As WandaVision has become an increasingly prevalent pop culture topic each week, I’ve fielded questions from people who are interested in watching the show, but are afraid to engage with it because they’ve never watched any of the Marvel movies before or know anything about the comics. At one point, I was going to write a guide, but then I went cross-eyed trying to whittle down the “homework” to four movies. I was afraid to miss something or set up a bunch of folks to be confused as hell.
After this week’s episode? F*ck all that. Dive right in.
For starters, even though I get a little (too) nerdy with these recaps, you absolutely do not need to know anything about the comics to enjoy the MCU movies. While they are loaded with Easter Eggs and nods to comic fans, for the most part, they are their own thing with their own continuity that’s barely a tenth as convoluted as the comics. They are designed for Jane Popcorn to waltz right in without knowing what the shit a Star-Lord or Nexus Being is.
What Marvel is also trying to do is engineer each show so that anyone can just hop right in. Obviously, after 20+ movies, and now, a growing line of Disney+ series, that seems… untenable. But Episode 8 of WandaVision does a surprisingly great job of threading that needle. (Whether that’s a needle that should be thread is a concern I’ll sit on for later.) Harkening back to Andrew’s great essay on Marvel’s penchant for holding the audience’s hand, “Previously On” is entirely dedicated to laying all of the show’s cards on the table and saying, “Hey, here is exactly what is happening in this story, so now, you’re all caught up and can watch the huge magic fight that’s about to go down.” And while it seems like that style of narrative might be considered infantilizing, when done correctly, it’s not and works, and I certainly ain’t mad at it.
Although, what was the point of an “Agatha All Along” theme song only to spend the next episode completely contradicting it in almost every way? (Just kidding, I know the answer: Merchandising!)
Mutant in the Middle
For the sake of diligence, even though I just spent four paragraphs talking about how this show knocked it out of the park explaining every thing that’s happening, I’mma nutshell it just so everyone’s up to speed.
In a pretty sweet flashback, we learn Agatha is an overly ambitious witch from the Salem days who got in trouble messing with very forbidden powers judging by the fact that her entire coven, including her own mother, are extremely eager to murder her at the stake. That does not go as planned as Agatha proves to be too powerful and seemingly drains the magic from her executioners, leaving them as dried-out corpses including dear, old witch-mom. This brings us to the present where we learn Agatha was drawn to Wanda’s Hex over Westview because she assumed she was about to meet an insanely powerful, well-trained witch who can teach her some new-ass shit. Turns out it’s not so much on the well-trained part, and a “Goddamn!” on the insanely powerful part. Faced with the fact that Wanda genuinely doesn’t know how the hell she turned Westview into a Bewitched episode, the two travel through defining moments in Wanda’s life to get some answers: The Stark brand missile that killed her parents yet “magically” didn’t explode, her first exposure to the Mind Stone from Loki’s staff while volunteering for Hydra, the death of Pietro following the events of Age of Ultron, and attempting to bury Vision’s body after the events of Avengers: Endgame.
We, uh, we learn some shit! For starters, as everyone guessed, Wanda grew up watching DVDs of American sitcoms, so now we can sleep at night knowing why two Avengers have been aping Full House. More importantly, we witness a significant (and franchise-expanding) retcon: Wanda’s powers were there the whole time! The official story up until now has been that Wanda and Pietro got their powers from the Mind Stone, but that is clearly not the case anymore. They were born with powers, and while Agatha points out that baby witches popping up is not uncommon, the word “mutant” hangs heavily in the air even if the show never says it. However, we also learn that Wanda is not just any witch but the SCARLET WITCH©®™, a mythical being who can create whole objects out of nothing with Chaos Magic. Whole objects like, say, two twin sons and an entirely new Vision. (Yup!) It also explains how she transformed Westview and has been unconsciously running it on autopilot like it’s no big thing. Naturally, Agnes wants that power for itself, and judging by the way she drained her coven, it’s definitely on the table.
It’s a Nice Day for a… White Vision
Here’s where I really tip my hat to Marvel. Setting aside my wacky-ass and completely wrong theory from last week that Hayward is sitting on a new Ultron or even Sentinels (Mike, you silly bastard), WandaVision pulled off a very neat sleight of hand. Despite video evidence to the contrary and the fact that SWORD was tracing vibranium inside Westview, Wanda never stole Vision’s body. Her Chaos Magic went ex nihilo and created a brand new Vision, complete with yellow Mind Stone energy. This explains why he has no memories of his life before Westview, and it also opens a whole new Pandora’s Box of how the hell Wanda was able to conjure up vibranium, a very rare and powerful substance in the MCU, and quite possibly an Infinity Stone, a ridiculously rare and powerful item in the MCU.
On top of that, we now have a second Vision in the mix as Hayward is sitting on the original Vision’s body, and he figured out a way to harness Wanda’s power to bring him back online. As for why this Vision is completely white, it’s a nod to some old school Avengers stories from the ’80s. In an effort to not lose people by going down that nerdy rabbit hole, all you need to know is it’s a dorky visual reference.
However, White Vision may be part of an absolutely epic troll on Paul Bettany’s part. During an interview with Esquire when WandaVision first premiered, he dropped the following tease: “There is one character that has not been revealed. And it is very exciting. It is an actor I’ve longed to work with all of my life. We have some amazing scenes together and I think the chemistry between us is extraordinary and fireworks on set.”
While my dumb ass guessed Al Pacino, and others floated around names like Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, and one strong contender that I’ll just link to because it’s a pretty solid guess (you’ve been warned), it’s starting to look a lot like the actor Bettany was referring to is… Paul Bettany.
"It's an actor I'd longed to work with all my life, and we have amazing scenes together, and the chemistry between us is extraordinary, and there were fireworks on set."- Paul Bettany #WandaVision he’s talking about himself isn’t he pic.twitter.com/hfn0LOvMxa— maria✨ (@mariadempseyy) February 26, 2021
Folks, if that turns out to be the case, I’m not even mad. That is one hell of a troll, and you gotta respect the flaps on Marvel for letting Bettany run with it. Which brings me to my last point.
No One Knows Jack About Shit, and It’s Great!
At this point, I’m not going to even guess what’s going to happen in next week’s finale because this show has been a freaking ninja at distracting people with red herrings and Easter eggs. Everyone got all worked up about Mephisto, but it’s abundantly clear that all the speculation about Faustian deals is out the window now that is 400% clear that Wanda made WestView happen all by herself. (Although, what the hell did that shark commercial mean?!) And as gung-ho as I’ve been about all the X-Men connections, I really would not put money down on Magneto dropping in or Reed Richards. Because, really, that was all just wild fan speculation that took on a life of its own.
Nope, I’m just going to enjoy the ride and secretly hope the last episode is at least north of an hour because there are still a lot of loose threads out there like Monica, “Fietro,” Jimmy’s missing person, Dottie, and of course, the specter of setting up the Doctor Strange sequel. Also, I just plain don’t want WandaVision to end because it’s been a freaking treat during these butt-holed pandemic times. I love it, my kids love it, and it’s been a blast tossing around theories with you folks in the comments. I’m going to be the one who needs a magical town when this thing is over, and so far, my neighbors aren’t on board with reenacting Perfect Strangers episodes. There was some pushback.
Header Image Source: Marvel