The Marvel Cinematic Universe kicked off with movies featuring Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America, culminating in four Avengers team-up movies. As the MCU took over the box office in the 2010s, shows based on Marvel characters popped up all over the small screen, including ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Netflix’s Jessica Jones, and soon Marvel properties will be all over Disney+. The first of many planned shows: WandaVision, featuring two heroes whose involvement was vital to the good guys saving the day in the Avengers films, specifically Scarlet Witch, a.k.a. Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen), and robotic Vision (Paul Bettany).
WandaVision will serve as a warm-up to a multiverse-spanning Doctor Strange sequel, but is also in the vein of the MCU’s Guardians of the Galaxy in that the show is funny, goofy, strange, and just kind of out there. Each episode features Wanda and Vision stuck in a different decade’s archetypal TV sitcom format, only with some bewildering twists. A show like that is going to be loaded with references and jokes that will soar right over the heads of young comics readers and MCU fans. But the adults watching will know what’s what — here’s all of the just for grown-ups stuff in WandaVision.
The first episodes are heavily influenced by The Dick Van Dyke Show
The Dick Van Dyke Show is one of the most influential sitcoms of all time, particularly sitcoms about hip, young, attractive couples. Rob and Laura Petrie (Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore) are a lot like WandaVisions‘s Vision and Wanda, respectively, and the first two black-and-white episodes of the show thoroughly pay homage to The Dick Van Dyke Show — a comedy with which 2021 kids probably aren’t familiar. The living room and entryway of WandaVision‘s suburban house (somewhere in the New York-New Jersey area, like the Petries’) is laid out the same, with the kitchen on the far right, and the front door on the far left. In the faux-sitcom opening credits sequence, Vision carries Wanda over the threshold and nearly trips on a poorly placed chair. Instead, he glides right through it, because as a synthezoid, that’s something that he can do. (On The Dick Van Dyke Show, Rob famously fell over the thing each week.)
By episode 2, some of the mid-’50s Leave It to Beaver and Donna Reed Show allusions have started giving way to early ’60s sitcoms — like the 1961-’66 Dick Van Dyke. Wanda has dropped her demure dress, apron, and heels in favor of sleek black capri pants and more comfortable shoes. Add her stylish flip hairdo into the mix, and she looks just like Moore as Laura.
How the Scarlet Witch went Bewitched
Another vintage sitcom that adults are more likely to know (or having a passing understanding of) is Bewitched. The 1964-’72 high-concept sitcom concerned a witch named Samantha who married a befuddled guy named Darrin. There was no way that WandaVision, a sci-fi story told through old TV comedy tropes in which one of its two main characters is a witch, wouldn’t send up or embrace Bewitched. With a point of a finger, Wanda changes the "for sale" sign on a chosen house into "sold," a very Samantha act of instantaneous magic. Also like Samantha, she uses her amazing powers to accomplish household tasks, like doing the dishes and making dinner, the latter of which she accomplishes by manifesting objects out of thin air. When his boss comes over for dinner, Vision virtually transforms into the hapless Darrin. Just as that character was often left desperately trying to keep hidden the fact that his wife was a witch, Vision vamps, sings "Yakety Yak," and tries other distraction methods to make sure his boss and his wife don’t see pots, pans, and foods floating through the air in the kitchen.
And while Samantha always got a charming little musical note on the Bewitched soundtrack to underscore her magical act, Vision triggers that in WandaVision. When he makes himself drop his human disguise in favor of his real, robotic form, he does so with an amusing "bling!"
There are lots of clues about Scarlet Witch’s history
Wanda Maximoff is also Scarlet Witch, reflected in her red costume and tremendous magical powers. WandaVision focuses on the Wanda part of the dual character, but her life as the Scarlet Witch is noted often in the series in the form of subtle Easter eggs.
Vision starts his day in episode one by reading the Westview Herald. The headline: "Little Baby June’s First Word Tickles Mother." Comics publishers often reboot characters and give superhero identities to new people, and In one such iteration, June Covington worked under the name Scarlet Witch.
In the first episode, Wanda and Vision host the latter’s boss and his wife for dinner. Wanda pours everyone a glass of "Maison du Mépris" wine. That translates to "House of Contempt," but the "M" in Mupris is so prominent it might as well read "House of M," which is the name of a Marvel Comics miniseries from 2005 in which Scarlet Witch keeps changing reality, kind of like she does at the end of episode 2 of WandaVision when she rewinds time.
And then there’s vivacious neighbor Agnes (Kathryn Hahn). She might know more than she’s letting on about Wanda’s shifting reality. Agatha Harkness served as teacher and villain to Scarlet Witch in the comics, and if you take the first two letters of her first name and combine it with the suffix on her last name, you get… Agnes.
There are many subtle Iron Man references
Vision owes his life in part to Tony Stark, as the billionaire industrialist and robotics enthusiast uploaded his beloved artificial intelligence J.A.R.V.I.S. into a vibranium body made by the evil Ultron, only for Vision to consciously decide to hang with the Avengers. Tony Stark/Iron Man helped put the Avengers together, and WandaVision brings it all back to the beginning with little nods to the character.
In episode 2, Wanda is confused and a little alarmed when her black-and-white world is invaded by a full-color toy helicopter that crashes in the bushes in front of her house. She carefully holds the object, which is red and yellow — Iron Man colors. (It also bears the logo of S.W.O.R.D., the division of S.H.I.E.L.D. that fights menacing aliens.) Color appears in another of WandaVision‘s initial black-and-white episodes, and it’s so jarring and ominous that adults will have no choice but to pay attention. The first episode includes a break for a 1950s-style TV commercial, wherein a pitchman patronizingly helps a woman operate a household appliance. In this case, it’s the Toast Mate 2000, a product of Stark Industries.
The same pitchman pops up in the fake ad in WandaVision episode two, shilling a fancy "Strucker" watch, which tiny text tells viewers is made by Hydra. Wolfgang von Strucker, and Hydra, factor prominently into the earth-changing events of Avengers: Age of Ultron, as do the actions of Tony Stark… and Scarlet Witch.