'Splainin to do
WandaVision: Pietro and Ultron reveal the bravest part of Marvel's new show
"He was killed by Ultron, wasn't he?"
You didn't see it coming. In Episode 3 of the Marvel series WandaVision on Disney+, the sorceress Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) fondly remembers her late twin brother, Pietro, as she sings a lullaby from her native Sokovia to her newborn twin sons. It's a moment that's both touching and dark in the otherwise bright and literally, newly colorful WandaVision.
For the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it's high time the cinematic universe finally wrestles with old wounds.
Spoilers for WandaVision Episode 3, "Now in Color" ahead.
A lot went down in the third episode of WandaVision. Stepping out of the '60s and into a colorful '70s sitcom like Three's Company (along with nods to the emergence of superhero shows like Wonder Woman and Shazam!), the episode ends with the birth of Tommy and Billy.
When Wanda mentions she was also born with her brother ("I'm a twin," she tells Geraldine), something inside Geraldine clicks.
"He was killed by Ultron, wasn't he?" Geraldine asks.
Suddenly, something changes in Wanda too, which leads us to believe she's in control more than we might think.
WandaVision relfects on Pietro and Ultron
You can't blame them. It's been six long years since the 2015 movie Avengers: Age of Ultron, a movie you maybe haven't thought about since Obama was still in office. (Yes, that's how long ago this franchise is becoming.) In Age of Ultron, director Joss Whedon's penchant for killing off characters came through when Pietro (Aaron Tayor-Johnson) pushed Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) out from a storm of bullets fired by a jet remote piloted by Ultron. "You didn't see that coming?" he mutters in his last breath, a funny punchline dropped during a somber moment.
Understandably, Pietro has been missing and virtually forgotten since Age of Ultron. His sister Wanda moved on to join the Avengers, where she was engulfed in wars both civil and infinity, and fell in love with Vision (Paul Bettany). That's a busy schedule for a mid-tier Avenger who was only ever adjacent to the primary plot.
But WandaVision finally finds time and space to address Wanda's grieving, even if it is six years after her brother's onscreen death.
WandaVision gives Wanda room to grieve
The promise of Marvel shows on Disney+ is that the MCU has all this extra time and space to engage with characters who haven't had a movie of their own, but have stories with plenty of potential to be as monumental as any event blockbuster.
Thus far, Marvel's first experiment with the Disney+ platform has lived up to that promise, and it's epitomized not in WandaVision's biggest gags, but in its quieter, somber moments of terrifying reflection.
(It should be acknowledged again that WandaVision is the first Marvel series on Disney+ for reasons beyond Disney's control. If Disney/Marvel had its way, it would be The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, a more straightforward action thriller in the kinetic style of the Captain America movies.)
There are other reasons why this tender and dark moment is a signal of the brave new realm for the MCU. Once again, it trusts that audiences keep up with lore that is now six years and three presidential administrations old. (Another benefit to an all-in-one streaming service: You can navigate and find Age of Ultron within the same carousel as WandaVision.)
But the era brave for its emotional vulnerability, too. An invisible, ever-present theme of WandaVision is grief, as Wanda may be grieving for the loss of Vision (killed in Avengers: Infinity War) all throughout her sitcom-informed imagination.
With six episodes left to go, it remains to be seen how WandaVision sticks its landing and what its message of grief will be — if there is one. For now, the most important thing WandaVision has to say about wrestling with love and loss is to just take the time you need.
WandaVision streams new episodes Friday on Disney+.