On WandaVision, Even a Synthezoid Can Be a Dad™

On WandaVision, Even a Synthezoid Can Be a Dad™
Vision grilling burgers, as dads are wont to do. (Image: Disney+/Marvel)

So far, Marvel’s WandaVision has very much been Wanda Maximoff’s show and a testament to how the studio was sorely under-utilising her in its movies. But it’s also been a very quirky character study of Paul Bettany’s Vision, the increasingly human-like synthezoid who began his existence as a shared twinkle in Tony Stark, Bruce Banner, Helen Cho, and Ultron’s eyes.

After casually lifting Mjolnir, dabbling in the culinary arts, and ultimately “dying” twice by the end of Avengers: Infinity War, Vision inexplicably returns to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe in WandaVision apparently alive and well, despite his demise not at all being addressed in either Avengers: Endgame or Spider-Man: Far From Home.

Because Vision’s existence has been so wrapped up in his connection to the Mind Stone, his presence in WandaVision has been one of the series’ bigger looming mysteries, as it seemed as if the Infinity Stones would be off the table for at least a while as the next phase of the MCU began. WandaVision’s yet to dig into the meat of Vision’s resurrection and what it means about the situation occurring in Westview. But what the series has done, in addition to finally fleshing out Vision and Wanda’s emotional relationship, is given him an honest-to-god personality that feels like something more than a fiddly mix of super science and MacGuffin dust.

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Each of WandaVision’s episodes has given Vision opportunities to inhabit his identities as a hero, a goofball, and a loving husband plucked straight out of the American TV sitcom ether. But of all the new sides of Vision that the series has ushered in, Vision as a father is by far the most fascinating, for reasons both big and small. WandaVision’s third episode makes Vision’s fatherhood quite literal as Wanda’s perplexing pregnancy kicks into overdrive and she gives birth to their twin sons Billy and Tommy.

The twins’ birth and how it causes Wanda and Geraldine to have a confrontation involving Wanda’s (presumably dead) brother Pietro is an important plot point worth unpacking on its own. But in regards to Vision, what’s been interesting about the way WandaVision’s tackled its baby plot line is how it’s seized on the opportunity to turn him into a paragon of Dadness™ that extends beyond his actually having children.

Vision giving Wanda the eyes. (Image: Disney+/Marvel) Vision giving Wanda the eyes. (Image: Disney+/Marvel)

The MCU’s spent years exploring all the ways that people’s unresolved issues with their fathers eventually come to shape their ideas about heroism (see: Black Panther and the Iron Man, Thor, Ant-Man, Spider-Man, and Guardians of the Galaxy movies). WandaVision brings our focus to the story of parents-to-be living in a reality defined by the cultural norms of 20th century television. Right off the bat, WandaVision’s conceit transforms its two leads into a prototypical husband and wife pair whose shared life is a picture of heteronormative “regularity” that we’re all familiar with seeing in pop culture.

Though exploring the cause of its “wrongness” is the big narrative hook that’s meant to pull you into WandaVision, the clash created by dropping modern day MCU characters into retro settings ends up highlighting things about Vision and the Scarlet Witch that might otherwise go unaddressed.

Though the first two episodes of WandaVision have been explicitly tame in terms of the tone of their jokes, when Vision and Wanda are alone, there is a level of romantic and physical intimacy that’s been largely missing from superhero movies, for a handful of reasons that are neither good nor bad. While there’s no reason that romance and sex can’t be part of comic book adaptations, that doesn’t mean that they have to be either. WandaVision is very purposeful in the way it touches on that reality as a means of building suspense within its story, and winking as it’s using the creative restraints of its medium to wade into territory that other Marvel projects haven’t, really.

Flirtatious as Wanda and Vision are with one another, when Vision suggestively tells Wanda to zap the lights after she’s magicked their beds together, the implication that the two of them are about to get hot and heavy is played for canned laughs. But it isn’t really just an implication. Between Wanda’s negligee in the first episode and her sudden pregnancy that’s revealed in the second episode’s final moments, WandaVision, in its way, acknowledges the idea of Wanda and Vision being much more similar to the comics counterparts. In the comics, they’ve enjoyed a much higher degree of nuanced humanity simply because the medium allows for it in ways that most live-action series and movies don’t.

Superheroes getting down and having kids on TV isn’t new; it’s built into the premise of shows like Black Lightning and The Flash, and super baby births have been the focal points of other shows like The Gifted. But because WandaVision knowingly treats its pregnancy plot like the overused trope that it is, Wanda and Vision are both participants in and offering commentary on the roles that they’re playing within the in-universe show.

There’s an almost dreamy distractedness to the way that Wanda moves through her life in Westview that, coupled with the moments when she reacts negatively to blips in their reality, creates the overall impression of her both being aware of its falseness and almost fearful of it coming apart at the seams. Vision has been similarly aware that something’s up, but rather than the compelling undercurrent of dread that’s been growing stronger around Wanda, WandaVision’s given him an almost laser-like focus on his duty of being an idealised provider.

Vision toils at a job he doesn’t understand, checks when things go bump in the night, and does his best to take care of chores around the house before Wanda can get to them with her magic. Even when Vision finds the time to survey his surroundings and begin asking himself “wait, what?” you can see that some part of him is choosing to engage with and participate in his and Wanda’s elaborate charade because he believes it makes her happy. Much as Bettany inhabits this Vision comedically, there is an element of sadness to it all because of how enthusiastically Vision takes to this life.

This in particular feels like a part of Tom King’s Vision series that WandaVision’s creative team chose to weave into its depiction of Vision — an inhuman commitment to an unsustainable bit that’s rooted in a genuine desire for happiness. But where Vision’s drive was clearly his own in the comics, WandaVision’s story is more complicated by the fact that it’s unclear who or what is manipulating Westview and putting Vision in this hyper-domestic headspace. Twisted as reality is when it comes to Wanda, it’s easy to understand how and why Westview might, in some way, be a kind of comforting place for her. But the same isn’t necessarily true of Vision who, even more so than Wanda, doesn’t really have a “family” or “home” in the most traditional senses of the words.

WandaVision’s trailers have shown that the series will feature more of Vision being hands-on with his new progeny and supporting Wanda, but what’s going to be curious to watch unfold is how Vision ends up playing this new role in moments when he’s away from his wife. Fun as WandaVision’s been, it’s in those moments when people are pushed out of her orbit that the roles they’re playing really start to become engrossing. Vision becoming a dad is almost certainly going to mean something different if and when he steps outside of the Westview bubble.