WandaVision’s Cracks Are Beginning to Show “On a Very Special Episode…”

Hope you’re ready, because it’s getting real now—and this is definitely the best episode of WandaVision so far.

Summary

Wanda and Vision are trying to get their boys to sleep, and Agnes shows up to help them. Suddenly, Agnes loses the thread of the plot—she asks Wanda if she wants her to “take it again” and what she’s supposed to be doing. Vision is perplexed by this break, while Wanda tries to assure him that nothing is amiss. They turn around, and Tommy and Billy are now five years old. Agnes seems unbothered by this change in circumstances.

WandaVision, episode 5

Screenshot: Marvel Studios

The next day, Tommy and Billy have found a dog and ask Wanda if they can keep him. She insists they can’t have a dog until they’re ten, so they age up again. Agnes shows up with a dog house, and again, Vision starts to notice how strangely convenient everything is. Wanda manifests a collar for the dog (who they name Sparky) while Agnes is in the room, prompting Vision to ask Wanda why she’s getting so cavalier about her powers. Wanda suggests that perhaps they don’t have to hide so much anymore. At work, Vision is helping Norm (Abilash Tandon) with his new computer, and everyone at the office reads an email that Darcy has sent from the outside. This prompts Vision to try to get through to Norm, who reverts back to his old self and panics, telling Vision that he needs to get in touch with his family, and that it’s painful to be forced to perform like this. Vision resets him, visibly disturbed by the information.

Outside the bubble of Westview, Monica gets medical tests (that turn up blank) and heads to a SWORD meeting. Given the information she gave about being inside Westview, Director Hayward is classifying Wanda as a terrorist, which Monica takes exception to because she believes that there is no political motivation behind what she’s doing. Hayward shows footage of Wanda from nine days ago, storming a SWORD facility to liberate Vision’s corpse. Monica, Jimmy, and Darcy are doing some research to figure out how to get back inside Westview (dubbed the Hex by Darcy) without being reabsorbed into Wanda’s reality, coming up with an idea for a mobile bunker. They realize that Wanda is reforming reality rather than making matter out of nothing; Monica’s outfit was reformed out of what she walked in wearing. She suggests that they could avoid a structural change if the item entering already seems to belong.

They send a drone from the 1980s into Westview to that effect, and Wanda goes outside with her boys to see what the commotion is, letting Sparky out in the process. Monica attempts to talk to her, not realizing that Hayward has armed the drone; he orders a strike on Wanda as soon she appears hostile, and the feed cuts out. Wanda then emerges outside the Hex, tossing the drone back to Hayward and telling them all to leave her and her world alone. Monica tries to talk to her, but she won’t hear it, instead forcing all of the SWORD personnel to turn their guns on Hayward as she retreats into the Hex.

WandaVision, episode 5

Screenshot: Marvel Studios

On return, Wanda and the boys find that Sparky ate some azalea leaves from Agnes’s bushes, and has died. The boys beg their mother to bring the dog back to life, prompting Agnes to ask if she’s actually capable of that. Wanda tells the boys that it’s wrong to bring people back to life like that, and tries to help them work through their sadness, telling them not to age up again in response. Vision arrives and they head home, where he finally confronts Wanda about what he’s seen. She tries to avoid the conversation, and when he persists, Wanda “rolls credits” on the episode, but Vision continues their argument. He gets angry, admits that he’s frightened and doesn’t remember his life before arriving here. Wanda tells him that she couldn’t possibly be running this entire town with her mind—then the doorbell rings. She realizes that Vision thinks she strategically caused it to get out of their fight, but when it rings again, she opts to answer the door.

It’s Pietro. But not Pietro of the MCU—it’s Evan Peters, the Quicksilver from Fox’s X-Men film series. Outside the Hex, Darcy sees the end of the episode and asks if Wanda “recast” her own brother.

WandaVision, episode 5

Screenshot: Marvel Studios

Commentary

Well. Welcome to the Multiverse, y’all.

I mean, sure it’s possible that Wanda found a guy from Westview and forced him to be her brother, and he just happens to look a lot like another Quicksilver from a different universe. But we already know that the multiverse is coming to the MCU—practically every actor to ever emote in a Spider-Man film is going to show up in their next Spidey flick, and the Doctor Strange sequel is titled Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness (and is reported to costar Wanda in some capacity). Which means that this isn’t truly a “recast” as Darcy suggests. Instead, it likely means that Wanda has been wishing for Pietro’s presence so hard that she punched a hole in space-time to yank another Pietro out of an alternate reality. Which is both magnificent and devastatingly sad.

WandaVision, episode 5

Screenshot: Marvel Studios

This episode significantly ups the game, starting on the sitcom front. Of course, we can’t ignore the fact that the biggest influence on this episode is Full House—which has an extra meta-conceit because Elizabeth Olsen’s twin sisters, Mary Kate and Ashley, starred on that show as Michelle Tanner. Hollywood is a lot easier to break into when you’ve already got family in the club, so to speak, so it could be argued that Elizabeth Olsen owes her entire career to Full House and how it made her sisters household names. There are so many shoutouts within this frame, from the family picnic on the blanket during the opening theme to the shots of Billy and Tommy growing up. And of course, the fact that her boys are twins, and Wanda is a twin, and the actor playing Wanda is parodying a sitcom that her twin sisters used to star in, it’s a turducken of twin references.

But the place where the episode really shines are all the spots where things are beginning to break. Every time one of the “characters” can’t figure out what they’re supposed to to do, every time the laugh track falls out, every time it becomes clear that Billy and Tommy expect their mother to be able to mend the world, the tone of the show coalesces into something far more sinister and painful. This is taken to its logical conclusion quite literally: Vision insists that Wanda can’t shut down his inquiries and she responds ruthlessly by “rolling the credits”… only to have Vision refuse the cue and continue their argument as words and names scroll by. I’d argue that’s it’s the most unique and effective moment that the show has presented to us thus far, the aesthetic and concept finally butting its head against something horribly real that we’re not permitted to look away from.

WandaVision, episode 5

Screenshot: Marvel Studios

Sitcoms often use artifice to avoid the hard conversations, but this episode is aptly titled “On a Very Special Episode…”, the terminology created by networks to indicate a forthcoming episode was going to tackle darker and more serious subject matter. WandaVision tricks us on that front: Our assumption is that the very special episode subject matter is about the death of Sparky the dog, and Wanda having to tell her boys that it’s wrong to bring beings back from the dead. (There’s a whole aside here about her telling them not to age up again, the metaphor of “growing up too fast” due to trauma made literal by their abilities, which is really messing with me right now.) But in actuality, the very specialness of the episode is in the distress of her neighbors, in Vision’s emerging questions, in Wanda’s slow realization that she perhaps doesn’t have this all under control.

It took exactly one episode for Hayward to prove himself as inept as suspected, so that’s gonna put a damper on any attempt to solve this problem going forward. I wanted to hug Jimmy for verbally calling him out on his oversimplification of Wanda and Pietro’s “radicalization” and their work for Hydra. (If you are fuzzy on this, Wanda and Pietro’s home was destroyed by bombs with a big Stark Industries emblem on the side, so the point is, maybe America needs to own up to the hostility it creates if it’s going to bomb civilians, a fact that can coexist with Hydra being a monstrous organization with fascist dreams of world domination.) Monica is doing her best with Darcy and Jimmy as her cohort, but there’s too much interference at the moment for them to subvert his poor choices. There’s also Monica’s reaction to the mention of Carol Danvers, which makes her visibly upset—seems like someone’s unhappy that her aunt hasn’t been around, and you can hardly blame her.

WandaVision, episode 5

Screenshot: Marvel Studios

There are a couple of revelations here that create new mysteries, the primary ones being that Wanda isn’t creating matter out of nothing, and that there are no children in Westview outside of Billy and Tommy. Which could mean something super dark, like Billy and Tommy are somehow an amalgam of the children living in Westview, and Wanda has somehow compressed all the kids into these two children. But it’s more likely that they’re being held somewhere out of the way—the question is, has Wanda tucked them off screen (in a pocket universe or some such), or is this the work of an interfering force that is trying to keep those kids safe?

The other major revelation concerns Vision, namely the fact that he doesn’t remember his life before this reality. What makes this particularly interesting is that we don’t know why—it could be that Wanda is suppressing him, the same way that she is suppressing the whole town. But what if it’s due to his death? What if he simply can’t remember anything before being reanimated, like a restart button? Because that’s a more potent tragedy by far. It would mean that Wanda will eventually have to come to terms with the fact that this isn’t really Vision; she’s just reprogramming the matter he used to occupy to make it speak and behave like him.

WandaVision, episode 5

Screenshot: Marvel Studios

All the themes of this show seem to turn on consent and also trauma, and the ways we do and don’t give people space to process those things. If the show plans to delve on those themes in the upcoming episodes, we could be in for something really spectacular. Fingers crossed.

Thoughts and Asides:

  • Those babies are visibly not crying at the start of the episode and it’s hilarious. Also, it’s kinda weird that they stayed pretty widescreen on this episode? TV wasn’t widescreen yet in the era they’re parodying here. It’s odd when they’re been pretty consistent about those choice overall.
WandaVision, episode 5

Screenshot: Marvel Studios

  • There are plenty of other sitcoms being parodied here as well, but you really can’t beat the ode to the Family Ties theme with that ridiculous painting of the whole brood, ughhh, it’s so awful, how did we survive this as a culture.
  • What does it mean that Monica’s tests came up blank? Because that seems not great.
  • That video of Wanda grabbing Vision’s body looked like he was maybe in pieces? What was SWORD doing with his body, and why was it deemed okay for them to have it? If anything I would have assumed that the federal recovery unit that Tony Stark developed for amassing/storing all the alien tech falling out of the sky would have been the ideal place to put Vision’s body to prevent someone from trying to use it. (You know, like the warehouse Peter gets trapped inside during Spider-Man: Homecoming.)
WandaVision, episode 5

Screenshot: Marvel Studios

  • The advert in this episode is painfully meta—Lagos paper towels, to help you clean up your messes. You know, like when you accidentally cause an explosion in a highly populated city while you’re trying to stop a really bad guy from stealing a bio weapon, and end up causing an international incident that leads to the dissolving of the Avengers.
  • Awkwardness of the Sokovian accent aside, I love the fact that Wanda’s accent reasserts itself outside the Hex, thereby affirming that she’s putting it on “for the camera” so to speak. It’s a great subconscious choice for her brain to make.
WandaVision, episode 5

Screenshot: Marvel Studios

  • I’m deeply bemused by the fact that Wanda spends exactly one scene in that deeply unflattering outfit with the vest, and then they promptly shift her to a much better 80s wardrobe. Even Agnes’s aerobics outfit is more flattering than the usual look for the era. I understand the impulse, but if you watched sitcoms in the 80s and 90s… you know how bad it got.

Next week, more modern sitcoms, maybe? Further deterioration is pretty much a guarantee.

Emmet Asher-Perrin might need to rewatch that running sequence from Days of Future Past now. You can bug them on Twitter, and read more of their work here and elsewhere.

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