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TV REVIEW: WandaVision Episodes 5-7 (2021)

WandaVision and The Problem with Spoiler Culture

In the weeks since the last recap, WandaVision has developed an undisputed must-watch reputation. The weekly release of the show has earned a lot of attention, both acclaim and criticism. On one hand, giving WandaVision time to breathe allows its ardent fans to do what they do best – theorise. Every week, fans and journalists alike are diving headfirst into WandaVision trying to decipher the mystery within it, building anticipation and, for better or worse, creating expectations out of these theories. On the other hand, however, some fans have grown frustrated at the slow-burn pacing; every episode has drip-fed information (the fourth episode notwithstanding when we were given a fast-track tour of the goings-on outside of Westview), focusing on creating intrigue as opposed to answering their burning questions.

In my eyes, WandaVision has been paced perfectly, and it’s clear that the wider world has simply forgotten how to watch television when it isn’t handed to us all in one package, to binge in the fastest time your sleep-deprived brain will allow. It’s so easy to forget that this was how television was meant to be consumed, way back in the dark ages before Netflix aired its first original show, House of Cards, in 2013. So accustomed have we become to having our questions raised and answered in a short timeframe, we have created a culture of spoilers.

Being the first to find out the next big reveal has become a competition, with websites itching to post clickbait articles, and fans rushing to tweet immediate post-episode thoughts without a care in the world. It was a problem that reared its head at the end of 2020 with the second season of The Mandalorian (the big reveal in the finale was online before I’d even woken up), but with WandaVision, spoiler culture has reached critical mass. Due to their rabid fandom and theorising, fans are no longer shocked; they’re merely waiting for what they have already found out. As such, the immediate aftermath of the episode online (anytime from 8am in the UK) is a minefield of spoilers to avoid before you’ve even had your breakfast.

As we reach the final two weeks of WandaVision, avoiding spoilers is becoming more important than ever. There are rumours circulating of a gargantuan cameo on the horizon; it would be a shame for this to be spoiled for anyone. So far, WandaVision hasn’t quite managed to keep all its secrets hidden, but this one remains unspoiled. The excitement we all share every week is something we have sorely missed during the last year of a global pandemic; WandaVision has filled a deep void in so many of our lives. Let’s preserve that magic.

Speaking of magic…

So much has happened in WandaVision since the last recap. In retrospect, the first four episodes were a walk in the park compared to the veritable onslaught of information and mystery now dished out every Friday. Characters have returned from the dead, characters’ fates hang in the balance, the Big Bad has been revealed, and WandaVision has maintained its pitch perfect parody of so many eras of sitcom history. From the Brady Bunch to Modern Family via Malcolm in the Middle, WandaVision’s creativity burns ever brighter.

Before delving into what the hell is going on in this deliriously brilliant show, not enough attention has been paid to just how good a sitcom homage WandaVision is. As a child of the 90s, the Malcolm in the Middle parody in the sixth episode “All-New Halloween Spooktacular!” was so impressive in its execution from its performances to its personalised brand of comedy to the bizarrely familiar soundtrack. So much care has clearly been given to respectfully recreating the respective energies of the sitcom-of-the-week that WandaVision must be commended for being able to reinvent itself every week and still feel so in tune with itself. It’s a technical marvel.

In this week’s episode, “Breaking the Fourth Wall,” the small but noticeable camera zooms to mimic the mockumentary style of Modern Family gives it that air of familiarity. As a former fan of Modern Family (that show’s particular decline in quality over the years is a conversation for a different time), the WandaVision version is expertly played across the board; Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany are a superb alternative Claire and Phil Dunphy.

An episode like this arrives at a perfect time for Vision, too, as he’s able to talk to us directly about how he’s feeling. It can’t be easy coming to terms with being dead and alive and under the control of your pretend wife, but Bettany plays Vision’s existential crisis brilliantly as a humorous, sitcom-version of a mid-life crisis (his line delivery consistently matches the vibe of the episode; this week’s “we were double booked by the agent!” was a particularly funny, Phil Dunphy-esque, off-the cuff highlight) with more than a hint of genuine terror at what fate lies ahead of him. His fear last week when he briefly escaped the Hex but was gradually being destroyed by being outside of it is up there with some of the best acting the MCU has seen so far. It’s a brilliant performance from Bettany and a brilliant understanding of the character that Vision, even as he’s being literally torn apart, wants to save innocent lives.

Olsen has also delivered superb performances throughout WandaVision, expertly balancing the comedy and the emotion as she flits between the real world and her imaginary kingdom. But Bettany feels the most at ease with the different types of comedy every episode holds, as well as delivering the emotional gut-punches with aplomb.

As great as the sitcom is, the Marvel-of-it-all is what brings the fans back week-after-week. WandaVision has dropped in major reveals at a steady pace since its fourth episode, starting with the surprise appearance of Wanda’s brother, Pietro “Quicksilver” Maximoff, in the form of his Evan Peters version from the X-Men universe. The magnitude of the moment both in- and out-of-universe cannot be understated as the first contact between the MCU and the recently acquired X-Men. Its most exciting aspect, however, is Wanda’s awareness that Pietro isn’t her Pietro, something WandaVision has openly discussed, with Wanda definitively saying he isn’t Billy and Tommy’s uncle. How they will answer the question is one of the many mysteries still waiting to be solved, but the excitement around his very existence means so much for the future of the MCU.

AWOOGA SPOILERS FOR EPISODE 7 AWOOGA

Much to the joy of TVLine, WandaVision did finally play one of its biggest hands this week with the reveal that the mastermind of Westview, the big bad of WandaVision was Agnes, or rather, Agatha Harkness (shout out to JumpCut founder Jakob Barnes for deciphering that Agnes comes from her real name – Ag(atha) (Hark)ness). Brilliantly revealed in a slow-burn, Silence of the Lambs-like sequence in which Wanda descends into a dark, creepy, over-grown basement complete with what looked like Evil Dead’s Necronomicon Ex-Mortis, Agatha reveals her magical powers have been controlling the whole affair as WandaVision’s actual director. She has been the one controlling the residents all along and masterminding Wanda’s perfect life.

If you were paying attention, the clues have been there for several weeks that Agnes wasn’t to be trusted; back in episode five, when Wanda cannot control baby Billy and Tommy, Agnes arrives and solves every problem, while delivering the now-obvious line “Agnes is here, and she’s got a few tricks up her sleeve!” Plus, in episode 6’s opening credits, Agnes is seen looking through the fridge with the word “naughty” emblazoned across her rear end. It was staring us in the face this whole time. Those of us without prior comic book knowledge weren’t to know her true identity, but the gradual reveal of the show’s villain was brilliantly done.

While we now have an answer, what this means for the final two episodes remains to be seen. With Agent Hayward of SWORD hellbent on capturing Vision for his nefarious deeds, one wonders whether Hayward and Agatha are in cahoots to bring the vibranium synthezoid under the control of SWORD because of the Sokovia agreement. Agatha likely has Hayward under her control and there is some other, world-ending consequence to whomever holds Vision, but this will have to wait.

One of the biggest reveals of the week is that Agatha brought Pietro into Westview, dropping an Inception-like seed of doubt into Wanda’s mind that her reality isn’t indeed hers at all, but this week saw the series’ first mid-credits sequence that raises even more questions about Pietro’s presence. Pietro surprises Monica as she snoops around Agatha’s basement entrance in his blink-and-you’ll-miss it appearance, questioning how much control Agatha has over him. It’s entirely possible that Pietro was conjured by Agatha completely to trick Wanda, but his appearance suggests that he may have broken out of her spell and does have independence after all. Pietro has become something of an X-Factor in WandaVision, an exciting aspect to the show as no one has the answers to how he came to be here and why he’s in this form. But answers surely aren’t too far away, and I can’t wait to find out.

Finally, we must address Monica’s moment of heroism that may have changed her life forever. By crossing the Hex threshold for the third time, Monica’s genetic code has been altered forever, this week for the very surprising reveal that she has developed mysterious superpowers. Only seen as a brief moment to halt her fall with a superhero landing and a peculiar shift to her own eyesight (she now can likely see the inner workings of the Hex, Monica may have inadvertently become the key to destroying it once and for all), what this means for Monica is incredibly exciting. Looking up at the stars from a young age at Captain Marvel soaring through the sky, Monica Rambeau standing side by side with Carol Danvers to save the world might now be a genuine possibility. Teyonah Parris has been a brilliant focal point to the reality outside of Westview and her development from plucky SWORD agent to possible future-Avenger is a storyline to follow with interest.

The wait for Friday gets longer and longer. To see how far WandaVision has come in 6 short weeks from the sitcom entirely set in black and white, shot in 4:3 aspect ratio, to the stellar visual effects and aspect ratio shifting experience it is now has been a joy to witness. With only two weeks left, WandaVision continues to excel as a technically brilliant and tremendously entertaining entry into the MCU canon.

Seriously though, what the fuck is going on with Pietro?

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