WandaVision recap: Family ties, for real
I guess we should kick off this week's WandaVision recap by talking about the most important part of episode 5, "A Very Special Episode": The cute Family Ties-style opening credits which featured photos of Vision as a baby and looking miserable dressed up as Santa Claus and the Easter bunny!
Okay, I'm kidding, but those did kill me both times I watched this episode this morning. In truth, the episode's big water-cooler moment was obviously the ending, which paid off a seed planted in WandaVision's third episode, raises some interesting questions about the Marvel Cinematic Universe's future, and is sure to put fans in a tizzy. The installment definitely lived up to its title.
Partially set in the '80s, the grief-focused "A Very Special Episode" homages Family Ties and follows Wanda and Vision as they deal with the pressures of being parents. Of course, that's complicated by the fact that Billy and Tommy can essentially age on command, a quippy Agnes always showing up whenever she's needed to push the plot along, and most importantly, Vision realizing that all is not right in this world and doing something about it. At work, Vision uses his Mind Stone-enabled powers to wake up Norm à la House of M, and Norm begs him to help because a woman is mind-controlling him. Vision assumes it's Wanda.
When Vision returns home, he confronts Wanda about controlling everyone in the town, which leads to a floating stand-off between the two superpowered beings. But, they don't come to blows, and nothing is completely resolved (we'll come back to their discussion later) because their argument is interrupted by a surprising arrival: Wanda's brother, Pietro Maximoff, who died in Avengers: Age of Ultron. But, it's not Aaron Taylor-Johnson, who played her super-speedy twin in the aforementioned sequel. It's freaking Evan Peters, who played Peter Maximoff, a.k.a. Quicksilver, in X-Men: Days of Future Past and X-Men: Apocalypse. Whereas Taylor-Johnson's version of the character gained his powers through the Mind Stone like Wanda, Peters' version was a mutant (and Magneto's son), which is more in line with the comic book origins. Anyway, as I wrote in my notes, what the f---ity f---?!
Obviously, the first question is: How is this possible? Well, in terms of the real world, this is the result of Disney owning Fox now. Short story shorter: Fox used to own the rights to X-Men and Fantastic Four; however, because both Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver are both mutants and Avengers, the rights to those characters were essentially split between Disney and Fox, with the former being allowed to use them but only as Avengers and without any mutant mentions. Now that Disney has subsumed Fox, it can basically do whatever it wants with those characters, but it also has access to mutants and other people that were previously off limits. Disney first revealed some of its plans for the previously-owned Fox characters in December when it announced that Jon Watts was developing a Fantastic Four movie. Peters' very fan-servicey appearance on WandaVision seems to be the next step in the integration. What's interesting, though, is that this moment, like most of the show, really only works for superhero diehard fans. For a casual fan who hasn't kept up with multiple cinematic universes, you're probably wondering what the hell is going on and need to do some Wikipediaing. Don't you love it when TV shows give you homework?
In terms of the show's story, though, it's unclear how this is possible. When Peters shows up on-screen, Darcy — who, like the rest of S.W.O.R.D., believes Wanda is in complete control of this world — exclaims, "She recast Pietro?" And part of me hopes that's just the in-universe explanation because that would be a chaotic way to explain a retcon of this size. However, I suspect this ties into Marvel's growing interest in the multiverse, i.e. the existence of alternate worlds and timelines, because WandaVision is supposed to set up Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, which will feature Wanda in a big way. Odds are Wanda or someone else powerful has pulled Peters' Quicksilver in from another universe. Based on Peter's cockiness when Wanda opens the door, Peters (Peter's vs. Peters, that's confusing) is clearly playing the same character he portrayed in the X-Men movies and not just Wanda's brother with a different face. While the galaxy-brained (multiverse-brained?) Quicksilver cameo is very titillating, it's not definitely not the best thing of the episode.
The thing I love about WandaVision is seeing how Elizabeth Olsen continues to flesh Wanda out. In the mix of all the sitcom wackiness and MCU shenanigans, she adds tiny details to her performance that make Wanda painfully human. You can feel the sorrow when she tells the twins she's sad because she misses her brother, who is far away. Her performance is the reason I loved the tense stand-off between S.W.O.R.D. and Wanda, who emerges from Westview after Hayward tried to kill her with a drone. Wanda is clearly pissed off, and Olsen allows some of Wanda's Sokovian accent to slip through, which felt so real and, again, human. It reminded me of how my mom's Guyanese accent becomes thicker or how she reverts to British English spelling when she gets upset or angry. That little detail added so much to that very sweaty scene (And I call it sweaty because the way we get there is kind of lame and bored me.)
"A Very Special Episode" also raises more questions about what's actually going on in Westview. After Monica returned to the real world at the end of episode 4, everyone at S.W.O.R.D. believes Wanda is in full control of the Hex, which is what Darcy has taken to calling the sitcom world because of its hexagonal shape. During a briefing, Hayward twists Monica's report on her experience in the Hex (and Wanda's history) to characterize her as a terrorist and victimizer so that he could justify taking aggressive action against her. To bolster his position, he even reveals footage of Wanda breaking into S.W.O.R.D. headquarters and stealing Vision's body. He says her grief drove her to resurrect Vision, thereby violating both the Sokovia Accords and Vision's will, the latter of which wanted to prevent people from using his body as a weapon. There's reason to suspect Hayward is manipulating the footage because, well, over-powerful law enforcement agencies don't have a great track record in the MCU, and more importantly, why is he just revealing this footage now? This would've been great context for everyone to have in last week's episode. Furthermore, I'm sure Vision wouldn't be happy about an organization with "Sentient Weapon" in its name having his body.
Raising even more questions: In the Hex, Tommy and Billy find a dog, which Agnes suggests they name Sparky, a nod to Tom King and Gabriel Hernandez Walta's Vision comic. Unfortunately, Sparky dies pretty quickly, and the twins beg her to resurrect them. "The urge to run from this feeling is powerful, I know," says Wanda, urging them not to suddenly grow up. "There are rules in life. We can't rush aging just because it's convenient. And we can't reverse death no matter how sad it makes us. Some things are forever." Now, you may be asking yourself, doesn't that make Wanda kind of a hypocrite since that's exactly what she's apparently doing with the Hex? Well, Olsen's wide and very still, yet expressive, eyes makes it clear she's wondering something similar. That's the first clue that Wanda may not have complete control over what's happening in the Hex.
Then, the episode adds more fuel to those suspicions when Vision confronts her about mind-controlling everyone in this world. "I don't know how any of this started in the first place," an upset Wanda tells Vision, who makes it clear he thinks whatever is going is wrong. This definitely makes me believe that someone else is pulling the strings of the world (Agnes? Hayward?) and Wanda is choosing to go along with it, because why wouldn't she.
Christian's take: I just wanted to take this moment to celebrate the cultural legacy of Too Many Cooks. Casper Kelly's surreal short film really blew my mind when it landed on Adult Swim and YouTube back in 2014. Its manipulation of sitcom tropes to their wildest possible extremes was both hilarious and terrifying in a way I had never seen before. I thought I saw echoes of Too Many Cooks in Childish Gambino's "This Is America" music video a couple years ago, and I definitely felt it in my favorite scene from this week's episode, when Wanda tries to cut off an uncomfortable conversation with her husband by rolling the credits early but he refuses to let it stop him, like the Too Many Cooks killer chasing one of his victims through and past the credits of her show. This episode's general sense of foreboding certainly feels similar as well. I love it. Long live Too Many Cooks!
And now for a very bonkers theory: What could it mean that WandaVision has "recast" Pietro? Well, at the most basic level, it could just mean that the show reached out to Aaron Taylor-Johnson but he wasn't interested in reprising his role and was not contractually obligated to, so the showrunners figured that their already-meta premise was capable of absorbing an obvious recasting. But at another level...does it hint at where WandaVision might be going?
Evan Peters' Quicksilver is now the first character from Fox's X-Men franchise to cross over to the MCU — which is probably a bummer for whoever was betting on Deadpool to do the honors. Is it just a matter of convenience, or is it the vanguard of a bigger convergence? We keep referencing House of M because the show does, but House of M was all leading to a hugely important climax where Wanda declared "no more mutants" and unleashed her reality-warping powers to turn 90 percent of Marvel's mutants into regular humans. That obviously wouldn't work for WandaVision, because there are no mutants in the MCU yet...so what if it's the opposite? What if WandaVision is leading to Wanda saying "more mutants" and using her powers to instead give a bunch of people powers and create a major population of mutants similar to her and Pietro?
Sure, it's an out-there theory, but that's what I'm really enjoying about WandaVision: The ability to deconstruct each episode one week at a time and tease out theories. It's a refreshing change from the now-standard binge model where you just take an entire season's worth of TV to the face in a single weekend. I especially appreciate that each episode of WandaVision is different from the one that came before, both in terms of sitcom references and plot revelations. Last episode ended with Monica saying it was all Wanda, but now we have Wanda saying that she's actually not in complete control of the Hex. So what is the truth? Guess we'll have to wait for next week, though it seems pretty important that we now know Agnes has an intuitive understanding of Westview's sitcom reality. Something tells me she killed that dog on purpose.
- I love how Darcy is kind of like WandaVision's version of Cisco Ramon on The Flash, in that she's kind of in charge of coming up with the comic book-y names for stuff.
- Speaking of names: Hayward asking if Wanda had a silly nickname or alias was funny and definitely foreshadows her receiving the name Scarlet Witch at some point in WandaVision.
- Kathryn Hahn punchlines delivery was great. She's gem, even if Agnes remains very sus. (Sorry, I've been playing way too much Among Us.)
- At one point, Darcy, Jimmy, and Monica try to nail down what Wanda's powers are because they've changed from movie to movie based on what the plot needs. The trio basically settles on her just being very powerful. It's funny because it remind me of all the conversations viewers have about the same topic.
- Speaking of that conversation: Darcy mentions Captain Marvel, briefly upsetting Monica, who quickly moves on. Darcy and Jimmy definitely pick up on her reticence to talk about Auntie Carol Danvers. Part of me wonders if Monica hasn't seen Carol since she left to tour the stars at the end of Captain Marvel, or maybe there's something else going on.
- The Lagos paper towel commercial was a reference to Wanda's screw-up at the beginning of Captain America: Civil War. The tagline "Lagos: For when you make a mess you didn't mean to" made me laugh.