WandaVision – Season 1 Episode 5
“On a Very Special Episode…”
WandaVision heads into the second half of the season with a massive change in tone and further revelations to be pondered.
The way this show has been developing is endlessly interesting to me. What it offers is an engaging mystery that is intensely focused on the involved characters with each reveal constantly coming back to those involved in a way that develops them as people as well as their connection to the overall story that is unfolding. The previous episode took us into the world outside the progressing sitcoms and established S.W.O.R.D. as an organisation while detailing their involvement in what is playing out. It was a step change for sure but a necessary one to establish important details that could feed into the remaining episodes.
Having two layers of reality opens up a lot of possibilities within the framework of the show. Darcy handily calls Wanda’s reality the Hex and I’ll be using that from now on because it’s a beautifully elegant way of describing it. The other layer is the S.W.O.R.D. base sitting just outside Westview. They are outside observers ideally placed to ask the same questions as the audience while taking steps to find answers to them. The meta gag of them being an in universe version of the viewing audience is wonderfully continued here with discussions about who is the most powerful Avenger. Monica comments that Wanda almost defeated Thanos on her own with no other Avenger coming close and Jimmy points out that Captain Marvel came close prompting a knowing hesitation from Monica who of course has history with Carol Danvers. Pushing aside how unlikely it is that S.W.O.R.D. would have had a front row seat to the climactic battle featured in Avengers; Endgame but it’s amusing none the less to see characters in the MCU discussing events as fans would discuss them. The commentary on Wanda having no nickname was also a nice touch. Once again, Marvel knows their audience and has a place for them within the walls of their own universe. It’s impressive that a show advertised as being meta finds a way to be more meta than anticipated.
A few more questions are answered in this episode especially around Wanda’s role in all of this. S.W.O.R.D. are operating on the assumption that Wanda has warped reality in an image that she has created and is living her life inside this hexagonal bubble separate from the world at large. Details are given about her forcing her way into a S.W.O.R.D. facility to steal Vision’s corpse which happened 9 days prior to the events of this episode so that clears up the mystery around whether Vision is an illusion or a reanimated corpse. Wanda has somehow reanimated him because she was presumably unable to contextualise her grief so uses her abilities to create an ideal scenario for herself. A point is made about this being against his Will -in the final wishes document sense- so Wanda has overridden what Vision wants in favour of what she wants which makes for a really twisted act on Wanda’s part. She’s manipulating the corpse of her dead boyfriend in order to have the the life that she wants. It is strange that the information about Vision’s corpse being liberated by Wanda would come out now and be so casually dropped into the mix considering how relevant it would have been to be included once it was learned that Wanda and Vision were inside Westview.
In general the S.W.O.R.D. scenes are really entertaining. Monica props up the already strong Darcy/Jimmy dynamic nicely and further comes into her own as a very capable presence with lots to contribute. She’s smart, adaptable and naturally likeable which should make her a continually engaging fixture across the various MCU properties she’s bound to appear in. The touch of Jimmy constantly supporting everyone by making them aware of how good a job they’re doing and Darcy helping to move the plot forward in her own unique way also worked well.
Whether Vision is truly alive or simply an illusion that conforms to what Wanda wants from him remains unknown but the fact is Wanda is exerting control over him and that isn’t right. In the second episode their magic act had Wanda take on the role of “Glamour” and Vision take on the role of “Illusion”. A glamour can be a magical term relating to hiding the truth behind a magical spell and illusion is self explanatory. The glamour can be noted as the changes to the town of Westview where Wanda has covered the existing town in a false image that doesn’t reflect its true state and the illusion could refer to the illusion of Vision being alive. The town itself could also be considered and illusion but having Wanda and Vision in those specific roles could be telling.
In my review of the previous episode I suggested that Vision could embody the metaphor of someone being trapped in an abusive relationship though I didn’t think the MCU would follow up on that in any major way. This episode surprisingly does double down on that massively by drawing attention the fact that Vision is being controlled and that Wanda knows she’s doing it. Throughout the episode he questions the world around him when he notices various incongruities such as Agnes breaking character and Wanda ignoring it, the email that comes to him at work that references S.W.O.R.D. and things showing up right at the moment they’re needed or distractions presenting themselves when convenient for Wanda. Eventually he confronts her and makes it clear that she can’t dismiss his concerns by sitting in front of the TV and moving the decade forward again because he has noticed something is amiss and wants answers. He expresses concern that he has no memory of life before Westview and makes it clear to Wanda that she can’t control him but her only response is to menacingly throw the question back at him as a way of confirming that she actually can. Wanda is aware of exactly how powerful she is and knows that she is in control of the situation. Wanda and Vision’s argument partially playing out as the credits of the sitcom roll calls back to the world around them being manipulated to ignore any suggestion of the real world. Vision forces the issue which means that this tactic won’t work any more.
Their conversation when Wanda allows it to happen is very much centred around the ideas of choice and control. Vision doesn’t like that he is being controlled by her and thinks it’s wrong for her to be controlling the people of Westview though Wanda insists that this isn’t her doing because she doesn’t believe she’s powerful enough to influence people on that scale. She also admits she has no idea how any of this started which goes back to the idea that this is being done to her and she has taken advantage of it in some way. She definitely has some control over it as evidenced by her admitting that she’s controlling Vision and the reveal that she broke into a S.W.O.R.D. facility to retrieve his corpse but there are forces at work that she doesn’t understand and that deepens the intrigue considerably. One thing is definitely clear; Wanda is content to keep controlling Vision because she believes that it’s for the best for him as well though she isn’t factoring in how he might feel about this. On some level she is convinced that what she is doing is the best thing for both of them but it’s definitely in service of her own happiness without really considering anyone else.
Elizabeth Olsen is great and this episode is another showcase of just how true that statement is. The way she cycles Wanda through multiple variations of herself such as the compassionate mother who loves her children, the controlling influence wanting to maintain the comfortable fantasy and the unrestrained powerhouse that confronts Monica. The latter is a direct development from her appearance in Avengers: Endgame where she almost single handedly killed Thanos because he took everything from her and features the notable return of her subdued Sokovian accent. This is the first time we see her completely as herself in the show and it’s significant because she makes her intentions very clear. Monica tries to reason with her and Wanda makes it clear that anyone who gets in the way of her happiness will be punished accordingly but Monica’s comment about Wanda putting some trust in her sets up a potential way back for her once Monica pushes at that connection and works to use it as a way to get through to her. For now Wanda is a threat but that is unlikely to always be the case.
Wanda pointing out that she isn’t in control of all the people in Westview raises a question around who is. The obvious candidate is Agnes and the writers clearly want the viewer to make that assumption as the signs are very directly pointing in that direction. She shows up at key points throughout the episode like when the babies are crying, they need a dog house and, most notably, when the dog dies. The latter is most notable because it includes a reference to Wanda’s ability to fix anything including death. Wanda talks about rules in life which suggests she’s unable to reverse death though it’s a rule she may be able to bend in the case of Vision due to his artificial nature. It’s used as a teachable moment for her kids who age themselves circumstantially whenever it’s convenient for them. Wanda encourages them not to do this because grief is something that has to be dealt with no matter how strong the urge is to run from it which is interesting because that’s exactly what she’s doing even though she’s unprepared to admit that to herself. It’s the classic case of “do as I say, not as I do” where she’s concerned and how misguided she is remains compelling. Agnes’ presence facilitates this which could be a clue that her intention is for Wanda to process her grief in a healthy way.
The strongest hint suggesting that Agnes may be behind what has happened to Westview comes when Norm (Asif Ali) briefly comes to his senses and is immediately in immense distress because he’s worried about his family. He makes reference to “her” being in his head and Vision assumes that to be Wanda but the suggestion that there are other forces at work beyond Wanda. Whether it be Wanda or something else controlling the people of Westview the sitcom setting has become an intense horror experience rather than the innocent cutesy diversion it started out as. The gradual shift in tone towards the sitcom reality being cast in a really sinister light. It is confirmed to be a prison for most of the people in there where their very identity is locked away from them which is a terrifying prospect to contemplate. The undercurrent of horror present at all times is very effective and just subtle enough to not be overpowering.
Of course the ending has to be discussed because it raises all sorts of questions. Wanda talks to her sons about being sad because her brother is far away. It’s yet another sign that Wanda has failed to properly process her grief but also foreshadows his appearance. It’s a typical sitcom trope of a long lost family member turning up unexpectedly and that’s exactly how this episode ends. The most curious thing is that it’s not the Pietro that was featured in Avengers: Age of Ultron. The MCU version of Pietro Maximoff aka Quicksilver was portrayed by Aaron Taylor Johnson but the Pietro behind the door is played by Evan Peters who first appeared in X-Men: Days of Future Past which is an entirely different continuity from the MCU. In this case different continuity could mean different universe. It’s possible that the conversation about reversing death was foreshadowing that being beyond Wanda’s capabilities which suggests that she -or someone else- has ripped a Pietro from another universe. She is surprised by his appearance which points to either her doing that unconsciously or someone else doing it for some other purpose. Using this as a potential inroad for Mutants into the MCU is an interesting idea though it heavily depends on how it’s deployed if that is what is to happen. Of course this assumption could be incorrect and this may play out in a different way but there’s no denying it’s a strong reveal.
As I always say, everything has to come back to character so the cliffhanger itself has to actually mean something significant for Wanda as a character. Most obviously the return of her brother that she believed to be dead is a very significant personal development for her. She recognises him despite him being different to the brother she knew before which opens up questions but on a more character driven level a significant event has happened to Wanda that is at odds with the control over the fantasy life that she has been exerting which probably causes its own distress. There’s a lot of weight attached to this going into the next episode and keeping the main burning question around what Wanda’s reaction will be is the right choice as it keeps such a fantastical situation grounded.
A strong episode that answers some questions while raising other interesting ones, furthers the characters as well as their situation considerably and subtly moves the tone from cutesy innocence to overall unsettling. The two layers of reality are being used really well to move the narrative along and the continuation of the meta aspect in the S.W.O.R.D. characters where they act as stand-ins for the audience by asking the same questions and having discussions about relative Avengers power levels works brilliantly while also being endlessly endearing. Monica is once again a capable presence who settles naturally into the Darcy/Jimmy dynamic. What made those characters work well in the previous episode continues here and having them act as a driving force of the narrative compliments the other reality nicely. Vision noticing that things in his life don’t add up thanks to various overt clues throughout the episode leads to an excellent discussion he has with Wanda that doubles down on the idea of him being trapped in an abusive relationship. Wanda is knowingly exerting control over him and thinks that she can continue to do so. Even though it’s in service of her own happiness she believe that it’s to his benefit as well so she fails to see how damaging it is to have someone under her control in this way. This conversation opens up the possibility that there are other forces at work controlling the people in the town. The obvious candidate would be Agnes but that may be a red herring considering how everything so clearly points in her direction. The strongest hint is Norm’s reaction that is assumed to be Wanda but is revealed to possibly be someone else behind it. This scene confirms the switch in tone of the sitcom element from cutesy distraction to constant horror.
Elizabeth Olsen is great. She continues to display impressive range through the variations of Wanda she performs in this episode. Seeing her outside Westview is a great way to show how dangerous she is while foreshadowing Monica potentially offering her a way out through being supportive and trusting. There are other noteworthy moments like the teachable moment where she tells her children that they can’t run away from grief despite the fact that this is exactly what she’s doing. The appearance of Pietro but not the one audiences will be familiar with opens up a vast number of questions but is also grounded in Wanda’s reaction. Everything comes back to character so Wanda’s reaction is most important. It was also a strong reveal in its own right and uses the sitcom trope well.
- Elizabeth Olsen’s constantly nuanced performance
- using the two layers of reality as a natural way to propel the plot
- Monica continuing to make a strong impression
- the Jimmy/Darcy/Monica dynamic
- using the S.W.O.R.D. characters as stand-ins for the audience
- the suggestion of a connection between Wanda and Monica that will become important
- Vision noticing the incongruities in his reality
- the strong discussion Wanda and Vision have
- the suggestion that there are other forces at work
- Wanda teaching her children about grief
- the ending
- the out of place casual mention of Wanda liberating Vision’s corpse
What did you think? Select your rating in the “User Review” box below
User Review( votes)
We’d love to know your thoughts on this and anything else you might want to talk about. You can find us on Facebook and Twitter or just leave a comment in the comment section below. You’ll need an account for Disqus but it’s easy to set up. Don’t forget to share your rating in the “User Review” box
If you want to chat to me directly then I’m on Twitter as well.