WandaVision Episode 4: “We Interrupt This Program”
Director: Matt Shakman
Starring: Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, Kathryn Hahn, Teyonah Parris, Randall Park, Kat Dennings, Josh Stamberg, Alan Heckner, Selene Anduze, Lana Young
Runtime: 35 minutes
A lot of people, myself included, have been concerned that whenever WandaVision moved its focus outside of Wanda’s sitcom dream world that the show would lose the uniqueness that makes it so refreshing and fun to watch as both a superhero story and great television. “We Interrupt This Program” doesn’t totally assuage those concerns. It’s the least emotionally affecting episode so far, probably because of the limited screen time given to both Wanda and Vision themselves. But thanks to quick-witted dialogue delivered by talented actors and the intrigue that comes from exploring both the Westview situation and the post-Endgame Marvel Cinematic Universe through different perspectives, it’s still a very engaging installment bolstered by another strong ending.
The episode begins a few weeks before the rest of the events of the show, with “Geraldine” fading back into existence in a hospital after Bruce Banner’s snap with the Infinity Gauntlet brought back the half of the universe Thanos first snapped away. The episode reveals that Geraldine is actually Monica Rambeau, the now adult daughter of Carol Danvers’ best friend Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch), who appeared as a young girl played by Akira and Azari Akbar in Captain Marvel. When Thanos’ snap hit, she had been visiting her mother, who had cancer in the hospital, but as a shocked nurse explains to her, she passed away during the five years Monica and the other Snapped were gone. The visual storytelling on WandaVision hasn’t been as impressive since the premiere but director Matt Shakman’s roving camera does a good job at capturing the chaos and distress that fills the hospital as people reappear left and right. A couple weeks later, Monica returns to work at S.W.O.R.D. headquarters. In the comics S.W.O.R.D., or the Sentient Weapon Observation and Response Division, is a section of S.H.I.E.L.D. responsible for monitoring outer space and alien threats. Dialogue between Monica and Director Tyler Hayward (Josh Stamberg) hints that this used to be the main purpose of the MCU version but that things have shifted in the wake of events like those in the Avengers films, and efforts at space exploration are being limited. Sword was founded by Maria and Tyler is aware that Monica almost certainly would have been named her successor if she hadn’t disappeared because of the Snap. Although he thinks she could use more time to adjust and mourn, when Monica insists she’s ready to work he sends her to assist the FBI in investigating a strange missing persons case in New Jersey.
Monica arrives at the outskirts of the town of Westview and is greeted by FBI agent Jimmy Woo (Randall Park), who appeared in Ant-Man and the Wasp. They briefly confer with two cops from the nearby town of Eastview but it becomes clear they’re under some kind of spell as well. The cops are completely unaware that Westview exists and are able to drive into the town, through the mysterious energy barrier that surrounds it. Monica flies a Sword drone, which will wind up being the toy helicopter Wanda finds in the second episode, in but quickly loses contact with it once it passes through the barrier. Monica then sticks her hand through and quickly gets stuck in, leading to her time as Geraldine.
Woo next teams with Darcy Lewis, with Kat Dennings reprising her role from the first two Thor movies. Darcy is now a doctor of astrophysics and arrives with a truckload of scientists Sword has called in to consult. Darcy detects large amounts of cosmic radiation emanating from the town. She also finds that a signal is being broadcast on an old television frequency, and once they get a TV hooked up, the investigators are able to watch the sitcom play out. Everyone starts analyzing the show, with most of the “cast” identified as the missing persons from Westview. An agent in hazmat gear is sent in through the sewers, but once he passes through the barrier he’s transformed into the beekeeper from Episode 2. The other agents continue watching, until Monica’s final talk with Wanda from last week. Once Monica mentions Ultron, the broadcast skips ahead, confusing the agents but we the viewers get to see their full confrontation play out, without cutting to Vision’s talk with Agnes and Herb. Wanda gets increasingly angry at Monica, calling her an outsider and saying that she is trespassing, before blasting her out of the house and Westview. As Vision is about to come back inside, Wanda uses her powers to reverse all the damage she caused. This is the first time Wanda’s powers are depicted as they usually are, with the red energy and strange hand motions. When Vision comes in, Wanda first sees him as he really should be, grey, with a hole in his head where Thanos ripped out the Mind Stone. This shakes her but she quickly regains her composure and when Vision expresses his concerns and suggests that they could leave Westview she states that it is their home and assures him that she has “everything under control” before asking what he would like to watch on TV that evening. Woo and the Sword agents are shown rushing to Monica, who gasps that “It’s all Wanda.”
With minimal sitcom scenes this is easily the least stylistically interesting episode so far. Still, the shifts in aspect ratio are an effective way to transition from the real world to the one of Westview, as are the different color and lighting scenes. Most of the Sword scenes are at night and are full of shades of blue, while Westview is shown during the day, with warm colors. And while it’s not as interesting from a filmmaking standpoint, it is nice to finally see the outside perspective brought into the show, even if Sword’s investigation doesn’t actually lead to the viewer getting much new information, and the “new” cast members generally work well. We’ve yet to see much of Monica’s personality other than that she’s tough and competent, but Parris conveys a good air of authority and shifting from the Geraldine persona to Monica’s real one shows her range. But it’s Park and Dennings that steal the episode. Both actors have significant comedic experience and they put it to good use, making the investigation into a breezy, self-aware treat. Although we don’t learn much from their work, it’s nice to have people in the show who are as confused as we are and are making similar observations. Woo’s incredulous reaction to the idea of a sitcom starring two Avengers is the show’s most meta line yet and very amusing.
Wanda’s appearance in the ending is the dark heart of the episode and Olsen continues to be simultaneously heartbreaking and coldly frightening. Her final assurance to Vision is effectively chilling but it does raise a concern that’s been in the back of my and others’ minds. As of right now the idea that Wanda is the cause of the problem is a plus, a key part of keeping the show’s conflict rooted in her journey, but I don’t actually want her to end up being portrayed as a villain again, especially since she’s one of the MCU’s longest-standing female heroes. However, given that the point of her journey seems to be her accepting and moving on from her various losses, I assume she will prove herself as a hero again either at the end of the show or in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. And ultimately, I have faith in Olsen, Kevin Feige, and company to make whatever story they’re telling work. Overall, “We Interrupt This Broadcast” isn’t as stunning as past episodes but WandaVision is still a thrilling, fascinating show.
- The CGI showing Monica being un-Snapped was excellent. Also, as it’s happening there is soft audio of important scenes from her past, including Carol Danvers calling her by her nickname, “Lieutenant Trouble”.
- Speaking of the Snaps, people referring to the five year disappearance of those who were Snapped as the Blip feels wrong. It was a fine term in Spider-Man: Far From Home, which mostly addressed the plot point comedically, but now that the franchise is seriously exploring the idea it sounds almost disrespectful to the horror all those people and their loved ones experienced.
- Although she worked for Jane Foster, who was an astronomer, Darcy was a political science student in the Thor movies. Her experiences in them were reason enough to switch her focus, but it’s something worth mentioning at some point.
- It’s not a fault of Stamberg’s but Hayward is a really dull character, and seems almost certainly destined to be killed or otherwise written off when the franchise is ready to introduce a higher-profile Sword head like Abigail Brand.
- Woo doing the magic trick that Scott Lang amazed him with was a great way to reintroduce him.
WandaVision Episode 4
Moving outside of Westview results in a less stylish WandaVision episode but MCU connections and Elizabeth Olsen elevate it.