WandaVision Episode 8: Previously on…

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

31 thoughts on “WandaVision Episode 8: Previously on…

  1. My first thought was, Damn, Elizabeth Olson and Kathryn Hahn need Emmys for this.

    As far as Agatha goes, her mother mentioned her experimentation with “dark magic.” So whatever she was doing, it would have brought danger to the coven and maybe the people of Salem as well.

    And evidently Wanda always had witchy powers–Agatha even calls her a “baby witch.” But the Mind Stone either amplified it or awakened her full potential, and her grief over Vision got her in touch with what Agatha called “chaos magic.”

    But white, rebooted Vision? Holy crap.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. So I watched half of episode 1 but have been keeping up via spoilers and just tuned in to this episode, and liked it more than you I think, mainly because it actually demonstrated the Wanda/Vision relationship, even in just one scene, that was missing from the MCU before this to explain how this could all happen. And while yeah I get the Dark Phoenix comparison (and god knows Wanda has her own comics version of the same trope), at least this one is….not justifiable, but not an unbelievable step for the character as shown here.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I hope Vision ends up his old multi-colored self at the end. Or at least eventually.

    And Wanda’s not willingly going through her trauma to get past it, Agatha was forcing her to, via holding her children hostage. Not a valid psychological technique.

    I think she probably honestly didn’t remember what happened once she got to the empty building site until just now. And now we know where she got her love of sitcoms from.

    So obviously that rat bastard Hayward left the deed in her car in hopes she’d figure out how to revive $3B worth of vibranium weapon, then followed her. He had the whole operation ready to go, including the faked footage of Wanda stealing Vision’s body. And if Wanda didn’t manage revival, at least maybe she’d go away and leave him $3B worth of vibranium and Stark tech to play with.

    Agatha did have one good point: your house gets blown up and your parents killed and you go off and join an evil totalitarian group? I mean, Agatha’s evil, but logical about it.

    I KNEW that wasn’t really any version of Pietro. Yay me.

    But what was going on with Darcy, Monica, and Westview Vision during this time? Although maybe only half an hour went by for them, too, and they’re still on the way.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. “Agatha did have one good point: your house gets blown up and your parents killed and you go off and join an evil totalitarian group? ”

      Obviously, you don’t. There should have been a scene where Wanda went off to join those brave freedom fighters against Western imperialism, Hydra.

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  4. After the first 6 episode the potential for a great show was there. Last episode hinted it would not be that and this episode amplified that they settle for compentent – MCU-quality. Which is fine, it doesnt have to revolutionize television of course – it was just my expectations that were to high. In a sense this was the last third that Lost avoided and which was worse for it. I agree about the confrontation of trauma with what you said (and which normally is not at all how trauma therapy works TMK)

    Agatha is still more on “neutral” territory I guess. She wants to know where the power comes from, probbaly for herself. But she is concerned that Wanda is the scarlet witch, which apparently is a bad thing. So probably self-serving for now, ready to get into chaotic good teritory during the fight against Cataract.

    Which is a plot twist indeed, but I always hate it when a superhero (Vision) has to fight against his eveil twin. Its simply not as interesting as the writers keep on believing – asymmetric fights are just smarter! But I have to admit that at least here it would be a logical conclusion. At least now we know who Paul Bettamy meant when he said he can finally work with someone he always admired: Himself πŸ™‚

    Also to note: Keeping in mind what happended to Vision when he tried to leave the magic cube, He and Wandas kids can only survive in her field. I can only assume they will send them off into another dimension or something.

    Looking forward to the conclusion, which wont be groundbreaking but satisfactory at least. Ill settle for that. But Im still a bit miffed about the casting choice of Piedro

    Liked by 1 person

  5. To a comics fan – and there must surely be some among the audience – the Dramatic Closing Line doesn’t really feel like much of a revelation. Presumably, in this storyline, the term has some awesome cosmic significance which will shortly be revealed, but… “You are the Scarlet Witch!” Well, yeah. We know she’s the Scarlet Witch. That’s who she was when we first met her, in 1964, in Uncanny X-Men #4. It’s not, like, a big surprise or anything.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Not sure if that was intended to be a relevation or more of a nod – Most of the characters in the MCU doesnt use their comic Book names much and they were usually names given by the (MCU-) media or military codenames or something. So it was more of an excuse to finally acknowledge the comic book name. Quicksilver still is Piedro πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

      1. She didn’t ever have a nickname the whole time she was with Hydra or the Avengers.

        They made a big deal out of Hayward insisting she must have one and Jimmy and Darcy going “nope, no nickname dude seriously”.

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  6. As a flashback episode pretty predictable.
    I wasn’t troubled by the Good Witches of Salen executing a Bad Witch. Much preferable to the multiple stories I’ve seen where yes, the Salem witches really were evil, which is infuriating. I suspect invoking Salem may be partly because that’s a standard trope in witch-related fiction β€” if you have some tie to Salem, that proves you’re “real,” just as “Our organization is the one that shot JFK” is a mark of seriousness in conspiracy thrillers.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Well, we still don’t know how it is that Vision operates independently of Wanda. But since he appears to be a fully-formed personality – albeit without any memories before Westview – I expect there will be an eventual fusion event with the White Vision, creating a version that is functionally reborn and able to exist outside the Hex.

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  8. Yeah, this episode was about leaving the sitcoms and jokes behind, which might not be fun for a lot of people but did fulfill the payoff of exploring what happened to create the situation in the first place and revealing Heyward’s plan.

    The concept of magic/accessing magical-like energies was introduced in the MCU through Dr. Strange and tied to time/space and multiverse dimensions through his film and character. Agatha is shown in this version to be an energy absorbing witch (sorceress) who has stayed alive for centuries from absorbing energies from other witches (including her mom.) This puts her in line with Kaecilius and the Ancient One in Doctor Strange, who drew on the energies of the Dark Dimension to sustain her long life. Agatha breaks the rules of nature which causes consequences inter-dimensionally and on the astral plane (and why her mom and coven tried to stop/end her.) While Agatha claimed that her doing so initially was involuntary from her abilities (also in line with the Doctor Strange film) she’s obviously improved control and chosen through arrogance (which Doctor Strange was warned about,) to continue to break laws of nature in using and obtaining mystical energies. In contrast, Wanda eventually turned away from that as did Doctor Strange.

    We learn that Agatha did not have a hand in creating the shelled alt reality of Westview. Instead, Wanda’s release of mystical energy was a large draw for Agatha to seek to obtain/learn from and she infiltrated. Agatha’s explanation of alternate Piedro, whom she did bring in, is a little confused though; I didn’t like that part on the dialogue. She seemed at one point to be saying she mind controlled him in from an alternate dimension (bringing him in from X-Men,) but also may have been saying she created/transformed him. The former seems more likely as it looked like Piedro is going to be somewhat independent/get free from Agatha’s control and help Monica, but we’ll see.

    We learn that like Doctor Strange, Agatha and others, Wanda was born with potential sorceress abilities. She used those to keep the Stark missile from blowing up without realizing that she did so. This was consistent with the story Wanda told of their past in the movies. As such when she touched the Infinity Stone, she didn’t die like a regular human. Instead it allowed her to fully access mystical energies but she did not have anyone to train her. Piedro, her twin, having the same family DNA, also did not die from the stone but developed his speed powers. Agatha’s claim, after forcing Wanda to walk through her memories with compulsion, is that Wanda has tapped into mystical chaos energy from both the infinity stone exposure and deep grief, which makes her a Scarlett Witch as opposed to other forms of sorcerers. It’s possible that this involves some sort of Chaos Dimension that will be relevant in Doctor Strange 2.

    We learn that Wanda created the alt reality Vision from this chaos energy as well as the two boys. And yet, alt reality Vision has independence of thought from Wanda as do the twin boys. So this poses many interesting questions about chaos magic/energy and what is created from it. If it is that Piedro #2 was created by Agatha, he may have acquired independence also from being in the bubble of chaos energy. Likewise, the chaos energy rewrote Monica’s DNA due to multiple barrier passages, turning her into Photon (or Spectre or whatever of her comic names they go with) and enabling her to fob off mind control from Wanda. Essentially Monica is channeling chaos energy and infinity stone energy. Alt reality Vision is also able, being made of chaos energy, to disrupt Wanda’s magical control of humans and got good enough at it to keep Darcy, who had only been at the edges of the shell, from going mad/being in pain when he de-connected her from Wanda’s spell. Likewise, the one twin’s psychic abilities indicates further transformation from chaos energy independent of Wanda’s control and direction. Some of this is from the original comics, some of it is from the Doctor Strange/MCU previous material. What they are going to do with it is anyone’s guess. But I suspect the twins will survive and age up as part of the Young Avengers assembly they seem to be doing. Vision I would suspect doesn’t, though if he does and plays roles in future films, that would be a big MCU surprise.

    While Tony Stark retired from running the Avengers in the wake of Thanos’ death strike, it seems highly unlikely that he would have allowed Vision’s body to be put in SWORD’s custody rather than Natasha’s as then head of the Avengers. So this is somebody’s several year plan and hints at a larger conspiracy that may run through some of the t.v. series and movies in Phase 4.

    So I wouldn’t call this episode as much of a delight as some of the others, but it was beautifully acted and did deliver on some of the needs of the penultimate episode. I also really liked having a flashback scene between Vision and Wanda about the beginnings of their relationship. There’s a bit of it in several of the movies in a few scenes but they couldn’t give them much screentime on it, so it always did seem a bit rushed romance in the sweep of the movies. In a sense, this miniseries has let them go much more in depth into that relationship and I enjoyed that.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. I have a suspicion the Salem witch trials might have been brought on or at least exacerbated by Agatha.

    Finding all those desiccated bodies in the forest is going to be suspicious. And who knows but what Agatha wasn’t stirring up trouble even before that with all her unauthorized magic using.

    And her bad attitude too.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Evanora (Agatha’s mother) looks to have been modeled after Comics!Agatha which strengthens my suspicion that MCU!Agatha is a composite character of Agatha and her son Nicholas Scratch, who much like MCU!Agatha is a power-hungry villain who killed his mother on occasion. (Comics!Agatha having a talent for getting better that Evanora appears to have lacked.)

    Liked by 3 people

      1. Back around the early 80s, I used to imagine an editor coming to Stan. “We have the villain shot, electrocuted, decapitated, dismembered, dissolved, the electrons discharged and scattered across different universes…”

        “Yes?”

        “Well, I was wondering if we’re planning to kill him off.”

        “No, no. Just leave it uncertain like that.”

        Liked by 2 people

      2. There’s a line in one of Grant Morrison’s Justice League stories where Batman tells a hard-core, just-kill-villains team their methods are stupid: “Killing the kind of adversaries we deal with isn’t effective, and it just makes it harder to track what they’re planning.”

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Yeah, but I don’t think that Paul Bettany wants to keep doing Vision. Not that he doesn’t like the character but he originally was just the voice of Jarvis. He didn’t know that he was going to be a whole character in a number of the movies, doing action stunts, etc. Not that he can’t handle it, but I think he’s happy to bow out. But if Vision is important to some central story that they want to do, then I guess Vision will survive.

        My husband learned that White Vision came about because John Byrne, who took over West Coast Avengers, didn’t like the previous writer of the series, Steve Englehart, and dismantled the happy Wanda-Vision family storyline Englehart had built. Writer Kurt Busiek, late in the game added chaos magic/energy as something that Wanda could draw on and shape reality, which Doctor Strange also has sometimes used. In a story in the teens, Magneto is dumped as Wanda and Pietro’s real father; Wanda learns that her “adopted” parents are her biological aunt and uncle and that her biological mother was Natalya Maximoff, who had been the sorceress called the Scarlet Witch and Wanda’s grandfather was the Scarlet Warlock. So it seems like the Marvelverse is using a whole mishmash of these various storylines that have been used on the comics character.

        Liked by 2 people

  11. Having just lost a credential, I was in tears at Vision’s line “But what is grief, if not love persisting?”

    Beautiful.

    And c’mon, what woman wouldn’t want to marry a guy who can come up with that?

    Liked by 1 person

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