“Who’s doing this to you Wanda?” a voice crackles over the vintage 1950’s radio as Wanda gapes at it, shocked to hear someone speaking to her through it, and into her sitcom reality before it inexplicably smokes and blows up. Or more specifically, Wanda blows it up. Because in a twist not even the great detective Jimmy Woo, or S.W.O.R.D. saw coming: Wanda is doing this to Wanda.
Now, you may ask: “Why doesn’t S.W.O.R.D. or Woo know it’s her doing it all then?” A possible explanation is that they believe her to be one of the good ones again after that big half the universe at stake battle with Thanos, and they just naturally assume that this strange phenomena is another villain trying to hurt her. There is also the very strong possibility that they were not yet aware of the extent and true nature of Wanda’s powers, or that she was even remotely capable of changing the entire visual aesthetic of a suburban town, building that big red hex field around it, and taking control of all its citizens. While Wanda is super powerful, this is a significantly more complex and astonishing power than simply moving objects and blasting enemies. So from their point of view, it’s the most likely scenario that someone else is doing this to Wanda and the town. So they seek her out in an effort to figure out how to help.
Your next question might be: “But what about Agnes/Agatha?! What about Mephisto?! What about *insert villain here*?! One of them must be up to something!” Bear in mind, I’m not saying that at some point someone or something wicked won’t (this way) come into the picture to take advantage of Wanda and this whole situation. Because I definitely have strong suspicions that will happen. What I am saying is that for now, as far as episode one and two of WandaVision goes, I believe Wanda is in charge of and responsible for every stitch of this. For the time being anyway, Wanda is doing this to Wanda.
Let’s start with that ill-fated radio I mentioned earlier. Everything was sunshine and monochrome daisies, music was playing, she was getting some pointers laced with animosity from Dottie, (for the moment, posing as Westview’s resident Mean Girl), when the darn thing started buzzing and bursting Wanda’s alternate reality bubble by asking her what in the Sam Hill is going on?! So Wanda blew it up! It was messing with her vibe, it was breaking her fourth wall. Most importantly, it was taking her out of the fantasy that her beloved dreambot Vision is still alive and they are married and living happily ever after in TV land. Simply put, that gosh darn radio had it coming.
Further evidence that Wanda is in charge comes up in the first episode of WandaVision as well. Wanda is clearly trying to get her and Vision’s story straight pretty early on with Agnes, as she tries to think of a good reason the heart was marked on the calendar, among other details of their lives in this sitcom. Agnes runs through the possibilities as if Wanda is trying to think of it herself on the fly. At first, she’s simply playing out the fantasy and working on this week’s hilarity-filled storyline. A similar guessing game goes on between Vision and his co-worker about their job. It’s not long before, in typical “uh-oh these crazy mixed-up kids” sitcom fashion, Vision comes to a very different conclusion about the heart on their kitchen calendar than Wanda does. His conclusion being that it’s meant to remind them about a special dinner to impress his very demanding boss Mr. Hart and his wife, while Wanda deduces that it must be their anniversary.
The interesting question here to me, is whether or not Wanda is “writing” this part of Vision alone within her fantasy, perhaps whilst sitting on the couch staring at the boob tube, trying to think of the types of stories she was used to seeing in these classic shows. But is she working out everything in her head almost like a fan fiction writer might about their favorite shows and characters, or has she has actually given Vision enough life and free will within the fantasy to act for himself some of the time? And what about his body? Has she reanimated him somehow or is he completely an imaginary figure within this world? What about the other characters? Real and controlled or completely imaginary?
Certain sneak peeks in the trailers and other clues within both episodes seem to indicate that the cast of characters within Westview, are real people but controlled, with some degree of consciousness about their plight, and that they are being largely controlled by Wanda for the purposes of her fantasy. Yes, I would argue, even Dottie and Agnes are being controlled by Wanda for the sake of her story, at least at this point in the series. For instance, you will notice that just prior to the radio blowing up, Dottie asks Wanda, in a much more frightened and confused tone than the confident and kind of bitchy one she had before, “Who is that? Who are you?” It’s as if Dottie momentarily breaks out of the control Wanda had, due to the radio interruption, and reverted to her true self. There are also moments within the trailer where a woman putting up clothing on a line is crying, as if she’s trapped in the moment, and another where Agnes is asking, with a bit more fragility in her voice, “Are you here to help us?” All are indicators the characters are being forced to do things against their wills.
Only time will tell the degree to which Vision has life and power over his own actions within this fantasy. I will say though, that Vision’s free will seems limited within the context of this first episode at least. And if Vision has not actually been given at least a degree of life and free-thinking, through Wanda’s imagination and machinations, it seems from previews of future episodes that he does gain more free will later on as he realizes something strange is going on and goes to investigate.
One reason I question the degree of Vision’s free will early on lies within the first episode, during dinner with the Harts. A few months ago, Edward (@superherotheor1) and I had a conversation in prep for one of his articles about the Harts’ dinner date with Vision and Wanda. In our discussion, I brought up the idea that Wanda is the author of the story of this 1950’s show. Anyone who has ever written fictional stories themselves knows, it doesn’t just come spilling out onto the page, you have to plan it, and sort out details and build worlds. Our lovely Ms. Maximoff has a distinct advantage over pretty much all writers of this world, in that she can change her own reality around her, rather than having to just picture it in her head. Wanda’s world she’s building is based on sitcoms and her love of Vision, but the devil is in the details. Coming up with just the right details, that make sense for a story, can be frustrating at times, and cause you to stop and start and stop again with a story. So when the Harts start to ask too many questions, this flusters Wanda quite a bit and starts to break her out of her fantasy. She takes out her frustrations almost on herself, at first, through Arthur Hart. Because she has control over both the citizens and the fantasy within the world, Arthur’s anger, pounding the table, and demanding answers of her is more like an extension of her own frustration with not knowing all the right answers to best continue the fantasy. But Wanda does not want to be taken out of this world of make-believe by the frustration of all these unanswered questions, so she changes the subject by causing him to choke on his dinner.
Wanda goes a little Darth Vader on Mr. Hart in this story and for a moment changes the storyline to get out of answering questions she hasn’t fully worked out. The reason it’s so very clear to me that it is her doing it, is the faces of the other two actors in the scene. This scene is also the main reason I question the degree of Vision’s free will within the first episode. As Mr. Hart is on the floor choking and clearly in distress, Vision looks at her obediently, and yet, concerned. If he were fully in control, the Vision we all know and love would most certainly immediately save the man. But it’s all up to the little Mrs. here. So he sits and watches her, and waits, as he pleads to her with his eyes. On the other side of the table, Mrs. Hart repeats the words “stop it, stop it, stop it.” At first, she says it as if it’s a joke being played by her cantankerous husband, but then her attention shifts to Wanda. Debra Jo Rupp does something special here, a layering of emotion that creeps across her face and seeps into her voice. I take note of this bit of acting because I can really see there how her character is being forced to play a part, to paste on a smile and get behind the whole charade. As the scene turns more ominous and possibly deadly, there is a look of terror growing in her eyes and her voice combined with the forced facade of continuing to act as Wanda wants her. Then you see that Mrs. Hart has turned from saying “stop it” to her husband as if he’s joking to begging Wanda specifically to stop it, stop it before her husband chokes to death. It certainly gets real there for a moment. Thankfully Wanda comes back from the “dark side” and she allows Vision to save Arthur. Inexplicably, Mr. Hart gets up, Mrs. Hart too, and heads out as if nothing terrible had very nearly happened. Arthur even suggests they talk about a promotion for Vision which causes the studio audience to cheer. While this successfully changes the subject and the tone of the episode back to the lighter-hearted tone it had begun with, there remains something more ominous lurking in the underbelly throughout the end of the second episode, as we now have to wonder how far Wanda will go to make her Wanda and Vision wedded bliss fantasy, her reality.