The following story contains spoilers for WandaVision's first two episodes.
WandaVision's central mystery finds two Marvel heroes—Wanda Maximoff and Vision—in the world of a sitcom. No one really knows why.
That mystery might turn out to be less a mystery and more a coping mechanism.
Fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe are seeing the early parts of the world's most tragic story yet.
From the very first moment of WandaVision, it's clear that we're in for something different. These are familiar characters— Scarlet Witch/Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany)—in a new format (TV) on a new medium (Disney+), but even further than that, things are, well, different. We're not opening up with a battle, like Captain Marvel or Avengers: Age of Ultron. We're not opening up with a kidnapping, like 2008's original Iron Man. We're opening up with in an almost-obnoxiously-committed tribute to sitcoms of the '50s and '60s, with a cackling live studio audience and over-the-top comedy bits and theme songs. It's great—but it's definitely strange.
The viewing audience of WandaVision is chiefly trying to figure out what the hell is happening. But another key mystery should constantly linger in the back of every MCU fan's mind: how is Vision alive?
And, really, that's where the story takes a tragic turn. He's not. There's no big twist, no big backstory revealing how Vision has risen like a phoenix; no, anyone who saw Avengers: Infinity War knows exactly what happened. Vision, as we knew him, is dead, the Mind Stone ripped out of his head, his rosy color drained for good.
Remember, not long after Vision was killed by Thanos, Scarlet Witch herself was snapped out of existence by Thanos. Her lone appearance after returning in Endgame was only to fight the big purple guy and attend Tony Stark's funeral. We've seen nothing else; we've seen basically none of how she's mourned the love of her life.
Wanda is one of the most powerful beings in the MCU, and it seems clear that WandaVision is more than meets the eye. But the few clues we do have so far tell us that she is in control (or, at least, we're seeing things play out from her POV). When Vision's boss, Mr. Hart, began choking at dinner during Episode 1, her perfect sitcom reality started glitching; Vision was frozen, and couldn't help his boss until Wanda directed him to.
An even clearer hint comes at the big moment in the back end of Episode 2, when a beekeeper with the SWORD insignia on his suit emerges from a hole in the ground. She's already seen the logo earlier on a crashed toy helicopter—a bright, shining red contrasting with the rest of the world's greyscale—and it's clear her mind knows there's something up, whether she's conscious of it yet or not. Vision is stunned to see this beekeeper—but Wanda just utters "no" and rewinds everything. She knows who this is, and where they are coming from; she just has zero interest in facing reality and dealing with it. That's future Wanda's problem (as is whatever Agnes is up to, which is clearly something).
All of this helps to understand why Monica Rambeau is going by the name "Geraldine" in WandaVision; Wanda must be familiar with who she is and what her actual position and role within the agency is, but when she hears her referred to under a different name, in this different reality that she's created, things don't entirely click. Monica knows this too, and doesn't want to risk snapping Wanda out of whatever is happening in the larger picture.
But realizing WandaVision is a reality of Wanda's mind, created to process stress and trauma, only sets viewers up for the pain that we know is coming. Wanda is living her perfect sitcom life, from one decade to another; it's funny, it's cute, and it's fun to look at. She's got her perfect life, in a perfect little town, with her perfect, dream husband. But we, the audience, know that this isn't possible. We know that this can't be. And as we're sure to learn in future episodes, she knows this, too.
And it's what makes viewing WandaVision a bittersweet experience. In the back of our heads, while the superhero hijinks, in-jokes, and mystery of it all are fun, we know that our heroine is struggling and our hero is dead.
The Marvel universe hasn't been afraid to grapple with trauma and loss in the past; Tony's funeral and the aftermath of this death in Endgame is the most emotionally fraught and moving moment in the entire series of 23 films so far. Even the beginning of Endgame, where director Joe Russo appears in a cameo during a scene where Captain America leads a support group for the aftermath of Thanos' snap, shows a lack of fear when looking at a part of life that we all unfortunately have to deal with.
But WandaVision is taking things a step further. This is a conversation about the stages of grief, and Scarlet Witch at this point is stuck in denial. Now, of course, this is the Marvel Cinematic Universe; she's going to snap out of it, and she's going to figure out whatever conspiracy surrounds them, and it's going to have a huge spectacle and lead to something bigger down the line, whether that's an upcoming Disney+ series or a future Marvel film.
But on our way there, it's worth monitoring how Marvel eases into some of the most mature conversations any of its properties have touched yet.
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