Jan 21, 2021
The Honeymutants: WandaVision “Filmed Before a Live Studio Audience”
I may have mentioned it before, but I’ve never been much of a comics reader. Just never got into them. Knowing this, you may be curious how it is I’ve seen so many comic book movies, including all twenty-however MCU movies. Well, one of my closest friends is a huge comics guy, and every time another MCU movie comes out, he’ll call me and several other dudes in our social circle and invite us along to see it. I usually say yes because we’re all in our thirties, most of us have families, and when the hell else are we ever going to hang out? We smoke up in the parking lot before the movie, and all sit together, and while my aforementioned friend is earnestly trying to fill us in on what such-and-such thing is a reference to and how this plotline played out in the comics, the rest of us are stoned-ly discussing Captain America’s thicc ass, whether or not Thor’s mom could “get it”, holy shit Bucky straight up threw that dude into a jet engine that was insane, and things of this nature. Everyone has a good time.
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The movies are a fun night out, but as far as the TV arm of the MCU goes, to sit through dozens of hours of comic lore dump alone in my house would require much stronger marijuana than I can usually get. Agents of SHIELD didn’t interest me at all, no matter how many times my aforementioned friend tells me that they fill in stuff that the movies breeze through. They probably breezed through it because it was boring! I watched Daredevil because someone told me the fight choreography was amazing, and it was pretty good, but only able to hold my interest for a season and a half. I found Charlie Cox’s American accent unconvincing, and Vincent D’Onofrio hoary, distracted, and bizarre—really, no one on the show was appealing except Foggy; I would watch a Foggy spinoff, no questions asked. I didn’t see any of the other Netflix shows; I might have given Punisher a shot, but from what I saw of Jon Bernthal’s Punisher on Daredevil, he was easily the least charismatic and least brutal Punisher ever to appear on film.
So WandaVision is going to have to work hard to grab my attention. And the promotional campaign was seemingly made with this in mind. Compared to the bombastic event trailers the MCU movies have, the promos for WandaVision were remarkably coy and understated. Unlike usual, you don’t know pretty much the entire plot from the trailer. You don’t know much at all, actually. And what you do know confounds you. Like, didn’t Vision die a couple of movies ago? And they made up some bullshit excuse for why he couldn’t come back from the dead like everyone else, clearly motivated by the fact that he was entirely too overpowered and made every fight he was in implausible for not instantly lasering all the enemies to death? The lack of background info, combined with the refreshing lack of a high concept and a willingness to dip its toes into frivolous meta pop culture commentary, seems perfectly engineered to hook viewers whose interest in the franchise may be flagging after a work week’s worth of content.
The show jumps right into things with a black-and-white Wanda and Vision—her in a wedding dress, him in just a normal suit—driving into an idyllic suburb, using Wanda’s magic to secure the deed to a house they did not pay for…
…and settling into a life of domestic bliss, with corny ’50s sitcom antics galore. The writers make liberal use of both general tropes and specific homages; the Visions have one of those living room studios that they barely try to pretend is the same size on the inside as the house depicted without, and at one point it looks like Vision is going to trip over the chair like Dick Van Dyke, but—surprise!—he phases through it instead because that’s one of his powers, get it?
After the theme song, Wanda’s putting clean dishes away with her magic, and daffy ’50s housewife that she is, offering to make a huge breakfast for her husband who is incapable of eating. Vision looks at the calendar, sees a heart drawn on today’s date, and asks Wanda what it means. Neither of them can remember putting the heart on the date, nor what the heart could signify. This is the beginning of a series of unsettling events which hint at a hidden dark side to their bucolic midcentury suburban existence. Gosh, I wonder if anyone’s done that in a movie or show before.
After Vision goes to work—disguising himself as the breakout star of Master and Commander to evade detection—Wanda gets a visit from her new neighbor Agnes (Katherine Hahn), eager to get to know her. They have a conversation riddled with corny one-liners. It slips out that Wanda has some special occasion tonight, and trying to cover up the fact that she doesn’t know what it is, she commits to it being an anniversary—an anniversary of what, we’re not sure, since the witch and the robot didn’t really get married and are living in sin. Agnes gets a magazine article that promises to teach Wanda some advanced seduction techniques.
At Vision’s job at “Computational Services”, we see Vision (who, we must remember, is trying to blend in as a normal human) working on an adding machine with such speed as to make his hands a blur. He drops the work he’s done onto the desk of his young, too-dark-for-a-’50s-office co-worker, who’s listening to “Yakety Yak” by the Coasters, which probably wouldn’t be in a ’50s sitcom either, and I guess this stuff is what passes for revisionism these days.
Vision asks his ethnic young friend what exactly it is they do at “Computational Services”, to raucous laughs from the studio audience. The friend doesn’t know. Vision then asks him if there’s anything special there might be about today’s date, since he has it marked on his calendar but doesn’t remember why. At this point, his boss (Fred Melamed) walks in and reminds Vision that they’re entertaining him at his wife at the Vision household tonight, and he’d better impress them or else Vision’s nonsensical job is toast. Vision reasons that the “heart” must stand for “Hart”, his boss’s last name.
He makes a panicked phone call home to make sure Wanda’s getting everything ready. He assumes, for some reason, that Wanda has remembered that they’re entertaining the Harts tonight, but Wanda assumes he’s talking about their nonexistent anniversary, somehow having forgotten that the anniversary thing was just a cover story she gave to Agnes. It’s all very implausible, but what’s important is that it sets up a conversation at cross-purposes, full of wacky misunderstandings and a bit more sexual innuendo than would really be in a ’50s sitcom. There’s that revisionism again!
There’s a fake ’50s commercial now, in which an announcer and a heavily medicated housewife actress hock a Stark Industries toaster, which looks like a radio cabinet and features ominous beeping and whirring noises and a tiny red light (standing out against the black and white film stock), but which produces top-notch, only slightly irradiated toast. The Fifties, amirite?
Later that night, Vision brings home Mr. Hart and his wife (Debra Jo Rupp of That ‘70s Show fame), discovering that the lights are dimmed, candles lit, and horny music is playing. Vision goes to the kitchen to investigate whether there’s been a blown fuse and Wanda, dressed in a peignoir, sneaks up behind whom she believes is her husband (totally unfazed by his strange suit, sudden baldness, and at least eighty extra pounds) and does the most sexy thing she can think of, which is to cover his eyes and ask, “Guess who?” I know wives on these shows are supposed to be daffy—your Lucys, your Gracies, et cetera—but her dippiness is treading into “call the neurologist” territory.
The lights come on and Vision and Wanda are forced to pretend that this is a traditional Sokovian greeting, and that Sokovian women always dress this tarted-up when entertaining dinner guests. After Vision explains the mix-up, Wanda snaps her fingers and a more appropriate dress appears on her, but for plot reasons, she cannot do the same conjuring trick to a home-cooked meal. Luckily, Agnes drops by with some food, and after shooing her out the back door, Wanda is cooking the whole meal in a flash with her telekinesis. Vision is talking with Mr. and Mrs. Hart in the living room, the latter of whom is feeling the effects of low blood sugar and desperate to eat. You can’t help but feel it’s a waste that two funny actors are playing a couple of characters who are unfunny on purpose. Mrs. Hart throws open the kitchen divider and almost sees Wanda using magic, but Vision distracts her by singing “Yakety Yak”. How droll!
Wanda burns the chicken with her magic, tries to turn back time to reverse the damage, but goes too far and turns the chicken into a basket of eggs. Not a single egg, which you might think would be logical, because with a single egg, they won’t be able to do a plot where all the dishes get ruined and Wanda makes eggs for dinner in their place, which is what happens.
During dinner conversation, it comes out that Wanda and Vision haven’t bothered to work out even the bare bones of a cover story, including how long they’ve been married and where they used to live. Mr. Hart is so annoyed by their reticence to give details that he starts choking on a sausage, prompting Vision to use his phasing powers and grab the piece of sausage out of his throat. There’s some ooky music and ominous single-camera shots going on, and most alarmingly, when the sausage comes out in Vision’s hand, no one, least of all Mr. Hart, seems to understand that something unusual happened. Go ahead, call it “Lynchian”, I fucking dare you.
Mr. Hart looks at his watch, declares that he and his wife must be going, and they see themselves out. The blissful couple reflects on their unusual relationship, and decide to rectify things. From now on, tonight will be their anniversary, their song will be “Yakety Yak”, and as for wedding rings, Wanda can use her magic to summon some infernal spirits that will put the perfect rings on their fingers. They kiss, smile for the camera, and it pans out to reveal…
…that this is all being monitored somehow, in a center with files and surveillance equipment and a logo that my comics friend tells me stands for “S-Word”? Wow, didn’t expect that on Disney+!
Next time on WandaVision: The decade jumps to the 1960s, when shows about secret witch wives were all the rage!