WandaVision: On a Very Special Episode … the World Cracks (Ep. 5 Review)
WandaVision: On a Very Special Episode opens up the Multiverse in the show’s most surprising, exciting, and satisfying episode yet.
Welcome back friends for this, a Very Special Episode of WandaVision!
Audience: Raucous Applause
You guys are back! Oh how wonderful! I missed you!
What’d you think of the episode?
Audience: Thunderous Applause
Oh, good. I felt the same.
So this week’s episode sees the first true blending of the world’s inside and outside “The Hex” (as Darcy Lewis playfully defines it). On the inside, we turn now to an 80s-style Family Ties riff as Wanda and Vision go through some playful parenting shenanigans. For a few moments, the show appears to be echoing the ebbs and flows to the first three episodes, but soon the cracks start to show. For starters, this episode is now in widescreen, quite unlike any 80s sitcom – the modern world is starting to creep into the experience. Kathryn Hahn’s nosy neighbor Agnes barges into the home as usual and very quickly the sitcom cadence appears to crack a bit. The camera cuts from network multicam to superhero one-shots and two-shots as Agnes stumbles and asks if she should “start it from the top.”
A whole mess of weirdness soon follows: Wanda and Vision’s twins age up first from newborns to age 5, then from age 5 to age 10, so they can adopt a puppy.
Wanda as well is more flippant and uses her powers openly for the first time. Long gone are the shenanigans of hiding superpowers from the first two episodes now replaced by an openness, and what appears to be an increasing desperation to shoehorn Wanda’s dream world into her crumbling reality.
Vision is clearly aware of the falsity of his reality. In what is the show’s most chilling scene thus far, Vision briefly “frees” his co-worker Norm from Wanda’s influence. He immediately panics about the health of a relative, and the physical toll of his functional enslavement in Westview. It is one of the most horror-tinged moments in the entire MCU, and Bettany sells the scene perfectly.
On the outside, Monica Rambeau and friends Darcy Lewis and Jimmy Woo have come into conflict with S.W.O.R.D. As is typical of these big government organizations in comic books, S.W.O.R.D. has hid a harsher edge that runs into conflict with our leads. The question of Wanda’s culpability for what is transpiring edges into open hostility. A creative effort from Monica to get eyes in Westview is betrayed by S.W.O.R.D.’s clandestine efforts to take out Wanda. The result is Wanda’s first venture into the outside world in the show – and her direct threat to stay away.
On a Very Special Episode… is a reference to the sitcom trope where a show takes on a more serious social or emotional issue. Frequently, we see the death of a character or a social ill like a character fulling victim to drug or alcohol abuse. Here, WandaVision turns its eyes to death. While the sitcom element deals with the unexpected death of the twins’ new puppy, the show itself is looking into something darker. On the one hand, it’s the death of the show’s sitcom reality. From aspect ratio to “performances” the artifice of Wanda’s world is starting to crumble. On the other hand, Wanda is a deeply tragic character. All we’ve known of her is trauma: the death of her family, her Hydra enslavement with her brother, the death of her brother, the death of her lover. Death is a fixation for her and it’s become clear that she took (or rescued?) Vision’s body from S.W.O.R.D. custody. And as we see her children beg her to resurrect their dog, we see conflict start to overwhelm her, the shadow of her brother looming large. It’s a lovely moment of acting from Olsen, and a fantastic moment for the character.
But really, I’ve been writing for a long time without actually discussing the thing everyone really wants to talk about after this episode.
Audience: Leans Forward
QUICKSILVER IS BACK!
And not only is he back, but, to steal a line from Darcy, he has been “recast” (in a cute riff on era recasts in shows like Roseanne and, a bit later, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air). And what a recast it is: Evan Peters, who played the character in X-Men: Days of Future Past, X-Men: Apocalypse, and Dark Phoenix, steps into the shoes of Aaron Taylor-Johnson, who played the character in Avengers: Age of Ultron.
The look on Wanda’s face at the delightfully executed reveal is proof of one thing: she’s shocked to see a new Pietro at her door. You may recall that due to a complexity in how Fox initially licensed the X-Men characters, certain characters were considered both X-Men and Avengers. In the MCU, they could deploy Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver so long as they weren’t termed “mutants” and were not the progeny of Magneto. Similarly, the X-Movies could deploy the characters without reference to things like Wanda’s romance with Vision. Eventually, both series ended up deploying a version of the Flash-esque character Quicksilver.
This opens the door to so many fascinating questions. Is the Fox X-Men universe now canon? Did Wanda rip this Pietro through the Multiverse because her powers were not able to resurrect her actual brother? The storytelling, and business, ramifications are simply enormous.
I cannot help but note that how Wanda treats the S.W.O.R.D. agents outside The Hex echoes directly in cinematic X-Men lore. In X2: X-Men United, Magneto respond to a squad of officers aiming their weapons at him by using his magnet powers to rip their guns away and turn them back at the officers. It’s one of the most iconic moments in comic book movies. Wanda’s actions here – using her hex powers to point all the guns at S.W.O.R.D.’s boss – echoes the same sort of control and violence. Wanda, of course, in comic lore is actually the child of the great X-Men nemesis, Magneto. Could the show be headed for a Fassbender or McKellan appearance? I would not be surprised.
It’s telling that in the seemingly dozens of Marvel projects on the horizon the next few years, Marvel has announced no X-Men projects. The X-Men are A List superhero IP and it has always seemed a strange creative choice to leave them on the sidelines, especially as we are on the cusp of receiving a Spider-Man movie pulling from at least two other series of superhero films produced at a different studio. It seems that WandaVision – and the character’s deployment in the Doctor Strange sequel on the horizon – may be a way to cleverly integrate some of the better elements of the X-Men films into the broader MCU.
Here’s hoping all this leads us to another fantastic Quicksilver slow-mo action sequence similar to what we’ve seen the X-Men universe.
WATCH WANDAVISION: ON A VERY SPECIAL EPISODE
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