The cat has been out of the bag for a long time on WandaVision now. With the charade played by the ever-powerful and grief-stricken Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) crumbling with increasing drama, and after last week’s episode wherein the “big bad” was revealed in all of her sing-song menace, it has become a beeline to the finish starting with the eighth episode. Only now, we know the cat’s out of the bag…and the bag’s, as they say, in the river.
After learning that Agatha Harkness (Kathryn Hahn) was actually the evil witch (like, a real witch, minus the pointy hat and broom) pulling strings and pushing Wanda’s buttons amidst her Westview fantasy on last week’s WandaVision, the eighth episode -appropriately titled Previously On-for some reason feels the need to tread backward through what feels like the entirety of Wanda’s MCU history following her introduction in 2015’s Avengers: Age of Ultron. Also, not by coincidence, where we first met the Ultron-spawn Vision (Paul Bettany), Wanda’s Infinity Stone-adorned, deceased android husband. A lot of jargon, no? That’s because as WandaVision wraps up, it’s stretching this way and that to incorporate all of the stuff that Marvel and Disney’s spandex saga is built upon, and it’s positively buckling under the weight.
As a retread of events that MCU die-hards are likely able to recite like scripture, the eighth episode contributes further to the elongated, fluffy run of WandaVision‘s nine episodes, the bulk of which I’ve been struggling to find engaging because of their goofy sitcom commitments to Wanda’s illusion. Now that we’re long past the “intentional filler” of Wanda’s world, WandaVision is revealing itself to not only be attempting tomfoolery but is itself a bit of a farce, and that’s no fun.
The opening scene of episode eight features a half-hearted, vague flashback to Agatha’s time as a bonafide witch in 17th century Salem, where she stands accused of some dark meddling or another. For the life of me, I was unsure whether or not this was going to turn into another of the show’s Gotcha! gag moments, it was so utterly silly.
Later, in the parade of flashbacks where Wanda and Agatha take a literal stroll through Scarlet Witch’s memories, we catch a young Wanda enamored with television –The Dick Van Dyke Show– and are meant to smack our heads with an Ah-ha, understanding the root of her ’50s sitcom fantasy. The eighth episode of WandaVision spoon-feeds you like a fool, with dialogue that made me wince! When Wanda confronts Director Hayward (Josh Stamberg) over recovering Vision’s body, the SWORD man callously expresses his concern over her “power that could bring her soulmate back online.” Oops, scratch that: “Back to life.” Oh brother.
I wish I could say that the performances continue to carry WandaVision, but with the atypical land of make-believe fully given way to the MCU’s usual flashy pyrotechnics, there’s mostly a lot of cheese and grunts. Agatha’s “transformation” into a full-blown wise-cracking villain comes across as simple and tired, and not nearly enough of Paul Bettany’s awkward, tender Vision is left in the story.
“What is grief, if not love persevering,” he gets to say to a distraught Wanda amidst her stroll down memory lane. More of this! The fact that the most heart to bubble to the surface of WandaVision‘s past few episodes comes from a throwaway bit of exposition from a character whose involvement in the series is largely that of obituary recipient should be indicative of just how hollow so much of the production feels. I’m feeling particularly let down by WandaVision not simply because it’s reduced itself to the bare-minimum of Marvel Cinematic Universe tropes and postures: these films have been getting by on largely the same beats for more than a decade now, and far be it from me to tear them all down (I like quite a few of these movies very much!). No, in setting up some sort of final confrontation between the witches of Westview, and some after-credit badness brewing in the realm of playing God (re Vision booting back to life), WandaVision is just not satisfying the most base of MCU cravings.
Imagine a 13-episode season of television, and one of those episodes somewhere in the middle is a bit ho-hum, or even boring, lacking a real bit of sugar, spice, and everything nice to bring it up to snuff with what you expect. Now, instead of a season of TV, consider the entire MCU, and that “one episode” is the entirety of WandaVision. WandaVision is the filler episode, stretched across its own season of TV. Maybe next season will be worth the wait?