WandaVision dog key to episode 5 plot

Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff and Paul Bettany as Vision in Marvel Studios' WANDAVISION. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.
Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff and Paul Bettany as Vision in Marvel Studios' WANDAVISION. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved. /

The WandaVision dog played a key role in episode 5. While we will try to keep the spoilers to a minimum, SPOILERS EXIST IN THIS STORY, so stop reading and come back later if you haven’t seen it yet.

As big fans of superheroes here at Dog O’Day, and of dogs on TV in general, we very much appreciated this unexpected development.

But who is this WandaVision dog, you may ask? First, a bit of background – the newest TV series in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is a thriller dressed in sitcom clothes, with previous episodes taking inspiration from classic sitcoms like The Dick Van Dyke Show, Bewitched, and The Brady Bunch, with additional nods via theme music and title font to I Love Lucy, various Desilu productions of the 1960s and The Partridge Family.

In realtime, it’s three weeks after The Blip, where everyone who vanished in The Snap in 2018 were returned to their lives (from Avengers: Endgame), so early spring 2023, several months before Spider-Man: Far From Home. 

Within Westview, New Jersey, however, it’s the 1980s, which means theme music from Alan Thicke’s and Kirk Cameron’s Growing Pains, while the title sequence comes from Full House. (The living room design is much more Seaver than Tanner this episode).

Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany) have twin sons named Tommy and Billy, and they’re finding that parenting is kind of overwhelming….especially when your kids age five years at will.

The WandaVision dog is a wonderful element of sitcom plotting.

The boys find a stray dog (smallish, mostly white with a broken coat) that is probably a terrier mix of some kind and hide him in the kitchen sink to get him cleaned up. Wanda discovers this plot and agrees to let them keep the dog, which they name Sparky (with some help from creepy neighbor Agnes, played by Kathryn Hahn).

Later in the episode Sparky hears a suspicious noise and investigates out the front door, only for Agnes to tell the family that he died after allegedly eating some azaleas.

In the real world, SWORD launched a drone into the Westview bubble, secretly arming it behind Monica Rambeau’s (Teyonah Parris) back. This understandably angered Wanda, especially after they figure out that she stole Vision’s corpse from a SWORD facility about a week earlier. And apparently revived him despite Vision’s will clearly stating he wished to remain in that state.

When the boys ask her “fix” Sparky Frankenweenie-style, Wanda appears confused, trying to figure out a way to explain that that’s not ethical…as she just as clearly worries about who might have discovered that she did the same thing with her husband, and wishes to do again for her twin brother Pietro (who died saving the city of Sokovia in Age of Ultron).

If this whole series is about grief and the pain of letting go of an old chapter and the companions from that chapter, as seems to be the case, then Sparky served as both an elegant object lesson that was presented into the plot both subtly and ACME-anvil-heavy at the same time. Which is exactly what happened, since this is a dense show that works at multiple levels.

The life lessons in sitcoms have a habit of being wielded as clumsily as Jar Jar Binks (thus the trope of “very special episodes“), like in Full House 4.08 “Shape Up,” where DJ veers towards an eating disorder, or Saved by the Bell 2.09 “Jessie’s Song,” where Jessie gets addicted to caffeine pills, but they usually lead to some of the most heartfelt speeches (like Jesse or Becky’s for the girls on Full House, or Gordo dispensing his offbeat wisdom on Lizzie McGuire). So it paid homage nicely to that tradition of the format, offering a moment of significant character growth overall, while at the same time serving its heavy-handed purpose within the episode itself.

Also, there were many good dogs on 1980s/1990s sitcoms, with a brief census including Full House’s Comet, Fraiser’s Eddie, Doug’s Porkchop, Wishbone and 7th Heaven‘s Happy.

In another fun Full House shoutout, the opening credits borrowed heavily from their opening montage, particularly the establishing shot of everyone running across the grass and the closing shot of the family having a picnic. Elizabeth Olsen is, of course, the younger sister of Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, who shared the role of Michelle. (Also, Candace Cameron, who played Michelle’s oldest sister DJ, is the real-life younger sister of Growing Pains star Kirk Cameron, while Alan Thicke later hosted a nonfiction program called Miracle Pets.)

While WandaVision’s Sparky wasn’t on the show for very long, he played an important role, just like the dogs in Alita: Battle Angel or John Wick, and so his sacrifice ought to be remembered.

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