This is the sound of Randall Park’s voice, coming to you through an old-fashioned radio speaker to inform you that this piece contains spoilers related to this week’s episode of WandaVision.
The crossover event is a time-tested TV trope in which characters from one show appear in another on the same network, suggesting that, despite living in separate sitcom worlds, they all reside in the same broader universe. Or to put it another way: They’re part of the same multiverse.
Characters from ABC’s TGIF lineup hopped between shows on more than one occasion. Even after they had their own show, Laverne and Shirley showed up in the Happy Days version of 1950s Milwaukee. And, of course, we all know that Phoebe Buffay of Friends has a twin sister, Ursula, who lived in the Mad About You realm.
With its fifth installment, “On a Very Special Episode …,” WandaVision stages its own crossover event, one that takes the notion of a crossover and runs in so many smart directions with it that it makes my ’80s perm spin right round like a record baby. [Cough] ’80s reference [cough].
The most obvious literal crossover comes in that final, wonderful jaw-dropper of a moment when — again, I can’t stress this enough, spoiler alert — Wanda’s twin brother, Pietro, suddenly arrives at the front door of Wanda and Vision’s Family Ties–style house. The arrival of Pietro ticks off two boxes on the sitcom-trope checklist. One, as noted by Kat Dennings’s Darcy Lewis, who is watching the Wanda and Vision show from her perch at S.W.O.R.D., is that the character has been suddenly and inexplicably recast. In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, specifically the movie Avengers: Age of Ultron, the character of Pietro, otherwise known as Quicksilver, was played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson. But when he appears at Wanda and Vision’s door, he’s played by Evan Peters, who played Quicksilver in Fox’s X-Men franchise, making Peters’s appearance in and of itself a major crossover event.
Some context for the uninitiated: Because Wanda and Pietro are part of both the X-Men and the Avengers in the comic books — another crossover of sorts — Marvel Studios and Fox reached an agreement years ago that enabled both characters to appear in the Avengers and X-Men films as long as the Fox movies didn’t note their connection to the Avengers, and the MCU didn’t mention their mutant status. That’s why, earlier in the episode, in a meta gag and a bit of foreshadowing of Pietro’s arrival, Jimmy Woo (Randall Park) insists that Wanda doesn’t have an alias or “funny nickname”; in the Avengers realm, Wanda couldn’t previously be referred to as Scarlet Witch because of all these rights issues.
Of course now that Disney owns Fox, all of this goes out the window, proving that corporate mergers and acquisitions are the ultimate crossover events. With the introduction of Peters as Pietro, these two separate yet related franchises — the Full House and Family Matters of the superhero-movie world — have finally intertwined. (By the way, if you’d like to have your own ’80s perm wig blown off, please note that Scarlet Witch appears with Quicksilver in a season-four episode of X-Men, the 1990s animated series, that is titled “Family Ties.” That episode can, naturally, be viewed on Disney+.)
In addition to serving as one hell of a mic drop and a cliffhanger ending, the Peters/Pietro reveal signifies some other truths. One, as has been established throughout the episode, is that Wanda, who has supposedly created this Westview world and is holding its inhabitants hostage in this extended Nick at Nite escape, is beginning to lose control of things. Agnes, the nosy neighbor, is asking if scenes can be taken from the top. Agnes also notes that you can’t control kids, as proven by the twins, Tommy and Billy, suddenly aging whenever a problem arises, yet another sitcom trope. (Agnes’s comment also may answer Vision’s question about why there are no other children in Westview — because they are not so easily controlled, especially when you’re not their mother. Also, given her history, Wanda surely has reservations about taking children away from their parents.)
More important, though, Pietro’s puncturing of the place Wanda has built is a reminder of what Monica says about her experience in that magically conjured suburb. “There was this feeling keeping me down,” she recalls of her time there. “This hopeless feeling … it was grief.” This makes sense since Monica’s mother died while she was away. But it also makes sense because Wanda seems to have created Westview in her grief over the death of Vision (see Avengers: Infinity War for more information), a grief compounded by the loss of her brother (see Age of Ultron). In order to cope with all that death — death, its own form of crossing over — Wanda (at least allegedly) resuscitated Vision, crossed over into a happy suburban sitcom life, dragged a bunch of people with her, and is trying to bar any semblance of reality from intruding.
But she’s starting to realize that, as haphazard and illogical as a sitcom life is allowed to be, there are some things that even it does not permit. “We can’t reverse death, no matter how sad it makes us,” Wanda tells her boys in a moment of clarity when they beg her to bring their dog, Sparky, back to life. Yet when Vision, whose death she actually reversed, tries to tell her that what she’s done is wrong and must be stopped, Wanda denies what he’s saying. Which puts into focus what we’ve really been watching in every trip back in sitcom time on WandaVision: Wanda moving through the stages of grief.
In reality, Vision died. Pietro did, too. They are, most likely, only alive in this suburb of our sad witch’s making. S.W.O.R.D. acting director Tyler Hayward refers to Wanda’s actions as those of a terrorist. But Monica insists that Wanda is not politically motivated, an observation that resonates all the more considering that the premise of Family Ties, whose set is replicated in this episode, was rooted in political differences that are ultimately overshadowed by the idea that family is more important.
“Family is forever,” Wanda’s children insist. That’s what every sitcom tells us, and it’s what Wanda is trying to make true by conjuring a family that can exist as is forever. But it’s worth remembering that this phrase is something that’s often said when a loved one dies. Even when a loved one is no longer here, we take solace that their spirit can still be felt, that between death and life there is some crossover. But one eventually has to admit that those two things are also separate.
Presumably, Pietro has shown up, looking like Evan Peters, to teach Wanda a lesson that she already knows but is fighting like hell to ignore: that no matter how much you travel through time or dress up in housewife clothes or rely on your telepathic powers, some types of magic can’t be performed. Even when your sitcom son asks you to do it, you still can’t fix death.