WandaVision Interrupts the Program to Give Some Answers, and Raise More Questions
Time for the next installment in my weekly WandaVision episode review. I reviewed the first three episodes here. I’ll try to to stick to one episode at a time going forward.
This week’s episode, entitled “We Interrupt This Program” gave us a lot of answers while raising many more questions. It is also chock-full of connections to and characters from other parts of the Marvel universe. Which is cool for nerds such as myself. But I want to stress that you don’t have to be familiar with all of those other things to understand. The show is still doing a fairly good job of framing this story in a way that people who aren’t familiar with the other properties can follow and be just as perplexed about what’s going on as the rest of us. There is one bit at the beginning of this episode that might need a bit of extra explaining for someone who isn’t Marvel obsessed, but even then they gave some explanation that I think might have been enough for those not familiar.
So, I’m going to limit the body of this review to only what happens on screen, and if I feel the need to squee about any of the bonus things along the way, I’ll toss that into footnotes.
The only non-spoilery thing I can say is that this episode tells us what was happening from the point of view of government agents and scientists who are outside of Westview. Which is way the viewers (us!) gets some answers, obviously.
I can’t really say anything more without spoilers, so, if you don’t want to be spoiled, stop reading now.
Seriously, spoilers ahead!
Okay, you’re on your own now!
This episode begins with that one bit that might be confusing to someone completely unfamiliar with any of the Marvel movies. A woman appears to be undergoing reverse disintegration while various voices seem to be talking over each other1. Was she’s assembled, she awakens in what is obviously a hospital room, but she’s sitting in a chair beside an empty patient bed. It is the same actress who played the character of Geraldine in episodes two and three. She’s very confused, but there is also quite a commotion going on outside the room.
She runs out, calling a couple of names. And we see more people materializing in the hall, in rooms that the woman runs past, and so on. People are calling out exclamations that indicate this is causing a lot of chaos. The woman finds a doctor she recognizes and demands to know where her mother is. The doctor calls the woman Monica, rather than Geraldine, and then as they exchange a few more confused lines the doctor explains that Monica and a whole lot of other people vanished without a trace five years ago. And while Monica’s mother did recover from her surgery, two years later her cancer came back, and so while Monica was missing, her mother died.
This is obviously devastating news for Monica.
The next scene we see some kind of big government base which the captions helpfully tell us is S.W.O.R.D.3 headquarters. The caption also tells use that S.W.O.R.D. stands for Sentient Weapon Observation and Response Department. Monica, wearing a suit, shows up with her five-year-old ID card which doesn’t work. Over the next scene we learn that it has only been three weeks since Monica rematerialized, that her full name is Monica Rambeau2 and she is both an agent for this agency and some kind of astronaut, and there her deceased mother was Maria “Photon” Rambeau4 who was the director of S.W.O.R.D. until her death. The new director explains that S.W.O.R.D. isn’t concentrating on space missions any more, and also that before she died, Mom set up a protocol that if vanished agents reappeared they would be grounded when they first returned.
So he sends her off to New Jersey to help the FBI with a missing persons case.
Monica drives to New Jersey and after taking the Westview exit, meets an FBI agent who introduces himself as Jimmy Woo5. Agent Woo explains that he thought this was a missing person case, but it’s worse. To illustrate, he leads her over to a pair of local sheriff deputies who are leaning against their cop car (parked next to the “Welcome to Westview” sign we say in previous episodes) and putting off a lot of attitude. They inform Agent Rambeau that they have never heard of the town of Westview which Agent Woo was asking about. Agent Rambeau looks pointedly at the “Welcome to Westview” sign the cops are parked near and asks, “You are telling me that Westview, New Jersey doesn’t exist?” The cops affirm that it isn’t. The viewer, I should note can not only see the sign, but also a small town or suburb in the distance.
After the cops leave, Rambeau comments that Woo doesn’t have a missing person case, but a missing town case. He admits that’s why he asked S.W.O.R.D. for help. He also explains that when he attempted to enter the town, he was repelled by an extremely strong feeling that he shouldn’t go there.
So Rambeau unboxes a drone that bears a slight resemblance to the toy helicopter we saw in episode two, then pulls out a remote control and sents the drone toward the town. Just after it passes the sign, it vanishes into thin air. Rambeau says she isn’t getting any signal from it. She walks forward and finds a not quite-invisible forcefield at about the point where the drone disappeared. When she reaches her hand out, we can see the shield slightly better and it distorts around her hand. Agent Woo warns her to be careful, but she pushes harder6. And she is yanked into the field, vanishing into thin air just like the drone.
The next scene is captions “24 hours later…” and we see the military style encampment seen at the very end of the previous episode has been erected around the force field surrounding Westview. One of those black SUV/truck vehicles is shown driving toward the base, and in the back we see four people, who through dialog are identified as scientists of very different backgrounds who have never met. One of them, a woman who has identified herself as an astrophysicist, concludes that because of their disparate specialties and that they were told not to talk to each other, that S.W.O.R.D. has no idea what kind of problem they are dealing with.
They arrive at the encampment and disembark. A soldier recognizes the woman, calls her Miss Lewis, and she corrects him that she is Doctor Lewis, thank you very much7. He leads her to a spot inside one of the tent/buildings where her equipment has been set up. She quickly determines that he forcefield is emitting radiation almost identical to the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation… except that are also other frequencies in the signal. She pulls out an older looking scope and makes some adjustments and the small screen on the scope resolves the static into a black and white image of one of the early scenes in episode one. She tells the nearby soldier to get her a vintage TV.
Soon all of the agents and scientists and soldiers are watching either the live broadcast or going through recordings they’ve been making. And we see them asking a lot of the same questions we are. There’s even a white board with some of those questions on it! They spot Monica Rambeau as sn extra in one of the scene before the first time she speaks as Geraldine. They start identifying many of the “characters” in the show as actual townspeople of Westview (though with very different names and such).
It’s Dr. Lewis who gets the idea to try to broadcast a signal through the forcefield into one of the radios they see in the sets. So we now know the voice that was asking Wanda “who’s doing this to you?” is Agent Woo.
We rewatch the scene where Geraldine remembers the Pietro was killed by Ultron. The scene jumps from Wanda starting to confront Geraldine to Vision walking in, and Dr. Lewis tries to rewind her recording to freeze frame the glitch. But alarms start going off, Dr. Lewis goes to see what’s happening as Monica is tossed out of the force field, and all the agents running toward her.
For us, the show then cuts back to the moment of that glitch, and we see Wanda’s eyes start glowing and red balls of energy form in her hands. She literally blasts Monica out of the house, punching a hole in the wall, and also the walls of the neighbor’s house. Wanda then looks confused for a moment, before she waves her hands and repairs all the damage. Vision walks in, similar to how he did at the end of the previous episode, but unlike then, he isn’t in his human guise. Instead he looks like a completely decolorized version of his synthezoid self, with a big hole in his forehead8. Wanda seems shocked for a moment, but then shakes her head, and he’s restored to his normal synthezoid look.
He has another of his moments of breaking character to tell her that they can go anywhere they want. But Wanda says no, this is our home. No pun intended, Visions next lines are delivered a bit robotically, presumably indicating that Wanda is tweaking his mind again.
We cut back to the outside world. Medics are checking Monica out and she surround by agents and scientists. She looks up and says, “It’s Wanda. It’s all Wanda.”11
And then the credits roll.
I quite enjoyed the episode, because it was fun to see that the writers had correctly guessed the questions fans would be asking while watching the first three episodes. It gave us some answers and more clues, while also raising a bunch of new questions. It’s particularly nice to see several characters who have been supporting characters in some of the Marvel movies taking center stage, here.
Knowing that Monica met Agent Woo and was subsequently sucked into the forcefield three weeks after she materialized in the hospital tells us that this entire series is taking place just three weeks after the big battle at the end of Avengers Endgame9.
We still have a lot of answers to find12. And I suspect no matter what is behind this plot, sorting it out and rescuing the inhabitants of Westview is not going to be quite a challenge for all the characters.
Here are a couple of other great reviews:
Edited to Add:I forgot to mention, since this show is playing on Disney+, that the Disney corporation is refusing to pay Alan Dean Foster and other authors money they are owed for media tie-in novels.
1. In the movie Avengers Infinity War the villain acquired a set of (essentially) magic plot coupons which allowed him to blip have the inhabitants of the entire universe out of existence. In the sequel, Avengers Endgame, the surviving heroes figured out how to bring everyone deleted by the blip… five years later.
2. The little girl we met in the Captain Marvel movie.
3. We also met Maria in the Captain Marvel movie: she had one of Carol’s peers as an experimental pilot.
4. In the comics S.W.O.R.D. is sort of a sister organization to S.H.E.I.L.D. Cora Buhlert points out that this episode confirms that these two massively important covert agencies were each founded by women (Peggy Carter and Maria Rambeau), and that for a significant time were led by a person of color (Nick Fury and Maria Rambeau). Which is a bit of a departure from the classic comics.
5. Last seen as the agent trying to keep tabs on Scott Lang’s house arrest in Ant-Man and the Wasp.
6. She’s an astronaut. They don’t know the meaning of the phrase “be careful”!
7. It’s Darcy Lewis, who we last saw in the second Thor movie. She appeared in the first two Thor films as an intern or graduate assistant (it wasn’t clear which) of Dr. Jane Foster. Presumably in the years since Thor: the Dark World she has completed her Ph.D.
8. Looking like his body did right after Thanos killed him near the end of Avengers Infinity War. Seeming to confirm that Vision is, indeed, still dead. Presumably his corpse is being reanimated by that same powers that are creating the forcefield and manipulating the townspeople.
9. And for us nerdy fans who know that Wanda was one of the people blipped out of existence at the end of Infinity War, and then brought back at the end of Endgame gives us a hint of Wanda’s possible motive: From her point of view, she watched Vision, with whom she was in love, get brutally murdered only a few weeks ago. And then she game back to a world that had skipped ahead five years, and while she and many others have been brought back, her love is still dead. Since her backstory already tells us she has suffered from PTSD from an early age, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that this further trauma has pushed her into a delusional state. The whole transformation of Westview could be a manifestation of an extreme case of denial10.
10. And when you have the ability to manipulate both people’s minds and reality itself, well, that makes the denial a bit of a problem for everyone around you.
11. Despite Monica’s assessment and my comments in footnotes 9 and 10, I don’t think it’s going to turn out that Wanda is the only persons responsible. There are any number of characters from both the comics and the movies that would have reasons to want to persuade Wanda into doing something like this. I do strongly suspect that Agnes is one of those people. I’m not totally on board with the leading fan theories, but they could be correct.
12. For instance: Agent Woo’s original interest in Westview is that he had a person in the Witness Protection Program living under an assumed name there. He or she is the missing person. Are they just some ordinary major crime witness, or are the someone with powers and an agenda of their own? I hope we find out soon!