Woo's Clues- WandaVision Episode 4 Breakdown
The following contains mild spoilers.
Following three episodes of honouring (even if shallow) the American sitcoms of old, Wandavision’s fourth episode has a very different agenda. Its as if Kevin Feige himself walked onto the screen with a megaphone pronouncing “don’t worry, this is still a Marvel Cinematic Universe property!”
Whether this is a relief to you or a Scorsese-foretold attack on television is of course entirely subjective, yet it makes for an odd and very expositional episode.
We kick things off by seeing Monica Rambeau (the daughter of Captain Marvel’s bestie) returning to reality following the un-snapping of half the universe's population, as seen in Avengers: Endgame (courtesy of the once Incredible Hulk). After a distressing interaction at the hospital she awoke in, we soon see her return to work, which is yet another "Shady Marvel Military Organisation" (this one named SWORD, but perhaps SMMO would be just as fitting).
After being informed she is grounded from bigger missions by the new acting director, Monica is sent to meet with former Ant-Man house arrest invigilator- Jimmy Woo to investigate a missing person case in the New Jersey town of Westview.
Quick time out. Phew, that’s a lot, right? The strength of the MCU brand has always been the interconnected story, an aspect lifted directly from the comics where characters would flit in and out of each others' narratives as easily as going to the shop. An admittedly poor analogy in 2021 but the more this media franchise grows the more convoluted it becomes. Can the MCU keep this up or will the information bloat it generates to weaponise lore as narrative currency be it’s undoing?
Back to the episode. It becomes clear that something is amiss as two local police officers claim to have never heard of Westview while standing right next to the town and its sign. Moments like these are the greatest strength of the show, genuinely interesting diet Twilight Zone affairs that are always unfortunately undercut by the super-powered context.
Imagine if this show had been made with no connection to the worlds biggest movie franchise, a sitcom throwback about a married witch and robot in a reality that seems to be slowly peeling apart? Instead, It becomes another cog in the machine (apologies Vision), Wanda’s future film appearances already lined up and public knowledge. Aren’t film road-maps just wonderful?
Westview has a strange energy barrier around it and Monica and Jimmy fly a drone in, only to quickly lose it. Before we know it Monica is also sucked in, becoming the Geraldine of the sitcom reality. Woo calls in backup and soon the town is surrounded by SWORD agents investigating the anomaly.
Scientists of all disciplines are called in, including fan favourite(?) Darcy Lewis, Thor's ex-girlfriend’s former intern. Nope, that’s not a Spaceballs gag, this is a real character, last seen in Thor: The Dark World. Comically within minutes of arriving, she manages to pretty much instantly work out what’s happening. She orders an old TV and uses Bowie-patented mysterious cosmic rays to tune in to Wandavision, now revealed as a show within the show.
From here we the mysterious element of previous episodes are explained. After three episodes of affable mystery storytelling, it seems odd to have everything so explicitly detailed to the audience, showing perhaps a lack of confidence in their ability to keep their audience engaged with a more oblique approach.
The final act of the episode is where it kicks into gear. An interesting character revelation and a surprisingly effective and horrific bit of imagery allow the conclusion to play out with enough of a hook for the next episode.
There's still the overhanging feeling this episode may have revealed too much too quickly, outing the initial episodes as little more than a performative smokescreen to obscure Marvel’s traditional stock storytelling.
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