Plot summary: On to the 1960s, as Wanda and Vision prepare for a talent show, desperate to blend in despite mounting evidence that something strange is afoot.
Episode Title: ‘Don’t Touch That Dial’
Air Date: January 15th, 2021
Directed: Matt Shakman (2)
Written: Gretchen Enders (1)
The animated opening titles, patterned after Bewitched, contain some comic book Easter Eggs including six twinkling stars to represent the Infinity Stones and the helmet of Grim Reaper, a pretty big character tied into Vision’s history.
While the house is dressed to resemble the one from Bewitched, it was actually the one from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, and is next to the Murtaugh house from Lethal Weapon.
Wanda and Vision’s stage names ‘Illusion’ and ‘Glamor’ were used by the couple’s neighbours, a magician and his assistant, in the comic ‘The Vision and the Scarlet Witch’.
Wanda and Vision awake – in separate beds of course – to strange noises in the middle of the night. In fright, Wanda moves their beds together with her powers, and then after they’ve shrugged off the noises, she changes them to a single bed and they get it on.
After the opening credits, the couple awkwardly rehearse their magic act for an upcoming talent show, in which Vision as ‘Illusion’ will make his glamorous assistant… ‘Glamor’… disappear. The fun and games stop for a moment as Wanda sincerely wishes for them to fit in.
Wanda hears another suspicious sound outside and finds a little toy helicopter… in full colour! She seems disturbed by it, but Agnes interrupts to escort her to a gathering of the local housewives, hosted by Dottie, the neighbourhood busybody.
Wanda mimics Dottie’s behaviour as best she can but makes a bit of a fool of herself. She finds a sympathiser in fellow newcomer Geraldine, but continues to rub Dottie the wrong way. Suddenly a voice on the radio begins talking to Wanda, but Dottie cuts her hand on a broken glass, distracting them as her blood is in colour.
Meanwhile, Vision attends a neighbourhood watch meeting and while at first he finds their efforts frustratingly lacking, he quickly shifts into banter mode with the lads.
After making a minor scene by saying he doesn’t eat food, he gladly takes a piece of gum… which he accidentally swallows, literally gumming up his gears.
At the talent show, Vision arrives functionally drunk and does his best to completely ruin the act and expose their secret superpowers. Wanda covers, making it all look like shoddy smoke and mirrors, delighting the audience.
They get away with it and Wanda is able to extract the gum from Vision’s system afterwards, leaving him cogent enough to gracefully accept an award from Dottie. Though Geraldine wonders how they made her teleport…
The happy couple celebrate back home, with Wanda suddenly becoming heavily pregnant! No time to dwell on that though, as there’s another strange noise outside. They investigate, witnessing a strange person in a beekeeper outfit emerge from a manhole cover…
Wanda says “no” and time rewinds like a cassette tape to the moment of them celebrating her pregnancy. They kiss, and suddenly Vision’s face is in colour, followed by the entire house transforming to match.
Commercial of the Week
Following the excellent toaster ad which nodded to Stark Industries, this time the same actors shill a Strücker watch, complete with a Hydra logo on the face. You may remember Baron Strücker as the guy from Age of Ultron who tells his underlings they’ll never surrender, only to immediately quietly state his intention to do just that.
More importantly, he was the one who led the experiments on the Maximoff twins, making him another crucial figure in Wanda’s past. The line “He’ll make time for you” was a cute little touch.
I can distinctly remember speculating if episode 1 was a pilot and if the house in this week’s episode was the regular set. A sweet, summer child. Instead it’s the start of the clever practice of the world literally changing with the times, including Wanda and Vision being ‘allowed’ to be seen sharing a bed and of course the injection of colour. But more than that, sitcoms of the era went from strictly indoor sets to dabbling with larger outdoors ones (contributing to WandaVision allegedly becoming the most expensive TV production in history!)
A lot of the episode 1 sceptics bought in after this one, as it made no bones about there being something strange going on. From the little red helicopter, to the awkward standoff with Dottie and the voice over the radio, and of course the buzz-worthy beekeeper. Ahem… I particularly liked the subtle touch of children constantly being talked about but never seen throughout the series, which began here.
They also repeat a couple of little tricks employed during the climactic dinner scene last time: deviating from the conventional camera set-up slavishly used throughout, and briefly taking away the sitcom music and laugh track, whose presence is more obvious in their absence. Both make things a little unnerving, and by doing it a few times, I think it made the point clearer. Plus they wisely ended the episode with everything turning from black and white to colour, making it clear those that don’t care for the throwback aesthetic won’t be stuck with it forever.
While I found Bettany a little much in the talent show (more below), it was pretty charming seeing Wanda change reality to explain Vision’s superpowers as mundane sleight of hand trickery. Levitation? Nope, a rope and pulley system (conjured from thin air). Lifting a piano with one hand? No, no, sir, that’s (now) a cardboard cut-out. And when all else fails, Wanda just reveals a bunch of mirrors, with poor bullied Beverly being the only one to ask “is that how mirrors work?” Great stuff.
All in all, while I have come to think more positively about the debut episode (possibly because I now know where it all goes so there’s no expectations), this was undoubtedly a stronger effort, more palatable to mainstream audiences. We have our main gimmick, but we also now have clear signs at the long game, inviting week after week of speculation as to what is Really Going On.
Most Marvellous Player
Our two leads prove adept at physical comedy this week, but I lean more towards Elizabeth Olsen, who reigns it in a bit more than Paul Bettany. I understand he’s being over the top on purpose, spending about a third of the time acting drunk, but it didn’t really work for me, personally. Just a little too cringe, IMO.
By contrast, Olsen lays the wacky facial expressions on thick during their rehearsals, and adopts some excellent sitcom wife posture, her wrists hanging limp. Her attempts to fit in by copying Dottie and the other housewives but not quite getting it right are the perfect kind of awkward, and her attempts to power through the magic act despite Vision nearly blowing it are perfect.
Again, no clear villain at this stage. Wink wink. Honestly, that was the most refreshing break from the formula for a while, doing away with the hero vs villain superhero showdown in favour of something completely different. That won’t last of course, but for now we’re entering the height of it working.
The closest we get are Emma Caulfield Ford as Dottie the horrible housewife, bullying everyone around her, and the strange beekeeper man, who was deliciously creepy, helping get audiences on the hook by demanding they ask what the hell is going on here.
Check out The Matt Signal, in which I recap episodes of Batman the Animated Series every weekend. While the original run of the series is over we still have The Lost Episode to review, and then it’s time to dig into some NUMBERS!
The Superhero Pantheon also reviewed the whole series, obviously.