As with all things, the whacky world of WandaVision is coming to a close this week with its ninth episode, its sitcom-but-not-actually stylings giving way to full-blown MCU mayhem, bringing with the its need to tie up loose ends and set up new threads for eager fans a smattering of gimmicks, tired tropes, and head-scratching bends of logic that would make an accomplished trans-dimensional witch guffaw.
Last week’s episode took us down memory lane, with Agatha’s (Kathryn Hahn) beans having been spilled, her metaphysical manipulation of Wanda’s (Elizabeth Olsen) grasp on Westview all a ploy to harness the power, unfathomable and ancient, locked away. Her grief following the death of robo-husband Vision (Paul Bettany) provided the perfect avenue for some good old-fashioned arm-twisting, with the illusion and mind-control of Westview being tied to the lives her revived husband and children. It’s a lot for one witch to handle!
Meanwhile, the ever-eager Director Hayward (Josh Stamberg) leads a military incursion into the town, looking to eighty-six Vision, aided by a soulless, Terminator-like Vision bred by SWORD for their seek-and-destroy mission. The collision of interested parties in WandaVision‘s ninth episode is a barrel full of plot to resolve, and the finale literally flies around the sky, back and forth, trying to somehow satisfy our story. Yet, ever eager to tie up loose ends, the ridiculousness of so much of WandaVision‘s actual moments is revealed, making for a puzzle piece that will seem to fit in to the MCU at large, from a distance, but makes for a tight squeeze while watching.
The reveal of Evan Peters as Pietro, a major “Oh what!” moment episodes ago, bridging the gap, somehow, between the X-Men films of Sony’s canon and Disney’s ever-engorged MCU, is revealed to be a literal farce in the ninth episode, Peters’ character simply a nobody instilled with Pietro’s (Quicksilver) zippy powers for the sake of maintaining the illusion of Westview. By undoing the cross-franchise implications of Peters as Pietro, WandaVision corrects course, looking to explain away its own labyrinthine lore with silly, useless rules it writes as it goes along.
Meanwhile, FBI Agent Jimmy Woo (Randall Park) resurfaces in the custody of Director Hayward, his renegade sympathy for Wanda’s plight earning him no stripes with SWORD and Hayward’s warpath towards Westview. Yet Woo is detained unsupervised, allowing him to slip out of his handcuffs and use the cell phone that he easily snatched to call in a massive federal force to thwart Hayward’s horse-blinded ambition. Sure.
Allow these criticisms not as nitpicking, because story bumps are always smoothed out by a quick explanation or avoiding any real inspection of narrative logic. I’ll give WandaVision that much. But the ninth episode exemplifies the MCU’s tendency to tell stories that often trip over themselves with scenes that rush some things (Jimmy’s easy phone call for backup) while going to lengths to explain away some bit of cross-film/series bit of lore (Pietro isn’t quite Pietro) for the sake of future installments. Here it feels like a messier version of the consistency Disney curates with Star Wars, the retconning and obliteration of so much pre-Lucasfilm buyout from canon allowing a canvas on which new stories can be made to work with old ones. The MCU is beginning to show its bloat.Beyond narrative grievances, the ninth episode of WandaVision feels… tired. Agatha is simply not a villain worthy of an awe-inspiring endgame, her transformation from snappy neighbor to flowing-haired witch not intimidating, but merely silly. Wanda gets to yell and scream and emit bright red lights, while Vision, dueling with his SWORD-bred clone, muses about the merits of their own identities in one of the episode’s brighter moments.
“You are familiar with the thought experiment the Ship of Theseus,” Vision muses to his desaturated double. In light of Vision’s own realizations regarding his authenticity–re: his revival, the minor battle of wits we see the Visions engage in (taking place in, of course, a library) hammers the finale’s theme of acceptance of one’s situation and self. Vision with his death that he’s seemingly been outrunning, and Wanda with her powers, locked away and frothing forth due to Agatha’s plans. Yet the dueling intellects of Vision and… other Vision are such a minor snippet of the ninth episode, the finale brushing aside these enjoyable character moments in favor of loud explosions and bright colors.
Marvel’s comics have endured and evolved for decades due to their persistent inspection of their characters (accompanied, of course, by phantasmagoric art and action). WandaVision‘s regression from oddball super-sitcom to big-screen (on the little screen) action dramatically underlines the MCU’s tendency to rush ahead to whatever’s next, as the finale features not one, but two post-credit tidbits to line up the dominos for Disney’s next romp.
Perhaps WandaVision is simply more of the same MCU fare that we’ve come to enjoy, and my increased disappointment with the returns here are exacerbated by the format. Marvel’s films, even the less-crucial ones, are self-contained for the most part, the inkling of future threads teased out near their ends. But with WandaVision, week after week has felt like a bit of fluff (some episodes more so than others, granted), now all leading up to the ninth episode, which is the ultimate “There will be more” ending. And so, not an ending at all. There will be more serials and stories of the Scarlet Witch and the Vision, in some capacity. I only wish we got the Jimmy Woo spin-off he so clearly deserves.