REVIEW: WandaVision – Episode 3, “Now in Color”
VERIFICATION: WandaVision – Episode 3, now in color
Last week I was hoping that Marvel’s first Disney+ series wouldn’t fall into a rut and become boring, but that danger has already been averted. Episode 3 of WandaVision – which is now in color since they finally give the names of their episodes – is a marked improvement over episode 2. It regains the momentum that had lost some steam in the previous installment, striking the right balance between airing sitcoms from past decades and continuing the overall narrative.
This time the 70s are the target of satire and Now in Colour provokes bursts of laughter from the audience, even though the opening credits are decadent. They’re funny in their own way, with this absurd theme song seeming to come from a forgotten family sitcom you only find on TBS, but they also define the aesthetic of this episode; Wanda is dressed like a flowery child, while Vision wears Mike Brady’s corduroy sweaters and pants. The black characters all have afros, mustaches are thick, Wanda and Vision’s house is almost like Brady’s, and it’s always nice and bright outside. As dark as cinema was at the time, television was an escape from the pessimism and distrust that pervaded American society (aside from the occasional All in the Family series), and WandaVision knows this very well: the bright, happy face of Now in Color hides a disturbing truth at the heart of Wanda and Vision’s world, and this time there’s even more evidence that something is very wrong in the land of television.
The most obvious clue is that Wanda is still pregnant in the movie Now in Color, as she was at the end of the second episode. Her pregnancy is also progressing at an alarming rate – or would if the couple weren’t in sitcom mode – and although her doctor says she has a few months to live, Vision calculates her due date to be just over 24 hours away. Wanda’s work also causes many magical problems, such as frying the electricity throughout the neighborhood. This time, Sight feels that there is more to it than meets the eye, but as Wanda had realized, the scene suddenly turns and Sight is as blind as a bat again. But it’s no longer just Wanda and Vision; the supporting characters begin to behave strangely, like Geraldine Teyon Parris, who knows exactly how Quixilver died, or the doctor, who talks eerily about the impossibility of escaping from their town, or Katherine Hahn and David Payton (whose neighbors are perfect last names: Agnes and Herb), who suggest that something is wrong with Geraldine.
Geraldine is also wearing a necklace with a sword in it. I missed references to SWORD, Marvel’s alien defense agency, in the last two films, but it’s at the forefront, so I think we can assume they’re behind it. What alien explorers expect from the two earthly heroes is a mystery. Perhaps they are interested in their experiences with Thanos and his alien armies. But then why study them in sitcoms? Or maybe they’re different in the MCU. Having a government agency like SWORD as the villain is a perfect revelation for the 70s. That’s what’s getting smart in Color right now: While everyone is happy in their imaginary sitcom world, devious government snakes control the situation, do whatever they want, and answer to no one. In the final moments, even black helicopters symbolize conspiracies. It’s sophisticated and subtle, and not only summarizes a period of American history, but it fits the story and its unfolding well.
From a lighter perspective, the comedy portion of Now in Color works better than last time. Perhaps the change of era was the most important; society – at least as represented in the comedy series – was different, and with it a new style of humor, new kinds of plots, and even a new way of filming. For example, in the first scene where the doctor goes to examine Wanda’s pregnancy, one of the shots is at an awkward angle where the doctor is in focus while Wanda and Sight are pushed aside as they talk; they should be in the center of the action, but the camera treats them as an afterthought. It’s a bad shot, but it happened at the time, perhaps to make the most of the guest stars. The big gags work better than this long-running magic show from Episode Two; the biggest one is when Wanda approaches her delivery and her magic goes awry, which she must keep secret from Geraldine’s visit. This one is more successful because it integrates other forms of humor around gags, such as Géraldine telling a funny story from her office. There are also a lot of bad puns and histrionic overreactions, which were also common at the time. This episode is much more The Brady Bunch than All in the Family (can you imagine them trying to do All in the Family today, even as a parody?), but these kinds of jokes were also used a lot in this series.
Acting remains strong in Now in Color. While Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany are as good as they come, Teyonah Parris is the star of the film. This Geraldine is very different from her version of episode two, and Parris is just as believable this time around. She plays with the serpentine figures that are inevitably suppressed at the time, but she seems to be sincere and pleasant at the same time. And when she ends up in the real world, she no longer has wrinkles, but her behavior has changed, again true. Katherine Hahn and David Peyton don’t do much, and Emma Caulfield only appears in one line, but I guess even that has a purpose; SWORD, or whoever runs the show, uses different actors as it sees fit, so that the best friends’ supporting roles become background noise one week and background noise the next.
Now in Color is the best episode of WandaVision, harmoniously blending a sitcom parody and a developing thriller. The humor is funny, the mystery irresistible, and the performances alternate as successfully as the tone. I think the show has already started.
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