Well past its half-way point, WandaVision follows up last week’s last-minute reveal with a sixth episode of a decaying, spooky evening in Westview, wrought with intrigue, somber recollection, and… Malcolm in the Middle?
First and foremost, the sixth episode of WandaVision earns its stripes in its faux-TV presentation this week. As Wanda’s (Elizabeth Olsen) land-of-make-believe has continually evolved its aesthetic, jumping from the laugh-tracks of ’50s sitcoms to the quasi-rebellious and materialistic excess of the ’90s, with an intro that instantly recalls that of Malcolm in the Middle, and narration by the Vision-twins that is knowing in a way that transcends the fourth wall-breaking of this kind that you’d find in an actual sitcom; we’re being spoken to by a performer on a show… within a show… who doesn’t know he’s in a show. Neat!
With last week’s surprise guest appearance of formerly-murdered Maximoff sibling Pietro/Quicksilver (Evan Peters), the “in-Westview” side of the sixth episode of WandaVision takes us on interesting turns, Pietro’s no-worries attitude casually giving way to the knowledge that he is well aware that something is seriously amiss in Westview, but hey, he was dead before. Why not go with it? The radical addition of Pietro to the equation makes interesting the troubled masquerade Wanda continues to perpetuate, but also starts to prod at the questions that WandaVision is going to need to start answering in light of its dwindling episode count: Why, exactly, is this happening?
The choked, sad answer we get is that Wanda was devastated and alone following Vision’s (Paul Bettany) death, and her retreat into Westview, her subsequent kidnapping and brainwashing of hundreds of real people, her revival of her quite dead husband and brother, simply “happened.” None of which is to say that WandaVision won’t go into further detail and explanation of the series’ tremendously powerful superheroic illusion, but as it stands I get the feeling that this whole event is going to be chalked up to “Wow, that Scarlet Witch–sure is a powerful super!” And, frankly, that ain’t enough. Reserving judgement for now, of course; we’ve got three parts to go.
And with events on the peripheral of Westview growing increasingly anarchic, it seems those final episodes will be more of the MCU big-budgetry fans have come to expect over the decade, with Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Paris) and fellow SWORD affiliates Jimmy Woo (Randall Park) and Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings) working against the decidedly-blockheaded, fear-the-unknown leadership of SWORD Director Hayward (Josh Stamberg). In its sixth episode, WandaVision‘s spine-story of working the Westview case from the outside… gets very, very silly, to be frank. WandaVision begins to take logical liberties that feel abrupt and too easy, Rambeau and co. giving a team of armed SWORD escorts the slip, for example, or SWORD’s general stubbornness with tackling the Wanda situation. It’s feeling like WandaVision is forcing a conflict to brew outside of its central Westview dilemma, where really things are just growing interesting inside the dome.
Full-on speculatory thought: The happenings amidst the SWORD crew and their inherent silliness almost lead me to suspect WandaVision pulling another Gotcha! moment, wherein we learn that the world outside of Westview… isn’t outside of Westview. But perhaps I’m just being silly myself.
Despite the occasionally trite dialogue and disappointing developments, WandaVision‘s cast continues to do the work. Evan Peters is fun as the hyper-caffeinated Pietro, though never irritatingly verbose; the way he’ll slide from lazing man-child to voicing his self-awareness of the situation keeps the pacing lively while getting at some development. Randall Park and Kat Dennings would seem to be under-utilized but always-great as Agent Woo and Dr Lewis, our sensible advocates of a lighter touch in the Wanda situation. And our other half of the title, the tragic Vision, prods his energized cage of Westview increasingly in this episode, Paul Bettany flipping between his goofily-costumed “Halloween Vision” and the real, deeply disturbed android and former Avenger.
I’m hoping that WandaVision doesn’t peter out in its final act, the sensational and strange world we’ve been swept up into explained away in a line of ambiguous amnesia and blame-it-on-superpowers; it feels like there’s so much more to be said for Wanda’s sad charade, yet the sixth episode of WandaVision sets us racing to a finale of blockbuster proportions, and it’s precisely the opposite of that that’s made this series an exciting prospect to begin with. For the fans, WandaVision increasingly becomes more like the MCU fare we’ve come to expect. Though one has to wonder why they don’t just call an Avenger or two in to talk the Scarlet Witch down. Maybe WandaVision’s budget isn’t as large as I’m thinking?