WandaVision episode 8, “Previously On,” revealed exactly Wanda Maximoff’s custom-made reality resembles classic American sitcoms, and highlighted one episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show as being particularly important both to her and to the show. Clips from season 2, episode 21, “It May Look Like A Walnut”* not only highlights how influential The Dick Van Dyke Show was on the aesthetic of WandaVision‘s first two episodes, but also has some major themes in common with Marvel’s Disney+ series.
While being forcibly taken on a tour of her past by Agatha Harkness, Wanda revisits the night that her parents were killed. It’s revealed that her father used to smuggle and sell DVDs of American sitcoms, and it was a tradition for the Maximoff family to spend a night in front of the TV watching episodes together. On this occasion, young Wanda is given the choice of what to watch and eagerly selects The Dick Van Dyke Show season 2, episode 21 – with young Pietro complaining that they’ve seen it too many times. “It May Look Like A Walnut” is clearly a favorite of Wanda’s, and it’s a fitting episode for both WandaVision and the Marvel Cinematic Universe in general.
The episode opens with Rob (Dick Van Dyke) and Laura (Mary Tyler Moore) watching a horror movie from the comfort of their twin beds – except Laura is hiding under the covers, too scared to look at the TV. Rob teases her by describing the plot of the movie in great detail, despite Laura protesting that she’ll have nightmares. However, when Rob wakes up the next morning he discovers that the movie appears to be coming true. Things get progressively stranger and stranger until eventually Rob wakes up in bed and it’s revealed that he gave himself nightmares by watching the movie. In WandaVision, young Wanda is able to get a handle on her terror and grief after her home is bombed by reminding herself that at the end of the episode, it was all a dream.
The immediate parallels between WandaVision – in which Wanda has created a fake sitcom reality in the town of Westview and refuses to “wake up” from the dream – and this particular episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show are obvious. However, diving deeper into the episode there are even more layers to it than that. The horror movie that Rob watches is about an evil alien called Kolak from the planet Twilo, who takes over people’s bodies and turns them into “Twiloites” by way of alien crystals that are hidden inside walnut shells. People who are converted into Twiloites only eat walnuts, only drink water, and lose their sense of humor (and also their thumbs).
It sounds not unlike the plot of an MCU movie, and the legion of Twiloite drones is reminiscent of the movie where Wanda made her first appearance, Avengers: Age of Ultron. The idea of something that looks like a walnut but is actually far more sinister works as a metaphor not only for Wanda’s saccharine version of Westview, but also for Agatha Harkness – who presented herself as a friend to Wanda before revealing that she’s actually a villain. Then, of course, there’s the parallel of the gem inside the walnut transforming people who look at it, and the Mind Stone’s transformation of Wanda when she volunteered for HYDRA’s experiments.
*”It May Look Like A Walnut” was actually season 2, episode 20 when it originally aired, but on the DVD release of The Dick Van Dyke Show it’s episode 21.