This was an inevitable episode that was never going to have either the charm, humour or intrigue of earlier episodes. It does have some powerful emotional moments but I found those undercut by a couple of big issues. Lots of answers but few surprises.
Before we dive into spoiler territory, just a fresh reminder that Disney still haven’t paid Alan Dean Foster the money they owe him.
So we get an account of everything that has been going on and in the end it is Wanda Sad + Agatha Bad, which we all sort of guessed and that’s OK. Honestly, I much prefer this kind of simplest solution than a series that tries so hard to make the underlying story unguessable that the stories ties itself in knots. Agatha takes Wanda through her past in a bid to discover the secret of her powers and in the process we see the tragic backstory of Wanda Maximoff.
I’ll get my moans out of the way first.
A minor moan is the confront-your-trauma-to-escape trope, which bugs me and which we had recently in Star Trek Discovery. The imaginary world is a hiding place from a trauma and the person at the centre of it has to face the thing they fear to return to reality. In WandaVision’s defence, it did this a lot better than Discovery mainly because Agatha is evil and isn’t forcing Wanda to confront her past because she thinks it will help Wanda. Also, she tried other strategies first — even a centuries old rogue witch has some common sense.
The Sokovia part bugged me more. Sokovia as a stand in for the Yugoslavian conflict but without the messy politics, was always dicey. It’s a way of dealing with real events by avoiding real events. US involvement is suggested by Stark Industry’s munitions but even there it is a second hand Stark-was-and-arms-dealer point rather than the messy politics of the 1990s. The set-up for origin-story tragedy feels like the set-up for a very dark joke (traumatised by an unexploded bomb while watch a DVD box set of the Dick Van Dyke show). Obviously, they couldn’t play that for laughs but the whole sequence was very heavy handed.
I’m also not sure about the origin sequence for Agatha. Tied to a stake in 17th century Salem by other witches? Feels a bit messed up. It’s a problem any story where witches are real has when engaging with the real life persecution of women (often for being in minority religions) for being witches. I guess they couldn’t have bad Agatha nearly being executed for being a bad witch by angry puritans because it would be a bit like suggesting the real victims may also have deserved it.
I felt the episode picked up in the second half, particularly when we got to the events in the days leading up to WandaVision. The trauma of everything was well shown. In particular, Westview as a town struggling to pull itself back together after what would have been a five-year period of grief and economic recession.
We walk finally into another trope aka Dark Phoenix-style super powered woman losing control of her powers due to her emotions running away with them. Having said that, the work done to reach that point mitigated a lot of the problems with that. It was easy to empathise with Wanda’s circumstance and reaction.
And then after credits surprise twist! I hadn’t seen that coming until well into this episode — basically when Wanda leaves the SWORD base without Vision.
Agatha gets some good lines all round but otherwise not an episode with any laughs