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WandaVision episode 1.05, “On A Very Special episode…” goes full 80’s and we are forced to ask ourselves, who is the real villain here and what is the cost of lies?
I really want to talk about this episode. A LOT. I promise, we will get to the heart of what really lies here but there is something we have to do first.
Before we explore the real villain of this three act drama, however, let’s just acknowledge the elephant in the room – yes, Pietro is back. But it’s not the Pietro we all know and love from Avengers: Age Of Ultron who was played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson. Oh no, it’s Peter/Quicksilver from the X-Men universe as played by Evan Peters.
Somewhere there’s a ten year old version of myself weeping in a corner about how beautiful this all really is.
For you uninitiated – what you just witnessed in the final sixty seconds of this episode is a big deal. A REALLY BIG FRAKKING DEAL.
WHY IS PIETRO SO IMPORTANT?
Aside from the fact that Pietro is Wanda’s brother who died many years ago in the MCU and the obvious connection to Wanda’s subsequent emotional trauma from which she is suffering at this point, Pietro returning into the fold raises two major questions:
1. What is the “in-story” explanation and what are the ethical ramifications for our characters because of the choice to bring back Pietro?
2. What does Peters’ Pietro mean for the MCU writ large, how did this come to be, and are we going to see more characters injected into the MCU that were not originally in the mix?
Let’s first address the second question to give us some context. What is Evan Peters, who played Peter/Pietro in the X-Men universe doing in the MCU, and what does it mean going forward?
Here’s the extraordinarily basic business explanation on how Peters was able to jump from X-Men to the MCU: Disney recently purchased 20th Century Fox Studios. As such, Disney (who owns the MCU) now owns the rights to all the “X-Men characters”, or mutants, once owned by 20th Century Fox Studios — of which Evan Peters’ Quicksilver was a part.
20th CENTURY FOX, MARVEL, AND HOW THIS MESS HAPPENED
Come take a quick jaunt in the DeLorean with me — starting in 2000 with Bryan Singer’s X-Men, 20th Century Fox Studios had produced all the current iterations of the X-Men, Fantastic 4, Deadpool and X-Men adjacent films like the New Mutants.
From 2000 to 2019, the “X-Men” universe was separate from that of the (Disney owned) Marvel Studios MCU and the two studios did NOT cooperate with each other. Why was there separation to begin with? Why couldn’t they all just play together?
Well, it’s actually pretty simple.
Marvel, in 1993, was financially strapped so they sold the movie rights of the X-Men, and the Fantastic 4, to 20th Century Fox in an effort alleviate their debts. In other words, if the character was considered a “mutant”, they were sold to 20th Century Fox. At the same time, Marvel also ceded the rights to Spider-Man and all the Spidey adjacent characters to Sony in a separate deal.
While these deals were a big financial score for Marvel at the time, they managed to pawn off all their major characters who helped drive the Marvel franchise. Consequently, they were essentially dead in the water if they ever wanted to produce their own films. Of course, they had no intention of making their own films so it wasn’t that much of coup until, all of a sudden, they wanted to make their own films.
DISNEY AND MARVEL STUDIOS CHANGE THE GAME
Enter stage right Kevin Feige – who was tasked back in the mid 2000’s (after the major successes of Chris Nolan’s Batman Begins, Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy, and Singer’s X-Men films) to take advantage of the superhero momentum and start making Marvel produced films with their lesser known characters. You know, Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, The Hulk, Hawkeye, Black Widow — NBD.
Yada, yada, yada – The Avengers becomes the highest grossing film of all time – yada, yada, yada – Marvel Studios becomes a juggernaut in Hollywood and the rest is history. This was all happening while Fox was doing their own thing – to varying degrees of downright genius and embarrassing failure – with characters like Magneto, Professor X, Wolverine, and, yes, Quicksilver/Peter Maximoff.
Wait – if Fox owned the rights to Quicksilver (because he was a mutant), how could he appear in X-Men films AND the Avengers: Age Of Ultron at the same time?
Well, that’s when things get a little gray for the Maximoff twins. Essentially it boils down to “shared rights”.
The MCU couldn’t acknowledge the presence of “mutants” in their world (as that was a 20th Century Fox property) but they COULD refer to “meta-humans”. The work around was this: Fox used the names “Quicksilver”/Peter and referenced the traditional Marvel origins of Peter and his sister being the children of Magneto.
In turn, Marvel Studios changed the origin story for Wanda and Pietro (making them of eastern European descent) and also how their powers came to be — from the Mind Stone — (as catalogued in Avengers: Age Of Ultron ). They also NEVER mentioned either of the names “Quicksilver” or “Scarlet Witch” — which were technically the names owned by FOX. So even though they were the same characters, they had different backgrounds, different names, and origin stories, essentially making them usable for both studios.
This all changed, however, once Disney purchased 20th Century Fox Studios in 2019.
Because of the Fox acquisition, Disney and the MCU now have the rights to use the word “mutant”, all the “X-Men characters” as well as their established origin stories in the MCU films/TV shows. The Big Question was: how would the MCU organically incorporate those characters, and do they acknowledge Fox’s pre-established history even though the MCU did not have any creative say in those characters from 2000 to 2019? How could it even be done?
Enter stage left: WandaVision.
THE “IN-STORY” EXPLANATION FOR EVAN PETERS’ PIETRO
This is also where things get a little gray because Pietro’s introduction lasts no more than sixty seconds without any explanation whatsoever. We have to gather as much information about this encounter as possible from what little information WandaVision give us.
The door bell interrupts the conversation between Vision and Wanda, Wanda answers the door, Peters’ Pietro is in the doorway, Wanda somehow recognizes him, and Peters (in very much the fashion of FOX’s Quicksilver) asks who the Popsicle is. End of episode. That’s it.
For someone who doesn’t keep up with all the business dealings, or the prior history of the characters in the comics, this is A LOT to take in. Or, on the other hand, it may be just right – in that they’re just going with Dr. Darcy’s explanation that Wanda simply recast Pietro in her “show”.
Either way, in addition to the business mechanics that needed to happen to produce this kind of scene (which we just covered in the paragraphs above), there is also an implication of where the story is going for WandaVision, but also for the MCU on the whole.
Major story ramifications are abound in the unexpected scene shared between Wanda and the new Pietro. Implicit in this meeting is that Wanda has apparently torn a slice into reality – allowing people from other universes, alternative realities, or adjacent dimensions access into the MCU universe.
In other words, there are multiple universes and dimensions with all of our characters all existing at the same time. They don’t normally interact, but by using the power to manipulate Westview and thereby incite the events of WandaVision, Wanda has potentially ripped a hole in the time/space continuum allowing the interaction. Thus why we see the Peters version of Pietro instead of the established MCU version as played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson.
While this has been a widely used trope throughout science fiction, and, yes, even some recent X-Men films as well as future DCEU films, its actually very real theory. You can read all about the possibility of multiple dimensions as it relates to STRING THEORY here.
Due to the fact that Peters’ Pietro exists in the MCU, the MCU is therefore acknowledging the past history of the X-Men films as a valid but separate part of the MCU. Everything you watched with Ian McKellan’s/ Michael Fassbender’s Magneto, or Patrick Stewart’s/ James McAvoy’s Professor X for the past twenty years all happened. It’s all true. It’s just a separate leg of the MCU that exists in it’s own dimension of the MCU.
But the major cross-over point between these two realities begins (apparently) with the relationship shared between Pietro and Wanda. Having this seminal event rooted in the very fabric of the relationship that has defined Wanda is a master stroke of excellence.
Yes, these colliding worlds are important for the plot of the MCU, but this major event will now potentially be informed and defined by the tragic (and inevitable) fall of Wanda, Vision, and the new Pietro. This choice drastically alters the story of what we’re watching, but it also transforms our characters from being the foundational pillars we once knew to something wholly opposite.
As we discussed in the first episode, there is a bevy of evidence to suggest that WandaVision is the MCU precursor to a MAJOR plotline of Marvel – that being The House Of M (when Wanda loses her mind, as well as control over her powers, and reshapes reality as we know it.)
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This possibility is only further emphasized by the well known fact that the next Dr. Strange film is entitled The Multiverse Of Madness – which, for those keeping score at home — looks like is finding it’s footing with the multiple universes (or multiverses) colliding here with Evan Peters’ Pietro and Elizabeth Olsen’s Wanda sharing a hug on the set of Full House.
WHO IS THE REAL VILLAIN?
Yeah, it’s her.
This when we explore our first question – what are the ethical ramifications of Pietro’s inclusion in this episode?
Wanda is in full control of everything that is happening in Westview – whether it’s re-animating her very dead husband, changing the look and feel of Westview/her house every single “episode”. Or, in this case, when Agnes asks Wanda at the beginning of the episode if she “want[s] me to do that take again?” after a minor discrepancy with Vision. Her decisions shape the reality of the town surrounding her despite her retort that she is not capable of making people go to their dentist appointments on time or if people mow their grass.
The theory of Wanda’s total control is further validated by Vision’s experience with his coworker, Norm. Vision touches Norm’s temples with his special powers, causing an awakening. “You have to stop her!” says the poor guy with panic in his eyes. “She’s in my head! Just make her stop!” Norm continues before Vision touches his temples with Vision magic and he returns him to his formerly enslaved sitcom self.
Wow. This is big. Norm is the audience surrogate for the entire Westview community. Implicit in his desperate plea to Vision is that not only are all the Westview residents real people, but they are actively aware of Wanda’s control, are being tortured by it, and want to be freed of it — despite the fact that are involuntarily doing her bidding when they are (for the lack of a better term) bewitched.
To that end, we also learn that it’s not just a random ability that empowers Wanda. Monica says of her experience in Westview to Tyler at the beginning of the episode, “there was this feeling keeping me down, this hopeless feeling, like drowning. It was grief.” Again, rooting the immense power and plot altering details in the vast emotion of character.
Also implicit in Monica’s feeling is that not only was Monica aware of Wanda’s control like Norm, but that her brief interlude of awareness when she talked about Ultron and Pietro was independent of Wanda’s control. Like we posited in episode three, Wanda may have briefly lost her grip on the town when she was singing the Sokovian lullaby to her children and thereby allowed a sense of actual reality to seep back into the residents (including Monica) existence.
If you want go down this road even further, the key to defeating Wanda and putting an end to the events at Westview might be woven into this very brief interlude. The goal should be to distract Wanda, loosen her grip on the town, and possibly strike when she is most vulnerable as she confronts her grief (as grief appears to be the thesis and antithesis of Wanda’s control over Westview.)
Ultimately, this town is an active response to Wanda’s grief over Vision’s death, and quite possibly, Pietro’s death, too.
THE MORAL IMPLICATIONS
Stealing corpses, tearing reality to shreds, and enslaving innocent people is some ugly work from a character that actually deserves our sympathy. But can Wanda come back from it all?
Wanda violates the Sokovia Accords by forcing her way into S.W.O.R.D. and stealing Vision’s dead body. She is, in fact, an international criminal – regardless of how bad we may feel for her. Will the psuedo-connection she retains with Monica at the end of the episode save her from prosecution? Perhaps. Perhaps not.
In the end, I doubt S.W.O.R.D, Monica, or any federal group, will have anything to do with the resolution of WandaVision. Given how well showrunner Jac Schaeffer and director Matt Shakman have framed the story around the interpersonal relationship between Wanda and Vision, my sense is the finale will have to revolve around the conflict that certainly barreling down the tracks between Wanda and Vision.
WHAT IS THE COST OF LIES?
I often think of the show Chernobyl on HBO. which was written by Craig Mazin. It was literally the perfect mini-series. The direction was incredible, the acting was even better but it was the writing that made it superior. At the heart of Chernobyl was a single operative question: what is the cost of lies?
In Chernobyl’s case, all the lying led to the demise of thousands of people and an unlivable irradiated plot of land that cannot be inhabited for god knows how many years. I recall the theme of Chernobyl so easily because that line was asked by the main character as the first bit of diagloue for the show. It’s an effective use and communication of theme in such an efficient manner – setting the table for every scene to follow through to it’s conclusion.
Wanda has violated and defiled her husbands body and legacy by stealing his body and reanimating him. For you Harry Potter nerds, she basically used the Resurrection Stone for her own benefit, and built a town around her grief. I don’t think, however, that her violation is limited to only Vision and the members of that town. Is it possible that she has reanimated Pietro? Or, if she hasn’t reanimated him like Vision, has she forcibly ripped Pietro from his own reality?
What about Pietro’s sister, or his mother, or the students at Professor X’s school from his own universe? Is he also under Wanda’s tortuous control while at Westview? Did she knowingly bring him to Westview, or was it by accident? Did her grief manifest Pietro’s presence without her knowledge?
Add these violations to the mental enslavement of a town all in the name of a lie to avoid her grief, the natural question to ask is: what is the cost of Wanda’s lies?
Wanda may protest to Vision that she is not in control of any of this, but Wanda has also not given us any reason to believe she is telling the truth. The fact that Vision is walking around is proof positive of that.
There has to be consequences for that kind of action and it has to be Vision that either delivers them, or allows them to transpire.
Perhaps he has to kill Wanda, or hurt her in a significant way to end to torture she is imposing. Story wise, it would be fitting for Vision to resolve this conflict before it causes real damage to the world as it was Wanda who had to sacrifice Vision for the sake of keeping the Mind Stone out of Thanos’ hands in Avengers: Infinity War.
By the way, it’s not me telling you that it’s going to end up this way – the show is. In fact, it’s right here in this photo
Granted, the circumstances surrounding this photo are not as antagonistic as it looks, but the theme is present nonetheless. The cost of Wanda’s lies are her reality, her love, her brother, her rule of law, her association with the Avengers, and maybe even her children.
APROPOS OF NOTHING FOR WANDAVISION EPISODE 1.05 “ON A VERY SPECIAL EPISODE…”
- Wanda’s kids just grow whenever they feel like it?! Sick of crying? Time go grow. Want a dog? time to grow. Notice too that Wanda has no control over their growth and she has to ask them to not age up when the dog dies. She can’t stop them.
- Ok – what the hell is up with Agnes? She’s cool with Wanda’s kids aging up right before her eyes? Oh, she just happens to have a doghouse waiting in the wings? Agnes is in on this and I will bet my very inexpensive and small house on it.
- The friendship blossoming between Jimmy, Monica and Darcy is excellent and I really hope they lean into it.
- Monica’s outift from Westview is in indication that Wanda’s magic takes whatever is in the town and rearranges it to fit the narrative Wanda is creating. Once again more proof for The House Of M.
- The drone sent by S.W.O.R.D. didn’t change because it had tech from the 80’s. If that isn’t the biggest wave of the TV magic wand, then I have no idea what is. It’s so funny that this show pays such great attention to detail for it’s characters, but then writes itself into a corner like this and has to just whistle passed the graveyard about the logic.
- “What happens when Vision learns the truth?” In the wise words of John McClane, “welcome to the party, pal.” I asked that question three episodes ago.
- Darcy designates the bubble surrounding Westview as “The Hex”, which is surely a reference to Wanda’s Hex powers from the comics.
- Monica posits that, if they can build a high-tech mobile bunker, they could enter Westview and that she knows an aerospace engineer who’d be up for it. Please, please, please, please, please be Reed Richards/Mr. Fantastic. And, please, please, please, please, please make John Krasinski Reed Richards.
- “This is your only warning. Stay out of my home.” Said by Wanda in her native Sokovian accent! And then she makes all the agents turn their guns on Director Hayward. Say it with me, Wanda is a bad ass.
Lagos: for when you make a mess you didn’t mean to!” For those who don’t remember, Lagos was the place where Wanda messed up a little bit and sent a live bomb into a building full of people by accident in Captain America: Civil War — which leads to the Sokovia Accords.
KEEP UP WITH OUR COVERAGE OF WANDAVISION
1.01 – Filmed Before A Live Studio Audience
1.04 – We Interrupt This Program