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WandaVision episode 1.06, “All-New Halloween Spooktacular” is a creepy experiment framed by an existential crisis where the devil’s in the details.
Ok, I’ll admit it – I love Wandavision. I love it for everything it is, for what it isn’t, and for what it really wants to be.
As for what WandVision is, well, it’s an effective deconstruction of mental health, grief, and the sum of various emotional traumas on the world’s most powerful being. It’s weird, it’s eclectic, and it isn’t ashamed about leaning into it’s strange appeal.
What it’s not (so far) is a good amalgam of the MCU aspect (S.W.O.R.D., etc) and the functional weirdness of Wanda’s grief-laden world.
What it really wants to be: a great subversion of our TV culture through the lens of one of the greatest cinematic achievements in this history of film.
So our starting point of exploration today is that very subversion of the various television tropes WandaVision has navigated with deft grace.
While the previous iterations of Wanda’s Wizarding Wheezes have explored various tropes of generational television shows (Dick Van Dyke, Bewitched, The Brady Bunch, Full House) it wasn’t until this episode’s desire to spoof of Malcom In The Middle did the purpose of deconstruction actually occur to me.
With each successive episode, a little more distrust and cynicism has been introduced to Wanda and Vision’s relationship. As more questions start popping up — whether it be about Agnes, why Herb is cutting into a wall, where Monica suddenly disappeared to, or the haunting interactions with Agnes and Norm — the idyllic nature of Wanda and Vision’s marriage to seems slowly shed its skin. In other words, that veneer is breaking down, and so the depiction of each “show” loses that perfect “shine” from the beginning.
It’s no secret that the thin happy veneer of television during the Dick Van Dyke era was nothing more than an escapist fantasy for people who were looking to extricate themselves from the overwhelming tension of nuclear war with the Soviet Union, or fear of Senator Joseph McCarthy’s Red Scare.
As such, every ounce of the product on the screen had to be perfect – all the cracks painted over with silly hijinks and and an immediate resolution of any minor conflict by the end of the episode befalling our main characters with a happy kiss and smile. This was very evident in episode 1.01 of WandaVision when both our characters sit down in front of the TV, smile and we cut to the credits.
As each episode has progressed, the generation of TV has switched to match current state of Wanda and Vis’ marriage. While episode two explored the still-idyllic nature of a show like Bewtiched, their beds were pushed together , signaling a developing maturity. What’s more is that an inkling of doubt was cast via Dottie and sudden appearance of
Even more questions arise in episodes three and five – and the growing distrust between Wanda and Vision becomes more evident in the evolution of more breadth and variation in television style. Moving from the idealized era of Dick Van Dyke, to the more realistic and emotionally aware versions of The Brady Bunch and Full House, the expression of mistrust culminates in this episode’s depiction of Wanda and Vision through the lens of the early 2000’s Malcolm In The Middle.
You can feel Wanda losing her iron grip on reality, and Vision clearly senses major issues with the amount of truth being levied between he and his wife. In no way, shape, or form, would we ever seen Vision lie to his wife about the neighborhood watch in the early episodes. But, we do here. Paul Bettany channels his inner Malcom In The Middle era Bryan Cranston in the painful/awkward interactions with Wanda as he is trying to keep it together as a devoted husband.
Where this episode really falters, though, is the MCU connective tissue. Well, it’s not the MCU-ness that falters in and of itself so much as how it was executed.
To be frank, the engineering of how Darcy, Jimmy Woo and Monica are able to break free of their S.W.O.R.D captors, “hack” into a government agency’s security system, and then escape the scene unscathed is lazy writing at best.
Maybe agent Woo has some training, and I am sure Monica does too – but they knock out trained agents with a couple of punches and no one notices this at all? Or Woo is suddenly an expert at hot wiring cars? Why? Because he’s a cop at heart and, obviously all cops know how to hotwire cars, right? Oh, and, Darcy is able to break into S.W.O.R.D and see all these highly classified documents with a couple of keystrokes and a dash of computer magic?
I get that you need our three favorite dorks to be free of their detainers to acquire the sensitive information that Hayward (who took a sudden sharp left turn to wicked Horrible Boss) has a way to look into the Hex as well as a project called “Cataract” under double-secret-probation. But, writers, here me out – just because you may have made Darcy a full fledged scientist, that doesn’t mean her profession also suddenly equates her to being Mr. Robot.
Oddly enough, however, despite what feels like the writers painting themselves into a corner with Woo, Monica and Darcy, they absolutely nail everything concerning Wanda and Pietro. It’s so good, in fact, that you can kind of tell that the weirdness of Westview, Wanda, Vision, and Pietro is really where their hearts truly lay and they’re muscling through our dork trio just to meet their contractual obligations to Marvel.
Pushing through the lazy writing, however, is absolutely worth the cost of admission for the exquisite interaction between Wanda and Pietro.
Something is off with Pietro and I think we all feel it, but we just can’t quite put our finger on it. Even Wanda seems to test his knowledge of their childhood and questions the absence of his Sokovian accent. His responses that his childhood details are fuzzy, or that Wanda remembers their experiences differently, or his retort to Wanda’s accent question, “what happened to yours?” is slick enough to make even Saul Goodman blush.
Yes, something is off about good ol’ Uncle Petey. But it isn’t necessarily his cagey responses or the extremely personal questions he keeps asking of Wanda – like, how did you build this, where’d the kids come from etc. or his extremely manipulative “Mom and Dad would have loved it here”. Like I said, said the devil’s in the details. There are two major points of contention which prove Pietro ain’t all he’s been made out to be.
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- Pietro says, “You can’t kill your dead husband a second time.” In response, Wanda basically bodies him into the center of the earth (which goes to show you how viscerally she feels for Vision, and how little she trusts Pietro to be the real deal.) But, how does Pietro know Vision already died before? Did Wanda and he have a conversation about Vision off screen? Maybe, but I feel like that’s a big conversation to have and it not be documented for us.
- Pietro also notes that he doesn’t know how he got to Westview. One minute he was getting shot in the streets of Sokovia where he died “like a chump for no reason” and then he was in Westview.
This new Pietro may be the new wacky Uncle Petey, but even this version would know that he did not die like a chump. Pietro’s death in Avengers: Age Of Ultron was the culmination of his entire arc – moving beyond protecting just he and his sister, and rescuing Hawkeye, as well as Sokovian child, from being shot by Ultron. In essence, he allows this child to live free of the fear and trauma from which Pietro and Wanda suffered while waiting for the explosion of a Stark built bomb which landed in the living room.
I mean, look for yourself: here’s the scene. You tell me if you think he died like a chump:
Nope. Not a chump. A Hero.
In what would be a fun bit of subversion, I like the poetic nature of taking this seminal moment of realities crossing with each other, and turning the once sacred relationship between Pietro and Wanda against itself by defiling that love with Evan Peter’s Quicksilver. If that’s what showrunner Jac Schaeffer is doing here — well, that would be a masterstroke.
This. Guy. Ain’t. Pietro.
Now, if he’s not Pietro, who is he? A lot of people are saying he’s actually Mephisto. And, if Agnes is actually Agatha Harkness (as has been widely speculated) then Mephisto would actually make sense.
A lot of you probably won’t know who Mephisto is, and that’s totally understandable. You can read every ounce about him here. But, if you want a quick summary – Mephisto is a bad news dude who is very powerful.
In the comics, Mephisto “claims to have been created, along with many other demons, by the supreme being whose suicide resulted in the creation of the Marvel Universe, as well as the Infinity Gems. He also claimed that his total evil nature is because the supreme being did not choose to make him good, as that being had no concept of it.” Also in the comics, it’s Agatha Harkness (who is possibly Agnes in WandaVision) who claims Wanda’s children were the physical manifestations Mephisto’s soul and facilitiates them being reabsorbed back into him. Instead of trying to helping take back Wanda’s children, Agatha tries to wipe Wanda’s mind of her kids — which leads to this little storyline called The House Of M wherein Wanda loses her mind, and rearranges the very fabric of reality with her powers. Ya know – NBD. Oh, and when Wanda finds out what Agatha did to her, Wanda straight up murders her in cold blood. Food for thought….
So, is Pietro Mephisto, a known associate of the witch Agatha Harkness? Your guess is as good as mine. But it would really make a lot of sense, and if this where the story is going, be prepared to have your heart broken into a kabillion little pieces when Wanda’s kids die and Wanda goes full villain.
APROPOS OF NOTHING FOR WANDAVISION EPISODE 1.06 ” ALL-NEW HALLOWEEN SPOOKTACULAR”
- Herb’s definitely in on whatever is going on at Westview. He asks, “you want something changed?” to Wanda. Just like Agnes’ “Should we redo that take?” from the previous episode…
- Speaking of Agnes, I know I keep beating this drum but something is up with her. Yes, I know she was apparently under Wanda’s control as she waited at the edge of town at Ellis Ave – but that little act she put on with Vision when he used his Vision magic was a little thick for me. Here’s the deal, if it was just an act, why is she provoking Vision? Is it to expand the Hex?
- Oh, Vision, bless your vibranium core. You played right into Agnes’ hands if she really is manipulating this situation. You went out of the Hex, almost go disintegrated and told them that it was Wanda who was the bad guy. Great job, bro.
- I love how all the S.W.O.R.D. guys get turned into clowns. Yep. That’s it.
- Darcy gets swallowed by The Hex – how much do you want to bet she’ll be a court jester or something?
- Transformations are abound in the Hex, and it’s no different for Monica. She has been in and out of there twice and she is informed that if she goes back, her DNA will be rewritten. Will she get mysterious powers too?
- Those people stuck doing menial tasks in their yards on the edge of town? Nightmare fuel.
- The shot of vision overlooking the town is gorgeous. But it’s the sound editing that makes it – you can hear the sound go from loud and vibrant as he looks at the town to deafening silence as he observes the other nightmare fuel part of town. Great storytelling here — show me, don’t tell me.
- The only thing that can prove my Mephisto theory wrong is when Pietro asks how Wanda pulled off everything at Westview, her response was that she didn’t know. All she remembered was that she was alone and felt “endless nothingness.” At which point she turns to Pietro and he, like Vision, was a lifeless corpse with fresh bullet holes from Age Of Ultron. Did she actually reanimate Pietro, and lose control over his appearance when she talked about her grief? If it’s true for Vision, why isn’t it true for Pietro? Or is this some deep rooted Legilimens charm work coming from Agnes or Mephisto? Time will tell, Potter. Time will tell.
- Lastly, great fan service including the comic version costumes of Scarlet Witch, Vision, and Quicksilver. Loved every second.
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