Those WandaVision retro commercials hint at dark things to come

The fake products, including a Hydra-labeled watch, suggest a dark side beneath the suburban sunshine for Marvel's Wanda and Vision.

Gael Cooper
CNET editor Gael Fashingbauer Cooper, a journalist and pop-culture junkie, is co-author of "Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops? The Lost Toys, Tastes and Trends of the '70s and '80s," as well as "The Totally Sweet '90s." She's been a journalist since 1989, working at Mpls.St.Paul Magazine, Twin Cities Sidewalk, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and NBC News Digital. She's Gen X in birthdate, word and deed. If Marathon candy bars ever come back, she'll be first in line.
Expertise Breaking news, entertainment, lifestyle, travel, food, shopping and deals, product reviews, money and finance, video games, pets, history, books, technology history, generational studies. Credentials
  • Co-author of two Gen X pop-culture encyclopedia for Penguin Books. Won "Headline Writer of the Year"​ award for 2017, 2014 and 2013 from the American Copy Editors Society. Won first place in headline writing from the 2013 Society for Features Journalism.
Gael Cooper
6 min read
Wandavision on Disney Plus

Don't skip over the fake ads in WandaVision.

Marvel/Disney Plus

WandaVision starts in black and white, with canned laughter as a backdrop and a look like that of a familiar couple comedy along the lines of I Love Lucy. So it's fitting that most of the Disney Plus episodes include one retro commercial. Those spoof ads aren't just funny, they play off Marvel's history.

Possible WandaVision spoilers ahead.

Episode 1: ToastMate 2000

In the first episode, the commercial airs just about 10 minutes in, and begins with burned toast smoking in a retro toaster. It unfolds as an ad for the "new and improved ToastMate 2000," which supposedly can toast even pie and meatloaf. As the toaster works busily away, it beeps eerily like a bomb, with its red light the only splash of color in the black-and-white ad. It turns out the toaster is a product of Iron Man Tony Stark's family company, Stark Industries, and it features the ominous slogan "Forget the past, this is your future."

But a Stark device beeping like a bomb has a frightening connection to Wanda. In 2015's Avengers: Age of Ultron, Wanda and her twin brother, Pietro, reveal they were just 10 when they lost their parents in a bombing, and sat terrified for two days staring at the word "Stark" on an unexploded shell that landed nearby.

"We wait for two days for Tony Stark to kill us," Wanda says in the film. It seems clear an ad for a toaster made by Stark that beeps like a bomb is no coincidence. While most of the episode is light and slapstick-ey and reminiscent of a fluffy sitcom, the commercial drops in with a reminder: There's a darker past here, and the show could explore it.

Episode 2: Strücker watch

In the second episode, the commercial comes at about 6:40 in, and appears to feature the same two actors as the first mock ad did. (CNET's critic has some speculation about who the man and woman may be.)

The second ad shows an elegant couple heading for a night out and hawks the man's Strücker watch. Not familiar with Strücker? Baron Wolfgang von Strücker is the Marvel villain who controls the evil organization Hydra in Avengers: Age of Ulton, and he's the one who experimented on Wanda and her twin. So it's especially chilling that the watch says "Hydra" right on its face, and has a menacing slogan -- "Strücker: He'll make time for you."

Episode 3: Hydra Soak Luxury Bath Soap

First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes Wanda and Vision with a double baby carriage. The third episode of WandaVision focuses on Wanda's super-speedy pregnancy and sudden delivery of two baby boys. The setting has leapt ahead, too, with a very Brady Bunch-style home and the characters wearing late 1960s to early 1970s fashions and groovy hairdos. And even the technology has advanced -- the show now airs in color.

The fake commercial comes about 10 minutes into the episode and depicts a frazzled 1970s mom who needs a break from her screaming kids and peeing dog. Suddenly, she's relaxing in a bubble bath being fanned by a toga-wearing servant -- a kind of "Calgon, take me away... to ancient Rome" concept. Turns out she's being soothed by Hydra Soak, a luxury bath powder that helps purchasers "find the goddess within." 

While on the surface, the need for relaxation makes sense as Wanda and Vision lurch into parenting not one, but two babies, you know there's a dark side here, too. Bubble-bath lady was encouraged to "escape to a world all your own" which may be the world Wanda could have created here, where she and Vision are a happy married couple. And as our recap points out, the goddess mention could refer to Wanda's own power, or to another goddess "trapped within something -- perhaps referring to the constructed reality Wanda and Viz live in." And the fact that "Hydra" is part of the product name means this isn't a bath to which you want to surrender.

Episode 4: No commercial

The fourth episode jumped out of Wanda and Vision's sweet sitcom reality and into the Marvel world surrounding it, where Vision is dead and Wanda has stolen his body, resurrecting him and controlling all the people in the small town of Westview. It's pretty heavy, and there's no retro ad, since we're not in the happy retro world of the sitcom. It's a well-chosen reminder of the two worlds of the show.

Episode 5: Lagos paper towels

The fifth episode dives back into the sitcom world of Westview, and thus the ads return. This episode's commercial is for Lagos paper towels, which, as we explain in our weekly recap, naturally has a dark meaning. The paper towels have a double-meaning slogan -- "For when you make a mess you didn't mean to" -- referring to an incident in Lagos, Nigeria, in Captain America: Civil War.

In that film, Wanda accidentally kills a bunch of Wakandan humanitarian workers -- creating trouble for the Avengers. And to further underscore the memory of that violence, the paper towels are shown mopping up a bright red liquid that looks unnervingly like blood. And she doesn't even do a good job, as the red liquid drips down onto the floor. Ooh, creepy.

Episode 6: Yo-Magic yogurt

Welp, the WandaVision ads are getting darker. In this one, a cartoon kid shivers alone on one of those cartoony deserted islands, the kind with one palm tree and almost nothing else. The kid has no food, but then a sunglasses-wearing surfer-dude of a shark splashes out of the water and hands him a container of Yo-Magic yogurt. (One tiny container. This kid was doomed from the start.)

For some reason, the kid can't open the container -- it's magic, apparently, though he doesn't even try picking up the sharp-boned fish skeleton sitting next to him to try stabbing his way through the lid. And he slowly starves to death and becomes a skeleton himself, the end. Good times!

The ad's slogan is "Yo-Magic, the snack for survivors," which the kid definitely isn't. But Wanda is -- and maybe in this ad she's the magical talking shark trying to save someone -- Vision -- who's already doomed. It's a grim one, whatever the intended meaning. And kudos to the writer and designer of the fake ad for maintaining the 1990s-2000s theme of the episode; the surfer shark, Claymation-style animation, and even the product itself, individual sugary yogurt, fit right in with that time period.

Episode 7: Nexus antidepressants

The ad that airs during the seventh episode follows a familiar format for US medication commercials. A woman sits alone and looking sad in a park, while a voiceover touts Nexus, an antidepressant for those who "feel the world goes on without you."

"A unique antidepressant that works to anchor you back to your reality. Or the reality of your choice," the ad says. "Side effects include feeling your feelings, confronting your truth, seizing your destiny and possibly, more depression."

As we explain in our recap of the episode, the word "Nexus" has a complicated meaning in Marvel comics. First off, the Nexus is a cross-dimensional gateway offering a pathway to various realities. In the film Avengers: Age of Ultron, Tony Stark hacks into the NEXUS Internet Hub to discover that JARVIS (the AI that becomes Vision) scattered his artificial consciousness across the web to stop Ultron. Also, Wanda herself is a Nexus Being -- meaning her powers can affect probability and change the flow of time. It's going to take more than an antidepressant to help her.

Episode 8: No commercial

The eighth episode didn't feature a faux commercial, but it did bust a myth about the previous ads. The ads that featured people always used the same actors, leading to theories about that couple representing Wanda's parents. But though this episode had no ad, it did feature Wanda's parents in flashback -- and they weren't played by the commercial couple. If the repeated use of those same actors in the ads has a meaning, we don't yet know what it is. And there's just one episode left to find out.

The ads matter

Wanda and Vision may be attempting to live a sitcom-perfect suburban life, but the ads are a reminder that things may get serious before the full nine episodes are up. Marvel Studios' President Kevin Feige even acknowledges the commercials are important.

"How [are] other truths of the show beginning to leak out?" Feige said, according to SlashFilm. "It's just a strange version of the '50s commercial or '60s commercial ... you'll have to keep watching the series and understand. If you have been watching all the movies, you might be able to start connecting what those things mean to the past."

The ads aren't the only Easter eggs that reward close watching by Marvel fans. Check out our roundup of other noteworthy moments, including Vision's gum, and that unnerving beekeeper.

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