Comics On TV

WandaVision Mystery Deepens in Episode 3, as the Family-Sitcom Aesthetic Advances in Bright '70s Colors

The artificiality of a set-bound story unfolding provides even more clues to the puzzle of Wanda and Vision's distorted reality.

by | January 22, 2021 | Comments

With the advent of color on WandaVision, the series evokes an era of change and prepares for a big change itself — which may or may not be the real issue behind Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision’s (Paul Bettany) current circumstances. But considering what we now know about Westview, can we safely say this is all Wanda’s doing?

Let’s try to decode the puzzle of television history to see what becoming a family sitcom means to WandaVision.


Spoiler Alert: This feature reveals details from WandaVision episode 3 “Now In Color.” Stop here if you have not watched the episode. 


From Bewitched to The Brady Bunch: WandaVision Advances Its Family-Sitcom Aesthetic

Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany in WANDAVISION

(Photo by ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.)

As we mentioned last week, the television series Bewitched began its life in black-and-white. It also started its run by focusing on newlyweds Samantha and Darren. Season 1 stories included Samantha meeting Darren’s parents — it was a whirlwind courtship — and Darren trying to keep Samantha from revealing her witchy powers to his boss or the neighbors. The parallels to last week’s WandaVision are obvious.

Continuing the parallel, to an extent anyway, is the switch to color and Wanda’s pregnancy — both a child and color filming would come to Bewitched by its third year. But it’s clear from episode 3’s Partridge Family–inspired credit sequence and The Brady Bunch–style set alterations that WandaVision is moving away from the Bewitched format into the late 1960s or early 1970s and the large-family sitcoms of that era.

The Brady Bunch, launching in September 1969, told stories about a blended family of six children — three girls from wife Carol’s previous marriage and three boys fathered by widower Mike Brady — coping with their new living arrangement. Though it would last only five seasons, endless re-runs through the ’80s and ’90s (and four attempts to continue the series in new forms) made it iconic and a clear go-to as Wanda anticipates her soon-to-be family.

Although, it could be argued The Brady Bunch‘s most iconic element is its late ’60s decor, given a loving tribute on WandaVision via the multi-colored frosted glass feature above the entrance in this week’s episode. The sudden appearance of brickwork throughout the house, the step down from the foyer to the living space, and certain elements in the kitchen — note the island and oven — also evoke the look of the classic sitcom.


Elizabeth Olsen in WANDAVISION

(Photo by ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.)

But as with the stylistic callbacks to ’50s sitcoms in the first episode, episode 3’s commitment to the Brady aesthetic extends outside the home. Both the backyard and front areas are realized with sets (and an obvious painted flat for Herb’s home), fake grass, and a few other visual cues which both honor the Bradys’ on-set backyard and call attention to the artificiality of the situation.

In the previous episodes, the front of the house was shot on location (or a studio backlot) with natural sunlight. Here, Vision’s talk with Herb (David Payton) and, later, with Agnes (Kathryn Hahn) extend the set-bound feel of the Maximoff-Vision home, which we’ll refer to from here on out by its address number of 2800. For careful watchers, the change of production technique should offer a sense of foreboding well before Vision notices Herb cutting through the cement wall with a edge trimmer.

But to come back to The Brady Bunch for a moment, the set-bound feel was not absolute. Production often went outside to shoot exterior scenes at the kids’ schools (an administration building on the Paramount lot in Los Angeles), neighborhood streets, and family vacations. Which means WandaVision’s choice to be so set-bound this week means something.

It’s just too bad Vision loses his train of thought before he could sense that meaning.


Geraldine’s Otherness Begins to Unnerve Wanda

Teyonah Parris in WANDAVISION

(Photo by Suzanne Tenner. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.)

And while Vision is contained on the sound stage “exteriors,” Wanda is left to deal with early contractions and the unexpected arrival of Geraldine (Teyonah Parris). By the sound of the story she tells Wanda about her day at work, it seems like she’s the star of her own sitcom. As it happens, the first sitcom to feature an African-American woman in a career role (as opposed to a maid) was Julia, which ran more or less concurrently with the early seasons of The Brady Bunch. It starred Diahann Caroll as a widowed single mother working for a doctor at an aerospace company. And though the story Geraldine tells Wanda about getting a job at an ad agency takes us in a different direction, single mothers and aerospace lead us toward Geraldine’s true identity.

We also point out the feeling of her star power and the possible connections to Julia because the emerging sense that she doesn’t belong in Westview has a connotation we don’t think WandaVision intends, but is nonetheless present and an aspect of TV history. For the purposes of this episode, Geraldine is a black woman in 1968 breaking into the advertising world, and both Agnes and Herb find her “strange.” Agnes’s suggestion to Vision that Geraldine is wrong for the town would give offense if not for other non-white faces like Herb and Norm (Asif Ali).

This week’s commercial, with its mixed family and direct reference to Hydra, could be making a point about the values Strucker wanted Wanda and her brother to believe in. Could Hydra have purposely fed her a diet of classic sitcoms to instill their notion of a “proper” society?


Elizabeth Olsen and Teyonah Parris in WANDAVISION

(Photo by Chuck Zlotnick. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.)

In the series text, though, Geraldine’s otherness comes to light as she tries to get Wanda to talk more about her brother Pietro (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). It seems, for the moment anyway, that she’s forgotten about his death. Or, at least, the circumstances of his demise in Avengers: Age of Ultron. But Geraldine’s knowledge of events and her attempts to coax it out reveal one important detail to Wanda: Geraldine’s really not from around here.

Of course, as we’ve all known for quite some time thanks to Marvel’s publicity machine, Geraldine is really Monica Rambeau, the grown-up daughter of Captain Marvel’s Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch), a fighter pilot and single mother. Also, thanks to Wanda’s rejection of her presence in Westview, we also know the town is a physical location somewhere on Earth surrounded by an energy field that resembles the Red-Green-Blue of a cathode-ray tube television. It is also surrounded by some sort of government agency. We’re going to assume it is S.W.O.R.D.


Wanda and Vision’s On-Screen Twins Parallel a Comics Plotline

Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany in WANDAVISION

(Photo by ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.)

The Westview revelation might be the biggest reveal on any other show, but for WandaVision, it is merely a counterpoint to the arrival of Billy and Tommy, Wanda’s miraculous twins.

Back in the comics, the existence of the twins was a point of debate for many years. Originally presented as Wanda and Vision’s children — via magical means — it later turned out to be a grand deception involving various demons and mystical entities. The twins were gone for a time, but currently exist as flesh-and-blood beings and members of the Young Avengers.

It seems clear WandaVision wants to play with this tension because, even at this point, Wanda may be the real power behind everything. This week’s evidence comes in the way she forcibly removes Monica from town and her edit to Vision’s line of thinking when he starts to note all the oddities in Westview. If she is causing all of this, then the point was to create a family with children. Two children were ultimately required because Wanda was herself a twin, and we’re willing to bet she never dealt with the loss of Pietro; in fact, it is possible Wanda entered into her relationship with Vision to avoid her grief.


Kathryn Hahn as Agnes in WANDAVISION

All of that is assuming, of course, that Wanda is causing all of this. There is another suspect, though: Agnes. At this point, all we really have is her status as the nosy neighbor and the way she voiced her suspicions about Geraldine. It is also possible to interpret her interest in Wanda’s life and the way she called her “the star of the show” in episode 2 as indications that she is aware of more than she lets on. Then, of course, there are the internet rumors suggesting she is really Agatha Harkness, the ancient sorceress who tutored Wanda in magic and revealed to her the true nature of Billy and Tommy in the comics.

We’re not entirely convinced of that yet. For one thing, Harkness is typically an ally of the Avengers and the Fantastic Four. Since we’re still leaning toward Wanda being behind all of this, we’re inclined to believe Agnes is just another resident of Westview who has been press-ganged into being part of the TV fantasy. Since Westview is a real place, it seems likely all the people we’ve met up until now are real as well and straining against these sitcom roles and characterizations.

Maybe this is why Mrs. Hart (Debra Jo Rupp) pointedly asked Wanda to “stop it” in episode 1.


The Kitchen Review

Paul Bettany and Elizabeth Olsen in WANDAVISION

(Photo by ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.)

As we noted last week, the evolution of 2800 came with remarkable recreations of the kitchen sets from The Dick Van Dyke Show and Bewitched. But with the arrival of the late-’60s and early-’70s aesthetic, the kitchen set has stopped changing as drastically between episodes. The kitchen’s place in the overall layout of the home and the partition separating it from the dining area remain from the earlier episodes. Instead of replicating the Brady’s iconic kitchen color scheme exactly, it merely evokes the aesthetic with Vision’s comic book colors. Also, those looking closely will see the center island and the double oven are overt quotes of the Brady house.

We think the changes to the kitchen are meaningful. In terms of TV history, mother characters were relegated to the kitchen on shows like Lassie and Dennis the Menace. It is also the place both Darren Stevens on Bewitched and Ricky Ricardo on I Love Lucy would’ve preferred their wives to stay while they went to work. Even on The Brady Bunch, the kitchen was the place Carol was expected to be despite live-in housekeeper Alice.


Elizabeth Olsen in WANDAVISION

(Photo by ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.)

Going into next week, it will be interesting to see how the kitchen evolves again. From trailers, we know it will eventually mimic the Family Ties kitchen, but will a late-’70s sitcom inspire the decor before the ’80s arrive in Westview, or are we already headed to Reagan Era just four episodes in?

New episodes of WandaVision premiere on Fridays on Disney+.


On an Apple device? Follow Rotten Tomatoes on Apple News.

Tag Cloud

Trivia 2020 halloween tv scene in color CW Seed free movies 93rd Oscars Shondaland Best and Worst Drama game show 21st Century Fox cops Thanksgiving basketball movie Sundance Now Rocketman lord of the rings TV Land all-time Christmas Lifetime Christmas movies mockumentary political drama cancelled critic resources scary movies live action zombie scorecard Tomatazos universal monsters new york anime IFC witnail Disney Plus sports wonder woman History Walt Disney Pictures Certified Fresh CBS IFC Films video Television Academy Trophy Talk spanish language crime thriller revenge TBS jamie lee curtis BET Schedule Trailer adaptation 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards Comedy Central Discovery Channel golden globe awards royal family Mindy Kaling Sci-Fi facebook ITV cancelled television PaleyFest streaming gangster Apple TV+ Tokyo Olympics mutant Emmy Nominations Film Chilling Adventures of Sabrina zombies SDCC diversity 2017 Travel Channel blaxploitation BET Awards popular Year in Review rt archives comiccon boxing TCA 2017 Crackle serial killer RT21 Disney+ Disney Plus blockbuster hidden camera Stephen King french child's play AMC pirates of the caribbean spinoff WGN crime drama aapi green book award winner mission: impossible Amazon The CW Mary Poppins Returns dark criterion Nominations finale Turner docuseries psychological thriller Paramount Plus Quiz streaming movies TV One Reality sequels chucky natural history Netflix Christmas movies renewed TV shows New York Comic Con suspense 2019 Mary poppins films Nat Geo National Geographic Star Wars Amazon Prime Syfy obituary black football Musical politics Comedy screenings OWN 71st Emmy Awards USA Emmys theme song Hallmark rt labs First Reviews comic book movies Box Office comic Red Carpet Kids & Family Mary Tyler Moore FX Masterpiece discovery 72 Emmy Awards El Rey directors YouTube Premium BAFTA nature romance The Walking Dead ESPN Logo documentary hist GLAAD ViacomCBS series Film Festival 2018 APB Vudu Fantasy trailers tv talk Amazon Prime Video Crunchyroll zero dark thirty psycho batman Music nfl spy thriller Extras Calendar game of thrones Winter TV MCU robots video on demand mcc travel comedies Election Disney streaming service slashers saw dramedy Wes Anderson superman high school Captain marvel MTV Tarantino Nickelodeon Country TV Marathons Interview DC Comics TCA Winter 2020 USA Network Fall TV book adaptation debate Alien Spike book Marvel Oscars festival golden globes Freeform DirecTV Hallmark Christmas movies TV movies technology Endgame parents Infographic President FX on Hulu GIFs NBC Pirates Disney jurassic park Song of Ice and Fire Avengers dogs comic book movie Netflix die hard worst movies Star Trek Legendary doctor who HBO dceu hispanic heritage month CNN 90s Rom-Com anthology binge target BBC One slasher Image Comics Paramount Hear Us Out legend Pride Month latino NYCC venice aliens YouTube spain archives Disney Channel period drama X-Men VH1 name the review romantic comedy TCA franchise composers social media television FXX blockbusters ABC Family Columbia Pictures Superheroe Animation adventure dragons Summer Academy Awards true crime richard e. Grant Marvel Television Sneak Peek what to watch The Academy ABC Signature Ovation japanese sitcom TNT Women's History Month japan Lifetime sag awards Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt razzies stand-up comedy Super Bowl crossover Epix Lucasfilm Cosplay quibi Superheroes GoT godzilla Western San Diego Comic-Con PlayStation strong female leads 24 frames cartoon Lionsgate supernatural olympics 2016 a nightmare on elm street LGBTQ E3 foreign CMT The Witch versus elevated horror reviews adenture know your critic cars unscripted international rom-coms American Society of Cinematographers Watching Series remakes NBA satire telelvision disaster Creative Arts Emmys reboot joker Ellie Kemper MSNBC cancelled TV series Apple Amazon Studios DC Universe SXSW Food Network Comics on TV news LGBT indiana jones ID First Look TCM Elton John YouTube Red Tubi FOX toronto werewolf The Purge marvel cinematic universe Starz war classics TLC HBO Go vampires Cartoon Network animated movies spanish kids screen actors guild Hulu sequel Comic-Con@Home 2021 VOD children's TV BBC America Sony Pictures Teen The Walt Disney Company canceled TV shows new zealand based on movie Rock Warner Bros. TCA Awards worst Character Guide independent Opinion Biopics feel good cinemax E! SundanceTV christmas movies women 4/20 science fiction casting critics Musicals Action Horror documentaries PBS justice league A24 Ghostbusters stoner CBS All Access Holidays comics Pixar Winners 20th Century Fox Acorn TV Showtime Baby Yoda rt labs critics edition TIFF 007 king kong Britbox emmy awards biography Tumblr Bravo young adult dexter comic books fast and furious asian-american posters toy story Brie Larson deadpool ghosts ratings See It Skip It Black History Month canceled thriller james bond Arrowverse Esquire singing competition Binge Guide hollywood Awards 45 boxoffice Sundance TV Anna Paquin Classic Film king arthur Martial Arts monster movies Chernobyl action-comedy indie Valentine's Day 2021 nbcuniversal space Dark Horse Comics italian Spectrum Originals Pop TV Fox News 73rd Emmy Awards VICE Broadway Marvel Studios superhero Family Countdown DC streaming service 2015 Exclusive Video OneApp Writers Guild of America Reality Competition 1990s breaking bad Photos Heroines Cannes festivals Turner Classic Movies Pet Sematary 99% WarnerMedia cults HBO Max south america Shudder new star wars movies docudrama Mystery cats best DGA Comic Book fresh marvel comics heist movie Adult Swim Set visit australia Television Critics Association BBC Sundance kong Spring TV historical drama cooking Pacific Islander talk show Grammys Universal rotten laika hispanic rotten movies we love Pop Polls and Games Video Games TruTV medical drama RT History harry potter police drama Podcast Apple TV Plus cancelled TV shows transformers Paramount Network crime Funimation Premiere Dates spider-man Awards Tour biopic prank concert TV renewals ABC halloween Mudbound YA Black Mirror teaser Toys A&E Holiday Fox Searchlight Rocky twilight dc stop motion miniseries Peacock kaiju The Arrangement