Last week saw WandaVision transition from Wanda’s (Elizabeth Olsen) time-warped dream-state to a universe beyond the sitcom sub-reality. We Interrupt this Program is a direct reaction to such a departure, returning us to more familiar territory. We’re firmly back in the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s standard realm of operation. This is the moment in which the show fully opens up to the wider fictional landscape surrounding its existence. The curtains are whisked apart, the canvas widened, and a maddening puzzle starts sliding into place.
We Interrupt this Program’s opening takes place slap bang in the midst of Avenges: Endgame‘s third act, albeit from a different perspective to the one we witnessed back in May 2019. Geraldine (Teyonah Parris), Wanda’s neighbour from Now in Colour finds herself rematerialising back into reality after Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffallo) successfully reverses Thanos’ (Josh Brolin) five-year reign of reality-splintering chaos. As she stumbles through a tumultuous hospital overwhelmed by the onslaught of returning souls, she gradually begins to learn she’s been deceased for half a decade. The MCU has covered the consequences beyond Endgame’s climax once before. Spider-Man: Far from Home (2019) gave us a snippet of a world grappling with the damage that existed beyond Thanos’ actions; only the approach back then was from a slightly more comedic and less immediate angle. Here is the first time we’ve been offered a more sinister repercussion to the blip, one which takes place slap bang in the middle of its reversal. There are psychological and physical repercussions to 50% of reality phasing out then back into reality. We Interrupt this Program offers us a much more explicit idea of what such a fallout looks like.
Placing WandaVision to one side for a brief moment, what is so promising about this decision is that it further suggests the consequences of Endgame aren’t going to be glossed over anytime soon. Spider-Man: Far from Home reassured us of this too, only there was still a risk they were only doing so due to the fact that its release came immediately after that of Endgame’s. The fact they are still returning to this event two years after the film’s release suggests Kevin Feige and co aren’t going to hand wave matters away anytime soon. It would have been quite easy to treat the blip as a cheap reset button, a mechanism intended to wrap up the events of the Infinity Saga in time to move onto phase four. By deciding to focus on how such an event has reshaped reality, however, adds an extra layer to such a decision, applying a weight and relevance to the decision which elevates it beyond a classic case of a writer trying to free themselves from a corner of their own making. There’s undoubtably a lot of kickback that would come from half of humanity vanishing for five years. Imagine all the people who remarried, the suicides brought about from losing loved ones, the inevitable collapse of society stemming from the trauma, and the countless other outcomes that will have taken place between the end of Infinity War (2018) and Endgame. The blip wasn’t simply a plot mechanic, it’s a catastrophe in its own right. WandaVision’s fourth episode doubles down on this fact, assuring audiences that the MCU beyond Endgame isn’t simply going to act as if Thanos’ actions no longer matter. In addition to adding further weight to the Infinity Saga’s conclusion, opening We Interrupt this Program here firmly cements WandaVision as an official component in the MCU cannon. Whereas we’ve been aware of this from day one, it wasn’t actually officially acknowledged in the show until the end of last week’s episode, when Geraldine referenced the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015).Now that a link has been established between Wanda’s peculiar sitcom reality and the previous 23 MCU movies, WandaVision goes all out, bridging the show out to the wider fictional landscape it belongs to in every way imaginable; tying itself in with a varied assortment of pre-existing movies from years gone by.
First we have Geraldine, of course, who during these very opening moments is revealed to be Monica Rambeau. Monica is the daughter of Carol Danver’s (Brie Larson) best friend, Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch) from Captain Marvel (2019). In the years since we last saw her, Monica has become a member of S.W.O.R.D, the S.H.E.I.L.D counterpart co-founded by her mother prior to her passing. Much of the opening segment of We Interrupt this Program focuses on how Monica goes from being where she is during the events of End Game, to becoming trapped inside Wanda’s televisual dreamscape. Throughout her travels, she buddies up with FBI detective Jimmy Woo (Randall Park) from Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018), to try and figure out how a town the town of Westview has completely vanished from the local resident’s collective psyche. After Monica is sucked into Wanda’s impossible reality, consequently perched at the heart of the missing Westview, Dr. Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings) from Thor (2012) falls into the mix, helping Woo and the rest of S.W.O.R.D try to figure out what on earth is going on.
We Interrupt this Program’s essentially plays out as a mystery/sci-fi vehicle, recapping the first three chapters of WandaVision from an alternative perspective. Instead of keeping audiences trapped within Wanda’s reality along with the various other entrapped residents, we join forces with Rambeau, Woo and Lewis; all of whom are just as baffled as we are. What this allows is for the show to suddenly start serving up a number of answers to questions laid down in prior instalments. The trio witness all the same events we did during our prior weeks of viewing, only they have additional resources we didn’t have the first time around. In addition to having access to records which can pinpoint exactly who the residents of Westview are, they also have more context surrounding the ‘abnormalities’ which invaded Wanda’s sub-reality. The toy helicopter, the radio communication, the beekeeper; all events were caused by this week’s protagonists.
By the end of the story, they are still very much in the dark as to what’s really going on, only they’ve been able to establish a little more context concerning the mechanics of the mystery driving these events. By extension, we as an audience are invited to learn what they’ve discovered during the past 34 minutes. We now know that the sitcom environment isn’t some quirky aesthetic constructed by Kevin Feige & co for the hell of it, but a surreal sub-reality built around a town like some sort of distorted glitch in reality. Monica, Woo and Lewis may not understand the hows and whys of what’s happening, yet they are gradually patching together a rulebook, beginning to shed light on some of the internal logic occupying this phenomena. All of this allows WandaVision’s fourth episode to have its cake and eat it. It maintains all the mystery, while also throwing enough answers at smaller mysteries. It feeds audiences enough information to reward us, without actually telling us anything vital in the process.
There was always a risk of We Interrupt this Program being considered a step back in terms of its predecessors. Going from quirky and inventive back to formulaic style and familiar could have been perceived as a necessary-yet-regressive instalment plonked slap bang in the middle of a show admired for its unique nature. Yet that isn’t what happens here. For an instalment that leans heavily on the status quo, this is a brilliant example of how to return to safety without making things boring. There’s a lot of thrills in seeing the insanity of WandaVision aggressively thread itself into the wider workings of the MCU, not to mention the successive series of lightbulb moments clarifying oddities peppered throughout the preceding stories. Episode four feels like you’re watching an impossible jigsaw fall effortlessly into place, one that could have quite easily have ended disastrously, had it been attempted by less talented folk.
This is undoubtedly an essential episode, one that absolutely needed to happen. After 97 minutes of experimentation, abnormal aesthetics, and enigma, WandaVision had to give us some form of clarity and connection. Puzzles are great, until you find yourself lacking any connecting parts a hundred hours into the challenge. While more avid viewers will stick around until the closing credits of episode nine, there remained a risk of alienating more casual viewers. After a trilogy of stories establishing and collapsing an illusion instilled upon audiences, it was time for WandaVision to pull back the curtain and dish out some tidbits on how such madness fits into a bigger picture. We Interrupt this Program always was a risky addition for its creators to successfully execute; fortunate for them, it turned out to be a success.
This is an enthralling slice of television, an episode packed with enough references, connections and revelations to keep viewers coming back for more over the following weeks. Considering this could have been the dull-yet-necessary filler episode, director Matt Shakman; writers Bobak Esfarjan & Megan McDonnell; and creator Jac Schaeffer hit this one right out of the park.