quicksilver in the X-Men Universe, shows up like a surprise guest to cut short the conflict between Wanda and Vision (the one with the credits rolling in-between). What’s more, he claims to be Wanda’s brother, Pietro (the MCU’s Quicksilver). In retrospect this is much less of a significant moment, but it was an ingenious gag, playing with meta-casting on a show about television.
5. Agatha All Along!
Episode 7. I can’t tell you how much I usually hate the trope of someone being revealed as the mastermind behind everything wrong that’s been going on (looking at you Spectre). But Agatha, played superbly by Kathryn Hahn, steals the show in a song that’s the best of all the homages in the series. This one ends the episode, and makes the reveal pop and dazzle, fully weaving it into the sitcom world around it. It’s one of the absolute funniest moments in the series, which also casually reveals Pietro to be an invention of Agatha and not Wanda. Oh, and the ending: “And I killed Sparky too!” I’ve never laughed so much about a dead dog.
4. “What is grief, if not love persevering?”
Episode 8. You knew this was coming. It had to. It’s been a week since the penultimate episode but Twitter is still obsessed with meme-ing this quote. In many ways, that’s a mark of how well-written and instantly quotable this dialogue is, doing a lot of heavy lifting in the scene it features in. And it’s a really crucial scene. Wanda is watching herself deal with the loss of her brother, and Vision can only be given a few words to say to her which will cement our understanding of their relationship. And the words Vision, and the showrunners, choose are a beautiful, poignant interpretation of grief. As someone who has been grieving not too long ago, it’s hard to describe what this moment felt like, and what I’m sure it felt like for many, many people around the world. It’s warm, empathetic, and uncomfortable in the best way.
3. Vision uses the Ship Of Theseus paradox to defeat Vision
Episode 9. This is just such a good bit of fun. Right when you think the MCU is going to give in to its worst tendencies, and have a Vision vs White Vision, flying-robot fight, the show quickly introduces and actually provides a decent, quick resolution to the Ship of Theseus paradox. It couldn’t have been more fitting, given that the two Visions who are facing off against each other are neither the ‘original’ and, yet, like both the ships in the paradox, still the Vision in question. Watching Vision reason his way out of the fight, call out White Vision’s creators and then flood him with the weight of experience, is wonderfully true to his character. A very refreshing battle.
2. “Stop It”: A disturbing dinner in the 50s
Episode 1. The first episode of WandaVision is a trip. It firmly establishes itself as a show about a classic, sitcom couple – with a little superhuman twist. The gags and jokes are era-appropriate but spiked with a dose of modern wit. Wanda and Vision are lovely together. You don’t really need anything more. And then, in the middle of the comedy-of-errors dinner, Vision’s boss begins to choke on his food whilst demanding a backstory from our superhero couple. His wife, played by Debra Jo Rupp (Kitty from That 70s Show!), keeps asking, and then insisting that her husband ‘stop it’. It’s the first moment that betrays the dark nature of what’s really happening, a surreal moment even within a surreal, alternate reality. It’s suspenseful, intriguing, and uses restraint admirably, especially for the MCU.
1. Wanda and Vision’s Vertigo goodbye
Episode 9. The last episode devotes almost half its runtime to what happens after the climactic battle, which is why I started this listicle bawling. Wanda, unlike the characters in all the sitcoms she loves, has to let go of Vision and her children, and process her trauma and grief. Even a discussion about the metaphysical problem of Vision’s existence and identity is presented as a romantic nod to the future, a bittersweet toast to possibility. After they tuck the kids into bed one last time, she holds Vision’s face as the camera swivels around them, with the American sitcoms of various eras shifting behind them in the background. Then, he turns to nothing yet again. It is impossible to not mention the similarities between this and the famous kiss between James Stewart and Kim Novak in Hitchcock’s Vertigo which also features a camera swivelling around the characters’ embrace, the background changing like memory. Wanda doesn’t just lose Vision again though. This time, she lets go of his memory. Unlike how it is in the throes of grief, this time, she has control. Wanda manages to accept her grief, and the show – the one we are watching and the one she has created – comes to an end.
Marvel Goes Salem
For two scenes, the MCU goes back in time to a Salem-style coven of witches. It’s the closest the franchise has gotten to period horror so far. Its witch-hunting feels more Sabrina than The Seventh Seal and that works really well for the show.
Every single opening credits homage
The level of meticulous detail, and sheer charm, in each of the faux opening credits is almost enough to justify the entire show’s existence. Instead of just recreating the opening credits from any one show from each era for each episode, the homages are mixed and matched, with elements ranging from Bewitched to The Brady Bunch to Malcolm In The Middle to The Office and Modern Family.