Help me, Wanda: WandaVision “Don’t Touch That Dial”
Previously on WandaVision: We learned that sitcoms in the Fifties were cringe, and unfunny, and promoted parochial and backwards attitudes, as opposed to today’s sitcoms, which are cool and hilarious and promote the good and correct attitudes that we’ve figured out now that we live outside of history. The MCU’s 37th and 54th most popular characters starred in their own TV show about trying to hide their superpowered identities and live a normal life in bucolic midcentury America. It’s meant to put them in certain situations that evoke humor. A sort of “situation comedy”, if you will. And there’s a shadowy organization watching them do it. Whether they built a massive sound stage a la The Truman Show, or whether this is happening entirely inside one or both characters’ minds as in Total Recall remains to be seen.
This episode starts off with a cold open in the bedroom. It’s still in black and white, and Wanda and Vision are in their side-by-side twin beds. Remember this, huh? Remember when you couldn’t show two married characters sharing a sleeping space without titillating the audience into an uncontrollable fuck frenzy?
It’s not established whether Vision has to sleep, but with his pajamas and sleeping mask, he’s making a good show of it. They both get scared by a noise outside and Wanda brings the two beds together with her telepathy. Finally determining the source of the sound to be a branch tapping on the window, Vision praises the new sleeping arrangements, and Wanda magically turns the twin beds into a single king and the couple gets under the covers suggestively, which has no effect whatsoever on the jaded, pornography-saturated 2021 viewer.After an animated intro sequence inspired by Bewitched, and a much worse theme song than last week…
…we drop in on Vision rehearsing a magic act in his living room, which Wanda takes part in as his lovely lady assistant. The magic act is for the talent show at the school fundraiser, and despite the temptation to use their powers to make their show really pop, they’re keeping it strictly low-tech out of an abundance of caution. I would maybe just not do a magic show if that’s such a concern, but that wouldn’t be wacky at all. Vision heads off for a meeting of the neighborhood watch, while Wanda goes off to help plan the fundraiser.
But before she can leave the house, Wanda is distracted by a noise outside, similar to the bangings she and Vision heard on the window last night. She steps out on the lawn, and in her bushes she sees a toy helicopter that, in contrast to the black-and-white, is colored bright red and yellow, signaling that she’s about to become the next Receiver of Memory. Bizarrely, the helicopter has a SWORD logo on it. All good secret organizations know to put their identifying marks on their surveillance equipment.
At the top of the spooky music’s crescendo, their neighbor Agnes (Katherine Hahn) startles Wanda by dropping in to lend her a rabbit for use in her magic act. They then go off arm and arm to meet Dottie (Emma Caulfield Ford), the neighborhood queen bee whom Wanda must impress in order to open doors in this town for her and Vision. At the country club, Dottie is trying to go over plans while Wanda is annoying her by chatting with fellow low-status housewife Geraldine (Teyonah Paris).
Vision, meanwhile, is at the library for the neighborhood watch meeting.
He finds to his surprise that the group’s true purpose is to spend some time away from their annoying wives, who are always doting on them with snacks and beverages. They’re also here to gossip about which men in the town are faking achievements or doing something similarly unworthy, like building a pre-fab treehouse, buying bowling trophies and passing them off as their own, that sort of thing. Trying to get in on the fun, Vision baselessly accuses Norm of being a communist. Everyone laughs at this—previously thinking that Vision was real stuck-up—and one of the men in the group offers him a stick of gum, which Vision chews carefully, trying not to swallow it. The same man whacks Vision on the back in a friendly manner, causing him to swallow the gum. An animated sequence shows the gum traveling down Vision’s pipes and gumming up his works. Why does Vision even have an esophagus if he doesn’t need to eat? Because it wouldn’t be very wacky otherwise, now would it?
As Wanda cleans up after the meeting, Dottie apprises her of some nasty rumors she’s heard about her and her husband. Wanda assures Dottie she means no one any harm. “I don’t believe you,” says Dottie. At that moment, a strange frequency begins to be layered over the music coming from a nearby radio, which is currently playing the Beach Boys’ “Help Me Rhonda”. A distorted male voice intermeshed with the song asks, “Wanda, can you read me?” and “Wanda, who is doing this to you?” As the volume of the radio reaches its peak, Dottie breaks the glass she’s currently holding, and her blood comes out red.
Just as with the choking incident at the end of last episode, the full import of what just happened seems to disappear from Dottie’s mind as soon as it occurs. She clutches a cloth to her hand and breezes off, leaving Wanda perplexed and paranoid.
At the talent show, Wanda is scheduled to go on in two minutes, and Vision is nowhere to be seen. He finally staggers to the stage, almost late; the gum in his gullet is producing effects similar to drunkenness. Wanda tries to tell the soused synthetic about the strange goings-on that have been happening today, but he’s in no condition to understand her, and in any case, Dottie calls them up to perform.
Vision, who in his state is blind to the dangers of displaying his powers, goes off-script and starts the show by flying a short distance above the ground. Wanda has to cover for him by quickly conjuring a rope and pulley holding him up. He then picks up a piano with one hand, and Wanda, in a jiffy, turns the piano into a realistic cardboard cutout, which she “accidentally” lets the audience see from the side. Things go on like this for a minute, culminating in Vision bringing his mystery box out and performing his trick, but forgetting to let his wife get into the box first, and Wanda has to think quick and teleport an unsuspecting Geraldine into the box to a round of thunderous applause.
Backstage, Wanda gets the gum out of Vision’s works and they try to sneak off, but Dottie sees them and shouts accusingly. Instead of the tremendous bitching-out Wanda expected, Dottie raves over their “hilarious” act that blended magic with comedy, and awards them a special trophy.
There are a couple more surprises in store for the Vision family before the episode is out. When they return home, Wanda, who was slim earlier this afternoon, is now visibly pregnant.
“Is this really happening?” she asks Vision. Vision is distracted by yet another one of those loud noises outside. They go outside and see a man in a beekeeper outfit, with bees buzzing all around him. He just emerged from the sewer, which as we all know is not where beekeepers usually work.
Wanda says “No.” She reverses time, accompanied by a “VHS tape rewinding” effect, and this time, after she asks, “Is this really happening?”, Vision says “Yes, my love,” and kisses her, and suddenly the world turns colorful. They bring it in again for a big “The End”.
Vewwy vewwy mystewwious! What’s with that beekeeper? Why doesn’t anyone remember when weird stuff happens? Who was the voice on the radio who seemed to think that Wanda was being held against her will? Wanda obviously has some ability to control what goes on around her – how much does she know? Hopefully we’ll find out some more as we tune in next time for the gritty, socially-conscious ’70s version of WandaVision.