WandaVision returns this week, now in color, with a groovy opening theme song that recalls The Partridge Family and The Brady Bunch, but it’s not all fun and bell bottoms. There’s been criticism that the first two episodes were too dependent on viewers picking up all the clever meta references to classic TV sitcoms such as Leave It To Beaver and Bewitched. Although this episode, aptly titled “Now In Color,” continues WandaVision’s impressive attention to period detail, the plot kicks into thrilling overdrive.
The previous episode,“Don’t Touch That Dial,” ended with Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) mysteriously, suddenly pregnant, and her and Vision’s (Paul Bettany) world had just as mysteriously and suddenly shifted from its mid-1960s black-and-white setting to 1970s full color. It’s an aesthetic downgrade, if you’ll forgive my bias. I already miss Wanda’s capri pants and Laura Petrie hairstyle. Wanda and Vision now live in a very 1970s mid-century home with a hideous green couch and trip-hazard sunken living room. The floating staircase is especially Brady-inspired. Doctor Nielsen (Randy Oglesby) examines Wanda while the happy couple try to hide the fact that she’s four months pregnant after just 12 hours.
The laugh track is even more intrusive this week, providing guffaws when none are justified, like when Doctor Nielsen tells Vision he’s taking his wife (Rose Bianco) on vacation to “Bermuda, baby!” It’s as if an all-powerful “showrunner” behind the scenes is going to greater efforts to hide that something’s not quite right in Westview. The Monkees’ song “Daydream Believer” was featured in series promos and even plays over the shocking final scene. I’ve previously noted the dream-like feel of the show, but “Now In Color” has moments that remind me of the creepy dream sequences in Buffy The Vampire Slayer or the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode, “Phantasms,” when Data’s odd dreams are warning him about a real-world threat. Vision notices that his neighbor, Herb (David Payton), is trying to cut through his yellow brick fence with a chainsaw. This isn’t a wacky sitcom neighbor moment. It’s just strange.
Wanda’s powers have gone haywire as a complication from her mystic pregnancy. At first, it’s little things, like when she accidentally turns the baby’s mobile into butterflies, but soon Wanda and Vision have to abandon the kitchen when the appliances freak out. The entire block loses power, which spares Phil (David Lengel) from having to answer Dottie (Emma Caulfield Ford) when she asks if “these earrings make me look fat.” That’s all we see of Dottie this week, and Agnes (Kathryn Hahn) is also used sparingly. Yes, I did deducts points.
But Wanda still has enough control to reverse time again when Vision starts to suspect something’s wrong with their lives in Westview: He mentions the dinner with Mr. and Mrs. Hart from “Filmed Before A Live Studio Audience.” Wanda doesn’t say anything, but there’s a quick cut and Vision is once again a comforting, and, most importantly, clueless husband.
It’s clear that Wanda is going to have her baby at any minute, so Vision rushes off to find Doctor Nielsen before he leaves for Bermuda. While he’s away, which is perhaps not a coincidence, their neighbor Geraldine (Teyonah Parris) stops by, and we have our obligatory “cringe comedy” scene: Wanda tries to hide her condition from Geraldine in increasingly farcical ways. She puts on an oversized coat that keeps magically changing and then she just holds a fruit bowl in front of her stomach. Geraldine doesn’t catch her hints and settles down on that ugly couch to tell Wanda about her temp job. Meanwhile, an actual, non-figurative stork has arrived and wanders around the living room.
Wanda’s magic has failed her. She can’t make the stork disappear, but Geraldine remains engrossed in her triumphant story. She does briefly notice “a chattering sound,” and Wanda coldly explains it away as coming from her ice maker. On Bewitched or I Dream of Jeannie, it was funny whenever the nosy neighbor or suspicious boss was made to believe that bizarre circumstances were a figment of their overactive imaginations. Here, it feels like gaslighting.
Geraldine eventually discovers that Wanda is pregnant and is about to have the baby right away. Vision returns with Doctor Nielsen, who doesn’t make a big deal over how Vision transported him to the house at super speed, but Geraldine has already helped deliver their son, Thomas. Doctor Nielsen notes that Geraldine would make a great “nurse.” Wanda and Vision debate whether to name their child Thomas or Billy. Everyone wins, of course, because Wanda has twins.
This is not the happy conclusion. The past two episodes had isolated moments of darkness, but the entire last act of “Now In Color” is unsettling. Vision thanks Doctor Nielsen for his help and wishes him a pleasant trip to Bermuda, but Doctor Nielsen says that he’s not sure that he’ll “get away” after all because small towns are so hard to “escape.” He seems almost resigned to his fate. Vision also overhears Agnes and Herb whispering nervously to each. They are both concerned that Geraldine is in the house with Wanda. Agnes jokes about her husband Ralph as usual but it’s clear that she’s terrified. Herb says that Geraldine is “new to town.” Agnes adds that she has no family, no husband, no … home. Vision wants to know what they’re trying to tell him.
Inside, Geraldine swoons over the twin boys, and Wanda solemnly notes that she was also a twin. She mentions her late brother, Pietro. The laugh track is gone, as well as Olsen’s exaggerated performance. This is suddenly no longer a sitcom. Wanda sings softly to the twins in her native Sokovian. Geraldine notes that Pietro was killed by Ultron, and this reality greatly disturbs Wanda, who is legit scary as she stalks Geraldine through the living room. She’s noticed that Geraldine is wearing a necklace with a sword logo on it, and she demands to know who she is and what she wants.
When Vision returns, Wanda tells him that Geraldine is gone: “She had to rush home.” Wanda has banished Geraldine from Westview. This is not like any episode of The Brady Bunch. I couldn’t help thinking of The Twilight Zone’s “It’s A Good Life” with the all-powerful child, Anthony Fremont, who sent “bad” people to the “cornfield,” especially when Wanda coldly tells Geraldine, “You need to leave.” But there’s every indication the “cornfield” is our world. We see Geraldine plummet from the sky and land on the ground just outside the Westview town sign, but we don’t see Westview itself, just an invisible forcefield as black vans and helicopters surround her.
I’ve seen WandaVision compared to The Prisoner, but this might prove an interesting flip on that classic series’ premise: What if Wanda isn’t Westview’s prisoner but its warden?
- The fake period commercial this time is for Hydra Soak. Hydra is the authoritarian paramilitary-subversive organization that had infiltrated the top reaches of government in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. A play on the Calgon commercials from the 1970s, Hydra Soak promises an “escape to a world all your own, where your problems float away.” Is this a clue that Westview’s residents might’ve been tricked into moving there?
- We still haven’t seen Agnes’ husband Ralph yet. He could join the ranks of such famous but never seen characters as Vera from Cheers, Maris from Frasier, and Ugly Naked Guy from Friends (this was probably for the best).
- Teyonah Parris is billed in IMDB as playing Monica Rambeau, who appeared as a child in Captain Marvel. SWORD stands for the Sentient Weapon Observation and Response Division, a subdivision of SHIELD. Was Rambeau an undercover agent? Parris plays Geraldine like she’s the lead in Foxy Brown before subtly breaking character in stressful moments. During the “previously on” segment, Geraldine asked, “I don’t know what I’m doing here.” Yes, that was a big honking clue.
- Rod Serling’s intro for “It’s A Good Life” might describe a lot of what we’ve seen so far on WandaVision: “On a given morning not too long ago, the rest of the world disappeared and Peaksville was left all alone. Its inhabitants were never sure whether the world was destroyed and only Peaksville left untouched or whether the village had somehow been taken away. They were, on the other hand, sure of one thing: the cause. A monster had arrived in the village.”