WandaVision – Season 1 Episode 6
“All-New Halloween Spooktacular!”
WandaVision continues to move forward through the decades of sitcoms as Vision actively investigates his artificial surroundings.
Many viewers will be especially eager to be provided with a definitive answer to their questions surrounding the cliffhanger ending of the previous episode. Is Pietro from another universe or is something else going on? That is an answer that will wait for another day though it is addressed to some degree. In general this episode is light on answers but works on developing the elements that exist which may frustrate some though I find it works very well as a procession of questions that are answered without any real weight behind them isn’t something that personally engages me. Taking time to get a sense of how Pietro fits into this wacky Wanda world means that there’s a focus on character which is very much in line with what I’m looking for.
The main sitcom influence for this episode is Malcolm in the Middle. Initially the focus would seem to be on the young kids Tommy (Jett Klyne) and Billy (Jullian Hilliard) who address the camera directly with their thoughts about what is going on. Not a lot of time is spent on this but it does give them a great deal more personality than was provided in the previous episode. This makes sense given how the show is developing. As time goes on the world that is Westview becomes more detailed so the kids having defined personalities is essentially a reflection of that. Tommy and Billy are present throughout the episode and the early work done to endear the viewer to them manages to make them a meaningful presence rather than the glorified window dressing that they were in the previous episode. That’s not to the detriment of the previous episode as it seems intentional based on how the show is set up. They also offer a handy recap of sorts when it’s pointed out that there is noticeable tension between Wanda and Vision. Setting the episode at Halloween is a lot of fun and provides a reasonable excuse for Wanda, Vision and Pietro to wear comic accurate costumes. Looking ridiculous is very much the point and it’s incredibly charming to see them brought to life in this way.
Pietro takes on the role of the irresponsible uncle who is a bad influence on the children. It’s a common sitcom trope to have a character defined by a chaotic existence as a contrast to the family unit that appears to be idyllic though turns out to be equally dysfunctional. Pietro sleeps on the couch and acts a bit childlike to indicate that he’s a manchild who needs to grow up and figure his life out. Once again there isn’t a great deal of attention on this as the show is moving further away from focusing on the sitcom plots. Instead they’re used as an enabler for the real world story that is continuing to gain prominence so Pietro’s sitcom persona exists but it doesn’t define his character completely. Evan Peters is a lot of fun in this role; he easily switches gears between comedic and dramatic when necessary which gives the character a great deal of deth. The writing compliments his performance wonderfully and he’s a great addition to a strong cast.
Some of the most interesting scenes in the episode took place between Wanda and Pietro. They’re particularly striking because Pietro easily casts off the fantasy and reaches Wanda as she truly is. He references being shot in Avengers: Age of Ultron and asks her direct questions about what she has done to the town. He mentions the children being brought out for special appearances, the changes made to the residents of Westview and the morality of the overall situation. It’s particularly interesting because it interrogates the reality that has been created. Wanda quickly admits that she is aware of what is going on and confesses that she has no idea how it happened but remembers feeling alone and empty. This points to Wanda being completely responsible for the Hex but the fact that she doesn’t know how it was created means that the possibility remains that an external force of some sort is responsible and she merely controls it. The episode ends with her massively extending the perimeter of the Hex so there’s no doubt that she’s able to control it but controlling and creating can be two different things.
From a character perspective this interaction is noteworthy as it highlights how close a bond Wanda and Pietro share. There was evidence of this in Avengers: Age of Ultron but a movie with that many moving parts was never going to be able to dig into that in the way a TV show can. Evan Peters and Elizabeth Olsen have a natural rapport that comes across brilliantly. This is taken full advantage of with meaningful conversations between the two siblings framed through Pietro supporting her unconditionally.There’s an emphasis on being entirely frank with her but he doesn’t push her in the direction of stopping what she’s doing and makes several references to their upbringing as a way to naturally develop their bond. She is aware that he looks different to the Pietro she remembers but doesn’t know why and the absence of their accents is also referenced. Neither of them are consciously aware of why these differences exist which adds further credence to the theory that there’s another force at work that Wanda is unaware of. Wanda also sees the dead Pietro with bullet holes as a reference to how he was killed as another indication that she is ignoring the truth in a really big way.
One thing remains clear; Wanda is happy in Westview and is willing to do just about anything to preserve that happiness. Reality is something she is actively resisting most likely because processing her grief is too difficult for her. She has an artificial world where she is married to the man she loves, has her brother in her life and has two kids she can raise in a town that is completely safe aside from minor crimes that apparently require the presence of a neighbourhood watch which itself could be a sign of her fixation on being safe. Learning that Vision is in danger prompts a strong response from her that expands the perimeter of the Hex to envelop the S.W.O.R.D. base which follows up on her warning in the previous episode. She sees them as a threat and removes that threat by bringing them into the illusion.
Vision spends much of the episode exploring Westview now that he has an awareness that things aren’t right. Being controlled by Wanda is referenced early on when he states that the only thing in his wardrobe was the Halloween costume. This reinforces the notion of him being trapped and desperately looking for a way to escape though he plays the part around Wanda because he knows how dangerous she is. Vision’s perspective continues to strongly suggest an abusive relationship and I continue to be surprised by the commitment to this idea. Wanda doesn’t really see what she’s doing to him which makes it all the more concerning and having Pietro back her up by telling her she’s dealt with the morality remarkably well validates her position through having it supported.
The exploration of Westview by Vision allows for some really eerie imagery. It seems that Wanda’s influence -or whoever is behind it- only extends to her immediate area with everyone outside of that in a bizarre form of stasis. People on the outskirts on the town are shown to be standing around staring blankly or repeating a simple action. This is likely because they aren’t needed in that specific moment so their actions are very simple until such times as they become active participants in the plot. Pietro congratulates her for navigating the morality of the situation as well as she can but this directly proves that the opposite is true. Regardless of the justification given people are being controlled and they are relegated to practical non existence when they aren’t part of “the story”. It’s presented in a very unsettling way and Vision’s reaction to it is note perfect.
He does manage to snap Agnes out of character after she struggles to figure out what to do with herself having reached the outskirts of town. She has no idea how to get back to where she needs to be suggesting that her character has a part to play within the artificial narrative but something went wrong leaving her completely stuck. When Vision snaps her out of the character she is being forced to play she talks about him being an Avenger and also being dead which raises a red flag as he has no memory of either of those things or even any awareness of what an Avenger is. All he knows is Westview and he now knows that it’s a fabrication so has an understandable desire to learn the truth. Following this Agnes resumes her role and gets pointed in the right direction once Vision breaks contact which amounts to a strange development in itself.
A lot of clues have been presented that suggest Agnes has something to do with what is going on in Westview and her contribution to this episode would seem to rule out that possibility but I remain unconvinced. It’s very possible that she is merely pretending to be one of the controlled while pointing things in a particular direction for her own interests. For example what she says to Vision prompts him to attempt leaving Westview which in turn leads to Wanda expanding the perimeter and removing the threat that S.W.O.R.D. represents. All of this could be part of a grander plan that we as viewers are currently unaware of. Equally it could be exactly what it seems but the beauty of the release schedule of this show is that there’s plenty of time to speculate and plenty of evidence for multiple theories to be founded.
Vision’s attempt to leave the Hex causes him to be violently torn apart as he’s pulled back in piece by peace. This could mean that he can’t be resurrected and is only “alive” when in Westview. He is always connected to the barrier in a small way so it could be sustaining him but it doesn’t take long for him to collapse and appear lifeless. Expanding the perimeter brings him back fully inside so presumably he is restored to what he was prior to trying to leave. Whether he’ll retain the memory of his experience or not is unknown at this time but now he’s had a taste of the outside and is aware that he is dead so that will certainly have consequences. It’s also worth noting that Vision’s encounter with the world outside Westview is a mirror of the scene involving Wanda in the previous episode. She was confrontational in line with her head space where Vision was compassionate appealing for the S.W.O.R.D. agents to help the people. It speaks to his strength of character and his values as a direct contrast to Wanda’s more selfish outlook.
Outside the Hex things are less than ideal for Jimmy, Darcy and Monica. They are all forcibly removed from the project following questioning Haywood’s decision to attempt attacking Wanda. Monica rightly points out that they are no match for her and that provoking her will not end well for them. Wanda has to be part of the solution and they have to tread very carefully when dealing with her otherwise there’s no telling what she’ll do to them. Haywood sees her as nothing more than a hostile and wants to deal with that violently and definitively. As detracting voices the three people who utilise common sense are removed so that Haywood can proceed unimpeded. At this point it’s unknown if Haywood is corrupt in some way or simply incompetent. HYDRA have been mentioned a number of times which could point to him being affiliated with them or he could simply be placed as an obstacle that those with common sense have to overcome.
Haywood makes reference to how difficult it was to maintain order during the five years where half of the population was snapped out of existence. It could be that the situation took a toll on him that is harming his objectivity at this time. He definitely goes too far when he makes reference to Monica’s mother and it stops her completely in her tracks. For Monica the loss is raw because she only recently found out that her mother died which creates an obvious connection between her and Wanda as both are dealing with grief in their own way. In a very real sense Haywood is also dealing with grief as there are losses that he likely processed that are no longer losses so everything is taking a major toll on him. If this ends up being the basis for his decisions then that’s entirely valid and highlights that there’s more at play than simple absolutes like “good” and “bad”. This could be about people making choices when being at far less than their best which is a really fascinating human angle to explore.
Naturally they easily get around Haywood and continue to work the problem in their own way. Monica leaves to meet the aerospace engineer she referenced who can supply something that will allow her to enter the Hex without losing her sense of self and takes Jimmy with her while Darcy gets drawn into the Hex when it expands. This is now known to be dangerous as contact with it has changed Monica on a fundamental level so this dials up the overall threat level. Once again the sitcom reality is a dangerous trap rather than the innocent distraction it started as. I am curious to see what Darcy’s sitcom persona ends up being though hope it’s nothing like Kat Dennings’ character in 2 Broke Girls. The scenes outside the Hex were unfortunately weaker than those inside because the focus was less on character and more on plot movement. Characterisation was part of it but it was more in service of the plot than the other way around.
The expansion of the Hex massively ramps up the tension as there is now barely any external force monitoring it. Monica, Jimmy and Haywood remain on the board while everyone else now exists in a massively expanded Westview. There are still a lot of questions to be answered but the show remains confidently structured with a clear plan that is proceeding naturally. It’s truly unknown how things will progress which is definitely to the credit of all involved.
A strong episode that takes appropriate steps to develop the elements currently in play while offering excellent character interactions that provide fascinating insight into those involved. Pietro is a great addition and Evan Peters plays him really well. He transitions easily from comedic to dramatic and has a great rapport with Elizabeth Olsen. This is taken full advantage of when they have meaningful conversations where Pietro directly interrogates her about Westview. He supports her unconditionally and she opens up to him by admitting that she has no idea how she did it but remembers feeling alone and empty. She’s happy in Westview and willing to do just about anything to maintain that even if that means controlling everything around her. Vision directly resists this and investigates Westview through the lens of knowing that things aren’t what they seem. This prompts some really eerie imagery that counters Pietro’s claim that Wanda has done as well as she can around the morality of the situation. Vision learns through Agnes that he was an Avenger and is dead which may or may not be part of Agnes’ master plan if such a thing exists. It’s curious that he is torn apart by attempting to leave Westview but appears to be saved by Wanda expanding the perimeter of the Hex.
This episode turns Billy and Tommy from plot devices into characters in their own right. Not a lot of time is spent but it’s enough to give them defined personalities which highlights that the wacky Wanda world is expanding all the time. With each transition it gains more identity and the focus on the kids early on reflects that. Outside the Hex Monica, Jimmy and Darcy are seen by Haywood as an obstacle and removed. It’s unclear if he has an agenda or if it’s just incompetence but he’s eager to see Wanda as a threat and ignores Monica’s assertions that they’re no match for her so need to find a way to get through to her. Haywood does reference how difficult it was to function in the 5 years where half of the population were snapped away which suggests a major toll taken on him and Monica is stopped in her tracks when her mother is referenced which ties her to Wanda through grief as a motivational factor. The expansion of the Hex certainly heightens the tension especially with the reveal that being inside it is dangerous though the scenes outside the Hex were more weighted towards plot than character which made them weaker than everything else going on. Characterisation was still part of it but to a far smaller extent.
- Tommy and Billy gaining personalities as the wacky Wanda world continues to develop
- the tension between Wanda and Vision
- Pietro making for a welcome presence
- Evan Peters’ performance
- the strong interactions between Wanda and Pietro
- the natural rapport between Evan Peters and Elizabeth Olsen
- Pietro’s approach allowing Wanda to open up
- the eerie imagery in Vision’s investigation
- tying Monica’s grief to Wanda’s
- plenty of clues that suggest a number of possibilities
- ramping up the tension by expanding the Hex and revealing that it’s dangerous
- the scenes outside the Hex being more focused on plot than character
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