Okay. Fine. They got me. For the first time I’m genuinely excited to learn what happens next on WandaVision. Please respect my privacy at this difficult time.
That doesn’t necessarily mean I’m fully on board with the series, however. For the first four episodes, it largely treaded water while establishing a basic conceptual framework. Hell, it did that for the first five episodes, really — the only thing that makes this latest installment novel occurs in its final 60 seconds or so. And that twist is equal parts titillating and frustrating: yes, if you’re someone who knows the intricacies of superhero cosmology, you’ll be more than a little giddy; but if you’re a more casual viewer, even one who has seen all of the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, the development will probably be completely lost on you. Although I (sorta) got what was going on, I can’t help but resent the fact that so many others will have to play catchup by reading this recap or texting their more nerd-cultured friends. If a show requires that much prior knowledge in order to find it interesting, do you praise it for its ability to energize a narrow base, or do you damn it for giving up on making a case to the wider world?
Let’s go through what happened and perhaps you can judge for yourself. We open on a, like, totally bodacious 1980s living-room set, where the newly birthed twin boys are crying inside their cribs as light piano music tinkles on the soundtrack. We see Wanda attempting to calm them while decked out in her Reagan-era finest: wide, high-waisted pants and a vest with a floral-print front and a denim back, hair zhuzh-ed within an inch of its life. Enter Vision, looking every inch like Michael Gross in Family Ties — that is, if Gross had a robot face. Wanda tries to do magic on the kids, but it won’t shut them up. Pacifiers don’t do the trick, either. “We’ll figure it out,” says Vizh; Wanda counters with, “Or maybe we just need some help.”
At that very moment, Agnes bursts in, dressed in tights that let everyone know she’s jazzed up to jazzercise. Vision says he’s nervous about Agnes taking care of the babies and Agnes suddenly looks confused and stammers a bit before asking Wanda, in a decidedly non-performative voice, “Do you want me to take that again?” Now everyone’s confused, but then they start laughing uproariously, as does the studio audience. Wanda tells Vision not to worry about what just happened while Agnes sprays lavender perfume on the babies and looks for “dark liquor” to feed them. Suddenly, the sound of crying disappears. Have the twins gone to sleepyland? Nope — it turns out they’ve aged up to being 5-year-olds. “Kids, heh,” says Agnes. “Can’t control ’em, no matter how much you try!” This is almost certainly foreshadowing.
Cue the ’80s-style intro to the show-within-a show (a show that, notably, is not displayed in the slimmer aspect ratio that a show of that period would have been in), which is all sentiment and schmaltz. “Crossing our fingers, singing a song / we’re making it up as we go along,” croon the singers of the (genuinely wonderful) theme music while we see a montage of photos of Wanda and Vision as young’uns, culminating in a painted portrait of the whole little nuclear family. Artistically, this is the most interesting part of the episode.
Cut to Monica in a hospital bed, being tested by some sort of device. We hear audio of her being questioned by Tyler at some other debriefing session: “There was this feeling keeping me down, this hopeless feeling, like drowning,” she tells him. “It was grief.” Jimmy and Darcy step in and Darcy tells her she’s a big fan, which feels off-brand from a character whose main appeal is her jaded cynicism. We learn that Monica’s test results look weird and blank, but before we can hear more, we transition to Tyler’s briefing on what comes next.
He tells the assembled crowd of agents and analysts that “We now know [Wanda] is the principal victimizer” before starting to characterize her as a “terrorist,” to the frustration of Jimmy, Monica, and Darcy. Monica speaks up and says Wanda doesn’t have an inclination to destruction or a political agenda and is therefore not a terrorist. I suppose this is supposed to be a commentary on the real-life War on Terror, with the increasingly sinister Tyler being cast as the gung-ho hater, but it feels muddled and rushed. Perhaps that angle will be explored more later in the series?
Whatever the case, Tyler shows everyone security footage from nine days prior, when it seems that Wanda broke into SWORD to steal Vision’s corpse, destroyed by Thanos in Infinity War. Why no one had discussed this pretty crucial development prior to this moment is not explained. Tyler points out that resurrecting Vision was a direct violation of the Sokovia Accords (legislation passed in Captain America: Civil War to restrain the Avengers) and Jimmy cites Vision’s living will, both of which specify that he shouldn’t be brought back and used as a weapon. “Maximoff, in her grief, disregarded his wishes,” says Tyler. Everyone is dismissed. Darcy ponders the Vision dilemma: “What happens when he learns the truth?”
But hey, in the words of Goat Boy: remember the ’80s? We’re back there, where the twin boys are fretting over a dog they’re bathing in the kitchen sink. “Can we keep him?” they ask Wanda, who is initially reluctant but then seems charmed by the pup. Vision walks in and seems doubtful of the situation, then changes his robo-face to a human one because he senses that someone’s about to walk in. Sure enough, in charges Agnes with a conveniently existent dog house, which makes Vision even more suspicious. He is further upset when Wanda uses her magic to create a dog collar right in front of Agnes, from whom she should ostensibly be hiding her powers. “What aren’t you telling me?” the husband asks of his wife. Wanda tells Billy and Tommy that they won’t be ready to care for an animal until they’re at least 10, which prompts them to look at each other and age up. “Let’s just hope this dog stays the same size,” Agnes intones. “Woof woof!”
Cut to Jimmy, Monica, and Darcy (let’s just call them the Virtuous Trio, or VT, for expediency’s sake) at the base, where Monica posits that, if they can build a high-tech mobile bunker, they could enter Westview and that she knows an aerospace engineer who’d be up for it. The name is left unsaid … whom from the MCU could it be? Darcy is calling the whole weird town-sized anomaly the “Hex,” because it’s hexagonal, although the name is an homage to the “hex” powers that Wanda has in the comics. Fanservice, everybody! Jimmy notes that they don’t know who the twin boys were before Wanda showed up and seemingly took control. Monica says they were created by Wanda, but Jimmy points out that the Avenger has historically just created illusions, not matter. Darcy notes that creating such matter and life would require “an insane amount of power.” Could it be that someone else, someone more potent, is at least partially in control? Mayhap Agnes?
Monica counters that Wanda is plenty powerful and could have killed Thanos if not for the space overlord’s “blitz” at the last second. Jimmy counter-counters by saying Captain Marvel actually came closer to defeating Ol’ Purple-Chin and that the good captain’s powers also emerged from an Infinity Stone, which makes Monica bristle — “We are not talking about her, we’re talking about Wanda,” she says. And she has an idea. The VT head to a storage room where the ’70s outfit that Monica was found in is hung up for analysis. Monica fires a gun at the clothing and the bullets bounce off of it like it’s made of kevlar. Monica says it is, in fact, made of the kevlar that she was wearing in her bulletproof vest when she entered the anomaly. She posits that Wanda is “rewriting reality” and “changing things as they go into the Hex” so they match the show-within-a-show, then asks, “What if we send something in that requires no change?”
We then see Vision at his office, where the employees are gawking at the cutting-edge-for-the-time computers they’ve just received. Vision logs onto the internet with his colleague, Norm, to get some “electronic mail,” as Norm calls it. They pull up an email that says it’s from SWORD and all the employees start reading it in unison. It’s a message from Darcy about the Hex, but everyone starts laughing at it, assuming it’s a joke. Vision touches Norm’s temples with his special powers, causing the poor man to suddenly remember who he was before Wanda came to town. “You have to stop her!” he says, panicking. “Stop who?” Vision asks. “She’s in my head!” Norm replies, adding, “Just make her stop!” before Vision touches his head again and Norm returns to his sitcom-y cheer, asking where he should put a stamp on his electronic mail.
Back at the hacienda, the boys are teaching the dog a trick and ask after their father. Wanda says he’s at the office, to which they confusedly reply that it’s Saturday. “Look, he just … he needed a distraction,” says mama. “Sometimes, your dad and I aren’t on the same page, but that’s just temporary.” One of the boys asks if Wanda, like them, has a brother. “I do, yeah,” she says, looking glassy. “He’s far away from here and that makes me sad, sometimes.” The dog runs to the door and growls. “Something’s scaring him,” one of the lads says.
They walk outside and we move to the perspective of a drone flying above Westview. It’s being guided from base by the VT and their cohort, under Tyler’s command, and we learn that the device was made with “tech from the ’80s,” which is quite the hand-wave. Wanda looks up at the drone and, even through the black-and-white footage coming to the base from this throwback technology, her eyes glow red. “Take the shot!” says Tyler and a projectile flies from the drone as the feed cuts out. Before Monica can fully chastise the boss, an alarm goes off and a soldier cries that there’s been a breach in the anomaly.
Everyone runs outside and trains their guns at the energy wall as a figure emerges. It’s Wanda in her old Avengers outfit, holding the destroyed drone. “This will be your only warning,” she says. “Stay out of my home.” Bizarrely, she seems to have her old Sokovian accent from Avengers: Age of Ultron, but it fades in and out. Whether that’s deliberate or just poor acting on Olsen’s part is unclear. Wanda says she’s not the one with the guns and Monica replies, “But you are the one in control.” I’m starting to suspect she’s not the one in control! “I have what I want, and no one will ever take it from me again,” Wanda says before using her powers to mind-whammy the soldiers, who turn their guns on Tyler while she walks back into the Hex.
Go to commercial! Go to commercial! We see the commercial-lady trying and failing to deal with liquid spills on her countertop until she starts using the wonder product: “Lagos brand paper towels.” Lagos was, of course, the city where Wanda accidentally killed a bunch of people in Civil War, and the voiceover alludes to that unfortunate incident with the slogan: “Lagos: for when you make a mess you didn’t mean to!”
Back to the program, where the boys are looking for their dog with Wanda and they run into the local mailman, who says they’ll find him. Who is that guy? Why do we keep getting these random appearances from him? No answers are forthcoming, but the family sees rustling in a bush and out comes Agnes, holding the canine in a blanket that covers him completely. Turns out the dog ate some poisonous leaves and perished. RIPup. The boys urge Wanda to bring him back from the dead, which Wanda resists. “We can’t reverse death, no matter how sad it makes us,” she says, once again hitting the whole grief theme, but the boys are unsatisfied. Vision walks up to them and they all go home.
While away from the boys, Vision confronts Wanda about the Norm situation and says, “You can’t control me the way you do them,” prompting Wanda to start rolling the credits while the audience applauds. That doesn’t faze Vision, who keeps yelling at her until the point where they’re both levitating and powering up. “What is outside of Westview?” he demands; “You don’t wanna know, I promise you!” she fires back. Vision says he can’t remember anything before Westview and Wanda asks whether being her husband and the father of their children isn’t enough. Vision notes that there are no other children in town, which I’ll confess I hadn’t noticed yet.
“Do you really think I’m controlling everything?” Wanda asks him, adding that she can’t make everyone in Westview do their daily tasks. “I don’t know how any of this started in the first place!” Okay, yeah, I was almost certainly wrong last week about Wanda being the one in charge. Oops. The doorbell rings. Wanda says she didn’t do it. She goes to the door tentatively, opens it, and we see shock on her face. Cut to the base, where alarms start blaring. Cut back to the house, where we see the signature frosted locks of Pietro from behind. But then we see his face, and it’s …
… Evan Peters! So this is the big twist, folks. In Age of Ultron, Pietro was played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson. But, due to weird rights issues, there was another Pietro in the completely separate X-Men movie franchise at Fox, and that Pietro was played by Peters. Of course, Disney now owns Fox and the X-Men, so there’s nothing to stop them from synthesizing the once-discrete universes. Which is maybe what’s happening here? Peters played Pietro with a wildly different affect than Taylor-Johnson did — all dirtbag confidence and slacker pride — and it’s on display here as he asks whether a “long lost bro” gets to “squeeze his stinking sister to death, or what?” Darcy, watching this, asks, “She recast Pietro?” Peters-Pietro sees Vision and asks, “Who’s the popsicle?”, cueing the end credits.
So I guess the X-Men have finally arrived in the MCU! Or something? For people who watch the superhero industry closely, this is something of a huge deal — people have been wondering how those merry mutants would be incorporated into the Disney apparatus for years, and this certainly feels like a first narrative step toward that incorporation. Geeks love crossovers and multiverses, and yours truly is no exception, so I’ll confess that my heart quickened. But also… there’s nothing particularly thematically interesting here, just the giddiness of cheap nerd bait. It’s a step up from what’s preceded it and establishes the show as an important expositional part of the fictional universe(s), but it remains to be seen whether that’s enough to justify the first half of this series being so bland.
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