WandaVision recap: The one where they explain things
Or do they?
Personally speaking, the eighth episode of WandaVision is my favorite type of chapter in a story like this: The one where they pull back the curtain and explain what's really been going on the entire time. By the end of "Previously On," we kind of understand how the sitcom reality at the center of WandaVision came to be.
We also learn a bit about our friend Agatha Harkness, even though it's confusing. The episode begins with a flashback to Agatha's time in Salem, Mass. The date given is 1693, which would put it right at the end of the historical Salem witch trials, but interestingly there are no witch hunters to be seen. This scene is purely a case of witch-on-witch violence, as Agatha is restrained by a group of witches led by her mother who are angry at her for stealing forbidden magical knowledge. They attempt to punish her by tying her to a stake and blasting her with blue energy, but Agatha turns the tables on them by changing the blue energy to her signature purple color and sucking the life out of all of them.
The final line of this episode seems to indicate that Marvel witches have their own color schemes and that this is important. Does it matter that they kind of match up with the Infinity Stones? The anti-Agatha witches use the blue of the Space Stone, Agatha wields the purple of the Power Stone, and Wanda's magic is red like the Reality Stone. The Infinity Stones are destroyed of course, and are not mentioned in this episode even in relation to Vision, so it's probably safe to assume they are a non-factor going forward. But Agatha's magic does seem capable of overpowering anyone else, and we see how Wanda rewrote reality. Food for thought, I guess.
After the flashback, we're back in Agatha's witch dungeon basement where she's teasing a restrained Wanda. Agatha reveals some magical fundamentals (she's marked the room with runes, including one that looks suspiciously like an M, preventing others from casting magic in the vicinity) and some insight into the false Pietro situation. "Fietro," as Agatha calls him, was apparently her eyes and ears, which we saw explicitly in last week's mid-credits scene when he attacked Monica (no updates on that front, by the way). Agatha says that she had to use the Evan Peters version because the Aaron Taylor-Johnson Pietro is still a bullet-riddled corpse on a different continent and necromancy would be tough even for her. But there's no actual information about how Agatha brought him in from another universe — or, if he's just a human puppet she disguised as Pietro, how she gave him his signature super-speed. The show feels stuck between "too much explanation" and "not enough" on the Quicksilver question, which is an odd place to be. There's magic involved, you don't have to explain much! When you give me a few details, I start wondering what the others are.
As powerful as Agatha is, she is totally astounded by what Wanda has done to Westview. Sensing the power at work, she came and started acting like a fly in the ointment in order to deconstruct the illusion and figure out how Wanda was doing it. In that way I suppose she's another audience surrogate, like Jimmy Woo and Darcy Lewis: WandaVision characters trying to figure out what's going on with WandaVision. Good news for Agatha and us: This episode tells us a lot about how this all happened.
Much like Monica waking up five years after the Snap to find her mother gone from the hospital bed, Wanda woke up to find Vision's body gone. In the process of investigating this, she finds out that his body is being held at S.W.O.R.D. headquarters. She shows up to see what the deal is, and the result is a truly upsetting scene of her watching Vision's body being pulled apart and sawed off and dissected as S.W.O.R.D. tries to figure out what made this "sentient weapon" tick. Earlier in the season, Hayward told us that Wanda stormed the building and stole Vision's body, but we now see that isn't true. Faced with that horrific sight of her lover's corpse being pulled apart, Wanda instead retreated to the sitcoms that comforted her as a child in war-torn Sokovia and as a patient in HYDRA's Infinity Stone experiments.
Given the deed to vacant Westview property by Vision before his death, Wanda returned there in mourning, where her grief overwhelmed her and created a wellspring of power that turned the entire town into Dick Van Dyke Show-style black-and-white and also recreated Vision entirely from scratch. That's why his body disintegrated when he tried to leave the Hex on Halloween: He literally doesn't exist outside of it. Or rather, he does, just not like that — since Wanda never actually took Vision's body, that means S.W.O.R.D. has had it all along. And now, as we see in the mid-credits scene, they're finally able to activate it with some of Wanda's magic juice she left behind in various artifacts. That sets up for a pretty exciting possibility for the WandaVision finale: Wanda vs. Vision!
But even after a whole episode of revelations, many questions remain — and there's only one episode left to resolve them! If the Vision of WandaVision is completely an illusion created by Wanda's power, then what is the deal with those kids? It was already weird enough when we thought they were the offspring of a woman and a robot. Are we now to believe that they too are illusions? If so, why is Agatha so obsessed with them?
Given all these questions, ending the penultimate episode on the revelation that Wanda is Scarlet Witch felt pretty weak. Sure, maybe they've only ever called her "Wanda" on screen, but we all know her superhero name! Ah well, I guess any ending would've paled in comparison to "Agatha All Along."
Chancellor's Take: I'll admit, I'm torn about this episode. On the one hand, I loved Elizabeth Olsen and Kathryn Hahn's performances. Hahn masterfully chewed scenery as the Virgil to Wanda's Dante, guiding Wanda through the emotional Hell of her past, and making very sweaty and awkward lines about "runes" truly sing. In terms of Olsen, she's done a great job of layering in this undercurrent of sadness to her performance all season long, and it was so moving to see all of the grief bubble to the surface in the flashbacks. Olsen truly blew me away in the scenes where she describes her grief as wave to Vision, and when she finally creates the Hex; you could feel her pain.
On the other hand, I can't help but wonder if the show could've introduced these flashbacks in a bolder and more interesting way. WandaVision's aesthetic choices — classic sitcom homages — have been a major part of its appeal up until this point, especially since it's been holding so many basic things we need to know about the show so close to its vest. The memory palace with many doors gimmick just didn't quite work for me because it felt so conventional. (The mid to late 2010s definitely had its fair share of sad sitcoms, or there are a few dramas that could've been referenced.)
All of that being said, "Previously On" worked for me on an emotional level, which is I guess is what counts the most. Wandavision has been heavily hinting at how much grief is at the heart of the story, and this episode fully went there.
- Kathryn Hahn sure can chew scenery. "That accent really comes and goes, doesn't it?" killed me.
- On my second viewing of the episode, the flashback to Wanda's HYDRA experiment really stuck out to me. Her prolonged contact with the Mind Stone, a bond so deep she was able to bring the gem out of its protective shell, might indicate how she was able to replicate Vision so perfectly. I've been wondering how Vision could exist in any form without the Mind Stone, but maybe Wanda absorbed enough of its power over the years to sustain his mind herself.
- Who is that angelic figure Wanda glimpsed in the yellow light of the Mind Stone, though? Herself from the future?
- You know we love catching House of M references around here, so of course we loved the visual element of puzzle pieces slotting into place as Wanda created her Westview home. That's exactly how her powers were depicted in that comic series.