Season 1, episode 1: “Wonder Woman Meets Baroness Von Gunther”
Original airdate: Apr. 21, 1976
Kriti: Unlike the pilot movie, this week’s episode, “Wonder Woman Meets Baroness Von Gunther,” didn’t feel slow at all!
Nevertheless, I’ve come to the conclusion that literally everyone on this show is more intelligent than Steve.
So far, he hasn’t proven to be much more than a himbo who can occasionally throw a punch.
Overall, I thought this was a pretty solid episode that incorporated many of my favorite elements from the pilot movie.
It also raised some intriguing questions about power dynamics, the contrast between good and bad women, male assumptions of superiority, and, in my opinion, we should start a counting/drinking game for how many times per episode Diana transforms into Wonder Woman.
It’s worth noting that the episode was written by a woman, Margaret Armen, who has also contributed to shows like Star Trek and The Bionic Woman.
What were your initial impressions of the episode?
Sidant: It’s quite remarkable how an extra 30 minutes can affect the episode’s pacing, isn’t it?
I also enjoyed the episode and appreciated the use of a classic Wonder Woman adversary from the character’s World War II-era stories.
I particularly liked the intrigue surrounding the Baroness’s manipulation of events even from her prison cell and the revelation that the Nazis had infiltrated the highest levels of industry through characters like Arthur Deal III.
The whole episode had a delightful and pulpy feel, although I found the young boy’s presence a bit of a downer. But he was cute, so it’s forgivable.
I’m curious to hear more about this notion that male ideas equate to superiority.
I agree that Steve doesn’t come across as particularly bright, even though he’s the one usually doing the investigative work (which the warden’s son should be doing for them).
It’s not that he’s pretending to be unintelligent, but rather that he doesn’t seem to be the sharpest tool in the shed. Fortunately, Diana is there to provide him with guidance.
Kriti: You thought the kid was a drag? I typically don’t like kids, but I actually enjoyed his character.
He’s far more intelligent than Steve, and I was hoping that Wonder Woman would become his mentor or something.
As for the idea of male superiority, it’s not necessarily that, but rather the annoyance that Steve gets all the credit for ideas that Diana feeds him.
It’s frustrating. I was particularly irked by a scene where Diana suggests going to the prison to question the Baroness, and Steve’s response was, “That’s what I intended to do, Diana.”
Later, he said, “I suggest…” It might be the tone or context, but this seemed to imply that since it was his “idea,” it was somehow superior to if it had been Diana’s.
Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but the level of mansplaining in his interactions with Diana and other women, like the Baroness, really gets under my skin.
Can’t we just do away with him already?
Sidant: For your drinking game: She spins two times.
No, “superiority” isn’t the right word, but the tone he uses is somewhat dismissive or perhaps condescending.
It’s like he’s only half-listening. He co-opts the idea by saying, “I suggest we pay the Baroness a visit,” when, in fact, it was Diana’s suggestion.
I found it irritating because he’s trying to take all the credit while pretending to fix his tie in the mirror.
He does mention to the warden how intuitive Diana is, but we don’t really get to see that in action.
The most she offers is that the Baroness isn’t very trustworthy, to which the immediate reply would be, “Really? The Nazi master saboteur isn’t very trustworthy?!”
I understand that Diana might be downplaying her intelligence and abilities to blend in, much like Clark Kent with his comical clumsiness.
However, the episode doesn’t show a side of her that contradicts the Diana Prince persona.
So, there’s no counterexample to the “plain and uninteresting woman” label that the Baroness, borrowing her words, applies to her.
Steve’s best description of her is “hard-working” and “totally loyal.” Even Clark Kent gets to beat Lois to a byline every now and then to maintain his pretense of being a good reporter.
What do you think about the Baroness? She puts on a similar front of weak femininity in front of Steve, like Diana, but she’s tough and commands a lot of respect from her partners and subordinates in the episode.
She even gets to scold Arthur for the botched munition barn plan and she may be locked up, but she’s clearly in charge.
It’s a distinctly different form of femininity compared to Diana, and she’s a Nazi, to boot.
Kriti: I kind of love the Baroness. Besides her excellent taste in clothing – that red cape, that sequined dress – it all screams film noir to me.
She represents a femininity that’s entirely different from what Diana presents, especially because, while we know that both of them are in charge, the Baroness really emphasizes it. She’s not going to be a shrinking violet.
She clearly wields a tremendous amount of power, which is interesting considering Diana’s comment regarding democracy and valuing women from the pilot movie.
Both women are using their power within institutions that don’t value them.
I agree that she puts on a facade of weak femininity in front of Steve, probably because she knows he’s gullible enough to fall for it.
This type of femininity is rooted in sexual power, I believe. We know Steve finds her attractive (they were sleeping together in the pilot movie, right?), and this operates to further dumb him down, if that’s even possible.
We see men like Steve and Arthur essentially serving as white male figureheads, with women like Diana and the Baroness being the brains behind the operation.
What are your thoughts on her?
Also, something else that occurred to me is that there seems to be a good girl vs. bad girl dichotomy set up between Diana and the Baroness.
This is evident in their aesthetics, beliefs (democracy vs. totalitarianism), and even in how they subtly shape Steve.
I’m curious to see how this might play out depending on how prominent the Baroness’s role becomes. Any thoughts?
Sidant: I really like the Baroness as well. That cape is fierce. I don’t recall any mention of Steve and the Baroness sleeping together, but I could be wrong.
I don’t think she’s coming back either, but I might be mistaken.
Your observations about the placement of feminine power are quite interesting.
I’ll be curious to see if that dynamic changes as Diana gains power, particularly if the Baroness or other female villains continue to play significant roles.
It’s also worth noting that the episode introduced another female character, although she remained unnamed.
The woman with Blankenship, eating cake, was Etta Candy.
Diana may be donning a mask to blend in and occasionally advocate for her ideology, while the Baroness may employ various forms of feminism to achieve her goals.
In contrast, Etta seems to serve no other purpose than to be there, eating cake and looking worried. At least the show isn’t endorsing her.
Kriti: Those are all thought-provoking observations, particularly regarding the placement of feminine power.
I’m eager to see if that position wavers as Diana’s power grows and whether the Baroness or other female villains return. It’s intriguing.
Is there anything else that stood out for you in the episode?
Sidant: Oh, we’ll have plenty of female villains, including in the next episode!
In the early comics, many of Wonder Woman’s adversaries were women who disguised themselves as men, such as Doctor Poison and Hypnota. It was a different time, the 1940s.
And yes, Etta Candy is a character in the comics.
In the Golden Age, she was a plump woman who adored sweets and led a college sorority that assisted Wonder Woman in her adventures.
So, it’s not quite the same character as we see here, but the love of sweets is a common thread.
She underwent some changes over time, from being concerned about her body image to becoming a capable military intelligence officer.
In the latest relaunch, she is slim, African American, and serves as Steve’s secretary.
Not much else stood out for me in this episode. I did notice that Lynda Carter isn’t the greatest runner, but she’s wearing high-heeled boots, so I probably shouldn’t be too critical.
Even Tom Cruise probably couldn’t run in those boots. It was interesting that only the Baroness ended up in the pool.
Nowadays, both characters would likely end up there. Speaking of the final scene, did Diana inadvertently reveal her secret identity?
How else would Wonder Woman know that the Baroness was reading about democracy in prison?
Kriti: Well, Steve’s a total himbo, so he probably didn’t catch on.