Plot summary: The events of the first three episodes are observed from the perspective of S.W.O.R.D.’s Monica Rambeau, FBI Agent Jimmy Woo and Dr. Darcy Lewis.
Episode Title: ‘We Interrupt This Program’
Air Date: January 29th, 2021
Directed: Matt Shakman (4)
Written: Bobak Esfarjani (1) & Megan McDonnell (2)
This episode places the events of the series chronologically between Endgame and Spider-Man: Far From Home for all of you sociopaths who like to watch in timeline order.
Lead writer Jac Schaeffer suggested presenting this episode in the manner of a TV serial like CSI to counter-balance the sitcom setting within Westview. Good call to break format entirely IMO.
Pieces of dialogue from Captain Marvel play when Monica is returning from The Blip, which makes sense given her past.
Speaking of returning from The Blip, the visual effect is similar to one seen in ‘House of M’, a comic in which Wanda radically altered reality, one of the biggest inspirations for the show.
Monica Rambeau (last seen as a child in Captain Marvel) re-forms from cosmic dust in a hospital, one of the billions restored to life by Hulk in Avengers: Endgame. She learns that her mother died during the five years after The Blip.
Three weeks later she heads to her former place of employment, S.W.O.R.D., founded by her mother. Tyler Hayward, the acting Director informs her she’ll strictly be on ground missions, starting with an FBI missing persons case in Westview, New Jersey, requiring use of one of their drones.
Monica meets FBI agent Jimmy Woo on the edge of Westview, who informs her that the missing person was in witness protection, but mysteriously nobody had ever heard of them. Stranger still, local police claim Westview, New Jersey does not exist despite standing next to a sign for it.
Even stranger than that, they are physically unable to enter due to an unseen force. Monica is sceptical so sends a little drone which vanishes from sight. She touches the outer barrier and gets sucked in…
The next day a full S.W.O.R.D. base is set up on the perimeter, with a team of experts from different fields brought in, including Dr. Darcy Lewis, who detects television broadcast signals in amongst the radiation.
Hooking up vintage TVs, she’s able to watch Wanda’s sitcom from episode one, making Darcy’s the hands seen at the end of said episode. All of this obviously troubles S.W.O.R.D. as Vision died five years ago.
Jimmy leads an investigation to identify the various ‘cast members’ using facial recognition software. Things take a turn when they spot Monica in the show, with Jimmy pondering if she is playing along with the show and what would happen if she failed to comply.
Endeavouring to find out, Darcy rigs up a way to send a communication in, with Jimmy becoming the voice on the radio from episode two. From their perspective the moment where Dottie cuts her hand the blood is red is cut out, skipping ahead to when things returned to ‘normal’.
The hazmat suit-clad Agent Franklin is sent into the town via the sewers, transforming into the Beekeeper. They pull his safety line back, which has transformed into a skipping rope. No clue what happened to Franklin, though!
Darcy and Jimmy witness the conclusion of episode three, with whatever Wanda did to ‘Geraldine’ being skipped exactly like Dottie’s hand. Alarms sound and they all head off to find Monica like the end of last week’s episode.
We get to see it though, with Wanda hadoukening her out of town and then repairing the damage to cover her tracks. She briefly sees a flash of Vision in the moment before his death, frightening her.
Vision says they can leave, but Wanda assures him this is their home and she has “everything under control.” Vision clearly still feels uneasy, but puts on a fake smile to watch TV with her as ‘Voodoo Child’ plays through the credits.
Commercial of the Week
No commercial this episode as the entire thing takes place outside of Westview. Boo!
Hitting pause after three episodes to re-contextualise the narrative through the eyes of those outside of Westview was an incredibly smart decision, and in the process this absolute wonder team of Monica Rambeau, Jimmy Woo and Darcy Lewis was born. It’s a trio that has no business working as well as it does, but talent is talent. Naturally the characters gravitate together because they’re the only nice, rational people in the room, with little touches like Jimmy being the only person to address Darcy by her title.
I like that the ‘bubble’ around Westview is a hexagon, evoking both the hexagonal arrangement of the Infinity Stones shown in episode 2, and of course the word ‘hex’ so frequently used to describe Wanda’s powers. Likewise, the demonstration of how things change when entering the town is great, with Agent Franklin crossing the threshold to become the Beekeeper, his line changing to a skipping rope, and the black and white effect gradually fading in when he arrives. Even the drone Monica sent in turned into a different model of tiny helicopter to fit the aesthetic of the era it arrived in.
Jac Schaeffer acknowledged this episode is an enormous info dump, but I think it’s the good kind, because some people are impatient and want some degree of answers as to what’s going on. This episode does that, while still leaving plenty of things in the dark. We still don’t know when this started, who is truly responsible, and for the love of god what happens between the episodes we have seen? Are there more set in those eras? Is the same episode on repeat until the new one is ready? I have to know!
It was also cute to see the unknown observer, the drone, the Beekeeper and the voice on the radio all get attributed to moments in this episode.
Most Marvellous Player
Jimmy Woo went down well with audiences in Ant Man & the Wasp, but perhaps it’s the extra freedom of the television format that let Randall Park really sing here by contrast. The moment this episode finished people were asking for him to become the new Agent Coulson for the Disney+ shows, which unfortunately did not come to pass with The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. He’s just such a delightful dork, constantly getting himself into little conversational misunderstandings but simply far too earnest to ever truly be embarrassed. A himbo, for sure.
Teyonah Parris is still great, exhibiting Monica’s military-adjacent mode, but crucially after we’ve seen her world collapse after she returns from The Blip and has lost her mother. Spider-Man: Far From Home made these moments entirely comedic, so Parris is our first actor to play the drama of that landmark and crushes it.
Kat Dennings is as charming as ever, exhibiting exactly why she should have had more screen time in previous movies. It’s a lot of telling rude men they’re idiots and becoming overly invested in the faux-sitcom, both of which are great.
Much like last time, we have an equal balance of Wanda as the Big Bad, and S.W.O.R.D. as an invading force, though this episode does make it clear the latter are a reactionary force, making it far more likely our hero is in fact our villain. If the confrontation with ‘Geraldine’ framed Wanda as a villain last time, the part we didn’t see does it all the more so, with her line to Vision about control all but confirming she is consciously controlling the entire town and its citizens. Given how overwhelmingly likeable Elizabeth Olsen has made her so far, it’s a stark contrast for her to play in a more nefarious lane.
Tyler Hayward is an enormous prick, the idiotic character in every action movie you want to throttle for seemingly deliberately making the absolute worst decisions imaginable and having the nerve to give everyone else attitude for objecting. And naturally he starts out nice enough, but with the worrying behaviours starting to creep in over time, including his rude way of speaking to Jimmy and Darcy.
Check out The Matt Signal, in which I recap episodes of Batman the Animated Series every Saturday and Sunday. This weekend it’s the underrated movie Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero and the mostly unknown Batman & Robin Adventures tie-in comic.
The Superhero Pantheon also reviewed the whole series, obviously.