Whoa. Whoa, whoa, whoa. After last week’s episode gave us most of the exposition we needed to catch up, WandaVision is definitely back to leaving us going ‘what just happened!?’ Buckle up: there is a lot to unpack this week ‘On A Very Special Episode’.
Firstly, we’re back to the sitcom homages again! Aside from a slight reference to Full House in the opening credits (a familiar-looking shot of a picnic), the primary show chosen for tribute in this episode is, rather fittingly, the 80’s staple Family Ties. The hand-drawn theme, the truly lovely theme song, and the childhood photographs of the cast (the world may forever be divided into people who found baby Vision creepy or cute) echo that of the Season 2 opening credits. The living room looks very similar to that of the Keaton house from Family Ties as well. What’s more, the sound design has also changed with the era, with the laugh track becoming quieter and not as intrusive as before.
However, the sitcom part of the episode quickly derails as unsettling happenings occur just a few minutes into the show. ‘On A Very Special Episode’ manages to successfully juggle focus between multiple main characters, and the delightful Kathryn Hahn finally gets some much deserved screen time in this episode. She switches from ‘smug neighbour returning from jazzercise’ to breaking the fourth wall and back again with remarkably creepy fluidity, and it should be interesting to delve deeper into her role as Agnes the Neighbour in the coming episodes.
In fact, ‘On A Very Special Episode’ provided several hints that she may have a much larger role to play than we think. Behind the corny jokes about her ‘buns of steel’, it is clear now that Agnes is well aware of the transitory nature of Westview, and that Wanda is used to resetting the scene when she does not like how things play out. She is also hardly fazed when the children go from babies to five year olds in front of her eyes.
Her self reference as ‘Auntie Agnes’ further points a giant neon arrow at Agnes actually being Agatha Harkness from the comics, or ‘Aunt Agatha’. There was even a poster for ‘Aunt Agatha’s kitty litter’ in the animated opening credits for Episode 2! What is more, Agnes was the only person who did not have a real life counterpart matched with her during S.W.O.R.D’s investigations from the previous episode. Aunt Agatha is involved with Wanda’s children in the comics as well, although in a much darker scenario than has been shown on WandaVision so far. But there is still time.
Speaking of the children, the audience gets less time to bond with the child actors than usual, what with their instant aging-up powers and everything. Keeping with their comic book personas, all the Billys and Tommys are clad in red and green respectively. Seeing as how the show has been a lot more faithful to the comics than most Marvel movies have, it would not be a jump to infer that Billy and Tommy also possess great powers, and may someday join the Young Avengers. Considering this, Episode 2’s repeated chants about how everything was ‘for the children’, and Vision’s extremely eerie observation that there are no other children existing in Westview, all signs are pointing towards Billy and Tommy being central to what is really going on.
As it has progressed, WandaVision has continued to up the ante on its dark and tragic material, and this episode is no different. We get confirmation that Wanda literally stormed into S.W.O.R.D. headquarters (straight from Tony Stark’s funeral, based on what she was wearing) and stole Vision’s corpse to reanimate it for her alternate reality. Definitely not your average Marvel content. There are also other references to ‘fixing the dead’, and Wanda’s tired reminder that “we can’t reverse death no matter how sad it makes us. Some things are forever.”
‘On A Very Special Episode’ serves as a tipping point for Vision too. Paul Bettany is brilliant in conveying his frustration at being out of the loop, of having that nagging feeling that something is wrong and he cannot figure out what. He does not remember his life before Westview, which is dangerous, because he does not realize that attempting to breach its borders would almost certainly mean instant death (again). Indeed, probably the only happy thing that happened in this episode was Agent Woo finally getting Darcy her coffee.
As predicted in last week’s review, there are a lot more hints in ‘On A Very Special Episode’ that Wanda is not actually the one in full control of what is happening at Westview. In episode 3, we assumed that her powers did not work on the stork because she was pregnant. In this episode, they don’t work on her kids either. ‘Kids,’ quips Agnes. ‘You can’t control them, no matter how hard you try.’ Sounds like some good old foreshadowing.
Moreover, when Vision gets through to Norm’s consciousness, he begs him to tell ‘her’ to stop it. ‘Her’ – not Wanda specifically. There are also allusions, more than once, to Wanda not actually knowing how all this started, which is compounded by her denial of making the doorbell ring at a convenient moment. Her quiet hurt when she realizes that Vision does not believe her anymore is piercing.
In keeping with the previous episodes, the aspect ratio tells a story here too. This time, the aspect ratio for Westview is full screen, instead of the expected 4:3 that was usually used in the 1980s. This could be a further subtle reminder that the details in Westview are falling apart.
And finally, the silver-haired elephant in the room – Pietro Maximoff. In the words of the indomitable Darcy Lewis – ‘they recast Pietro!?’ There are, of course, several theories already floating around about Pietro’s appearance, and the most popular one is that this is the beginning of the much awaited MCU-X Men crossover. Pietro was originally played in the MCU by Aaron Taylor Johnson, and Evan Peters played the same character in the X-Men Universe.
Because the rights to the X-Men were owned by 20th Century Fox while Marvel belonged to Disney, there had hitherto been no overlap between the two. However, since Disney acquired 20th Century Fox in 2019, fans have been on tenterhooks, waiting to see how the universes would intersect. The fact that Wanda opened the door to Evan Peters, and not Aaron Taylor Johnson, as Pietro could very well be a major step towards a synthesis of the two.
Indeed, if one reads into Monica’s comment about an ‘aerospace engineer’ she knows, it is possible that Reed Richards from the Fantastic Four could show up at some point as well! There are also theories that this is Pietro from an alternate universe, setting up the multiverse concept in the Marvel Universe as a whole. Or maybe we are all wrong and Evan Peters was just fanservice.
Either way, ‘On A Very Special Episode’ has made sure to thoroughly blow the internet’s collective minds, and we couldn’t be more delighted.
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After an expository episode last week, WandaVision brings out the big guns and promises bigger ones in the offing.
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