We may be coming up on Valentine’s Day this weekend, but they’re celebrating Halloween in Westview, with a new WandaVision episode that’s creepy, enthralling, and— just to throw another holiday into the mix—full of Easter eggs for comic-book fans.
After last week, a friend of mine speculated that we were in for a lot of exposition in the four remaining episodes. Make that three now, because there wasn’t a whole lot of it in this week’s Malcolm in the Middle-inspired installment. There are still so many questions that need answering, not just about what’s behind Wanda’s magical TV hex and how it’s affecting everyone, but about the investigation outside of it as well and the secrets S.W.O.R.D. is keeping.
Let’s take a closer, and spoiler-filled, look at the memorable moments and mysteries in WandaVision‘s sixth episode, “All-New Halloween Spooktacular!”
Among the show’s many gifts to fans, cleverly using Halloween as an excuse to give us the characters dressed up as the comic-book versions of themselves has to be one of the best so far. It’s just another point in favor of the case that WandaVision just might be the most meta television show ever made. There’s a constantly flowing layer of meaning beneath everything that assumes we are aware of the context outside the story, an ongoing dialogue between the show’s creators and its devoted audience. They know what we know and what we will assume, and they play with those assumptions in wonderfully original ways. It may be jarring, forcing us out of the story at times, but that’s the point. By its very nature, as a show within a show, we are supposed to recognize that it’s all a fabrication, that we are outside looking in. Plus, it’s hilarious watching Paul Bettany run around in tights, a cape, and silk boxer shorts (at least, until it’s not).
And once again, we have a nice segue into this week’s instance of Agnes weirdness (and another chance for Kathryn Hahn to shine despite her limited screen time). Her literal witch costume and cackling laughter now leave me with only two assumptions: either she really is Agatha Harkness from the comics, as everyone has been speculating, or Marvel is shamelessly trolling us big time. Remember what I said before about the creators being aware of the audience’s assumptions? They knew in advance that some sharp fans would make the connection between Agnes and the sorceress closely entwined with Wanda and Vison’s mythology. This is them playing with those expectations, a wink to anyone in the know and a clue for the rest, who will surely come back and revisit this scene later with new appreciation. As for her conversation with Vision, it revealed a few things I was wondering about. Vision doesn’t remember his past as an Avenger (he said as much last episode, but this confirms it) and doesn’t know he’s supposed to be dead (or he didn’t until Agnes made it clear). Also, whenever someone is broken out of Wanda’s spell they beg for help and rescue. This is torture for them, whether Wanda wants to acknowledge that or not.
There are hints in this episode that Wanda is starting to question the morality of what she’s doing. She looks to Pietro, the only person who seems to know and understand it (and isn’t freaked out about it) for reassurance that her actions aren’t wrong. Conveniently, he tells her exactly what she wants to hear, that she’s the empathetic twin, and has made ethical choices here. “No need to traumatize beyond the occasional holiday episode cameo, am I right?” he tells her (never mind that he’s admitting it’s traumatic). She’s kept families and couples together, not completely replaced their personalities, and given people better jobs, so it’s not all bad, right? Meanwhile, Vision, who is no longer under her control (or maybe never was and is just now realizing it) goes off script to get to the outside world in an effort to save everyone. He has no memory of the Avengers, but he’s still the worthy figure who was able to lift Thor’s hammer in Age of Ultron. So his parting words to Wanda, “Be good,” could also signify his hopes that his growing suspicions are wrong, that she is not the villain of this story.
What is Hayward hiding?
Between last week’s surprise airstrike against Wanda, his lack of compassion for Wanda’s delicate emotional state, and that crack about who’s the “sassy best friend” I’m totally okay with Hayward turning out to be the real villain in all this. He’s keeping things from our awesome trio—Monica, Darcy, and Jimmy—and his interest in Vision (or his Vibranium remains) seems more than academic. We didn’t have time to find out what Darcy discovered on her laptop before she was pulled into the expanded hex, but whatever he was up to, it wasn’t good.
Who is Pietro, really?
If there was any progress towards solving the puzzle together this week, it was the few pieces provided by Pietro in his dialogue with Wanda. He doesn’t have the same memories of childhood she does (because he’s from an alternate universe) but when she questions this, he tells her, “You’ve probably suppressed a lot of the trauma.” Yeah, no kidding. The details of how he got there are “fuzzy” but he heard her calling him—from where we still don’t know—and came to her aid. (I’m choosing to take his line about getting shot “like a chump in the street for no reason at all” as a dig toward his pointless death in Age of Ultron.)
In a flash similar to the way she saw Vision a couple episodes ago, Wanda glimpses Pietro riddled with the same bullets that killed her brother in Age of Ultron (as the clip montage before the episode helpfully reminds us). Is this just her trauma coming out? Or is there a more direct connection between the two? Is he curious or is he interrogating her? He says, “If I found Shangri-La I wouldn’t want to be reminded of the past either.” Found, not created. Could he be implying that this world existed before Wanda took control?
By the way, here’s another fun meta alert. Pietro’s use of the phrase “kick-ass” (and Wanda meaningfully repeating it) can only be a reference to the movie Kick-Ass, another comic-book adaptation, which featured both of the actors who have played Pietro, Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Evan Peters, side by side.
The Need for Speed … and Wiccan
In the comics, Wanda and Vision’s twins Tommy and Billy eventually become superheroes themselves, known as Speed and Wiccan (they also join the Young Avengers, which may indicate that the MCU is heading in that direction too). In this episode, Tommy immediately bonds with his “Uncle P” and later demonstrates that he has his own speedster powers. Billy, on the other hand, takes after his mom when he telepathically senses that his dad is in trouble and is able to stop his brother with telekinesis. Pietro—who turns out to be a fountain of meta commentary—takes Tommy’s hand and declares (in a double reference to Top Gun), “I feel the need for speed!” He also tells the boys to, “Unleash hell, demon spawn!” In the comics their origins involve having pieces of the devil’s soul (or Mephisto in the Marvel universe, subject of many fan theories) inside them, which could either be more fan service or another clue. Time will tell.
Will Monica Get Powers?
Darcy discovers in this episode that going through the barrier twice has rewritten Monica’s cells on a molecular level. Or, in other words, mutated it. It can’t be a coincidence that in the episode immediately following the show literally opening the door to the possibility of mutants existing in the MCU, we find out that one of the characters could potentially be a mutant. Captain Monica Rambeau seems on track to fulfill her comic counterpart’s destiny as the next Captain Marvel (or Photon or Spectrum or one of the other superhero monikers she’s taken on over the years). Which is exciting news if it means we get to see more of the fantastic Teyonah Parris in the role.
Bonus question, who is she meeting over the ridge that will get her back into the hex? The setup sure makes it seem like it’s going to be someone we already know. I’m looking forward to that cameo next week, whoever it is.
In an episode full of unsettling moments, that clay-animated commercial for YoMagic might have been the most disturbing. It’s a departure from the previous commercials, which alluded to the traumatic highlights of Wanda’s history in the MCU. I don’t think we know what this refers to yet, but I’m sure we’ll eventually find out. The boy shivers from hunger, and the shark offers him a solution by giving him a cup of yogurt he can’t open, possibly alluding to some kind of sinister force (the shark) behind Wanda’s magic, and the frustration of having salvation within your grasp, but being unable to access it. The contrast of the bouncy music, dopey voiceover, and clay animation (reminiscent of the California Raisins) with the starving boy on the island wasting away to nothing with a cup of yogurt in his hand is an image that will stick with me for a while.
Halloween Horror Show
It’s fitting that this episode is the creepiest yet. What’s with those frozen people Vision encounters on the outskirts of town? Is Wanda simply uninterested in giving them a storyline? Or does she lack the power to control more than the people in her immediate vicinity, the leads and recurring characters as opposed to the forgotten background extras. Are they all just props to her? The farther Vision gets from the town square, the less people move and the more drab the world becomes, aesthetically more like our reality than hers. Notably, it’s still Halloween even that far out, complete with jack-o-lanterns and kids frozen in the midst of trick-or-treating. And then there are the horrible scenes of Vision literally being torn apart as he struggles to escape the barrier. Chilling stuff.
Breaking the Fourth Wall, Literally
In Wanda’s TV world, we’ve moved from sitcoms into single-camera comedies and the now familiar convention of characters breaking the fourth wall to talk directly to the audience. I point this out not only because it’s the ultimate meta device, it’s also a cool parallel to the spectacular climax of the episode, where Wanda pushes the boundary of the hex to save her dying husband, enveloping the entire S.W.O.R.D. compound and altering it through the reality filter into a harmless carnival circus. And just as I got excited to see if they would address Kat Dennings’ sitcom past, the end credits rolled. Boo. We’ll have to wait another whole week to find out what happens to all those new inhabitants of Westview. Which is maybe the most upsetting prospect of all.
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