WandaVision: All-New Halloween Spooktacular! brings its sitcom action to the modern era of single-camera storytelling, and deepens the intrigue.
Our favorite superhero sitcom returns with yet another strong episode. Sorry, Powerless! WandaVision has jumped all the way to the year 2000 bypassing the 90s (and potential inspirations like The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air or Full House) for an episode inspired by Malcolm in the Middle. It’s an inspired choice, as Malcolm in the Middle is a clear demarcation point in TV history: it made single camera filming the new normal in the genre. Malcolm in the Middle is famous as well for its regular tendency to break the fourth wall – what could be more WandaVision than that?
To the Audience: Sorry friends. No use for you this week. There’s no laugh track in single camera sitcoms.
We pick up this week with Pietro Maximoff occupying the role as ne’er-do-well uncle inspiring ill behavior in his nephews, Tommy and Billy. Evan Peters is a natural at this sort of vagabond charm, as he serves as a delightfully terrible influence on the family. Peters has a wonderful cadence and manages to reinvigorate the comedic beats that have otherwise been fading into the background as the show reveals itself. His delivery recalls a young Sam Rockwell, and he has just the right cutting energy when he calls quips that his sister’s Halloween costume looks like “Old Red Riding Hood.”
To the Audience: We should really take a step back and talk about that episode recap, right? An interesting choice to include Aaron Taylor-Johnson there! First time we’ve seen him on our Marvel airwaves since Age of Ultron. Sure, it’s just a recap, but it sure wouldn’t surprise me if we see the actor again before WandaVision concludes.
The show also embraces another sitcom trope: the Halloween episode. The gimmick allows the show to embrace some real comic book hokum. I particularly enjoyed Wanda and Vision’s throwback costumes inspired by their early appearances in Marvel lore. It’s the sort of silly meta-joke that WandaVision has utterly mastered. It’s delightful too that Evan Peters rocks the original Quicksilver costume, while Tommy and Billy don costumes inspired by their Speed and Wiccan comic book origins.
Halloween – a holiday of concealed identities and embraced horrors – serves as a thematic inspiration as well. Vision is now increasingly self-aware that things are very wrong inside Westview. His explorations of the outer limits of Westview appear to uncover a limitation in Wanda’s (or someone’s) control. He sees dozens of townsfolk simply trapped in space unable to move, unable to escape. His efforts to keep Wanda calm, while barely suppressing his own concern, bring a tense dynamic to the show’s usually happy couple. And the use of people trapped immobile, especially when its been made clear that Wanda’s control is physically painful, makes for a chilling landscape on the outskirts of Westview. Kathryn Hahn’s unhinged performance when Vision briefly frees her from Wanda’s control sets a new high water mark for the show’s flirtation with the horror genre.
Interestingly, Tommy and Billy appear increasingly aware of their own unreality. Their fourth wall breaking meta commentary suggests not only that they’re aware of the world’s fiction, but also that they are perhaps mere pieces of Wanda’s struggling psyche. It makes sense, then, that, when Vision is slowly torn apart outside The Hex, it is Billy who feels the disturbance first.
To the Audience: Wiccan and Speed are totally going to be in an eventual young Avengers team-up with Ironheart, Kate Bishop Hawkeye, Monica Rambeau, Florence Pugh’s Black Widow, and Cassie Lang, right?
It now appears entering and forcibly exiting The Hex has caused some sort of cellular change in Monica Rambeau. One might be bold and call it, ahem, a mutation. The Monica Rambeau of the comic books is actually the first woman to use the mantle of Captain Marvel. She later took on the name Pulsar and has the power to both become and control various types of energy. Nerdery aside, it’s been fun to see how well Teyonah Parris has grown into the role. I found the actress’ introduction a few episodes ago a bit forced, as she was compelled to churn through an immense amount of plot seemed to take away from her chance to establish the character. Now, with the character established, the actress has really come into her own. And by giving her a clear mission – and a villain in S.W.O.R.D.’s Director Hayward – Parris has been given a better chance to show her skills. Parris’ easy banter with Kat Dennings and Randall Park lets her show a nice sense of comedic timing.
To the Audience: If I have one fear it’s that WandaVision is getting a little bit of the feel of the DC Arrowverse where every single character has, or might have, superpowers. If Rambeau, Darcy, and all the others have powers, it tends to make the major superheroes seem less special. Though, I guess this only becomes an issue if WandaVision ends up as a multi-season show.
So… if entering and exiting the hex changes someone’s genetic make-up and can manifest a Fox X-Men character, then it sure seems like this may be the MCU’s method to integrate mutants into the MCU. In comic lore, tragedy in Wanda’s life allowed her powers to blossom such that she purged the “mutant gene” from nearly every mutant on Earth. It stands to reason that the MCU Wanda, who the show has already set up as potentially the most powerful Avenger, would have the ability to create countless mutants too.
In fact, the rapid expansion of The Hex seems like it might create quite a few more mutants. Wanda’s powers turned the Westview adjacent base into a S.W.O.R.D. circus. Nightcrawler and The Blob are among the many X-Men with cinematic – and comic – origins tied to the circus. It certainly would not surprise me if we’re heading for Wanda creating mutants in the MCU, either through Hex magic or multiverse shenanigans.
To the Audience: Who plays Wolverine? Here’s a dark horse idea: Christopher Abbott.
So what is going on with Evan Peters’ Pietro? It’s clear that the character is the most broadly aware of Westview’s unreality. He differs from Vision or the children in that he does not appear to be under Wanda’s control. He says things she disputes, such as his flashback story to their childhood, and breaks Wanda’s fourth role when noting he thinks she handled the ethical considerations of enslaving a town as well as she could. When Wanda becomes enraged with Pietro she doesn’t use her usual rewind tricks and mind control that keep Vision in line – she’s forced to blast him. So the real question is if this character is a fun bit of meta-casting and actually some sort of villain in disguise (signs point to the Marvel Devil, Mephisto) or is he the X-Men character resisting, and teasing, Wanda’s powers?
To the Audience: Anyone else let their hopes rise for a Fassbender appearance as soon as Evan Peters mentioned his parents?
So we’re left with a lot of questions to answer and only three episodes to go. How does Darcy adjust to life in The Hex? Do we get mutants in the MCU? Does everyone have powers now? Who is responsible for the hex?
The best part of weekly episodic television is that the show leaves us with all these fun questions to ponder. Until next week, friends.
To the Audience: Ok, it turns out I miss you guys. It’s weird talking to myself like this. I’m no fan of CBS’ modern sitcoms, but if that gets you back in my life at least one more time, let them serve as the inspiration for one of these final episodes!
WATCH WANDAVISION: ALL-NEW HALLOWEEN SPOOKTACULAR!
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