DIRECTOR: Matt Shakman

CAST: Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, Teyonah Parris, Randall Park, Kat Dennings, Josh Stamberg

RUNNING TIME: 35 mins

PREVIOUSLY, ON WANDAVISION (MILD SPOILERS): Wanda Maximoff (Olsen) and Vision (Bettany), living in their idyllic sitcom home in Westview, have just given birth to twin boys Billy and Tommy, following an abnormally fast pregnancy. After their friendly neighbour Geraldine (Parris) makes an out-of-character observation, and noticing a sword-shaped pendant around her neck, Wanda expels her from what appears to be a world encapsulated behind an invisible forcefield.

IN THIS EPISODE: In the real world, “Geraldine” – really S.W.O.R.D agent Monica Rambeau – investigates the strange circumstances that have encapsulated the small town of Westview…

NOW FOR THE REVIEW…

After three episodes of replicated sitcom bliss, the rug has now been fully pulled from underneath the feet of WandaVision, and brought things back to reality (in more ways than one).

The fourth episode of Marvel Studio’s first major miniseries – subtitled We Interrupt This Program – refreshingly takes a break from the established format – one homage to a bygone sitcom era per episode – to show us more of what’s been going on behind the scenes this whole time, and it offers quite a handful of answers to questions first raised over the last few episodes, as well as some intriguing new introductions to organisations, past characters, and even entire experiences related to events that transpired within the Marvel Cinematic Universe itself.

The episode starts off strong, as it shows us for the very first time the full perspective of someone who just been brought back from “the Blip” – the in-universe name for Thanos’ population-eradicating snap – and their ensuing confusion. That person is Monica Rambeau, the young daughter of pilot Maria Rambeau from Captain Marvel, now grown up and played by Teyonah Parris, who we are chronologically introduced when she reappears inside a chaotic hospital, where she is tragically filled in on what she’s missed for the last five years. What she learns might be upsetting to fans of Captain Marvel (and, in particular, its stand-out supporting cast), but this opening sequence is well-paced, well-acted, and well-written enough to really get you in the mind frame of someone who’s literally vanished for half a decade, and it’s a much-needed cleansing of the palette that brings us straight back into the MCU we’ve become so familiar with, after three episodes of fun sitcom homages.

The revelations don’t stop there, as we also learn that Monica is an agent – specifically a captain, in keeping with her childhood alliance – of the Sentient Weapon Observation Response Division (or S.W.O.R.D, which explains her sword-shaped necklace we saw in previous episodes), an organisation that her mother Maria apparently built from the ground up. Assumedly, this is our introduction to the MCU’s replacement for S.H.I.E.L.D, and unless there are any HYDRA agents secretly operating everything (which you might not want to count out just yet, given how some commercials from the last few episodes contained specific references to the evil counterpart) then we can look forward to learning more about them in the future.

Back to the main plot, Monica is sent to the outskirts of a small New Jersey town called Westview, where she and FBI agent Jimmy Woo (Randall Park, reprising his role from Ant-Man and the Wasp) investigate a string of occurrences surrounding the suspiciously forgotten town, which range from a missing persons case to a mysterious invisible force-field inside of it. Soon, they are joined by a number of scientists – among them Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings, returning for the first time since Thor: The Dark World) – who slowly discover the sitcom world of WandaVision taking place within the force-field, and get closer to figuring out who may indeed be behind it all.

The episode is a definite step in the right direction as to moving the central mystery forward, especially after the last episode where you were much more interested in figuring out what’s going on than the 70s-inspired sitcom antics of Wanda and Vision. It offers plenty of answers such as the origins of that mysterious helicopter found in the hedges in Don’t Touch That Dial (though why it was colourised in the black-and-white universe is still unresolved), to the voice on the radio, and also that weird beekeeper who climbed out of the sewers at the end of that episode. We also get to know a bit more about the people who are also inhabiting the sitcom world, including the crucial fact that their sitcom names are entirely different from what they really are. Obviously, there’s still a lot of questions left to be answered, but for now this is a satisfying reveal that keeps the momentum going, even when it strips itself away from the established sitcom tone.

It’s also fun seeing some of these past MCU characters come back after lengthy absences and be re-introduced accordingly. Perhaps the chief example is Kat Dennings’ Darcy Lewis, a divisive character amongst fans in the first two Thor movies – especially the second, where some felt she had way more screen time than she should have had – but here she’s not quite as irritating as she may have been previously. Again, there’s still plenty of time for her character to potentially slip back into her past self, but as someone who perhaps didn’t find her as aggravating as other people might have done, I’ll admit that it was pleasurable seeing her again after all this time, and in a slightly more mature light than she had been shown in.

Next week on WandaVision, we’ll undoubtedly return to the sitcom world for more Wanda and Vision antics, but now we have a much larger picture than what was first hinted at – and all they had to do was get rid of the formula for a whole episode.

SO, TO SUM UP…

WandaVision: Episode 4 – We Interrupt This Program is a definitive step in the right direction for the development of the central mystery, answering a handful of questions raised in the last few episodes while still leaving plenty to unravel, and re-introducing past MCU characters that are fun to see interact with one another.

WandaVision: Episodes 1-4 are now available on Disney+. Episode 5 will be available next week.

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