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A very special guest star arrives in a very special WandaVision

Illustration for article titled A very special guest star arrives in a very special WandaVision
Photo: Marvel Studios
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Yeah, so I was afraid of that: Vision’s (Paul Bettany) dead body is walking around Westview. That’s just one of many disturbing revelations in “On A Very Special Episode,” the fifth installment of WandaVision. Captain Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris) is recovering from her traumatic experience in Westview, and acting S.W.O.R.D Director Tyler Hayward (Josh Stamberg) isn’t making it easy for her. He’s more than just a clueless government honcho, overly consumed with protocol. He’s cruel, playing footage of Monica’s humiliating performance as “Geraldine” from “Now In Color” while they’re in a public briefing.

Hayward tells the assembled agents that he now considers Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) the “principal victimizer” in Westview. He describes how Wanda and her brother, Pietro (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) were radicalized as youths and worked for Hydra before fighting the Avengers, which FBI Agent Jimmy Woo (Randall Park) quickly notes is an “oversimplification.” Jimmy, like us, knows that Wanda became a hero when it mattered, but Hayward brings up the events of Captain America: Civil War: Wanda accidentally killed Wakandans during a botched mission in Lagos, and later joined Cap’s rogue team. It’s not the best resumé, and Hayward is quick to label her a terrorist. Monica strongly disagrees, but Hayward reminds her that she’d described the effects of Wanda’s mind control as “excruciating, terrifying, a violation.” This is repulsive. Hayward doesn’t give a damn what Monica’s been through. He just wants to be right.

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Hayward sees Wanda simply as a villain who kidnapped thousands of people and blasted Monica clear across New Jersey. Monica thinks it’s more complicated: Wanda has no apparent political agenda and Monica only survived expulsion from Westview because Wanda protected her. But Hayward delivers his coup de grace: He’d received authorization to share footage of Wanda breaking into S.W.O.R.D. headquarters and stealing Vision’s corpse. Maybe I’m under her mind control, as well, but Wanda was as close to family as the Vision had. His body should’ve been released to her, not treated like a (once) sentient weapon for disposal.

Wanda stole Vision’s body nine days earlier and, Hayward claims, resurrected him, which violated Section 36 B of the Sokovia Accords. Of course, literally half the universe, including Monica, wouldn’t exist now if the Avengers had paid any attention to the stupid Accords. It seems unfair to give Wanda a hard time about bringing a loved one back to life, but we also learn that it’s not what Vision wanted, as stated in his living will. I can’t imagine Vision wanted S.W.O.R.D. scientists disassembling him for arguably nefarious purposes, either. It’s been five years since Thanos (Josh Brolin) killed him, and the gaping hole in Vision’s head wouldn’t require an extensive autopsy to determine the cause of death. What have they been doing with him all this time?

The image of Vision reduced to pieces in a lab reminds me a shocking image from early in John Byrne’s 1980s run on the West Coast Avengers. Byrne considered Vision no more than a sophisticated “toaster” and implied that Wanda was out of her mind for hooking up with a machine. The MCU has a more progressive view of Vision’s humanity. Wanda’s love for Vision isn’t a symptom of her madness. No, she loved a real man and her grief, which Monica recognizes, is equally real.

Every part of me wants to believe Vision is actually alive again and not just a zombie puppet Wanda’s animating in her dream world. I like Vision and frown upon robot necrophilia. The WandaVision show within a show provides more clues to this mystery. It’s advanced to the early 1980s with all the regrettable fashion choices. The opening credits with a treacly theme song and a paint-by-numbers cast “portrait” directly recalls “Family Ties.” 

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But the show is unraveling around Wanda. When Agnes (Kathryn Hahn) shows up at the house, the studio audience greets her with a round of applause (an often annoying trait from the period). She’s dressed for jazzercise class but offers to help Wanda and Vision put the twins to sleep. Vision is a nervous dad and not sure he wants the lady in the leotard consoling his fussy children. Agnes, suddenly very serious, asks Wanda if they want to “take it from the top,” as though Vision got his lines wrong.

That’s not the only weird moment. Thomas and Billy suddenly age from infants to 5-year olds, but it happens mid-scene, not between seasons. Agnes finds this hilarious. Later, when the twins find a stray puppy, Wanda uses her powers in plain view of Agnes, and when Vision protests, she says she’s no longer interested in hiding. The twins age up another five years so they’re old enough to care for their new pet, Sparky.

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Tension is building between the normally happy couple, and it’s unclear whether Vision has become more aware of how bizarre this all is or if Wanda is losing control over Vision. Later, when he’s at work, Vision sets up a rudimentary computer and somehow receives an email from S.W.O.R.D. about the “Maximoff anomaly.” His coworkers recite the email’s text in a creepy monotone, which Norm (Asif Ali) dismisses as a joke until Vision releases him from Wanda’s spell. That’s apparently something he can do now. “Norm” is Abilash Tandon again, and he’s terrified. He begs Vision to stop Wanda: “She’s in my head. None of it is my own. It hurts. It hurts so much. Just make her stop.”

This scene almost had me on Team Hayward, but not for long. Back at the S.W.O.R.D. camp, Monica is plotting how she can safely return to Westview. She discovers that her groovy 1970s pants are bullet proof and not because they’re a polyester blend. When she was pulled into the WandaVision reality, her kevlar vest was rewritten to fit the sitcom world and continued to adapt as the time period changed. She surmises that if she sends in a drone modified with 1980s technology, it can slip past Wanda’s radar. This seems to work and Monica tries to make contact with Wanda again. She’s treating this like a hostage situation, but Hayward operates like they’re at war with a hostile nation of one. He orders an agent to “take the shot.” The drone was armed.

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This leads to our “oh crap!” moment of the episode: Wanda briefly leaves Westview, and girl is pissed. She delivers the now disabled drone and informs Hayward that this is S.W.O.R.D.’s only warning: “Stay out of my home. You don’t bother me. I don’t bother you.” She now speaks with her thick Sokovian accent, which had vanished in Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame. Demonstrating why you shouldn’t piss off a telepath, she temporarily controls the S.W.O.R.D. agents’ minds and they turn their weapons on Haywood as she returns to her preferred reality.

Yet Wanda isn’t all powerful. Back in Westview, she and the boys search for Sparky, who’d gone missing. Agnes sadly informs them that Sparky got into her azaleas and is now dead. The boys ask Wanda to bring him back, but she explains that she can’t reverse death. This would imply that Vision is really, most sincerely dead. He only exists within the simulation, but if that’s so, why is he proving so difficult for Wanda to mange? He confronts her about Norm, and it seems like he’s aware of how Wanda changes reality as it suits her. He’s indulged her so far, but he’s had enough. He also admits that he doesn’t remember his life before Westview. This scares him, and when he notices that there are no other children in Westview, I was equally scared. What have you done with the children, Wanda?

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But Wanda insists she’s not the grand puppet master controlling everyone. She doesn’t even know how it all started. The doorbell rings, and Vision, who’s lost faith in his wife, thinks this is a deliberate distraction from their argument. Wanda answers and the studio audience cheers at the sight of her long-lost brother, Pietro, who’s been “recast” but is as obnoxious as ever. He even calls Vision “popsicle” for good measure. WandaVision isn’t done surprising us.

Stray observations

  • The new Pietro is Evan Peters, who played the character on film in X-Men: Days of Future Past, X-Men: Apocalypse, and Dark Phoenix. Peters played the character a year before Aaron Taylor-Johnson in Avengers: Age of Ultron. This seems like more than an Easter egg. Was this Pietro snatched from a different universe, one where he’s still alive?
  • The “recast” Pietro recalls two different Beckys on Roseanne.
  • Hayward uses the phrase “let’s work the problem.” He’s a monster.
  • Dr. Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings) calls the Westview anomaly “the Hex,” because of its hexagonal shape. This is a direct reference to the Scarlet Witch’s comic book “hex” power. I love Darcy. I’m waiting for her to officially dub Wanda the Scarlet Witch.
  • Monica is clearly moved when Jimmy mentions Captain Marvel.
  • I think it means something that Wanda had a Sokovian accent again in the real world.
  • Still no Dottie (Emma Caulfield Ford) this week. We’ve learned there’s no other children in Westview, which makes Dottie’s “for the children” mantra even creepier in context. And if Wanda’s controlling everyone’s minds, how was Dottie able to read Wanda the riot act in “Don’t Touch That Dial”?
  • Nitpick: But Wanda’s outfit is way too young and hip for a 1980s sitcom mom. She’s dressed more like Mallory Keaton than Elyse Keaton.
  • Billy, while training Sparky, says, “Sit, Sparky, sit.” This references the bumper that appeared at the end of Family Ties (and other UBU Productions shows): Series producer Gary David Goldberg would say, “Sit, Ubu, sit. Good dog.”
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