March 2, 2021

Streamin' (Madverse) Meemies: WandaVision Ep 8, "Previously On..."


After last week's reveal (and insanely catchy theme song) of "Agatha All Along," it's time for the show, and the viewer, to stop and reflect. At 46 minutes, this episode was the longest yet. (Although that's not the true length of the program, as one has to account for the extremely drawn-out credits, even if they do include some good music. So the actual show clocked in at 40 minutes at most, and probably under, which is about what the series has been running.) I suppose this could be called the "infodump" episode, as we received what essentially amounted to Agatha and Wanda origin stories. The latter, especially, was necessary--as a character, Wanda Maximoff has been notoriously glossed over and given short shift by the movies--but what was revealed is more than a little bit of a downer. It fits, though, as this is basically a show about the exploration of grief, given added depth by Vision's memorable line: "But what is grief, if not love persevering?" 

Once more unto the spoils:






The reveals in this episode can be divided into five parts: one for Agatha, and four for Wanda. A rather lopsided divide, perhaps, but Wanda is the ostensible hero (or maybe anti-hero is more like it, depending on the ending) and Agatha, so far, is the villain. As such, she's a bit more simply written than Wanda, despite Kathryn Hahn's best cackling, lip-smacking attempts to give her depth. (Which is not to say I dislike Agatha. Not at all. Kathryn Hahn is clearly having a lot of fun with the character. But Elizabeth Olson's subtler, somber performance carries the day throughout.) The show opens with an extended scene depicting exactly what happened to Agatha in Salem, Massachusetts more than three centuries ago: she was caught by her coven "stealing knowledge above your age and station and practicing the darkest of magics"--and despite Agatha's protestations that she should be taught, and "I did not break your rules; they simply bent to my power," the coven tries to kill her. But Agatha takes their blue lines of magic and turns them to her own purple--which is emphasized by the normally red Marvel Studios logo shading to purple as the show opens--and sucks all the life-energy out of the other members of the coven, leaving them mummified corpses. Even her own mother, following a rather unbelievable protestation by Agatha, "Please, I can be good." 

"No, you cannot," replies her mother, and despite her best efforts, she joins the other witches as a dried-up body on the ground. Agatha takes her mother's cameo and leaves, the same one she's been wearing on her collar through the show.

Wanda's reveals are four carefully structured scenes of her past, forcibly brought to the surface by Agatha, trying to determine how Wanda constructed the layers of spells that comprise Westview and using the twins to force Wanda's cooperation. (Although, at least at the beginning, Wanda is pretty well caught in Agatha's web, with the runes carved on the underground chamber's walls preventing Wanda from using her own magic. Wanda is more powerful than Agatha, but lacking even the most rudimentary witch's training, she is easy prey.) Agatha admits she used fake Pietro, or "Fietro," a "crystalline construct"--I think that was the phrase; I didn't write it down--as her eyes and ears to talk Wanda into spilling he secrets. But as Wanda told PFietro, she doesn't remember how she constructed Westview. Agatha means to find out. She takes Wanda back to the beginning of what turns out to be a litany of pain and horror: our first stop is in Sokovia, when Wanda's parents were alive and the family was watching collections of old sitcoms on DVD to practice their English. (The first referenced being The Dick Van Dyke Show.) We briefly see a happy, loving family, watching the program in their living room--until one of Stark Industries' bombs takes out most of the apartment. 

According to Agatha, this is when Wanda first manifests her powers: as a "baby witch obsessed with sitcoms," she uses a "probability hex" to keep the bomb from exploding. The next scene shows Wanda in Hydra headquarters, being introduced to the Mind Stone. All other experimental subjects to do this have died. The Mind Stone loosens itself from its staff and comes out to meet Wanda, and when she touches it she sees a silhouette which, perhaps, is a future vision of herself. She collapses and later, back in her room, falls back on what is clearly becoming a habit: watching American sitcoms (supposedly The Brady Bunch, although the clip shown looks suspiciously like Family Affair to me) to distract her from what else is happening. Agatha offers more commentary: "The Infinity Stone amplified what would've otherwise died on the vine."

The third scene takes place in the Avengers compound after Age of Ultron, the "first home Vision and I shared together," according to Wanda. This is a scene of Wanda and Vision talking about death and grief that also serves as the beginning of their connection and romance. It delivers the line from Vision that serves to sum up the episode and maybe the entire series as well: "But what is grief, if not love persevering?" 

Finally, we come to the scene that shows exactly what happened that fateful day Westview came to life, and also reveals what a lying SOB S.W.O.R.D. director Tyler Hayward is. Because contrary to the footage Hayward showed Darcy, Jimmy Woo, Monica and the others at the S.W.O.R.D. compound outside Westview, Wanda came to S.W.O.R.D. headquarters after the Blip not to steal Vision, but to bury him. Hayward let her in and let her view Vision's dismembered body, telling her she could not take "three billion dollars of vibranium" away because it didn't belong to her. (He also suggests she is there because she has the power to resurrect Vision, which Wanda denies: "That's not why I'm here." Which makes one wonder if letting her in was something of an experiment.) Wanda goes to Vision's severed head and and puts a little squirt of her power into the gaping hole left by the Mind Stone, and whispers four words that are just heartbreaking: "I can't feel you." Realizing that her lover is truly gone, she leaves. 

But in the car outside, there's a piece of paper lying on the front seat. A paper that is the deed to a property in Westview and a half-build house, a house Vision intended for Wanda "to grow old in," according to a heart drawn on the deed. Wanda drives to Westview, and we see a downtrodden, decaying town wrecked by the aftermath of the Snap. At the partially built house, Wanda finally gives way to the full force of her rage and pain, screaming as scarlet energy pours out of her. She constructs the house from the ground up, turns Westview into the 50s black and white town that we see in the show's first episode--and rebuilds Vision as well, recreating him in gleaming yellow energy. He looks at Wanda and says, "Welcome home," and she steps into her own personal sitcom as a bedressed and pearl-necklaced 50's housewife and joins him. 

Now, Agatha knows what happened. She snaps her fingers and disappears in a burst of purple mist, and Wanda hears the twins' screams. She runs outside to see Agatha hovering in the air, twin lassos of purple power around the boys' necks. "I know what you are," Agatha says. "You have no idea how dangerous you are. You're supposed to be a myth. This is chaos magic, Wanda, and that makes you the Scarlet Witch." 

Cue credits....

Well, almost. There's another mid-credits scene, going back to Hayward saying he's "ready to launch." Launch what? That was my question last episode. Now we see what he meant, as he has the drone Wanda brought out of Westview, still glowing with her scarlet energy, on a table. A switch is flipped, and the energy begins to drain out of the drone and down a cable--and into a white figure which we suddenly realize is the reassembled Vision, being rebooted by Wanda's power. Indeed, as we watch, his eyes open and one gleaming white hand flexes. 

Now cue credits. 

Well, hot damn. Talk about whetting the viewer's appetite for the finale. This episode was probably the slowest-paced of the episodes to date, but it was necessary to reveal the full context of what we've seen so far. I must point out that while Elizabeth Olsen has been giving a very good performance up till now, she really knocks it out of the park here. If there was any awards justice, she would be nominated for a Best Actress Emmy. (Not that I expect this to happen.) WandaVision is also, according to numerous reports, the most popular TV show in the world

Now if it can only stick the landing. That's the challenge, isn't it? There are a great many plates spinning in the air that need to be dealt with, and hopefully Tyler Hayward will get his comeuppance. We must see what happened to Monica, and (red) Vision and Darcy still need to show up--but I think (white) Vision, probably under Hayward's control, will make his play as well. Unfortunately, I think Wanda's heartbreak has also not reached its end. 

We shall see. 

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