The act of subverting expectations in creative media can be an experience that ranges from pleasantly surprising, to shocking, to unsettling. It can come across as it did in “Star Wars Episode VIII – The Last Jedi” where the Resistance flees the pursuing First Order only to be gradually whittled down to a handful of escapees fitting inside the Millennium Falcon. Or it could be like the penultimate episode of “WandaVision” on Disney+, which finally answers most of the key questions (other than how the whole situation will be resolved), but in a way that still threw viewers for a loop.
“WandaVision” episode 8 is entitled “Previously On,” and for good reason. While the frame of the episode’s plot is in the here and now, central character Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) does get taken for a trip to the past via her now-revealed magical neighbor Agnes, aka Agatha Harkness (Kathryn Hahn). Harkness is an honest-to-goodness who was alive even in 17th Century Salem, Massachusetts, capable of feats like draining life. It turns out however that she is not in control of the Hex that covers the town of Westview. Or rather, she is not controlling Wanda. She demands to know how Wanda is doing it instead.
It is tough darts there because Wanda is not sure either. Not even Agatha threatening her children could get a coherent answer. So Harkness and Maximoff go on a magical mental trip to access the latter’s memories. They start at Wanda’s childhood with her brother Pietro and their parents in war-torn Sokovia, where their favorite pastime is watching imported American TV sitcoms. This writer can confirm that in the 1980s for instances, countries like the Philippines tended to put American sitcoms in early-evening primetime slots before or after the news, long before they were able to produce their own content.
This idyllic childhood is shattered when the war destroys the Maximoff house, kills the parents, and traps the siblings in the wreckage with a bomb made by Stark Industries. Wanda has always assumed that they were lucky that it did not explode, but Harkness sees otherwise and reveals that Wanda herself hexed the bomb to be a dud, using powers she has had since birth. Sounds like a Marvel mutant (!). These powers were magnified when she and Pietro joined HYDRA and were experimented on to gain powers from the Mind Infinity Stone. The stone however reacted by itself in Wanda’s presence, indicating her potential.
Her next memory stop is with the Avengers post-“Age of Ultron.” Her brother has died in Sokovia, but Wanda was rescued by the android Vision (Paul Bettany). Their mutual feeling that they were forced by the world to solitude causes them to become kindred spirits, a sentiment that leads to love. The last mental stop is Wanda’s visit to SWORD to petition acting director Heyward (Josh Stamberg) to be allowed to bury Vision’s body. Heyward refuses, leading Wanda to break in later in an attempt to steal Vision from storage.
It turns out however that she did not take Vision with her. The discovery that the vibranium android body was disassembled caused Wanda to flee. She went to Westview, where Vision told her pre-“Infinity War” that he had bought a lot, intending for a house to be built for them. Her grief drives her Mind Stone-enhanced magic into overdrive, creating the house and enveloping Westview in a peaceful environment according to her ideal world, depicted in those old TV sitcoms. Not for nothing did the production team add snippets of “The Dick Van Dyke Show” and “Malcolm in the Middle,” among others, to reference Wanda’s perspective of a peaceful life.
What about Vision? Viewers were operating on the assumption that Wanda stole Vision’s body and reanimated him with her magic. That is the last subversion. She did not take Vision and instead created a new one to join her inside the Hex. The actual body remained in SWORD custody, with Heyward lying to fellow operative Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris), FBI Agent Woo (Randall Park) and consultant Darcy (Kat Dennings) about its circumstances. He has also reassembled and reactivated it using residual magic from the drones destroyed by Wanda.
Now it will likely be sent after her, though since Agatha has dubbed Wanda as a mythical figure of witchcraft, the “Scarlet Witch,” there is assurance that she could take care of herself. However Westview and the world outside of it might not be sturdy enough. Assuming that episode 8 is the end of “WandaVision,” we could be in for a confrontation that might remind us of the main MCU films. There is also the tie-in to “Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness” to consider. It might explain the deal with “Pietro” as portrayed by Evan Peters. There will be a lot to unpack when the conclusion comes on Disney+ Friday.
Image courtesy of Polygon