WTF: WandaVision Episode 8 “Previously On”

Throughout its first season, WandaVision has deftly pulled off a difficult trick of narrative acrobatics. It’s astonishing when you think about it. While firmly planting itself in the MCU, the series has also managed to balance its own weird world of Westview and introduce a new shadow organization from the perspective of a handful of side characters plucked from disparate properties. There’s a lot I love about it, but one of my favorite things has been how it’s embraced the TV format in creative and clever ways, layered with subtext, homages, and hidden treats for fans to discover. Also, I can’t resist a good mystery. But at some point, the mystery has to be solved.

I’ll pause here for the usual spoiler warning. I’m going to be talking about the entire episode, so if you haven’t seen it yet you may not want to read any further.

This week’s eighth episode, the show’s second-to-last, seemed to move back into feature-film territory, with exposition via flashback sequences to fill in the gaps between the movie franchise and the series. It was an emotional ride—and necessary for the story to progress—but it didn’t feel much like the show we’ve been watching up until now. Granted, it’s hard to beat last week’s fantastic chart-topping villain reveal, but it felt like something was missing. Maybe it was a sense of joy and wonder, now that things are becoming clearer. Or it could be that I just missed seeing Monica, Darcy, and Jimmy on my screen. Or maybe (probably) it’s the dawning realization that it’s coming to an end and soon there won’t be any new WandaVision episodes at all.

I’m sure next week’s big finale will have lots of surprises in store, but for now let’s take stock of what we know. Some of our questions were answered in “Previously On,” but there are still lots of unknowns left, and after that ending I have some new ones now too.

Let’s start with the answered questions.

Who created the hex?

Contrary to popular lyrics, it wasn’t Agatha at all. That super catchy tune (still stuck in my head a week later) left viewers with the impression that Agatha was responsible for everything, including the hex. Not so much, it turns out. She’s certainly been manipulating things—as she appears to be the only one immune to Wanda’s mind tricks—but the whole point of the episode was her need to find out how Wanda did it. Maybe it would have been more accurate to sing, “I was Agatha All Along.”

I’ll admit I’ve had my doubts that Wanda possessed that much power (altering reality and mind controlling a whole town!), based on what we’ve seen up to this point. Guess we hadn’t seen it all. And who could blame her for wanting to rewrite the world as a TV sitcom (the kind where a patio structure falling down on Bryan Cranston isn’t a concern) after everything she’s been through? Wanda’s story is heartbreaking, and Elizabeth Olsen makes you feel every inch of her pain. Could there still be someone else behind it? It’s possible. But I love the idea that she created this world to hide from her grief. It will be all the more meaningful when she has to give it up.

Why Westview?

Of all the places to surround with an anomaly, why a suburban town in New Jersey? What’s so special about it? Nothing much, except an empty plot of land that was going to be Wanda and Vision’s future home together. Cue the waterworks and light show. It didn’t look like the nicest town before she transformed it into a mid-century haven, but to be fair, real estate prices are awfully steep these days, and an Avenger’s salary (or even two) can’t be that high.

How is Vision alive?

Yep, Wanda again. She recreated him from her own magical energy, and did such a good job that he has his own free will. But this version of Vision only exists within the hex, which is likely the reason he can’t leave it. That still doesn’t explain why or how Hayward was tracking his vibranium signature, considering he had the body all along. Yeah, he was totally lying about Wanda stealing it. He also lied to her about dismantling him. In fact, he’s been doing exactly what he accused her of, trying to bring his sentient weapon back “online.” My money’s still on Hayward turning out to be a villain. Maybe not the final boss, but definitely an obstacle.

What’s the meaning of the TV show tributes?

Wanda evidently grew up on American TV, sitcoms in particular, thanks to her dad bringing home stacks of DVDs. But it’s not that simple; it’s more about what the shows represent to her. At first there was TV night with the family, until a Stark Industries bomb put a permanent stop to that comforting ritual. Later, it kept her company in her Hydra cell between experimentations. Perhaps most significantly, it provided a distraction from her loneliness and grief after losing her brother. It’s also worth noting, I think, that the first time she opened up to Vision was while they were watching TV together. Based on all the scenes of them snuggling on the couch, remote in hand, I can imagine this being a regular thing for them, part of their early love story.

This bit of character backstory also conveniently solves another longstanding debate about how she learned to speak English and why her accent comes and goes. Once again, TV is the answer.

Fietro

I adore you, Agnes/Agatha, but I don’t see that nickname catching on. As many have speculated, Agatha confirmed in this episode that the Pietro who’s been causing trouble in Westview is under her spell. She said necromancy wasn’t an option, but she never said where this Pietro actually came from, only that he isn’t her brother. I still believe that they wouldn’t have gone to the trouble of casting Evan Peters unless he was really meant to be Quicksilver from the X-Men movie universe. Both could be true. We’ll have to wait until next week to find out what happened after he caught Monica snooping around. That should be an interesting confrontation.

Now for the new questions this episode brought up:

A New Vision?

The new, colorless Vision Hayward fires up in the post-credit scene is a direct reference to a storyline from the comics in which Vision was dismantled (one of the many, many times) by a government agency and later rebuilt without the consciousness that gave him human emotions. White Vision—alternatively Anti-Vision or, more ominously, Ultron 2.0—was basically a soulless robot who broke Wanda’s heart by not having one. It’s not yet clear how the result of Project Cataract will come into play on the show, but I’m looking forward to an epic showdown when the two Visions inevitably collide. Perhaps this rebuilt body will be the key to Wanda’s Vision being able to leave with her at the end?

Wanda’s Other Vision

The first time Wanda comes into contact with the mind stone during the Hydra experiments, she sees a figure of a woman surrounded by a golden glow, then passes out. If you look at the silhouette closely, you can make out the details of the Scarlet Witch’s characteristic headdress and features resembling Olsen. Could she have seen herself in her final form? We know the MCU is going to expand into the multiverse, so maybe it was a Wanda from a parallel universe. Whoever she was, she looked awesome and powerful I hope we see her again.

What’s Agatha really after?

In the opening flashback to Agatha’s origin story, we find out that she’s always been hungry for power. She stole powerful magic from her own coven and when they tried to stop her, she killed them all (including her own mother). But what’s her motivation now? Why is she so determined to uncover the source of Wanda’s magic? Is she acting on her own in Westview? Or is she in league with someone else (like Mephisto)? Her reveal came rather early for her to be the true big bad of the show. I still suspect there’s something even more evil lurking out there. Whatever her story, she’s the most interesting new character to join the MCU in a while, so they’d better leave the door open for her to come back in some way or we riot. Who’s with me?

Chaos Magic

How about that final scene on the street? It was short, but packed a punch. There are hints throughout the episode that Wanda was special before Hydra got their hands on her, though the M-word has yet to be spoken (“mutant,” as she and Pietro are in the comics). Agatha calls her a “baby witch” and assumes she used magic to keep the bomb from exploding when she was 10 years old. Her interaction with the mind stone was also a big clue. Agatha theorizes that it amplified what was already there, coming to the conclusion that the complex spells she used to control Westview are what she calls “chaos magic.” So far only Agatha knows what that is, but apparently the one who can successfully wield it is a mythical being known as—wait for it—the Scarlet Witch. Two little words, previously verboten in the MCU. Two words that make a world of difference.

Before I wrap up, I just want to list the remaining questions I have going into the finale. Some of them I’ve been wondering about for weeks, some are newer. They may all turn out to be red herrings, we’ll see. But it might be interesting to come back to when it’s all over and see how much the show show paid off.

Are the rumors of a big guest appearance true or has Marvel been trolling us?

Why does Monica not want to talk about her Auntie Carol, aka Captain Marvel?

Will Agatha ever mention Ralph again?

Who is Jimmy’s missing person from the witness protection program?

What’s up with the sketchy postman?

Who is Dottie really?

What was with those zombie people on the outskirts of town?

Will Wanda get to keep Billy and Tommy or is she going to have to suffer losing two more family members?

And finally, is the writing staff out to destroy me personally with the line, “But what is grief, if not love persevering?” (Actually, I already know the answer to that one. It’s yes.)

That’s it for this week! What lingering questions do you have? Are you excited to see next week’s episode or sad that it’s all coming to an end? Join the discussion in the comments section below.

Looking for more WandaVision coverage?
WandaVision Episode 5 “On a Very Special Episode …”
WandaVision Episode 6 “All-New Halloween Spooktacular!”
WandaVision Episode 7 “Breaking the Fourth Wall”

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