Without a year of new films or shows from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, fans have been left without much to joyfully obsess over or analyze, except for maybe Chris Evans’s social media. But thankfully, Disney+’s WandaVision is giving us plenty to chew on. The deeply bizarre and deeply delightful show, starring Elizabeth Olsen’s Wanda Maximoff and her lover and fellow (former?) Avenger, the Vision (Paul Bettany), as they hop from one television era to the next, is perfect theory fodder for fans who love to piece together clues. With each new episode, we’re left wondering, What exactly is going on? How is Vision back? And thanks to its time-hopping sitcom format, WandaVision also has us asking, What are those commercials?
Those zippy little ads that play mid-episode for objects like a toaster or a bath powder drop little details that even casual fans can notice, from mentions of Stark Industries to Hydra. Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige himself even shared a vague, but nonetheless intriguing, clue about these commercials at the WandaVision press conference held earlier this year, noting that the ads are a way to figure out “other truths of the show.” So after examining every tick, color, Marvel reference, and expression in WandaVision’s commercials, here are our best guesses as to what those “other truths” might be.
Episode 1: “Filmed Before a Live Studio Audience”
What’s going on here: What a missed opportunity to say “I love you (ToastMate) 3000.” But alas, apparently even Marvel knows when too much is too much. Anyway, the first commercial we get in WandaVision is for a toaster. As the camera pans out, we’re introduced to an unknown male host (known as “Commercial Man” in the credits) who has a nice suit, that recognizably tinny 1950s accent, and a ring of misogyny. “Is your husband tired of you burning his toast?” he says as he walks over to his screen partner (his wife? An actress? We don’t know yet; she’s listed as “Commercial Woman”) to introduce the ToastMate 2000, a toaster to “get the taste back in your toast.” The woman pops in two slices of bread, and from there, the camera zooms in on the toaster, then presents different things you can toast: meat loaf, cherry pie, open-faced cheese sandwiches (??!?!?).
Now this is where things start to feel a bit off-kilter. We’re back to a close-up of the ToastMate 2000, and in a purely black-and-white episode, we see our first flash of color, a bright red light on the toaster flashing while a ticking noise goes on for a few seconds too long until it’s finally interrupted by the finished toast popping out of the ToastMate. The male presenter tops off the ad by saying, “The all-new ToastMate 2000 by Stark Industries!,” and a title card appears: “Forget the past, this is your future!”
But what’s really going on here: The first half of the commercial feels pretty standard, aside from the fact that we’re getting it in a Marvel show about Avengers hiding in suburbia. But what stands out in this ad is that as soon as we see the toaster light blink red, we hear what sounds extremely like Tony Stark’s repulsors (a.k.a. the lasers that shot out of his hands in the Iron Man suit). So what does this mean? Well, if WandaVision is actually some kind of dream or alternate reality created by Wanda (against her will or not), this traces back to the very beginnings of Wanda and Stark’s relationship. Before Stark became Iron Man, he was busy profiting off of Stark Industries’ weapons. One of those weapons was used to bomb Sokovia, where Wanda, her twin brother, Pietro (played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson), and their parents lived. Unfortunately, that incident, recounted in Avengers: Age of Ultron, caused the death of Wanda and Pietro’s parents, leading the twins to feel extreme anger and resentment toward Stark. So is this a piece of Wanda’s memory in the form of a toaster commercial? Possibly. Maybe the two mystery hosts are Wanda’s parents. Then there’s the phrase “Forget the past, this is your future!,” which could explain the moment in Age of Ultron when Wanda lets go of that anger toward Stark and joins the Avengers, as they quickly become the only family Wanda has left.
Improbable but not impossible: Could this just be a metaphor for Vision himself? Seeing how Vision is a synthezoid based on an AI developed by Tony Stark, there could be a connection there. He’s a robot! Isn’t toaster a decent derogatory term to call him? If you’re a robot reading this, please confirm.
Episode 2: “Don’t Touch That Dial”
What’s going on here: We see our mysterious commercial duo again! This time, they are in elegant clothing, looking like they’re getting ready to go to some soirée. The two stand in front of a full-length mirror, checking out their outfits as Commercial Man narrates: “They say a man is never fully dressed without two important accessories: his special lady and his Strücker.” He then lifts up his arm to show off his Swiss-made Strücker watch before he and his Commercial Woman waltz away to whatever glamorous event is planned. The ad ends with an up-close look at the watch, where we can see HYDRA and its skull-and-tentacles logo on the face. The watch ticks (more ticking!) faster and faster as the narrator closes with, “Strücker: He’ll make time for you.”
But what’s really going on here: It’s starting to seem like these commercials are giving us a timeline or recollection of Wanda’s life. For a refresher, after Wanda and Pietro’s parents die, the twins volunteer for human experimentation conducted by (drumroll, please) … Baron von Strücker. According to Captain America, he’s “Hydra’s No. 1 thug,” who used Loki’s scepter, which, as we later learn in Avengers: Age of Ultron, is powered by the Mind Stone, to experiment with Wanda and her brother. That’s how Wanda and Pietro gained their powers. In the comics, the twins are actually mutants, but in a pre-Disney-Fox-merger move, they’re just referred to as “enhanced” in the MCU. So when it comes to the phrase “Strücker: He’ll make time for you,” well, heck yeah, he sure did make a lot of time for Wanda and her brother!
As for the “Swiss made,” Vulture’s own WandaVision recapper Abraham Riesman keenly pointed out that it could be a reference to the Swiss-born Hydra scientist Arnim Zola, who appeared in the first two Captain America movies. Though I don’t believe Wanda and Zola have ever explicitly crossed paths in the MCU (Wanda and Pietro are teased in the credits of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, but Zola is just an uploaded brain/AI then), Zola is key to the experiments conducted by Hydra that later turned Wanda and Pietro into enhanced beings. Does this mean Hydra is lurking behind this reality that Wanda may have created? It’s too early to tell yet, but it feels reasonable to theorize that these commercials may be a highlight reel of sorts of Wanda’s journey so far.
Improbable but not impossible: Seeing two people dress up for a night on the town sure is something. Remember going out? That was nice. Also, side note: Is it possible that because of the events of Avengers: Endgame, everyone who got dusted skipped out on the pandemic, since they were gone between 2018 and 2023? All right, never mind. Let’s move along.
Episode 3: “Now in Color”
What’s going on here: In WandaVision’s ’70s-inspired episode, it’s time for Commercial Woman to shine! With Commercial Man notably absent — though he does narrate — our Commercial Woman is seen with her two kids and their dog. The screen splits four ways so we can see four different fiascoes. The kids throw a soccer ball into her cereal, the dog pees on the floor, the woman finds her meal burned to a crisp in the oven, and, lastly, her blender goes haywire. After these events play out, the woman steps back onscreen, distressed (but her hair? Flawless!), as the male narrator says, “Do you need a break?” She responds, “You read my mind.” And then, magically, she’s in a bubbly bathtub while someone (Commercial Man?!) in a toga fans her with a palm leaf. The narrator says, “Escape to a world all your own, where your problems float away.” Interesting. He continues, “When you wanna get away, but you don’t wanna go anywhere.” Interesting! The commercial ends with an up-close look at the product it has been advertising all this time, Hydra Soak, a luxury bath powder, and the phrase “Find the Goddess Within!” in retro lettering runs across the screen below.
But what’s really going on here: Right off the bat, it’s quite intriguing how we get another reference to Hydra on the heels of the previous commercial, bolstering the suggestion that Hydra is the catalyst for Wanda’s pivot into superpowered life. This is possibly an ode to Wanda’s abilities, which we’re finally starting to see in all their glory. Telekinesis, mind reading, and reality manipulation are just a taste of what Wanda can do, and throughout her time in the MCU, her powers have been a bit subdued, unlike in the Marvel comics. Having the Commercial Woman say “You read my mind” recalls Wanda’s abilities in Avengers: Age of Ultron, where she could see inside her opponent’s minds and inflict their worst fears on them as waking nightmares. Whereas “Escape to a world all your own, where your problems float away” is very much what might be happening here in WandaVision. Did Wanda escape to a world all her own? It sure seems so. Maybe she finally found the goddess within herself!
Improbable but not impossible: This one may not be entirely impossible, since Marvel loves its references, but seeing how much of this show surrounds Wanda and her journey, it may just be more of a cheeky nod. One user on Reddit was quick to point out how the Hydra Soak product is eerily similar to the blue soap in “Identity and Change,” an episode in the fourth season of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. on ABC. Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg), who is also in a couple Marvel movies like Captain Marvel and The Avengers, describes a Hydra mind-control soap that “seeps into our bloodstream and plants false memories into our brains.”
The only thing that holds us back from this theory is that Hydra, at this point, isn’t the same. It’s smaller and weaker. It seems like the MCU is onto other baddies. Plus, in WandaVision, it’s a bath powder, not a soap, and sure, the package is blue, but there’s no suggestion the product itself is that color. Yeah, yeah, that’s nitpicky, but this is probably no more than a fun little wink.
Episode 5: “On a Very Special Episode…”
What’s going on here: Well, after last week’s commercial-free episode, we’re back to our regular programming, folks, and this time, it’s the ’80s. Similar to the last commercial, the scene starts with (but stays in) the kitchen. Commercial Man and Woman’s two kids (Commercial Kids?) are at the table, where one of them spills a glass of red liquid. Commercial Woman rushes over to clean it up while a female narrator says, “You’ve got a mess …,” pointing out how obviously insufficient the woman’s “next leading brand” of paper towels is. The narrator suggests “Lagos brand” paper towels, as the commercial cuts to a side-by-side comparison Lagos and the insufficient brand, showing off Lagos’s absorbency. “It’s the most absorbent paper towel available!” Afterward, we see Commercial Man spilling his glass of beer, prompting his wife to pass him a sheet of Lagos because “husbands can use it too, you know!” Is this a light jab or something to really mull over later? That will have to wait, because the narrator ends the ad by intoning, “Lagos. For when you make a mess you didn’t mean to,” which alludes to …
But what’s really going on here: If you’ve seen Captain America: Civil War, your ears may have perked up at the Lagos name drop. But for those who need a refresher, no worries: It’s a reference to the incident at the beginning of Civil War in which Captain America, the Falcon, Natasha Romanoff, and Wanda Maximoff attempt to capture the weapons dealer Rumlow as he tries to infiltrate the Institute for Infectious Diseases in Lagos, Nigeria. Rumlow and his goons attack the IFID looking for a bioweapon in a crimson vial. But, long story short, just as Rumlow is captured by Cap, he activates a suicide bomb, which Wanda contains in an energy ball that she flings up into a building full of civilians. Interestingly enough, Cap told the Avengers earlier that “[Rumlow] isn’t afraid to make a mess on the way out,” paralleling the words of the WandaVision commercial’s narrator at the start of the Lagos ad. Rumlow was the mess Wanda had to clean up in Lagos, but it went terribly wrong and led to the creation of the Sokovia Accords. It’s a huge turning point for Wanda that left her grappling with the immense extent of her powers. It’s as the commercial narrator said: Lagos was a mess Wanda didn’t mean to make! Though, unlike the commercial’s squeaky-clean solution, Lagos is a mess that she had to continue living with.
Improbable but not impossible: The idea of a mess that has to be cleaned up is interesting in the context of WandaVision. Its sitcom premise seeks to depict a perfect life, a perfect family, which is seemingly what Wanda wants away from the chaos of her real world. Usually, everything in Westview seems to be under Wanda’s control. Even if things don’t always go to plan, she can clean it up to fit her reality, but in episode five, it starts to seem like things are slowly slipping through Wanda’s grasp. Is she really in control of everything in Westview? Or is the mess getting to be too much for her to “absorb,” make clean and simple? While the commercials appear to be based in direct events from Wanda’s past, it is interesting that this one also alludes to a husband’s being able to clean up messes. Vision wasn’t a part of the Lagos incident, so is it a wink to how he is finally figuring out the oddities of Westview? Is he going to stop the mess that’s brewing in this “perfect” reality bubble?
Episode 6: “All-New Halloween Spooktacular!”
What’s going on here: In what is hands down the most unsettling commercial so far, episode six’s ad puts a WandaVision spin on the popular stop-motion Claymation adverts of the ’90s. It also is notably the first episode without our Commercial Man and Woman. It starts off with a kid on a lone desert island. “I’m so hungry, I’d eat anything,” he says, just as an anthropomorphic shark surfs up out of the water telling him to snack on Yo-Magic. Shark dude passes a Yo-Magic to the kid and hops on out of there, leaving the kid to shakily try to open the lid. But the kid can’t open it. As his teeth chatter and fingers flinch, the day quickly turns to night and to day and so on until his clay body starts to decay. Creepy … And right as he becomes a skeleton, the commercial ends with a title card for Yo-Magic, with shark dude saying, “Yo-Magic. The snack for survivors.”
But what’s really going on here: Unlike the ads before it, the Yo-Magic commercial has no distinct MCU calling card. No mention of Stark, Hydra, or even a location like Lagos or Sokovia. Instead, this commercial underlines the despair of Wanda’s predicament. It’s a creepy ad, but death is certainly a through-line of WandaVision. Episode four gave us a brief flash of dead Vision, while episode six gives us another brief flash of death, this time with Pietro, played here by Evan Peters. Both instances deeply horrify Wanda, understandably, but is that actually what these two look like behind the guise of Wanda’s magic, or is it just part of her deeply rooted PTSD? (Hint: it’s most likely the latter.) Because despite being one of the most powerful beings, Wanda’s magic can’t save the ones she loves. “On a Very Special Episode …” made it clear when Wanda told Tommy and Billy that she couldn’t save their dog Sparky. “We can’t reverse death,” she tells them. “No matter how sad it makes us.” Her magic can’t exactly reverse something as permanent as death, and for that she constantly feels the weight of survivor’s guilt.
Improbable but not impossible: A couple of things here. It’s interesting how so far the commercials have been a chronological retelling of Wanda’s life and associated traumas, but we’ve skipped over Vision’s death. Though, to be honest, this week’s ad could also be read as Wanda’s magic not being able to save Vision. The Yo-Magic cup isn’t opened in time to save Vision (a.k.a. the kid in the ad). But there’s also the season-long mystery as to what is actually happening in Westview. Could the Claymation kid in the commercial be Wanda? Stay with us. We know a lot of Westview is Wanda’s doing, but in the past two episodes, she’s admitted to not knowing how it all started. In “All-New Halloween Spooktacular!” while talking with Pietro, she says she doesn’t know how it happened, only that she felt “completely alone.” Grief and deep sadness can very much feel like dying on the inside, so maybe a mysterious outside force (Agatha Harkness … ?) offered Wanda an extra power, a metaphorical Yo-Magic, to help her? And as we’re starting to see Westview’s dreamy reality crumble, it might not work for Wanda after all.
Episode 7: “Breaking the Fourth Wall”
What’s going on here: The latest commercial sees the return of Commercial Woman! This time outside, feeling glum as the narrator asks, “Feeling depressed? Like the world goes on without you? Do you just want to be left alone?” The commercial then cuts to Nexus, an antidepressant that helps “anchor you back to your reality, or the reality of your choice.” Commercial Woman wanders into a pharmacy to see Commercial Man behind the counter ready to dispense some sweet, sweet Nexus. Similar to the ads we’re used to now, the narrator lists an onslaught of side effects like feeling your feelings, seizing your destiny, and possibly more depression (too real). As the commercial woman leaves with a more cheery disposition, the commercial ends with “Nexus: because the world doesn’t revolve around you — or does it?”
But what’s really going on here: Episode seven gives us some intriguing reveals but with every answer, there’s more teases, and this week’s commercial is no different. How? Well, first things first: This antidepressant commercial draws a clear parallel to what Wanda’s going through in this episode. The hex is glitching out, the cause unbeknownst to Wanda, she doesn’t care much to track Vision (“If he doesn’t want to be here, there’s nothing I can do about it”), and she’s starting to believe that “everything is meaningless.” We’ve all been there. Similar to Commercial Woman, she’s feeling the weight of the world, is depressed and just wants to be alone. But what is Nexus?
This is where things get really interesting. In the comics, Nexus can be referred to as the Nexus of All Realities, which is basically a gateway to, well, multiple realities. A multiverse, if you will. With WandaVision being a bridge to the upcoming Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and later on, the currently untitled third Spider-Man movie, this commercial may serve more as just a clever nod to the comics. In fact, Scarlet Witch is considered to be a Nexus being. “One who belongs equally to all possible timelines — all realities and divergences,” as revealed to Agatha Harkness (wink to the camera) in 1985’s West Coast Avengers #61. So without getting too in the weeds about it all, bottom line, Wanda is being very well positioned as the key that finally allows the Marvel Cinematic Universe to enter the multiverse.
Improbable but not impossible: Aside from all the sorcery, multiverses, and super-powered theories, isn’t it curious that Westview seemingly has everything but some good mental health professionals? Would be nice to see a therapist or psychiatrist around.
(If you subscribe to a service through our links, Vulture may earn an affiliate commission.)
More on WandaVision
- The Marvels Teaser Trailer Is Freaky Friday for Superheroes
- Patti LuPone and Aubrey Plaza Join Agatha: Coven of Chaos
- Matt Shakman, WandaVision Director, in Talks to Helm Marvel’s Fantastic Four