WandaVision – Season 1 Episode 7
“Breaking the Fourth Wall”
WandaVision starts to deliver more answer as Wanda starts to lose her grip on what she considers reality.
I should start by saying that I had a less than positive reaction to the sitcom style of this particular episode though that is down to personal preference as it is lampooning the style of Modern Family, a show that isn’t to my taste so whenever the episode leaned into that style of storytelling I struggled to engage with that.
Despite that I found plenty of merit in the actual content in terms of what it says about Wanda’s character. The previous episode marked a significant turning point for her after dealing with the supposed return of her brother Pietro only to find out that he isn’t actually back in her life. He’s absent from the main thrust of the episode and she is reeling from having an imposter attached to the idyllic life she has been fighting so hard to hold onto. She opened up to him in a way she hasn’t done with anyone else up until this point so it’s easy to see why she would feel so uneasy about what she has learned. On top of that she is also dealing with Vision attempting to escape the Hex and almost being destroyed as a result as well as what I presume to be the impact of her using her powers to expand it.
I’ve said from my earliest review that Wanda’s powers are tied to her emotional state and this becomes the basis of how her personal struggles are represented here. She is in a state of severe depression to the point that even getting out of bed is a struggle for her. This causes her to neglect the twins and basically sleepwalk through life looking for some way to feel better. Early on she talks about having time to herself and hopes that will do the trick but her powers keep changing the environment around her at random with various props cycling through the decades of sitcoms seen previously. She has no control over this and it’s clearly a cause of immense concern for her as she doesn’t understand why things are coming apart. It seems that on some level she’s ignorant of the correlation between her powers and her emotions. Understanding that they’re unstable because she’s unstable and finding a way to deal with her feelings will likely be the key to her regaining some kind of control.
The way she deals with the twins is particularly interesting as she comes across as being ill equipped to be a parent to them. From early on she makes it clear that she can’t deal with whatever it is they need from her, she admits that she doesn’t have all the answers despite them being at an age where they need that from her and even confesses to everything feeling meaningless to her before justifying it to the camera diary that they’ve inherited strong skin from their father so they’ll be able to deal with it.
Once again, Elizabeth Olsen’s performance is excellent. She plays Wanda as being strung out the point she can no longer function and always seems to be on the brink of snapping. Small details such as her quivering lip as she tries to convince herself that she just needs a little time are excellent. The way she repeats the assertion that “she’s fine” with each iteration of the word being that little bit less convincing underscores her denial perfectly and the hostile reaction she has to Monica’s arrival highlights how dangerous her fragile emotional state makes her.
Monica’s reintroduction into the Hex is intriguing because of how it happens. Her Aersospace contact turns out to be nobody significant in terms of comic book characters or anyone previously seen in the MCU but she does get access to a tricked out rover designed to enter the Hex without suffering the changes that come with it. Unfortunately it fails and partially transforms into a car but Monica opts to enter anyway and manages to enter with her sense of self intact. Her subsequent confrontation with Wanda reveals that super powers are starting to manifest which will almost certainly see development over the final episodes.
More importantly, her confrontation from Wanda develops the connection that exists between them founded on their approach to processing their grief. Monica challenges her to carry out her threat and jumps on Wanda’s hesitation because it proves to her that she isn’t a bad person. Hayward wants to destroy Westview and blame it on Wanda but Monica recognises that Wanda doesn’t have a desire to hurt anyone. Everything she has done has been motivated by love and loneliness which is something Monica is able to understand having experienced something similar. Wanda does suggest that she might be the villain but Monica doesn’t see it that way and tries to use her own experience to relate to her. She admits that losing her mother is the worst pain she has ever experienced and there’s nothing she can really do about it other than weather it. Nothing she does will change it but she accepts it because it’s her “truth”. It’s an especially resonant word because Wanda is living in a lie and has chosen to accept it as the truth but in order to heal she needs to accept the real truth. For a moment it looks like Monica might be getting through to her until Agnes intervenes to interrupt her train of though. It’s a very obvious interruption designed to prevent Wanda from seeing Monica’s point of view and it’s done very effectively. All of this does strongly suggest that the resolution of this will be down to an emotional catharsis rather than some sort of large scale conflict.
Agnes is present throughout the episode whether it be taking the kids off Wanda’s hands to give her some quiet time or making sure Wanda doesn’t internalise Monica’s words. The episode ends with the reveal that Agnes’ real name is Agatha Harkness therefore confirming a long held fan theory. By itself the reveal of the name means nothing because there’s no context for who she is in the MCU but it is combined with an incredibly catchy theme song combined with a montage of clips showing that she has been behind a lot of what has been going on including the appearance of Pietro which gives the reveal weight. It still needs to be confirmed if she is behind the Westview changes or if she is manipulating something created by either Wanda or someone else. She does comment that Wanda deserves what’s being done to her which hints at revenge being behind her motivation but a few more answers are needed. It is evident she has been manipulating things and Kathryn Hahn has been excellent throughout. Her over the top performance when she confesses to killing the dog followed by a delicious evil laugh was perfect. The creepy set design in the basement including what looks to be a spell book and purple energy present all over the place was a nice touch and the look of Agatha when she revealed her true identity was great. There’s certainly a lot to look forward to now that the truth is really starting to come out.
Vision spends the entire episode separated with Wanda and teams up with Darcy. This was an excellent pairing that would never happen in any of the movies. The beauty of a TV show is that there’s room to play around with character dynamics and have fun with some unconventional interactions. Darcy takes on the role of a circus escape artist until Vision restores her identity and the pair set off on a journey to get back to Wanda. The shifts in tone don’t always work in their scenes together. A scene will start with a comedy bit like being blocked by roadworks or children crossing and will play out with some really meaningful dialogue between them about the surrounding situation. The dialogue is great but the comedy doesn’t work when paired with it.
Through their conversations Vision gains a greater understanding of what’s going on including learning about his death at the hands of Wanda followed by his second death at the hands of Thanos. He remembers none of this so sees these events as having happened to someone else but as far as Darcy is concerned he’s the same old Vision whether he remembers his life before Westview or not. It remains unknown how Darcy is privy to so many details about the events of Avengers: Infinity War but Vision has to find out what happened somehow and the interactions work so well that it’s easy to let something so confusing slide.
Vision also gains a greater understanding of what Wanda has been through even though it has to come from someone else. From his perspective he’s brand new with no baggage from his life before Westview but he is able to reflect on the fact that everything will be raw for Wanda because it has only been a few weeks from her perspective. He considers this while indulging in the sitcom setup of discussing his thoughts and feelings with the camera before hilariously realising that doing that is ridiculous. Darcy’s statement about her observations on Wanda and Vision’s relationship and how they are clearly meant to be together resonates with him in a very visceral way to the point that he gains a determination to get to her and support her. Paul Bettany delivers such a varied and compelling performance with his facial expressions saying so much about what he’s thinking about as more information is revealed to him. It will be interesting to see how his relationship with Wanda changes based on his differing perspective. He does seem to be moving away from feeling like she is controlling him though that shouldn’t be so easily cast aside even based on what he has learned in this episode.
Now that the sitcom aesthetic has caught up to the modern day it is probably a good time for it to be abandoned especially considering that there are only two episode left in the season. Things appear well placed to build up to whatever the end of the season will end up being so the design elements may remain while the filming style disappears though there could still be minor elements of it as various characters navigate the Hex. So far every answer has been satisfying and characters remain fascinating at all times so everything is well placed for a really strong ending.
An excellent episode that provides long awaited answers, is bursting with meaningful characterisation and puts things in place for a strong ending. Wanda’s depression is portrayed really well both in terms of performance and general execution. Her treatment of her children, general lack of motivation and inability to control her powers all add up to a really compelling display of Wanda’s current mental state. It is made clear that to control her abilities she has to stabilise her emotional state and her sleepwalking through the episode indicates that she isn’t anywhere near achieving that. Her confrontation with Monica is especially significant because Monica indicates that she needs to accept the truth rather than embracing a lie before she can begin to heal. Monica is dealing with her own grief and understands what she needs to do in order to work through it. Wanda isn’t there yet and is interrupted from being receptive by Agnes who amounts to a distracting presence throughout the episode. The reveal that she is actually called Agatha Harkness and that she has been behind many of the occurrences over the season is handled brilliantly with a catchy song and montage detailing what she has been doing. Her confession that she killed the dog followed by an evil laugh is perfect. By itself the name reveal means nothing but the episode follows up on it nicely to give it weight and there’s plenty for the subsequent episodes to dig into.
The Vision and Darcy pairing was really engaging and highlights the beauty of having the time and space in a TV show to explore unconventional character dynamics. Pairing comedy with meaningful discussions doesn’t quite work but Vision learning about his own life before Westview, internalising what it might feel like for Wanda after all she has experienced and generally learning more about the situation informs his next move which is to support Wanda. Whether the control element has been abandoned in favour of this understanding or if it will be part of the exploration is unknown at this point but it’s well handled here and Paul Bettany takes to the material he is given brilliantly. It seems likely that the sitcom style will be abandoned for the remaining two episodes perhaps with some nods to it as various characters make their way through Westview. The design aesthetic will likely remain as the Hex looks the way it does but the lampooning of sitcoms might be better being pushed aside now that the end of the season is approaching. So far every answer has been satisfying and characters remain fascinating at all times so everything is well placed for a really strong ending.
- the complex portrayal of Wanda’s depression
- Elizabeth Olsen’s excellent performance as Wanda works through her issues
- Monica appealing to Wanda using her own experience of grief
- the meaningful reveal of Agnes’ true name
- the catchy song along with the montage of Agnes/Agatha’s manipulations
- Kathryn Hahn’s evil laugh
- the Vision and Darcy pairing
- Vision internalising what he’s told and understanding Wanda’s feelings
- the combination of comedy and meaningful conversation being jarring in Vision and Darcy’s scenes
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