WandaVision came out of the gate weird and wonderful, but it has somehow managed to get even better with each passing week. “Previously On,” the penultimate episode of the season, dropped the sitcom framing after we reached the 2010s, and for good reason. After last week’s major unveiling, Wanda was forced to break out of her grief-created fiction and confront the traumatic events that led her here. The longest episode yet, “Previously On” provided more key revelations, and has pushed Wanda towards her real future—which will play out over just one more measly episode. How?!
Before we get to that, though, let’s take a cue from Agatha (“the only way forward is back”) and examine the episode’s biggest moments.
Despite the many comic-based theories about who was “controlling” Wanda’s TV reality, it seemed clear from the start that it was all just Wanda. It’s in the title! That TV world was always a manifestation of her overwhelming grief, an elaborate coping mechanism for her to retreat into. Over the course of the season, we’ve learned that, of course, it wasn’t all from scratch—Wanda did actually take over a real town and the minds of its real inhabitants. But it was also clear that she didn’t realize that she had done it. (Her grief fueling that explosion of power from her was such a beautifully sad scene). It wasn’t to set up a Big Bad, though, so much as to metaphorically explore the toll that mental illness can take on a person and those around them. It pulls no punches in that regard, and was an unexpected yet necessary turn for the MCU to take.
One of the most beautiful lines in all of the MCU, though, was spoken by Vision in a really lovely flashback: “What is grief, if not love persevering?” That is the cornerstone on which WandaVision is built. It doesn’t absolve Wanda’s actions, but it does prove that she’s not a villain. It also recontextualizes the very idea of grief as something to overcome. Grief is something that takes many different forms and expresses itself in many different ways over time; it’s not something to get over or get rid of. It stays with you, and in Vision’s wording, that’s not a bad thing. It’s a memory of love.
“Previously On” was an absolutely devastating episode, and Elizabeth Olsen once again proved that she is too good at portraying these deep, complicated emotions in genuine ways (of course, any Sorry for Your Loss fan could have told you that—by the way, that series is free to watch on Facebook! Do it!) The more exciting opportunity the MCU has in coming to TV is allowing these stories to become character studies. We have watched a mostly sidelined and largely unexplored Avenger from the movies become one of the best and most deftly-drawn characters because of WandaVision. Wanda and Olsen deserve everything—and are finally getting it.
This one is a doozy. In flashbacks to Hydra’s experiments on Wanda, we learn that the Mind Stone (the same one that “powers” Vision) was always attracted to Wanda in some way (that silhouette in the light, by the way, was apparently Scarlet Witch—but Wanda or another one?) Agatha explains that Wanda started out as a baby witch who, if she had lived a normal life, might have never really used her powers. Instead, she has basically become a god of Chaos Magic, something that even Agatha thinks is going too far.
The flashbacks also gave some excellent context to Wanda’s wavering accent—that she worked to get rid of it, but in moments of extreme anger it comes back (a realistic touch), and that she learned English by watching classic American sitcoms. So in that, we also come to understand the reason for the very format of WandaVision. Sitcoms were a comfort to Wanda, the last memories she has from when her parents were alive, and it’s something she and Vision bond over early on.
Suggesting that Wanda was a witch all along whose powers were augmented by the stone is interesting, because that makes her the first true “mutant” Avenger—is that another door opening for the X-Men to get drawn into this world in some way? It also raises questions about Pietro, though. Was he just… a really fast runner, and the stone augmented that? Poor Pietro….
The most important element of Wanda’s connection with the Mind Stone, though, is that it explains who Wanda’s version of Vision really is. It’s not his body (more on that in a moment)—that she created from scratch. But it is his soul. So her version of Vision is Vision, he just can’t exist outside of the hex because he doesn’t have a physical body.
Not everyone knows how to be a great villain, but Kathryn Hahn as Agatha is just nailing it at every turn. From her mocking of Wanda’s “wHEre aRe My chILdREn?” to meta-musing “I have a theory about what you are,” Agatha absolutely ignites every scene she’s in, and is a great foil for the despondent Wanda. I mean, she didn’t have to put Wanda’s children on choke-collar leashes while levitating in the street, but damn if it didn’t pack a punch—especially when she said “you’re the Scarlet Witch!” She said the name!
We also saw Agatha not just kill, but siphon off the power of an entire coven of witches five seconds after saying “I can be good!” To be fair, they were trying to kill her without a lot of explanation, but that’s just how things were in 17th century Salem I guess.
Agatha’s interest in Wanda, though, is mainly to discern the nature of her power, and how Agatha can take it for herself. But even Agatha seems a little concerned by the scope of Wanda’s abilities. Despite all that Agatha has done, though, I can’t help but kinda hope for a witchy teamup…
First of all, I’m not entirely convinced that Hayward is just some dude running S.W.O.R.D. and not related to overarching MCU events in other ways. Regardless, he’s pretty ambitiously reckless with his manipulation of Wanda. When she arrives at S.W.O.R.D. to demand Vision’s body for a burial, Hayward sees an opportunity to use Wanda to bring Vision “back online,” even though I don’t think even he understands what that actually means. Still, his nudging of her with (to paraphrase) “I can’t really give you what you want, because you could bring him back online, I mean to life! Which you totally shouldn’t do! I mean, that would be crazy, right? By the way, have you seen how we’re basically defiling his corpse? If only you could just reassemble him somehow!” was pretty horrible/great. Like Agatha killing Sparky and seeing if it would trigger resurrection or necromancy powers from Wanda, Hayward was also baiting her to see how far she could go to bring Vision back.
And, “Previously On” gave us context for why Hayward doctored the footage to make it look like she had broken in to steal Vision’s body, making everyone else believe that the Vision who is inside the Hex is the actual Vision—not the emotionless drone that Hayward secretly reassembled (as we saw in the mid-credits scene). So basically, making Vision an ultimate killing machine a la Ultron. I knew there was a reason Disney+ kept pushing me to watch Age of Ultron at the end of every Wanda episode, but now I’m very curious how this might all connect…
In a video for Esquire, Paul Bettany said “The truth is, of all the characters that we were trying to keep secret, a lot of them got out through leaks, but there is one character that has not been revealed. It’s very exciting. It’s an actor I’d longed to work with all my life, and we have amazing scenes together, and the chemistry between us is extraordinary, and there were fireworks on set.” I mean, is this Paul Bettany talking about himself? I really, really hope so?!
So Wanda / the Hex has Vision’s soul, Hayward / S.W.O.R.D. have Vision’s body… will these two things reconcile? (cues up Death Cab for Cutie’s “Soul Meets Body”) Or is this something we’ll have to wait for Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness to see happen? It feels like it would be truly awful to leave Wanda on that note. But how this all wraps up in one episode… there will be chaos. And Chaos Magic. That’s all about we can know for sure. But even though this is all going to trip into another movie and could get very Marvel-y in the final episode (including regarding further exploration of Monica’s powers?) let us not forget that WandaVision was always at its best in the quiet moments—that despite all of the grief and horror, all Wanda wanted was a home.
Allison Keene is the TV Editor of Paste Magazine. For more television talk, pop culture chat and general japery, you can follow her @keeneTV
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