WandaVision: 1.03 Now in Color
After the premiere episodes of WandaVision led us through the golden age of television, it's now time to revisit the '70's in all their technicolour glory. At the conclusion of the second episode, colour had suddenly erupted into the town of Westview and Wanda was unexpectedly and spontaneously pregnant. Now in Color brings our incredibly odd couple into a near pitch perfect pastiche of The Brady Bunch and drops the biggest hints yet that all is definitely not as idyllic as it seems.
The designers of WandaVision must be having a ball as they get to explore vintage television styles. The opening credits and theme song for this episode are absolutely perfect for the era they have recreated. The sets are also perfectly realised from the 1970's aesthetic of Wanda and Vision's home to the exterior shots that replicate the fake studio settings complete with fake grass and painted backdrops. As well as giving us the fantastic sitcom settings for the story, this fake reality also reminds us that it is all a façade and conjures up feelings of The Stepford Wives, Invasion of the Body Snatchers and other such stories where something sinister lies beneath the thin veil of reality.
As befitting the bizarre nature of the show and it's depiction of time, Wanda's pregnancy accelerates rapidly and causes the Scarlet Witch part of her to manifest itself in strange ways. Braxton-Hicks contractions cause power surges throughout the town and when Wanda's waters break, it triggers an indoors downpour. The stork that manifests itself in the lounge is the icing on the cake that becomes classic sitcom material as Wanda tries to hide it from her guest.
The anchor of the show and it's emotional core is Elizabeth Olsen's outstanding performance as Wanda Maximoff AKA Scarlet Witch. When playing the archetypal "sitcom mom" she is utterly adorable. Sweet natured and funny, her love for Vision is apparent and her comedy chops are strong as she frantically tries to cope with her remarkable pregnancy and the strange side effects it manifests. However, it is the moments when the real world threatens to invade her perfect life, that Olsen's performance is the most impressive. She switches instantly, her whole demeanour changes and you get a sense of the immense power that we know she wields. At times it seems barely contained and I don't expect it will be long before we see it unleashed.
Alongside this power in Wanda, we get the impression that she is deliberately blocking all her memories of what has gone before. Obviously we know that Wanda is deeply grieving, she couldn't save Vision from Thanos. He's alive in this world she currently inhabits but inevitably that can't last forever. I predict much pain in the future for Wanda and I look forward to Elizabeth Olsen's portrayal as she deals with it.
Marvel's high profile experiment is a bold and daring endeavour. They've taken a big risk with the storytelling and I suspect there will be a fair few fans out there who aren't currently on board. Structurally you get recreations of sitcoms from various decades with only the occasional diversion that hints at the greater story that is still waiting to be told.
Personally, I love the approach. Having been a big fan of old sitcoms that were rerun as I was growing up, the nostalgia vibes are hitting all the right spots. I can see however that possibly younger viewers who aren't as familiar with the source materials might find it all a bit dull and unnecessary as they anxiously wait to see some superhero action. It's a valid criticism but I absolutely commend Marvel for this slow burn approach. I love being drip fed the information and the anticipation of what is to come makes for compelling viewing.
For me, the greatest parts of the show are where the canned laughter suddenly stops, the music takes a turn for the ominous and the tone of the show changes completely. Nowhere is this more apparent than when Wanda has given birth, to twins no less. There is a beat where she stares off into the distance and almost distractedly says "I'm a twin. I had a brother." The real kicker is when her friend Geraldine hesitantly replies "He was killed by Ultron wasn't he?" This is the biggest moment in the show so far and has the biggest ramifications. Wanda instantly turns on her friend who, she now realises is wearing a pendant featuring the sword logo that has cropped up several times. The reveal that sees Geraldine expelled from Wanda's reality ends the episode with more questions than answers.
It's a brilliant moment, as the ratio of the picture expands from the 4:3 of old television shows into the widescreen format we enjoy today. This transitions us to the real world and our first proper glimpse at Wanda and Vision's predicament. It's unclear whether this is a sanctuary or a prison and whether Wanda is actually in control of the illusion. The many hints to Hydra in the show, including this weeks meta advertisement for "Hydra Soak" imploring you to escape to a world of your own, give you the distinct impression that Wanda may not be here of her own volition. The ending leaves you wanting more in the best possible way; the mystery is only just starting to unravel and the next episode can't come fast enough.