My knowledge and understanding of Marvel canon falls somewhere between limited and non-existent. Being born in 1992, I was exposed to the well-known and highly regarded X-Men and Spider-Man cartoons. However, even that comic education was limited to reruns considering they were released in 1992 and 1994 respectively. I have never had any dedicated relationship with comic book canon other than the slew of films released since 2002, starting with Spider-Man.
I have been late to the party and can’t help but to mingle amongst all facets of the experience. Episodes 5-8 of WandaVision, has me wondering about two kinds of viewers. Using the context of the story one group belongs in the “Vision” category; the other is the “Agatha” group. Audience members like myself probably feel more like the Westview version of Vision: curious, uncertain and asking questions to make sense of it all. The Agatha group being those who were way ahead of the potential reveals, familiar with the specific comics WandaVision draws from or even able to analyze Evan Peters as the choice for Quicksilver (as opposed to Aaron Taylor-Johnson), and what it could mean for the future of the X-Men’s inclusion in the MCU.
Despite which group you belong to (or where you may range in between the two), I think I speak for the consensus of viewers in saying episodes 5-7 were the strongest thus far. Episode 6’s Halloween episode featured canonically accurate costumes for Vision, Wanda and, to some extent, Agnes. Our first after credit scene in Episode 7–something moviegoers have grown accustomed to in MCU. The delightful anticipation of which classic sitcom would be paid homage to was hitting its sweet spot: Family Ties, Malcolm in the Middle, Modern Family and a twist on The Office theme song were perfect choices for their respective eras. There was little reference from other shows of each individual time period, which strengthened the storytelling.
Kat Dennings, Teyonah Parris and Randall Park have great chemistry, even as they wade through strange scientific jargon. It helps keep us off balance as we think we’ve come to understand the Westview charade. And of course, Kathryn Hahn being Kathryn Hahn. Even the bloggers who were confident in the story’s direction “All Along”, must have felt the same joy the rest of us uninformed viewers felt when Agatha’s theme song played out her reveal.
Considering the strength of episodes 5-7, episode 8: “Previously On” left something to be desired. Obviously, the sitcom timeline has basically run out. The playful nature of recreating a unique style of family driven sitcoms had to be set aside for storytelling relative to the “present day” of WandaVision‘s plot. However, this episode felt oversaturated with exposition. Wanda’s life has been wrought with trauma and loss. Elizabeth Olsen has been fantastic in her portrayal of Wanda Maximoff, whether on the big or small screen. She draws us into Wanda’s management of grief seamlessly and wears her pain effortlessly.
Agatha playing “Ghost of Trauma Past” seemed to step all over the importance of Wanda’s timeline. Not to mention, justifying the sitcom choices that affected Wanda’s manufactured reality felt like twisting one’s foot when squishing a bug. The ambiguity of her reality’s “decoration” holds more weight than the fact that she just happened to watch those shows at one point or another. Were the distractions meaningful because of the effect they had on her perpetual trauma? Are they her favorites? Wouldn’t these particular shows remind her more of the painful memories than they would shut them out? Considering that last question, is that her subconscious attempting to keep her grounded to what she is desperately trying to suppress?
One of the most important takeaways from “Previously On” was understanding Director Hayward’s manipulation of the truth. Until now, the audience and Hayward’s S.W.O.R.D. agents were under the impression Wanda had stolen Vision’s “corpse” and revived him for her own sake in Westview. In the penultimate flashback scene, Wanda finesses her way into Hayward’s office and he takes her to wear Vision’s body is being mined and stripped, seemingly, for the monetary value of his parts. Wanda storms her way in and is crushed as she says: “I can’t feel you” and leaves peacefully.
In her own version of a heartfelt Buick commercial, Wanda drives through Westview and arrives at a predetermined plot of land Vision had chosen, as the blueprint in Wanda’s hands tells us, for the happy couple “to grow old in.” In a powerful, emotional release, Wanda uses every ounce of power she has to create the reality we’ve been visiting for the past 7 weeks, including her own tailor-made Vision. This, and another after credits scene, show us Director Hayward plans on reviving vision himself and as a weapon against Wanda. (as someone may have predicted) This begs the question of Hayward’s alliance and if Agatha could potentially be in his back pocket.
Despite Agatha’s ending line, a specific image of Wanda’s silhouette implying specific canon narrative and an after credits scene representing a particular comic book cover all going swiftly over my (and I’m sure plenty of others) head, WandaVision’s season finale will be dense and explosive. The mystery aspect has all but been revealed, with a few loose knots left to tie. A majority of the characters crucial to the story were left out of episode 8 almost guaranteeing major impact (positive or negative) next week.
Whether you’re an “Agatha” or “Vision” viewer, the thematic nature of Wanda’s Westview is relatable. What will we do to cope? Why does pain and sorrow push us to almost superhuman lengths to find solace? The answer could lie in Vision’s own words: “What is grief, if not love persevering?”