Big wheels are beginning to turn on WandaVision, with a fifth episode whose final moments have some major implications the the MCU at large. Full discloscure, because this week’s episode bears a particularly exciting bit of development, this recap features full spoilers for WandaVision‘s fifth episode, and the series thus far! Still here? Alrighty then.
Last week’s episode pulled us out of idyllic Westview in ways that we mostly knew were coming, SWORD Agent Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Paris) forcibly ejected from Wanda’s (Elizabeth Olsen) land of make-believe, revealing the entire facade of the series itself to be a show within a show. The characters in WandaVision, agents of SWORD and SHIELD, monitor the curious curation of Wanda’s sitcom stylings from a distance, kept at bay from Westview by a powerful energy field. Wonky stuff.
The fifth episode of WandaVision, the veil having been pierced, takes us back inside the town as things begin to crumble from within, and its in these moments that WandaVision hits on bits of intrigue that make the illusory shenanigans worthwhile. Now the father of twins, Vison (Paul Bettany) is disturbed by the casual breaking of sitcom-character by neighbor Agnes (Kathryn Hahn) when Wanda’s script doesn’t go off as planned. “Should we just take it from the top,” Agnes asks. No laugh track or musical cue, just a bewildered Vision and Wanda scrambling in her mind to maintain the magic trick. If it hadn’t already been clear, there’s a lot going wrong in Westview.
I’ve been back-and-forth over how well WandaVision‘s pacing deals with maintaining the illusion and advancing the story to points of interest, with episodes that have often felt too fluffy in their content, belaboring the point. With the fifth episode, WandaVision is fully evolved into itself, with Wanda’s struggle to maintain the mask of normalcy for Vision slipping from her grasp. After all, he is dead.
The episode’s subplot of the twins finding a stray dog and doing their best to keep him are a nice, if simple, parallel to Wanda’s efforts to keep her marriage afloat with Vision, quite dead following the events of Avengers: Infinity War. At this point, WandaVision is fully embracing the scope of more than a decade’s worth of MCU films and lore, the tightened aspect ratio of the sitcom world literally expanded to reflect the damage-control worked by SHIELD and its subdivisions in the wake of “all that crazy stuff” that went down most-recently in Marvel’s feature films. In this respect, WandaVision is clearly becoming a worthy piece of Marvel’s tableau of spandex and superpowers, and in that sense largely pleasing for fans of the House of Ideas.
The final moments of episode five of WandaVision also make it somewhat amusing to think how invested we fans and viewers are in the ongoing legal squabbles of massive entertainment corporations, with the ownership of the X-Men, those marvelous mutants, shifting from Sony to Disney. It’s with bated breath that fans have been wondering just how the iconic characters of the X-Men would make their debut in Disney’s MCU, and the appearance of Pietro Maximoff (Evan Peters) quenches that anticipation. Originally murdered in Avengers: Age of Ultron, Pietro (in that film played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson), Wanda’s brother who also goes by “Quicksilver,” appeared in Sony’s X-Men films, played by Peters. His appearance in-character in WandaVision is, frankly, very, very clever. “She recast Pietro,” SWORD affiliate Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings) utters, incredulous. Because if there were any place in the Marvel continuity for gonzo, fix-it-in-post-reality-warps-by-way-of-corporate-buyouts to made sense of, it would be in the sitcom playland of WandaVision. Who’s keeping score?
Surely, the fan theories for how the rest of Xavier’s mutants will materialize are running rampant, and indeed the thought of having the Avengers and the X-Men share a frame is enough to make any comic fan giddy. In the here-and-now, though, WandaVision remains a solid, though not excellent, outlet for Marvel’s characters to play around in.
Olsen and Bettany are still great in their roles, and as the heat between Wanda and Vision ratchets up, the tragedy of an unsalvageable marriage like theirs approaches with increasing immediacy. Wanda’s retreat into her sculpted world of Growing Pains and Full House oddness is challenged by skeptics in SWORD as a rogue, dangerous threat; a super-gone-bad, as it were. Others, like Monica and Jimmy Woo (Randall Park) are inclined to work with Wanda, and help her rather than raise a rifle in fear.
It might feel a little typical, though I’m pleased to see that WandaVision is taking itself seriously in developing Marvel’s ongoing stories. In a franchise as massive as the MCU, inconsistency is an expected and natural outcome. Luckily, WandaVision is looking to be one of the good ones.