“WandaVision” Episode 3 Welcomes Wanda’s Twins To Westview

SPOILERS FOR WANDAVISION AHEAD!

Now awash in technicolor splendor, Wanda Maximoff’s eerie suburban reality gets a shake-up in the third episode of WandaVision, with the series’ increasingly dangerous protagonist unceremoniously making room for two new additions to her faux family by kicking out an unwelcome visitor who had slipped through the cracks in last week’s episode. But as the invisible barriers around the town of Westview shrink ever inwards, it seems many of our characters – including Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany) themselves – are starting to catch on to the fact that the world they know is actually some kind of custom-made, maximum-security prison…and Wanda herself is possibly the jailor.

WandaVision
Vision and Wanda | cnet.com

This week’s episode strands us in the middle of the 1970’s, an era of acquired tastes: from the over-the-top fashion and hairstyles (I could write a whole separate blog post about Paul Bettany’s hair alone), to a whole new line-up of beloved classic sitcoms to mine for material, including The Brady Bunch; which WandaVision subtly parodies with this week’s opening sequence graphics and new design aesthetic. But though the change in decades has spontaneously updated every character’s appearance and wardrobe (I feel for the citizens of Westview, never knowing what time period’s atrocious fashion sensibilities they’ll be saddled with on any given day), it appears that the story has picked up right where we left off…in the late 60’s. Wanda’s entire maternity spans about a day, during which the world around her moves ahead by years.

Time and space don’t seem to mean much within the poorly-defined boundaries of Westview. Not only is the year and decade changing with each passing sunrise, but the exact location of the town is hard to pin down too…since there doesn’t seem to be anything beyond its outskirts. Wanda’s doctor (played by Randy Oglesby) seems excited to head to Bermuda for a vacation, and even packs his bags and starts his car to leave, only to promptly change his mind with the ominous phrase: “Small towns, you know. So hard to…escape.” Taking all the clues into consideration, it’s safe to say Westview is a prison in that no one is able to leave – that is, unless you get Wanda mad and she telekinetically body-slams you through the side of a house and catapults you out of her mini-universe. I’m not sure that’s a risk worth taking just to get to Bermuda, but hey, it’s an option.

So who’s running the prison? The most likely candidate is still the devil himself, Mephisto, and his henchwoman Agatha Harkness from the comics – who’s probably already shown up in WandaVision as Wanda’s nosy next-door neighbor, Agnes (Kathryn Hahn). Once again, we hear from Agnes about her as-yet-unseen husband, “Ralph”, whom many of us believe will turn out to be Mephisto himself: Agnes’ comment that he looks better in the darkness only adds to the mystery surrounding this character.

But this week’s episode also puts a new possibility on the table, and it’s one I never initially suspected: could HYDRA be behind all this? The covert Neo-Nazi organization hasn’t been very active in the Marvel Cinematic Universe since Age Of Ultron, where – interestingly – their last major act was unleashing Wanda Maximoff and her twin brother Pietro on the Avengers, in an unsuccessful attempt to divide and conquer the superhero team. But Wanda’s old HYDRA handler, Baron von Strücker, was referenced in one of WandaVision‘s tantalizing commercial segments, and this week’s commercial features another nod to HYDRA, spoofing the Calgon “Take Me Away” advert from the 70’s with an important message about the rejuvenating powers of Hydra Soak: a bath powder that comes in a cute little blue package and features the tagline “find the goddess within” – a possible reference to Wanda’s latent mutant powers, unlocked by HYDRA’s experiments on her? This ad diverges slightly from the pattern established in the previous two, but not so radically that we can throw out everything we’ve theorized.

WandaVision
Hydra Soak | newsweek.com

Some Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. fans have been quick to point out the similarities between Hydra Soak and the blue soap used by HYDRA to mind-control citizens of their alternate reality in The Framework, in the long-running MCU-adjacent series’ fourth season. If that is what WandaVision is referencing with Hydra Soak, it’s theoretically possible that HYDRA is using some form of Framework technology to keep Wanda’s mind and spirit trapped in her sitcom bubble, while her unconscious body would remain in stasis – perhaps at some other location entirely. I’m nervous to jump onboard this theory because S.H.I.E.L.D. fans have been burned before, but I can’t deny it piques my interest going forward. Forget Ultron infomercials – give me more of that HYDRA mind-control soap!

But I’m not ruling out Wanda as the series’ big bad either. Whether provoked to action by her “mama bear” instincts, or motivated by some subconscious agenda, Wanda once again displays the cool-headed confidence and decisiveness that suggests that she has at least some control over Westview and its people, including interlopers like “Geraldine” (Teyonah Parris), and is in fact holding them hostage as extras for the sitcom she wants her life to be. It’s still hard to say what’s her doing and what’s not – for instance, when Vision gets put on rewind for asking too many questions about Westview, is that Wanda trying to shield her husband from the truth, or someone else stepping in to shut him up? – but Elizabeth Olsen effortlessly conveys the brokenness and bewilderment that makes this mystery work. Wanda herself doesn’t seem to know whether she’s really in control, but she clearly enjoys the feeling: so watching her step into her power and struggle with the consequences should be thrilling.

Compare that to Vision, who needs irrefutable facts and data to back up any decision he makes, and is clearly uncomfortable living in a world where he doesn’t know his place or purpose. Again, we’re seeing the very highest quality of acting from stars who’ve never really had a chance to shine in the Marvel films – and I’m thoroughly excited to see Paul Bettany take us on a journey of self-discovery with the innocent Vision as he begins to exert his independence from Wanda, as I assume he will after learning that his wife re-animated his corpse.

But as the intertwined wedding rings in the closing credits suggest, these two are bound together by something – and now it’s clear that will be their twin sons, Billy and Tommy, making their long-awaited MCU debut at last. In the comics, both boys grow up to be Young Avengers; with Billy becoming a sorcerer like his mother (and one of Marvel’s most prominent gay superheroes), and Tommy inheriting his uncle Pietro’s super-speed (a power which Vision also possesses in the MCU). Billy, in particular, is incredibly powerful – but both boys spent their infancy in the comics being hunted by demonic entities who wished to absorb their strength. WandaVision has teased that storyline, with all of Westview pressuring Wanda to have children and possibly using magic to induce her sudden pregnancy. It’s understandable why the couple are trying to hide that they’re expecting throughout episode three.

“Geraldine” is unlucky enough to be on hand when Wanda goes into labor (nine months early), and helps deliver baby Tommy – after first having a bizarre run-in with the stork painted on Wanda’s nursery wall, which comes to life and pursues her fish-patterned pants. The chaotic scene is exacerbated by an incident on the front lawn, with Wanda’s neighbor Herb (David Payton) cheerfully sawing away at the fence separating his property from Wanda’s with a hedge-trimmer. Following the birth, Vision finds Agnes also outside, questioning Herb about “Geraldine”. Vision confronts the two, and gets a string of vague excuses for their strange behavior – culminating in Agnes implying that “Geraldine” shouldn’t be allowed around Wanda because she doesn’t have a family, husband, or even a home, and Herb trying to let Vision in on some secret about the town only to be silenced by an uncharacteristic outburst from Agnes, who frantically implores him to “stop it!”.

The brilliantly edited sequence cuts back and forth from Agnes’ sinister gossip to the scene inside the house, where “Geraldine” and Wanda are making small-talk while looking after the newborns. Wanda casually mentions that she has a twin, and namedrops Pietro, sparking a glitch in reality as “Geraldine” suddenly blurts out that “he [Pietro] was killed by Ultron”, exposing her true nature as an intruder to Westview. Wanda circles her around the cribs menacingly, and then pauses, catching sight of the sword-shaped necklace pendant around her neck: the same sword she saw last week on a helicopter in her rosebush, and on the mystery beekeeper who emerged from the sewer.

WandaVision
Monica Rambeau | metro.co.uk

But chillingly, when Vision enters the house just a few moments later and asks where “Geraldine” went, all Wanda says is that she had to leave in a hurry. There’s no happy sitcom ending this week: only a haunting shot of Wanda standing above her twins’ cribs, smiling down at her babies. And a final scene, set to “Daydream Believer”, of “Geraldine” flying through a night sky past a Westview billboard and hitting the earth hard, while armored vehicles and military personnel surround her. She’s been flung out of Wanda’s reality, clearly, and back into her own – confirming two things: firstly, that she is Monica Rambeau, an Agent of S.W.O.R.D.; and secondly, that Westview exists in the real world as well as in Wanda’s. In the real world, the town is encircled by roadblocks, force-fields, spotlights and barbed wire…but there are lights in the windows of visible houses.

So is WandaVision the harrowing account of an entire town being held captive by a mutant sorceress and distorted into a sitcom fantasy? I expect more answers when the series returns next week, with an episode some are speculating will recount Monica Rambeau’s adventure in flashbacks, explaining what’s going on outside the WandaVision bubble, allowing us to catch up with old friends like Darcy Lewis and Jimmy Woo, and hopefully clarifying whether the population of Westview is really being forced to wear 70’s clothes against their will.

Episode Rating: 10/10

Madame Masque Is Likely To Appear In “Hawkeye” Series!

Two stories (or, rather, one story and one completely unverified rumor from a previously unreliable source) about the upcoming Hawkeye Disney+ series dropped on the internet today, with both quickly becoming the topic of much uproarious discourse. The first, which I will address briefly so as to get it out of the way before we move onto the actual story, was the rumor that Adrianne Palicki – who played Mockingbird in early seasons of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. – would be recast, and her character rebooted in the Hawkeye series. This report is nothing to worry about: the site that covered the “news” is notorious for clickbait, so much so that I will not be linking to their story as a matter of principle. With that in mind, let it be known that if Marvel does decides to ever recast Adrianne Palicki as Mockingbird, I will not stand for it.

The second story, which comes from the folks at The Direct, carries much more weight due to their site having proven fairly reliable in past occasions. Per their exclusive reporting, the Hawkeye series will feature the MCU debut of an iconic comics villain, Madame Masque.

Hawkeye Madame Masque
fullcirclecinema.com

Interestingly, this means that both of these stories today are intertwined with the complicated rise and fall of Marvel TV, the studio’s subdivision which, until recently, produced offshoot TV programs for ABC and Netflix: including Agent Carter, which actually introduced a version of Madame Masque in its second and final season. Agent Carter‘s Masque bore little in resemblance to her comics counterpart – instead of an armored, high-tech villainess, Agent Carter‘s Masque was a 1940’s actress modeled on the real-life Hedy Lamarr, who worked secretly for the Allied Forces developing Isodyne Energy: during the course of her character arc, this version of Madame Masque never actually adopted the title, instead using the stage name “Whitney Frost”, a name which, in the comics, Masque sometimes uses. All of this means that, thanks to the show’s twist on the character, Marvel won’t have to explicitly say that this new Madame Masque appearing on the Hawkeye show is in fact a reboot or recast of Agent Carter‘s Masque, because they can legitimately claim that “Whitney Frost” was never really Masque at all. We all know that Agent Carter is Marvel President Kevin Feige’s favorite out of the entire Marvel TV division (it was the only one he himself worked on, and one of its stars, James D’Arcy, even got a brief but important cameo in Avengers: Endgame), so it makes sense why he wouldn’t want to just thoroughly disregard it even now, years after its cancellation.

Hawkeye Madame Masque
Agent Carter’s Madame Masque | imdb.com

But it begs the question: who is the real Madame Masque, the version of the character from the comics who will presumably be brought to life in Hawkeye? For starters, her real name is actually Giulietta Nefaria, and she is the daughter of an Italian crime lord, Count Nefaria. In the comics, she’s most often entangled with Iron Man (either as his enemy or his lover), so the MCU version could do something with that: Iron Man has already been shown to have had countless previously-unheard-of rivals during his career…one more wouldn’t hurt, right? Personally, I think one more could hurt: fans like Iron Man, but this is an MCU trope that’s getting real old, real fast. No, in my opinion, Madame Masque should be her own character, though if she does have to have connections to anybody else in the MCU it should be Baron Zemo. Zemo, who will appear as the main antagonist of The Falcon And The Winter Soldier Disney+ series, is an associate of Masque’s in some comics: she’s even worked as his right-hand woman from time to time. With the MCU version of Zemo being set up to lead a new group of supervillains called the Thunderbolts, the time is ripe for Madame Masque to show up and secure her place on the team. How better to do this by than by trying to take out one of the last remaining Avengers?

In recent comics, Madame Masque has become a frequent enemy of Hawkeye and his young disciple Kate Bishop. They had a pretty infamous run-in on the island of Madripoor (which, as we know already, is also set to appear in The Falcon And The Winter Soldier), where Bishop was able to capture Masque and assume her identity briefly in order to help Hawkeye destroy some incriminating evidence of past potential wrongdoings, all while the real Masque was tied up in Bishop’s hotel room. In revenge for the humiliating incident, Masque later captured Bishop and took her to her California mansion – a mistake, in retrospect, as Bishop escaped and completely wrecked Masque’s home. Masque, motivated at this point purely by pettiness and spite, burned down Bishop’s house, but was eventually captured and put in S.H.I.E.L.D. custody when her secret base of evil operations was discovered in L.A. This is plenty of material for Hawkeye to dig into: but what’s most exciting is that we’ll finally get to see a truly menacing Madame Masque.

Hawkeye Madame Masque
cbr.com

Oh and, unlike the Agent Carter version of the character, one would hope this new Masque would actually, you know…wear a mask. In the comics, her bulletproof golden headpiece isn’t just decorative armor, but is meant to hide her disfigured face. Over the years, the fact that she wears a mask so often, and that so few have seen her true face, has become a major plotpoint: it allowed Kate Bishop to pass as her undetected on Madripoor, and it also led to her being a key target of the shape-shifting Skrulls during the Secret Invasion storyline. She was even attacked by Skrulls who planned to take her form as a disguise. In the MCU, there’s been plenty of hints and signs that point towards Secret Invasion being a major story arc in the near future, although we don’t know if Masque will survive long enough to be involved with any of that: it’s possible she’s merely meant for a one-time appearance.

So what do you think? How do you feel about her character possibly showing up in Hawkeye, and what do you think her future in the MCU will look like after the show ends? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

Happy Quake Week! What Will It Take To See Quake In The MCU?

Yesterday we discussed a fan-driven campaign very dear to my heart – the #SheRaMovie movement – but today we need to talk about another one: #QuakeSpinoff…and also #ChloeIsMyQuake…and just #QuakeWeek in general. There’s a lot of Quake related hashtags going around on Twitter today, and they’re all created by fans of the Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. TV series who fell in love with the character of Daisy Johnson, better known by her superhero nickname Quake, and who want to see her return in a big way in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Why? Because she’s amazing, that’s why.

Quake
latimes.com

Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. was created as a Marvel Cinematic Universe spin-off, but since then it has diverged radically from the main timeline of the MCU – until the finale earlier this month, that is, which showed the team of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents apparently returning to the main timeline (or something like it, at any rate) and moving on with their lives, going their separate ways. Daisy Johnson’s storyline, which began with her as a roguish hacker trying to decipher S.H.I.E.L.D.’s secrets, ended with her furthering the organization’s mission of peace and goodwill in the depths of outer space, onboard the Zephyr Three with her sister Kora and boyfriend Daniel Sousa. Instantly, fans caught onto clues left in this very open ending: specifically, the way it seemed to link her to the S.W.O.R.D. organization, a team of space-faring agents who operate as ambassadors to alien nations while dealing with cosmic threats. S.W.O.R.D. is currently being introduced in the MCU, with former S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury organizing an entire army of new agents on a top secret space station: other members of this team are expected to appear in the WandaVision series on Disney+. For years, fans have been hoping to see the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. cross over into S.W.O.R.D. after the end of their own series, and the conclusion to Daisy’s story seemed to leave the door wide open for such a continuation.

Couple that with actress Chloe Bennet’s recent statements about how she doesn’t think she’s done playing Daisy, and you have yourself a fan-driven campaign. #QuakeWeek was started as an attempt to celebrate the superhero’s long and frankly fantastic character arc on Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., highlighting her epic seismic powers. #QuakeSpinoff demands that Daisy not just debut in the MCU, but, obviously, get her own film or Disney+ series – personally, I’d settle for a major role in a Secret Invasion or Secret Warriors series. And #ChloeIsMyQuake insists that Marvel doesn’t simply take the character of Quake and recast her; Chloe Bennet is responsible for the popularity this character has across all mediums. For instance, I highly doubt you’d see Quake showing up in the new Avengers video game if Bennet hadn’t made her a fan-favorite with her nuanced performance.

Quake
cinemablend.com

Now, there are issues involved with transitioning Quake to the MCU – obviously, otherwise this probably would have been a done deal ages ago. Marvel Studios and Marvel TV started out with the intention of having a mostly symbiotic relationship, with the events in the movies impacting the TV shows and vice versa: but that hopeful dream was crushed fairly quickly, even though the few crossovers between the two led to some extremely memorable events on Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. and also the opening sequence of Avengers: Age Of Ultron. Since the latter event, there’s been a huge rift between the two divisions, which has only finally been healed now that the TV division has been folded under Kevin Feige’s management. The concern is that Feige has no interest in the entire TV division and wants to throw it all out: he hasn’t ever specifically said that, but he has his own clear vision of the future and it’s unclear what he wants to do with this remnant of Marvel’s past. Reassuringly, it was stated earlier this year that Feige has had talks with ABC, the network on which S.H.I.E.L.D. aired, about future collaborations: there’s no hint of what that might entail, but it’s comforting to know that he cares enough about the work that was done on ABC with S.H.I.E.L.D. to want to expand on that.

At the very least, it’s not implausible that Daisy Johnson could transfer over to the MCU. She’s an extremely popular character, and she has ties to several other major characters and plotpoints soon to be introduced in the MCU, such as the Inhumans, Kamala Khan, and S.W.O.R.D. Most importantly, she and the rest of the S.H.I.E.L.D. team are about as close to the MCU as they can be after the events of the series finale. It’s been confirmed that, at the very least, they now exist somewhere in the same multiverse – a multiverse that, need I remind you, will be explored in depth in the upcoming Doctor Strange sequel. And while it’s hard to say what’s canon to the movies anymore, the movies have subtly hinted that there’s still a connection: Captain Marvel was the most recent Marvel film to reference a S.H.I.E.L.D. character.

Quake
medium.com

And as for why Quake should cross over, well, here’s the thing: she’s not quite the first superheroine in the MCU (and environs), but she’s one of the most consistently well-written ones they’ve ever had. In fact, all the women of S.H.I.E.L.D. are. Daisy Johnson, Yo-Yo Rodriguez, Melinda May, Jemma Simmons…these women have been given the blessing of having hours upon hours of screentime in which to develop their strengths, their flaws, and their messy, complex personalities: this isn’t at all meant to diminish the onscreen achievements of heroines like Peggy Carter, Natasha Romanoff, Gamora, Hope Van Dyne, Okoye, Shuri, or Carol Danvers, but it is noteworthy that Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. has had not one but two heroines of Asian descent throughout its entire run (one of them being Daisy herself), and since season three has featured a prominent Latina heroine – something the show never gets enough credit for, in my opinion. These are groundbreaking advances that can’t be undermined or ignored: representation matters. Daisy Johnson matters.

And that’s why I’m lending my voice to the growing movement of passionate Quake fans, and calling on Kevin Feige and the folks at Marvel to make Quake canon. Bring her into the MCU. Have her enlist at S.W.O.R.D. Even if it’s just for a glorified cameo, make sure this character continues to matter for future audiences.

How would you feel if Quake entered the MCU? Delighted, right? Right? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

“Spider Woman” Moves Forward With Olivia Wilde Likely To Direct!

Spider-Woman, one of Marvel Comics’ myriad of web-slinging superheroes, is set to join either the Sony Universe of Marvel Characters or the Marvel Cinematic Universe (or both) at some point in the next few years, but first she needs an origin film: and thankfully, Sony has landed Olivia Wilde to do the job. Or at least, so it is being widely reported – technically, Wilde is developing a secret, female-centric Marvel movie for Sony, but the options for what that could be are fairly limited. It’s almost certain that this movie will follow the beginnings of Spider-Woman’s story.

Spider-Woman
comicsbeat.com

The question of which Spider-Woman, and which cinematic universe she’ll feature in, has yet to be answered. Wilde’s pitch for the film is said to have “completely revamped” the title character, which makes sense but also gives us no clear indication of what we might be getting into: will this new version of Spider-Woman still go by the name of Jessica Drew, or will she be someone else entirely? Will she join Tom Holland’s Spider-Man over in the MCU, or will she be wholly separate?

These questions need answers quickly, and I’m sure we’ll have more information soon because everyone who knows their Marvel Comics knows what this could mean for the MCU if (and that’s a big if) this take on Spider-Woman does in fact come under the Disney/Marvel umbrella, and if she is directly inspired by Jessica Drew: the Secret Invasion storylines begin to write themselves. In the comics, Jessica Drew is a major player in the takeover of Earth by hostile Skrull aliens, who have already been introduced in the MCU as mostly benevolent figures. Drew is impersonated by the Skrull queen Veranke, who uses her disguise to infiltrate organizations such as S.H.I.E.L.D. and the New Avengers. While there hasn’t yet been any explicit hint of an upcoming Secret Invasion story in the MCU, the groundwork is being laid, and a series is rumored to be in development that will follow the story’s events: already, Skrulls have been shown impersonating Nick Fury and Maria Hill in Spider-Man: Far From Home, under his orders, and Fury is working with an entire army of Skrulls at an in-orbit space base believed to be the headquarters of his new covert organization, S.W.O.R.D. – an organization where, in the comics, Jessica Drew herself sometimes works.

Spider-Woman
vocal.media

But all that is wild speculation, and for now we only have to wonder how much of Drew’s backstory will be adapted into Olivia Wilde’s origin film for the character. Drew’s powers (superhuman strength, bioelectric energy blasts, etc) derive from radiation, of course, but her story begins with her living in the Balkan nation of Transia as a child before being adopted by HYDRA and given the fitting codename of Arachne. As a HYDRA agent, she traveled the world, killing and causing chaos in a super-cool outfit equipped with wings, until she was able to break free from her brainwashing with the help of Nick Fury – not unlike the MCU’s Black Widow. Since then, she’s proven to be a dependable ally of the Avengers and other forces of good, and has also worked with Madame Web, an unconventional antiheroine who is also getting her own solo movie. Her own villain roster includes Viper (otherwise known as Madame Hydra), who has previously appeared on Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. I wouldn’t be surprised if Wilde picks Viper as the first film’s big bad: in the comics, Viper and Jessica Drew form a complicated relationship with Viper actually helping Drew on several occasions and even pretending to be her mother, and Wilde enjoys telling stories that center female relationships.

Spider-Woman
boundingintocomics.com

Wilde’s own previous directorial credits include the popular breakout hit Booksmart, a witty coming-of-age comedy. She is one of a steadily growing number of women joining the Marvel and Marvel-adjacent universes as directors, and she is definitely well aware of that fact: it was reported that she had a chance to pass on this project several times, but couldn’t resist the opportunity to “launch her own female superhero” and accompany other groundbreaking women like Chloe Zhao, Cate Shortland and Nia DaCosta into the superhero genre. I can’t wait to see what she can do with Spider-Woman’s character, and I’m excited to see how/if it ties into the MCU.

So what are your feelings on a Spider-Woman movie? How should the character’s backstory be adapted? Who should be cast in the lead role? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!