WandaVision’s Menacing Signal Is Finally Cutting Through the Noise

WandaVision’s Menacing Signal Is Finally Cutting Through the Noise
Monica touching the barrier separating Westview from the rest of the world. (Screenshot: Disney+/Marvel)

After WandaVision’s first three episodes, the series was in the position to make a choice whether to keep on focusing specifically on Wanda and Vision’s suburban bubble reality, or finally shift focus to one of its other characters like Monica Rambeau, whose perspectives might provide some important information about the happenings in Westview. Thankfully, WandaVision chose the latter.

It was plain as day from the very jump that, committed as WandaVision’s been to its trippy, mysterious conceit, eventually the series was going to have to start answering some questions about its plot on both small and large scales, given that this is all taking place post-Avengers: Endgame. Fascinating as it’s been to see Wanda and Vision in all sorts of retro action, WandaVision’s begged questions regarding whether the rest of the world is witnessing the Westview event. It’s been unclear whether Westview’s an anomaly that’s flying under everyone’s radar because it wasn’t firmly established when after the events of Avengers: Endgame WandaVision was actually set.

“We Interrupt This Program”, WandaVision’s fourth episode, answers all of those questions and then some by introducing a host of familiar faces who all bring pieces of the Marvel’s larger Cinematic Universe with them to this story ,in ways that illustrates just how dark WandaVision actually is.

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“We Interrupt This Program” is WandaVision’s first big picture episode, in the sense that it pulls back to give you a fuller understanding of what’s at stake and how everyone’s come to be involved at this point so far. Much fanfare as Wanda and Vision’s twins Billy and Tommy arrived to last week, “We Interrupt This Program” very much feels like WandaVision firmly reminding everyone watching that while it’s definitely playing around multiple fan favourite characters from the comics, it’s very much a story about Wanda, one meant to give her life the kind of attention Marvel’s previous projects haven’t.

“We Interrupt This Program” manages to pull this off effectively by pulling you out of Wanda’s orbit entirely and into an important moment in Monica Rambeau’s past. Namely: the day she, along with everyone else turned to dust by Thanos in Avengers: Infinity Wars, suddenly rematerialised. Like everyone else willed back into existence by Bruce Banner’s “blip”, Monica comes to in the exact spot she was when the first snap occurred, with no recollection of what happened or awareness that years have passed. As Monica stumbles out of an empty hospital room into a hallway, she’s plunged into chaos as the people around her try to make sense of how and why people are suddenly being reformed out of thin air.

Monica being reformed by Bruce Banner's use of the Infinity Gauntlet. (Screenshot: Disney+/Marvel) Monica being reformed by Bruce Banner’s use of the Infinity Gauntlet. (Screenshot: Disney+/Marvel)

This isn’t the first time that a post-Endgame Marvel project has addressed the blip, but where Spider-Man: Far From Home played it up for comedy, WandaVision truly captures the horror that billions of people must have experienced while the Avengers were busy saving reality. Disoriented as Monica is, her immediate focus is on finding her mother, Maria, whom she’d been sitting with before the snap as the latter underwent recovery from surgery. The nurse Monica eventually finds and begins questioning is harried by the sudden chaos, but understanding in a way that most of the people around her aren’t — and she patiently, tragically attempts to explain to Monica how Maria died in the time between Monica’s disappearance and her return.

While Maria herself doesn’t make a physical cameo in WandaVision her presence is felt all throughout “We Interrupt This Program”’s first half, as Monica begins picking up the pieces of the life her mother left behind. “We Interrupt This Program” establishes that, in the time between Captain Marvel and WandaVision, Maria was instrumental in the foundation and growth of S.W.O.R.D — Sentient Weapons Observation and Response Division — a governmental agency that does exactly what its name says, and clues you into why Monica Rambeau of all characters was woven into WandaVision’s plot.

It’s interesting to note the slight, but significant differences between the S.W.O.R.D. of Marvel’s comics (there, the Sentient World Observation and Response Department) and its MCU counterpart. In the comics, S.W.O.R.D.’s functioned mainly as a S.H.I.E.L.D. counterpart with more of a focus on space and, more recently, matters dealing with mutants. Spider-Man:Far From Home’s post-credits scene featuring Nick Fury in space suggested that, with S.H.I.E.L.D. having been fully compromised by HYDRA in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, he planned to regroup with the Skrulls and start an organisation like S.W.O.R.D. on his own. “We Interrupt This Program,” though, complicates this idea by showing you how S.W.O.R.D.’s presumably been fulfilling a wholly different kind of role in the shadows this entire time while S.H.I.E.L.D. worked to support the Avengers.

It makes sense that, having witnessed an alien invasion, Maria Rambeau set out to build an organisation designed to watch the hell out for whatever sort of thinking, dangerous beings might be lurking out in the void preparing to endanger the Earth. WandaVision doesn’t get into just how effective S.W.O.R.D. was at spotting things like Wakanda or the Inhumans (remember them?) in the years since, but as Monica walks into S.W.O.R.D. headquarters, you can see that they’re definitely a major presence in the world.

As acting director Tyler Hayward (Josh Stamberg) fills Monica in on what they’ve been up to in her absence, he understands that she’s eager to get right back into the swing of things the way her mother knew she would. But given the…state of the world, and everyone’s uncertainty about how stable things are, Hayward informs her that she won’t be returning to space any time soon — implying that some S.W.O.R.D. operatives came back in space, which seems horrifying a fact that devastates Monica. Whatever protest Monica has is interrupted by confusion, however, when Hayward informs her that she’s being sent to assist the FBI with a missing persons case in New Jersey. The idea of going looking for a missing person now of all times is a bit ridiculous on its face, but when Monica arrives in Westview and meets agent Jimmy Woo (Randall Park, reprising his Ant-Man and The Wasp role), he explains to her that there’s a reason they needed S.W.O.R.D.’s help.

While it’s common enough for people to go missing, it’s rare that witnesses in protection programs disappear off the map without the FBI being able to find them. In this case, though, things are stranger still because none of the missing person’s relatives or other contacts apparently recall their ever having existed, and all signs point to Westview being the source of this weirdness.

Even though Monica’s processing what Woo’s telling her, it still surprises her when a pair of modern-looking cops parked right in front of the Westview town sign insist that the town doesn’t exist, and she understands what Woo means when he explains how he can feel that the bubble around Westview doesn’t want him to enter it. Monica’s analytical side takes over as she listens to Woo while sending a small, helicopter-like drone towards the Westview city limits, and watches it warp out of sight. Monica raises the interesting question: why is it that some people are able to recall Westview’s existence while others aren’t, and while the obvious answer’s that they simply haven’t been close enough to it, Woo’s mentioning of the missing person’s family implies that it’s a bit more complicated than that.

Given that she’d seen multiple things get sucked into Westview without explanation, and Woo had just said out loud how the bubble’s probably nefarious, Monica does what any good protagonist would do in this scenario: mosey right on up to it, and surprising no one, she’s pulled right in. The timing of it all explains why “Geraldine” doesn’t initially show up until WandaVision’s second episode.

From here, “We Interrupt This Program” truly establishes itself as a kind of crossover episode, as Thor and Thor: The Dark World’s Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings) is brought back into the picture alongside a gaggle of other scientists all tapped by S.W.O.R.D. to help investigate the Westview event. Because there’s no real rhyme or reason as to why they’re all there, Darcy quickly deduces that S.W.O.R.D. has no clue where to begin and that, for all their current resources, they’ve got little intel to offer on the situation. Within moments of arriving, though, Darcy’s able to use her own equipment to detect the cosmic microwave background radiation emanating from Westview that will, at some point, become dangerous, as well as other wavelengths being blended in with the energy.

Team SWORD check in on their new favourite TV show. (Screenshot: Disney+/Marvel) Team SWORD check in on their new favourite TV show. (Screenshot: Disney+/Marvel)

As S.W.O.R.D. prepares to send in another agent after Monica using the sewer system as an entry point, Woo smartly points out that they have no way of knowing whether the bubble influence extends underground, but from Hayward’s perspective, they’ve got few other options at their disposal. While S.W.O.R.D.’s able to figure out that the field around Westview forms a massive hexagon, each of their attempts to get proper visuals with their drones fails, and they’re all at a loss as to what to do until the laugh track from Darcy’s old tube TV interrupts a pregnant pause.

Much to everyone’s shock, Darcy’s rig hooked up to the television is able to hook into the the signal broadcasting from Westview, giving them a fully-produced look at what’s essentially the same show that we’ve been watching these past few weeks. Here, “We Interrupt This Program” begins poking fun at itself, its audience, and the entire culture around superhero adaptations with a solid chunk of exposition. For Darcy and Jimmy, watching, analysing, and recapping episodes of television becomes their mission to not just explain the mystery of how a town disappeared, but save two of earth’s mightiest heroes. In a way, this part of “We Interrupt This Program” feels like WandaVision flexing, but it does make you appreciate why the first three episodes spent so much time introducing you to its cast of sitcom archetypes.

By watching “the show,” Jimmy, Darcy, and the rest of S.W.O.R.D. are able to put profiles together of everyone trapped in the town, and formulate a plan to contact Wanda using the same frequencies broadcasting out of the town. As the sewer-trudging S.W.O.R.D. agent crawls into the city and Woo begins calling out to Wanda when she happens to be near a radio, previous moments in WandaVision take on a new significance. Though Wanda is, for a moment, able to hear Jimmy’s voice, what we know from previous episodes is how the contact alarms her and leads to Dottie Jones breaking a glass, and bleeding red in the otherwise black and white world. From Jimmy’s and Darcy’s perspective, there’s only a brief blip in the feed that neither of them clocks as an edit, but the gravity of what’s happening is made clear when the S.W.O.R.D. agent — transformed into a beekeeper within Westview — loses contact with the rest of the team outside of the bubble.

It’s fascinating to watch as Darcy and Jimmy resign themselves to sitting back and watching the in-universe WandaVision, reasoning that the show will hold more answers. This hypothesis proves to be accurate as they watch WandaVision’s third episode, and Darcy understandably assumes that the ruse of it all will have to falter when the “babies” show up. It isn’t the babies, though, that end up making things really menacing, but Wanda and Geraldine’s conversation about Ultron and how it prompts Wanda to do something.

A S.W.O.R.D. agent being transformed into a beekeeper. (Screenshot: Disney+/Marvel) A S.W.O.R.D. agent being transformed into a beekeeper. (Screenshot: Disney+/Marvel)

When Wanda turns on Geraldine, the signal cuts out once again, but both Darcy and Jimmy understand that it’s intentional, and “We Interrupt This Program” comes back down from the meta-sphere to show you just what all happened after the Ultron talk. Though we’d seen Geraldine/Monica attempting to explain away and ignore suddenly bringing up Ultron in the past, “We Interrupt This Program” shows that there was more to the conversation, and how Wanda acknowledges Geraldine/Monica’s being an outsider within Westview. Where all of WandaVision’s previous hints that Wanda’s the villain here were on the heavier side of subtle, it’s made quite explicit when Wanda flings Monica through multiple walls and clear out of the city in a very Fresh Prince of Bel-Air fashion.

A throw at that speed would, one imagines, kill a person in most situations, but it’s still somewhat unclear just how malicious Wanda actually is here, as you can see that she’s confused and almost horrified at what she’s done. Even though there’s a sinister edge to Wanda’s presence in this episode when she pieces her home back together and looms over her babies the way witches often do, there’s little question that she’s not nearly as in “control” as she appears to be — and that there are forces at work she doesn’t fully understand.

A fact that is further amplified to us when Vision enters re-enters their home as he did in the final moment’s of last week’s episode asking where Geraldine is. Yu can’t tell whether the cold panic on Wanda’s face is over her need to hide what she’s done, or her desire to tell Vision that she’s frightened. But when she looks at Vision and sees him — truly sees him — she does not see her husband, not even in black and white, but dead0eyed: drained of his colour, and with a vicious hole in the head where his Infinity gem should be, and the look on her face reads clearly as pure fear. Zombie Vision only appears briefly, and ultimately, Vision’s somehow made even more chilling when he returns to normal because of what he says to Wanda: a moment of almost fear, and definite concern, as he tells Wanda that it’s ok if the time has come for them to leave WestView.

For whatever reason, this Vision understands that he can tell Wanda that they don’t have to remain in Westview, even though Wanda insists that they can’t leave, as it’s their home. The look Vision gives Wanda as she scoops up one of the babies with a smile on her face, thinking about what they’ll watch on TV adds yet another reason to suspect that Vision’s more aware of the anomaly than he’s let on, but the biggest takeaway “We Interrupt This Program” leaves you with comes from Monica herself, as S.W.O.R.D. physicians attempt to monitor her after she re-emerges outside of Westview almost in a haze.

Best as anyone can tell, all of this is coming from Wanda, and there’s little question that by WandaVision’s end, someone’s going to have to have a conversation with our Scarlet Witch about twisting reality. But the tiny little moment early in this episode — where you see that Agnes is the only person in Westview without a New Jersey licence in S.W.O.R.D.’s list of missing people seen on Wandavision — points to there being even more to this story that’s yet to be revealed, in a manner as hopefully spectacularly as what we learned here is laid out.