If you watched WandaVision, the latest Disney series to tie in to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, then it’s likely you were both delighted and confused. That was the general response from people who saw the inaugural first two episodes.
Almost entirely in black-and-white and trading heavily in sitcom tropes (with a noticeable emphasis on Bewitched), the two episodes gave us an awkward dinner with Vision’s boss and an awkward community talent show. Both were liberally sprinkled with a cheerful laugh track. The familiar storylines were immediately enjoyable, as well the by-the-book jokes and misunderstandings, but there was an undercurrent of deep discomfort in both, with strange moments that imply not all is as it seems.
Comic book readers will have probably recognized that WandaVision is angling for a House of M storyline, just as Iron Man 3 drew heavily from Extremis. But what is House of M, and how can we be so sure? Let’s review what happened in House of M, as well as some of the clues the first two episodes of WandaVision gave us.
House of M was written by Brian Michael Bendis and published in 2005 by Marvel Comics. The story focuses on Wanda Maximoff, a powerful mutant with reality-bending capabilities. In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Wanda’s powers include energy manipulation, telekinesis, and the insertion of false perceptions into people’s heads. It’s unclear just how broad her powers are, but certainly, her ability to manipulate people’s minds lends itself well to a storyline about reality being (seemingly) altered.
The House of M storyline opens with Wanda suffering a mental break-down after the death of her two children. She is cared for by Magneto (her father, in the comics) and Professor X, whose telepathy allows him to curb her reality-bending powers. However, Professor X warns he cannot do this forever, and many of the mutants consulted about what to do with Wanda agree that the safest thing is to kill her to prevent her from warping reality itself. However, they are too late; Wanda creates a new, alternate reality.
In the new reality, only Wolverine remembers their previous life. The rest of the characters are living relatively happy lives. In particular, Magneto and the House of Magnus (or “House of M”), made up of mutants, is ruling over humans.
Wolverine goes to tell various heroes about their previous lives, and with the Human Resistance, goes to confront the House of M. A battle ensues, during which time it’s revealed that the timeline Wanda has created was done so at Quicksilver’s urging; it is meant to be a utopia in which everyone’s wishes come true. Feeling manipulated and betrayed by her father, Magneto, the battle ends only once Wanda proclaims, “No more mutants.” The world returns to normal, with the consequence that most mutants have lost their powers.
So what’s changed?
Prior to March 2019, when Disney acquired 21st Century Fox, Disney did not own the rights to X-men. This is one reason why Wanda and Quicksilver, in the MCU, were not the children of Magneto, nor “mutants.” Instead, they were the product of artificial enhancements as a result of experimentations by Hydra kingpin Baron Wolfgang von Strucker.
But we know MCU Wanda has mental manipulation abilities (as seen in Age of Ultron) and so it’s not a stretch to consider that WandaVision is all in her head. The seemingly “perfect” utopia feels a lot like the House of M world. Is it possible Wanda, after the battle with Thanos, suffered a mental break-down that caused her to retreat into an elaborate fantasy? Or is it possible she’s being controlled by a third party? We don’t know yet, but since both episodes have ended with someone “watching” WandaVision on a television (implying an artificial reality), it seems clear that the saccharine sitcoms that we are watching aren’t truly what’s occurring in-world.
Most notably, Vision, who died by the hands of Thanos in 2019’s Infinity War, is now alive again without explanation. In House of M, Wanda resurrects other characters, including Clint Barton and her twin children.
But most of the first two episodes of WandaVision are set within the safe, monochromatic confines of a standard sitcom story, and so most of the speculation about House of M comes from the plentiful Easter Eggs scattered through the world.
S.W.O.R.D. references are littered throughout WandaVision. SWORD (the Sentient Weapon Observation Response Division) is an intelligence agency like SHIELD. In the first episode of WandaVision, we see a SWORD logo on the notebook of the unidentified man who is watching WandaVision on a TV screen. In the second episode, a toy helicopter lands in Wanda’s bushes. In jarring red-and-yellow against the rest of the black-and-white world, the helicopter has a SWORD logo as well. (Did Wanda possibly drop a helicopter in real life?!) Finally, we see the SWORD logo on the back of the beekeeper’s outfit when he emerges from the sewers.
Episode 2 also introduces at least one SWORD agent: Monica. Introducing herself as “Geraldine,” Monica Rambeau was introduced to the MCU as a child in Captain Marvel (2019). It’s unclear whether SWORD is controlling Wanda, or if someone else is controlling Wanda. Wanda herself has a degree of control over her world; when the beekeeper emerges, for example, she simply “rewinds” the world to an earlier, safer moment. She also appears to be able to subdue moments that would otherwise interfere with her happy little sitcom life, such as the moments following Mr. Hart’s choking or the glass breaking in Dottie’s hand. But the voice on the radio, asking, “Who’s doing this to you, Wanda?” suggests that it isn’t SWORD who’s in control.
This brings us to the beekeeper. Marvel comic fans will probably associate a yellow beekeeping outfit with the grunts of AIM, or Advanced Idea Mechanics. We’ve already gotten a bit of AIM in the MCU; this was Aldrich Killian’s evil think-tank in Iron Man 3, the one that put forth Extremis. Could AIM be the organization that is controlling Wanda? It makes sense; AIM artificially enhances people, just as Baron von Strucker did, and in two of the fake “commercials” that aired during WandaVision, we see a toaster made by Stark Industries and a watch called a “Strucker” with a Hydra logo. Technology certainly seems to play an ominous role in Wanda’s reality.
All this might seem like circumstantial evidence of a House of M plotline, except for one major Easter Egg. Eagle-eyed viewers might have noticed the label on the bottle of wine in the very first episode: Maison Du Mépris. Translated literally, this means “House of Contempt” in French, perhaps suggesting Wanda’s contempt for reality, where she’s lost everyone close to her and spent the last few years fighting various Hydra baddies. But the large “M” logo on the wine bottle’s neck makes it clear that this wine is “House of M” wine, implying that WandaVision will draw from the premise of the 2005 comic: that Wanda can alter or control reality, giving the MCU endless possibilities for “alternative” timelines, just as there are in the comics.
The first two episodes of WandaVision are streaming on Disney+, with a new episode scheduled to be released each Friday.