This WandaVision review contains spoilers.
WandaVision Episode 4
Through its first three episodes, WandaVision has been more of a compelling and creative thought experiment that it was a coherent TV show. Which is ironic, of course, considering that the aim of the first three episodes was to mimic the style and flow of classic TV shows as closely as possible.
Still, while inventive mimicry is appreciated, it does not a TV program make. At some point the conceptual rubber of WandaVision was going to have to meet the narrative road. It finally does so in the series’ wildly thrilling and entertaining fourth episode “We Interrupt This Program.”
As the title implies, this episode is a much-needed interruption into the faux narrative of the going-ons in Westview, where Wanda, Vision, and all their assembled neighbors are living out the fabricated life of classic sitcoms. “We Interrupt This Program” reveals the woman behind the curtain and establishes stakes and consequences that were sorely missing from earlier installments.
It helps that the focus this time is on a series of characters who are just as confused as we are. Episode 4 opens with Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris) coming back to life from “The Blip” following the events of Avengers: Endgame. Correct me if I’m wrong, but is this the first time we’ve seen someone actually return from The Blip? If so, it’s all so much more literal than I imagined. Just as Monica (and half of sentient life in the universe) dissolved into dust after Thanos’s snap, that dust seemingly just re-arranges out of the ether to form her being once more. Does this mean that everyone on Earth was just breathing in “people dust” for years? Anywho…
The episode’s opener is its finest moment as it quickly and efficiently establishes Monica as both a worthwhile hero and a human being who just experienced an enormous trauma. Going back to work at SWORD just three weeks after you sprung back into existence from a universal purge is the mark of someone equally heroic and ill-advised. Even though we don’t spend much time with Monica after that, her presence and rapid characterization gives WandaVision its most prominent sense of stakes and consequence yet.
Thankfully, even after Monica disappears into Wanda’s analog Westview, WandaVision gives us the opportunity to catch up with some old MCU favorites. Agent Jimmy Woo (Randall Park) and Dr. Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings) work as audience cyphers partly because much of the audience is familiar with them (as part of the Thor movies for Darcy and Ant-Man for Jimmy)- but also because Park and Dennings are each so titanically charismatic. Though Wanda and Vision in their sitcom world have been entertaining and intriguing up to this point, there has been a clear tinge of artificiality to them. Spending time with the very “real” Darcy and Jimmy is a welcome injection of plot and humanity.
Jimmy, Darcy, and their SWORD compatriots seem also roughly as competent as their SHIELD progenitors, if not moreso. Faceless bureaucratic organizations tend to get the short shrift in superhero movies as pencil pushers who are intent on stopping the heroes from having fun (or in SHIELD’s case, actively trying to kill Captain America). In WandaVision, however, SWORD, Jimmy, and Darcy all operate with a level of sincere curiosity and care that matches the audience’s own.
Within 24 hours of Monica disappearing into Westview, SWORD has a fully operating Cape Canaveral-style mission control center on the outskirts of town. When Darcy needs an old TV to monitor the strange signal emanating from the bubble, she is given dozens. Jimmy and co. quickly get to work identifying the citizens of Westview and who they’re “playing” on the show. In a small, but consequential moment, one SWORD grunt expresses surprise that Darcy is picking up radioactivity because he was assured the radiation levels were normal. A lesser fictional superhero bureaucracy would have forgotten to check for radiation in the first place. In fact, it seems as though the only thing SWORD is missing is the coffee Darcy so desperately craves.
“We Interrupt This Program” is the most coherent episode of WandaVision, which also makes it its best, almost by default. There is a real joy present here, largely thanks to Jimmy and Darcy. The first three episodes drew their bliss from old-fashioned TV sitcom tropes, and this episode decides to one-up it with an even older trope: the scientific method. Getting to the bottom of things is fun! And that’s exactly what episode 4 does.
That’s not to say that this installment is merely a fact-finding mission. What’s particularly impressive is how WandaVision can preserve the high strangeness of its sitcom concept while even outside the confines of said sitcom.
“What? I’m invested!” Darcy tells Jimmy after she expresses some audience-like excitement upon seeing Wanda give birth to twins.
It also helps that, in getting to the bottom of what’s going in Westview from a scientific perspective, WandaVision also delves into its main character’s heart.
“It’s Wanda. It’s all Wanda,” Monica gasps upon re-entering the real world.
Yes, as many of us expected, the nature of Wanda and Vision’s sitcom situation doesn’t come from outer space, an alternate dimension, or any of the Avengers’ many enemies – it comes straight from Wanda herself. Let’s not forget the enormity of the trauma that Wanda experienced in battling Thanos. She had to mercy kill her lover to save the world…only for the dickish Mad Titan to undo that sacrifice and kill Vis himself for the Mind Stone in his head. That is an almost incomprehensible level of tragedy. We saw Wanda’s anger in Avengers: Endgame but we still had yet to see her pain.
Well…until now. What better way to deal with the hurt than to flip on the TV? Superheroes – they’re just like us.
New episodes of WandaVision premiere every Friday on Disney+.