“WandaVision” Post-Credits Scenes Review!

SPOILERS FOR WANDAVISION AHEAD!

The finale of Marvel’s WandaVision – the studio’s first official foray into streaming television – left many fans conflicted over how to view the entire series in retrospect. Thanks to weeks of intense speculation and theorizing (and, to be fair, some unnecessary trolling from WandaVision‘s own cast and crew), the slim fifty-minute finale was hyped up in audiences’ imaginations to the point where a cameo from Patrick Stewart or Dick Van Dyke didn’t seem out of the question, and Wanda ripping open the Marvel Multiverse felt like a done deal. So there were a lot of fans left unsatisfied by what was, instead, the inevitable conclusion to a much smaller and more intimate saga of love and grief.

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WandaVision | tvline.com

Personally, I found it quite satisfying for that very reason: but let’s play devil’s advocate (too soon? Sorry, Mephisto fans). Did the WandaVision finale really contribute nothing to the overall jigsaw-puzzle that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and is that even necessarily a bad thing? It’s true that WandaVision was far more introspective than expected, and didn’t deliver some of the paradigm-altering surprises certain fans decided they were owed. But I don’t think I’m being biased when I say that WandaVision‘s mid-credits and post-credits scenes actually did plenty to set up future MCU storylines, allowing the episode itself to wrap up Wanda and Vision’s tragic romance without distraction.

Minutes after Wanda took flight and vanished over the rooftops of Westview (escaping any and all consequences for her actions, because the status of the Sokovia Accords in the MCU post-Endgame is unclear at best), a mid-credits scene allowed us to catch up with Captain Monica Rambeau and Jimmy Woo, both of whom were slightly underutilized in the episode proper. Woo, tasked with leading the clean-up of Westview and the arrests of villainous S.W.O.R.D. agents like Tyler Hayward, strikes up a conversation with Rambeau – which probably would have been the perfect moment for Monica to acknowledge her superpowers, since she missed her chance to ask Wanda about what to do now that she can turn into light and even phase through things like Wanda’s husband, Vision. The two chat, but are swiftly interrupted by a detective who directs Wanda to the movie theater in the town square. There, in the dimly-lit interior, the detective reveals herself to be an unnamed shapeshifting Skrull alien with her own mission that has nothing to do with Westview.

Now, we don’t know if or when Monica has interacted with Skrulls since her eventful childhood in Captain Marvel, but her cool demeanor in this scene (combined with her veiled reference to “allies” in space, back in episode four) implies a degree of familiarity with the aliens – which is interesting, given that her relationship with Captain Marvel herself seems to have had hit a rough patch, based on other clues throughout WandaVision. This particular Skrull doesn’t work for Carol Danvers, but for a male friend of Monica’s late mother, Maria Rambeau; someone who’s heard about Monica’s recent exploits and wants to meet with her, probably about a job opportunity. This friend’s identity isn’t explicitly confirmed, but the Skrull reveals that he’s somewhere in space – which means “he” is almost definitely Maria and Carol’s friend, S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury, and the job opportunity probably involves working on Fury’s top-secret space-station, where he was last seen enjoying a beach-holiday simulation in Spider-Man: Far From Home alongside a small army of Skrull and human agents.

The thing I find most interesting about the entire exchange, which beautifully sets up Monica’s important role going forward, is the backstory still being hidden from us about Nick Fury and Maria Rambeau’s partnership, how and why S.W.O.R.D. got started, and whether the space-station is linked to S.W.O.R.D. or not. After Far From Home, the prevailing theory was that Fury had founded S.W.O.R.D. (which in the comics stands for Sentient Worlds Observation and Response Department) to protect Earth against future alien threats: but WandaVision revealed that Maria Rambeau founded the organization, and that its core purpose is to observe and respond to “Sentient Weapons”, implying a more grounded role in the MCU and bringing into question their affiliation with Fury’s space-station. S.W.O.R.D. did have a pioneering space-division, but it was dialed back in the years following Thanos’ Snap, attention being redirected towards AI and nanotech under the leadership of Tyler Hayward. So did Hayward know about Fury’s role in S.W.O.R.D. and the space-station? Or was Fury pulling a reverse-HYDRA?

Those questions will likely be answered in the upcoming Secret Invasion series, which seems like the most logical place for Monica Rambeau to appear next, alongside Nick Fury and the Skrull leader Talos in an adaptation of one of Marvel’s most ambitious comics crossover events. My belief is that, throughout Phase 4, the MCU will expand outward in three major directions – with earth-based stories, cosmic stories, and mystical stories. WandaVision, fittingly, weaves all three together and lays the groundwork for Monica to continue along a cosmic path, culminating in a major role in Captain Marvel 2.

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Monica Rambeau | comicbook.com

And the mystical stories will continue to follow Wanda Maximoff, who is now established to be more goddess than human, with the ability to redesign or simply destroy the universe as she sees fit. The post-credits scene gives us a quick look at what the Scarlet Witch has been up to since leaving Westview: isolated in a charming yet lonely cabin by a lake in the wilderness (and within the shadow of a breathtaking mountain some fans think is Wundagore, Wanda’s fictional birthplace, where she was cursed by the primordial deity Chthon), the sorceress appears to be taking that quarantine-style staycation she promised herself back in episode seven. She’s dressed in casual clothes, and seems almost content. But the camera’s long tacking-shot moves past her, proceeding into a darkly lit room where we discover – another Wanda.

The MCU’s sorcerers have long practiced the art of “astral projection”, a technique by which a person’s soul can leave their unconscious or sleeping body and do pretty much anything that their body can do, except with the added benefit of flying and moving through walls. Thus far, Wanda is the only person we’ve seen achieve this while her body is still conscious, which effectively means she’s mastered “bilocation” – being in two places at once. But while her conscious body is just going about her daily routine, her soul is dressed up in the full Scarlet Witch costume and is levitating in the lotus-position, reading Agatha Harkness’ ancient book of magic, the terrifying Darkhold.

Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. fans would warn her this is a phenomenally bad idea, since the Darkhold has previously displayed a tendency to drive its readers mad with power-lust. Being in possession of it at all is a risk – particularly if Wanda is currently residing in the vicinity of Wundagore, where Chthon actually wrote the Darkhold and imbued it with all manner of horrors, nightmares, and demonic powers waiting to be unleashed. And yet here comes Wanda, not merely tempting fate by reading the book of the damned, but seeming to use it as a textbook. When she told Monica she would learn how to use her Chaos Magic, I thought we might see her seek out a magical mentor like Doctor Strange or even Karl Mordo – but Wanda’s instead opted for a masterclass in dark magic and demonology.

A dark take on Doctor Strange’s theme music plays as the camera zooms in on Wanda’s concentrated face, before the voice of Billy Maximoff suddenly cuts through the sound – screaming for help, and begging his mother to find him. The screen flashes red, then slams to black: and until Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness rolls around, we probably won’t know for certain what Wanda’s next move will be – or even how Billy (and presumably Tommy) is back from the dead. Remember, both of Wanda’s twins disappeared when she pulled the Hex back into herself: the episode made it explicitly clear that the twins were her creation and thus subject to the same rules as everything else she’d created in Westview, from her dream home to her perfect husband to her fleeting illusion of happiness. All of it had to go.

But there’s always been something strange about the children. They may have been part of The Hex, but they never obeyed Wanda’s ground-rules – and not in the usual way that children disobey their parents; I mean Wanda literally couldn’t control them, even when she exhausted the full extent of her magic on trying to do so. They appeared seemingly out of nowhere, proved impervious to her spells, and were able to age themselves up whenever they wanted – and, of course, they soon revealed their own superpowers, including Billy’s telepathy and Tommy’s enhanced speed. By the end of the series, Wanda seemed to have come to terms with this unexpected development, telling the children before she left that she was thankful to them for choosing her to be their mother. I think by then she must have realized what I now suspect, that Billy and Tommy are beings from another dimension or alternate universe who ended up in her reality but were never really hers.

And that means that the real Billy and Tommy are somewhere out in the Multiverse – of that I’m sure, because both need to return to the MCU so they can join the Young Avengers team, which is currently being assembled. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re really the ones calling out to Wanda for help. It could be an elaborate trap meant to lure the Scarlet Witch into the vast expanse of the Multiverse, where she’ll be at her most vulnerable. Some fans are already jumping back on the Mephisto bandwagon, though to be honest I’m more inclined to suspect Chthon is behind this latest shenanigan – and the more I learn about the Elder God, the more I think he’d be a truly terrifying villain: perfect for Multiverse Of Madness. But even if the twins actually are in danger, that still means someone must be threatening them – and that could also be Chthon, or any number of other dark forces from the pages of Marvel Comics.

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The Darkhold | thrillist.com

And depending on the nature of the threat, Wanda might need to call on multiple allies – including Doctor Strange, and Agatha Harkness, who’s being kept alive and imprisoned in Westview for a reason. Agatha’s knowledge of Chaos Magic and long ownership of the Darkhold would make her a valuable (and delightfully untrustworthy) guide through the Multiverse. Any excuse for more Kathryn Hahn in the MCU is a good enough excuse for me.

But what did you think of WandaVision‘s mid-credits and post-credits scenes, and how would you like to see Wanda and Monica’s journeys continue? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!

“WandaVision” Episode 9 – The Finale Aims High And Hits Hard

SPOILERS FOR WANDAVISION AHEAD!

In eight weeks, Marvel’s WandaVision took us on a wild and occasionally bizarre journey for which I will forever be thankful – there was something about the experience of waking up at three o’-clock in the morning to watch episodes as they aired on Disney+ (or, in the case of the WandaVision finale, having to resist the temptation to do so because I’d promised my family to watch it with them for the first time) that felt truly special, and which I can’t wait to repeat in two weeks once The Falcon And The Winter Soldier gets going. Along the way, I and other fans contributed to the experience by crafting complex fan-theories, and losing ourselves in elaborate worlds of our own creation, not unlike the series’ grief-stricken heroine.

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The Scarlet Witch | indianexpress.com

But in the end (and much to the shock and dismay of fans who got too invested in their theories), WandaVision was never a story about Multiverse shenanigans, or the enigmatic aerospace engineer’s true identity, or Mephisto. Did that revelation blindside me too, to some extent? For sure. I was rooting for Dick Van Dyke to show up as Marvel’s Satan until the very end. But the true plot twist was that WandaVision was always a deeply personal and excruciatingly intimate story about one woman (well, witch) processing overwhelming grief; one man (well, android) trapped in an existential crisis; one unusual couple who now stand alongside Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s FitzSimmons as the MCU’s best-developed and most romantic duo. And the finale, while it could certainly have better served other characters and subplots, never once lost its focus on Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen, turning in Emmy-award deserving work) and The Vision (Paul Bettany), nor diminished the painful love that binds them together – and that’s what truly matters, at least to me.

That painful love nearly gets Wanda killed just a few minutes into the episode, as the White Vision (also Bettany, a cameo he blew way out of proportion) lands in Westview. Wanda, who hasn’t seen her husband since the morning of the Halloween episode, is slightly perturbed by the android’s unfamiliar appearance, but ultimately accepts his proffered embrace and gentle caress – which quickly turns into a death-grip. The White Vision is close to popping Wanda’s head open (he may have no emotions, but his voice certainly sounds gleeful as he mocks Wanda: “And they said you’d be powerful) when the real Vision suddenly arrives, punching his alabaster counterpart down the street and into a gas-tank. But even as White Vision is rising from the flames and Agatha Harkness (Kathryn Hahn) is recovering from an earlier fight with Wanda (which left her lace-up boots trapped under a car in a clever nod to The Wizard Of Oz), Wanda still finds time to apologize to Vision, and fill him in on their situation – because their love and concern for each other’s feelings precedes all else.

But to save Westview, they have to divide and conquer their opponents. Vision takes to the skies, battling the White Vision in an evenly-matched fistfight that makes good use of their respective laser beams and phasing abilities. But Wanda is up against an experienced sorceress who effortlessly absorbs every one of her hexes and sporadic outbursts of Chaos Magic, slowly leeching Wanda’s strength and stamina in the process: the distinction between Agatha and Wanda, which Agatha exploits, is the latter’s lack of knowledge about either her supernatural powers or her destiny as the heiress to the legacy of the mythical Scarlet Witch, whom Agatha claims is “forged” rather than born, possessed of no coven yet stronger than the Sorcerer Supreme himself, the subject of an entire chapter in the mysterious Darkhold, Agatha’s book of dark magic – which was previously seen on Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., albeit in a slightly different form.

But all of Agatha’s cat-and-mouse games only serve to enrage Wanda, until the sorceress hits her where it hurts, by releasing all of the inhabitants of Westview from their enchantments and watching them turn on Wanda: forcing her to confront the pain and trauma that she’s caused her neighbors, random strangers whose lives she’s completely upended. It’s clear that Wanda never meant to hurt any of the people she absorbed into The Hex, and that she convinced herself she was actually doing them all a favor by giving them new identities and storylines of their own, but that’s not how it feels to people like Dottie (Emma Caulfield), who’s revealed as a frightened mom named Sarah, or Mrs. Hart (Debra Jo Rupp), who literally begs for death. And Wanda, in one desperate selfless act, listens to their pleas and opens the boundaries of The Hex – giving the townsfolk an escape-route, and allowing in a handful of armored vehicles from S.W.O.R.D.

But when faced with the choice of saving Westview or her family, who begin to crumble away before her eyes as The Hex’s walls come down, Wanda wastes no time re-establishing the barrier: trapping everyone inside for a final confrontation that splits the family up still further, with Billy and Tommy going after the S.W.O.R.D. intruders (neither using their powers very impressively, I’m sorry to say), Vision and White Vision wrecking the public library, and Wanda chasing down Agatha. Meanwhile, Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris) is still trapped in Agatha’s house across town, being held captive by…well, I suppose it’s time we talked about that. Despite wearing the face of the Fox X-Men universe’s Peter Maximoff, the character played by Evan Peters on WandaVision is revealed to be a random guy named Ralph Bohner, with no role to play in the finale, no relation to the Maximoffs, and only a vague association to Agatha despite being the “Ralph” she’s referenced since episode one. And then Monica overpowers him and leaves, and we never see him again. So, uh…yeah.

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Ralph | thewrap.com

As for Monica, however, she arrives in the town square just in time to save Billy and Tommy, whom S.W.O.R.D. Director Tyler Hayward (Josh Stamberg) tries to gun down. Monica throws herself in front of the children, and her body absorbs the bullets. The CGI in this sequence is a bit weak, and honestly Monica deserved an action scene involving flight or photon-blasts, or just…I don’t know, anything but essentially turning into glowing jelly. It doesn’t help that Hayward is also a pathetic villain, who runs from Monica like a coward before Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings) totals his armored vehicle with her funnel-cake truck.

In the library, a completely different kind of battle rages between Vision and White Vision – a quiet, yet strangely intense intellectual debate over the ancient “Ship of Theseus” puzzle, which trended on Twitter today. Vision pulls out the philosophical thought experiment to convincingly persuade White Vision that neither of them is the true Vision, and that both are, meaning that White Vision’s orders to “destroy the Vision” cannot be fulfilled. A tender moment ensues as Vision restores White Vision’s memories, ultimately resulting in him abandoning his mission and flying away. Whether he’ll return is hardly in question: it’s only a matter of where and when.

But of course the climax revolves around Wanda and Agatha, who engage in an arguably more traditional duel. Wanda even revisits tricks from her early days in the MCU, plunging Agatha into a hallucination from which the sorceress easily breaks free. The pair twirl dangerously through the skies above Westview, as Wanda’s attacks seem to grow more frantic and her spells miss Agatha, hitting the sides of The Hex instead. But the clever twist here is that Wanda’s been purposefully missing – so that when Agatha prepares to end Wanda, she finds she can’t cast a single spell: because Wanda’s been painting the walls of The Hex red with glowing runes. And as we all know from Agatha herself, “only the witch who cast the runes can use her magic in a given space”. Wanda might not have received formal training, but she’s a good listener.

And what better moment is there for her to finally embrace her role as the MCU’s Scarlet Witch? Reabsorbing all the energy Agatha stole from her, Wanda bursts into magical flames, which weave around her to form a sleek, upgraded version of her comics-accurate costume – including long gloves, a cape, and the iconic tiara! The MCU’s slow-burn approach once again pays off, as Wanda’s transformation feels fully earned after years of wearing designer jackets, high-heeled boots, and perfectly-styled hair: all of which worked at the time, but wouldn’t have felt appropriate going into Wanda’s primordial goddess era.

Descending to earth in her new look, Wanda’s first order of business is to imprison – not kill – Agatha, whom she reverts back to her identity as Agnes the nosy neighbor and leaves in Westview. Although we don’t know of any plans for Agatha in the future, I’m sure there’ll be reason to revisit her at some point: Agatha even tells Wanda as much, and Wanda assures her that, if that’s ever the case, she’ll know where to find her.

But as for Wanda herself, she can’t stay in Westview (certainly not with the neighbors giving her death-stares everywhere she goes). She also can’t keep WandaVision going, and that means it’s time for the “incredibly sad” ending Teyonah Parris warned us was coming…as the magical boundaries of WandaVision quietly close in on Wanda’s home, giving her a chance to spend a few more moments with her family before they must inevitably disintegrate. Outside The Hex, it’s broad daylight. Inside, it’s twilight time: Wanda and Vision put the kids to bed, with Wanda thanking the twins for choosing her to be their mom – an intriguing line. But while she chooses to let Billy and Tommy go peacefully in their sleep, Wanda shares one final scene with Vision downstairs in the living room: and it’s the most beautiful scene in the series.

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WandaVision | cinemablend.com

As the room revolves gently around them, changing backwards into black-and-white and bursting into vivid golden light, Wanda and Vision say their goodbyes – and Vision finally gets an answer to the question that has long plagued him: “What am I?” As Wanda explains it, he’s the piece of the Mind Stone that still lives inside her, but he’s more than that: he’s her sadness, her hope, her grief and thus her love. He’s her every emotion and memory made real, and because of that he is deeply, intrinsically human. It’s a beautiful conclusion to Vision’s journey: at least for the present. He tells Wanda in his last moments that he’s been so many impossible things, there’s no knowing what form he might take next.

And as Wanda leaves Westview, taking to the skies on a new journey of her own, I feel certain that someday, somehow, this unusual couple will find each other again. At the very least, the post-credits scene promises a reunion between Wanda and her twins somewhere down the line (we’ll talk about that in a separate, later, post).

WandaVision quietly did what everyone wanted Marvel to start doing in Phase 4, which is to craft more unique, artistic, character-driven stories in multiple new genres. That the biggest complaint being weighed against it now is that it didn’t have enough of the plot twists and action we’ve come to expect from the MCU is a testament to just how exciting this show really was, that it didn’t need to rely on those elements to tell a compelling and beautiful story about grief, love, and the fullness of the human experience.

Episode Rating: 9/10

“WandaVision” Episode 7 Debuts The Big Bad (Or So We Think)

SPOILERS FOR WANDAVISION AHEAD!

Yes, I know I’m late. The Marvel fandom has had their fun with WandaVision‘s seventh episode already, bopped to dozens of “Agatha All Along” remixes over the weekend, speculated endlessly about the Nexus and the Multiverse and the hexagons, and yet here I am, rushing out this review on the eve of a new episode…and you know what, I don’t care. I’ve been out of action for the past few weeks following an emergency appendectomy, I’ve missed my window to properly review two episodes of WandaVision, and I’m not letting this last opportunity to review episode seven slip away!

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Agatha Harkness | filmschoolrejects.com

Now it’s your turn to say “I don’t care”.

The fourth wall isn’t the only thing that gets shattered into a million pieces in WandaVision episode seven, a brisk and tightly-edited installment that sees Wanda’s cozy suburban utopia begin its inevitable descent into surrealist calamity. As the dark forces swirling around Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) close in on her, her control over the volatile situation – which once seemed almost absolute – is ebbing away…because, surprise, she was never really in control at all. But it takes a whole musical montage to finally wake Wanda up to this realization, after spending decades (well, days, actually, but whatever; time moves differently in “The Hex”) under the impression that all of Westview’s brainwashed citizens answered solely to her.

Of course, it seemed far too easy for Wanda to have complete creative control over The Hex, a world that seemed so tailor-made to her specific needs and wants that it almost had to be the product of some nefarious scheme. That being said, it’s still slightly too early to say for certain if my assumption was correct all along, that The Hex was built by someone else to trap Wanda within, and that she was given a false sense of power to lull her into complacency. That’s one working theory, as Dr. Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings) would say: the other, which I still don’t entirely buy, is that Wanda did create The Hex, but her control over it has slowly been leeched into the hands of another entity over the course of the series. There’s evidence for both theories, but either way, we now know the identity of WandaVision‘s antagonist (or, well, one antagonist: there’s a slew of other baddies who could still show up, including but not limited to Mephisto, Ultron, Nightmare, the Grim Reaper, and HYDRA).

But I’m jumping ahead. The episode picks up the morning after the previous week’s events, both in the real world – where the scattered remnants of S.W.O.R.D., headed by Tyler Hayward (Josh Stamberg), have regrouped eight miles outside of Westview’s glowing boundaries and are prepping another assault: the lack of brain-cells is truly staggering – and in Westview, where Wanda wakes up with a magical hangover, still wearing her Halloween costume from the night before (sans half-moon tiara, the only element of that costume I genuinely wish she’d keep), and reeling from the mental and physical strain of having to expand the boundaries of The Hex to absorb S.W.O.R.D.’s initial base camp. Luckily, an invisible film crew has taken up residence in the Vision residence, allowing Wanda a safe outlet to express her grief, disillusionment, and burgeoning sense of self-awareness, all while breaking down the fourth wall in a spoof of 2000’s sitcoms like Modern Family and The Office, which employed the “mockumentary” format.

The hustle and bustle of a chaotic morning routine provides the perfect backdrop to Wanda’s entire world coming untethered from space and time. Vision (Paul Bettany) still hasn’t returned from his late-night escape attempt; the con-artist-formerly-known-as-Pietro Maximoff (Evan Peters) is missing; and all of Wanda’s furniture and household appliances are erratically changing shape. Just as the stress of trying to parent twin boys in the midst of all this chaos becomes too much for Wanda, overly-friendly neighbor Agnes (Kathryn Hahn) arrives to escort the kids back to her own house, leaving mom to a self-inflicted quarantine-style staycation…as “punishment” for her reckless behavior. As always, Olsen’s brilliant performance keeps Wanda firmly relatable and sympathetic even as everything else is beginning to spiral down the drain.

Several miles away, Vision wakes up in a field full of clowns – alive and fully-functioning again, but deeply confused about life, the universe, and everything. Thankfully for his sanity, it takes him no time at all to reconnect with Darcy Lewis, who was last seen being unwillingly absorbed into The Hex alongside him, and who has now been recontextualized into a carnival escape-artist. Vision has questions, Darcy has answers, and the duo escape in a funnel-cake truck (did you notice the potential Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. callback in the set dressing?) to get back to Wanda, while Darcy gives Vision a rundown on his MCU backstory: including a partial account of his multiple deaths, two of which Wanda was unlucky enough to witness first-hand, and one of which she caused. Darcy’s poor storytelling and tendency to leave out vital context doesn’t seem to help the paranoid android process his own confused emotions (yes, I squeezed two Douglas Adams references into this paragraph: I don’t know what that’s about, either).

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Monica Rambeau | menshealth.com

Back in the real world, Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris) and Jimmy Woo (Randall Park) head to the boundaries of The Hex to meet Monica’s aerospace-engineer friend, who…doesn’t actually show up, leaving us with more unanswered questions about their identity. But whoever they are, they dropped off a nifty little armored vehicle that Monica hopes will be able to break through Wanda’s magical TV-static barrier. It doesn’t, making that entire subplot slightly pointless (at least until the engineer shows up in-person and turns out to be massively important), but it allows for an ultimately more epic sequence in which Monica, rather than admitting defeat, chooses to run headfirst into the barrier in a desperate attempt at re-entry. Despite her apparent beef with Carol Danvers, she’s certainly inherited a lot of the captain’s recklessness.

Monica’s body begins disassembling in psychedelic slow-motion, while voices from her past rush through her head – but she pushes forward, mustering the strength to literally pull herself back together and step through the barrier, as her eyes glow electric-blue. Although WandaVision audiences have now heard plenty of references to how Monica’s frequent passages through The Hex have rewritten her DNA on a molecular level, this would seem to mark the precise moment at which Monica officially becomes a superhuman: fulfilling her destiny from Marvel Comics, where she goes by the name Spectrum. As in the comics, her powers appear to be light-based, and include the ability to see Westview as it really is: an abstract alien landscape with vivid purple skies stained by lazy splashes of neon light and humming with extradimensional energy. Donning a version of her comics-accurate black-and-white costume, Monica sprints off into Westview, unfazed by her superpower epiphany.

The episode deftly balances all these converging plotlines, bouncing back and forth from Vision (who abandons Darcy and takes to the skies after a series of contrived obstacles initially keep the duo stuck on the outskirts of Westview: obstacles that Vision mistakenly believes were put in place by Wanda to keep him away) to Monica, who breaks Wanda’s quarantine, barging through the front door with an offer of help – which Wanda rejects out-of-hand, telekinetically dragging Monica onto the front lawn and levitating her there for the whole neighborhood to see. Monica uses her own powers to avoid being crushed on the sidewalk, leading to a tense confrontation as Wanda’s forced to back up and listen to what she has to say. Monica is empathetic; she warns Wanda to not let her grief overcome her, and not to let Tyler Hayward make her the villain of the story. And despite Wanda’s eagerness to claim villain status, Monica does seem to be getting through to her.

Which is why Agnes shows up a split second later to extricate Wanda from this potentially paradigm-altering experience and lead her back to her own house (which cleverly borrows its façade from the actual Bewitched house). There, it seems no amount of magic or sitcom silliness can hide the truth about Agnes’ evil intentions: the house is dark, eerily quiet, and inhabited by cicadas – but there’s no sign of Agnes’ husband, Ralph…or Wanda’s twins, whose half-eaten sandwiches are still sitting on the coffee table while Yo Gabba Gabba! plays threateningly on the TV. Wanda’s search for her kids leads her to the basement, which extends far below the house and connects to a network of overgrown tunnels and a temple complex decorated with hexagonal emblems, ram skulls, Satanic artwork…and a small black book spewing fiery energy, which could be the Darkhold of Marvel lore. No stranger to live-action adaptations, the Darkhold was used in Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. to help design an alternate reality in which HYDRA conquered the world, and could serve a similar purpose in WandaVision.

But before Wanda gets a chance to do any sleuthing, Agnes joins her in the basement, wearing a quirky grin and her familiar pendant. “You didn’t think you were the only magical girl in town, did you?,” she taunts Wanda, while showing off her own supernatural powers. Whether she’s been orchestrating Wanda’s movements and actions pre-Westview or first had to infiltrate The Hex to do so, Agnes is the series’ antagonist heading into the penultimate episode (which means she’s at risk of dying, and that….terrifies me). And, to nobody’s surprise, “Agnes” was only ever an alias in the same vein as every other Westview resident’s adopted identity: a clever one, to be sure, but not too clever to outwit Marvel fans, who long ago guessed that Agnes would turn out to be Agatha Harkness, a sorceress from the comics whose relationship with Wanda involves mentoring her in the art of chaos magic, babysitting and occasionally kidnapping her children, and walking a fine line between protecting her and manipulating her trust. And sure enough, last week’s episode confirms what we all suspected, with the help of a musical montage that deserves to be ranked alongside the best Disney Villain songs.

Inspired by The Munsters‘ intro, “Agatha All Along” elevates the villain reveal from boringly predictable to delightfully campy. Through Wanda’s eyes, we watch past events with a new twist – Agatha gliding into Westview in a quickly-glimpsed witchy costume (before turning to the camera with a gasp of faux-astonishment), gleefully messing with the talent show in episode two, manipulating Herb’s mind in episode three, and puppeteering Pietro’s unexpected arrival. Her encounter with Vision on Halloween? That was all an act. Even the cameraman interviewing Wanda this very episode was Agatha in disguise. But you don’t need me to tell you that: just listen to the song, and/or its multitude of remixes and covers.

WandaVision
WandaVision | insider.com

The episode features WandaVision‘s first mid-credits scene, a quick stinger showing Monica breaking into Agnes’ basement only to get caught by Pietro – whose line, “Snoopers gonna snoop”, is delivered totally deadpan. Agatha having summoned Pietro to Westview and controlled his every movement, it would make sense that he’s still obeying her – but lift the spell, and he’s probably not a bad guy. He’s also definitely not Pietro, but he probably is Peter Maximoff from the X-Men cinematic universe, because there’s literally no other reason why this version of the character would be here. Further proof of that lies in the episode’s commercial, which (a) hilariously parodies overly-optimistic real-life drug commercials, and (b) directly references the Nexus of All Realities: the crossroads at the heart of the Multiverse, where universes collide. With the “real” version of Pietro dead in the MCU’s main timeline, Agatha would have reached into the Multiverse to find another – and ripped Peter Maximoff out of his timeline, given him Pietro’s memories, and installed him in Westview to play along with her game.

So was it really Agatha all along? Or is she too a minion? We still don’t know, but what I do know is I’ve been watching WandaVision for the past week (the fact that that’s a direct quote from the show speaks to how meta things are getting), and I’m certain that killing off Agatha in the series finale would be a waste of Kathryn Hahn (not to mention Agatha’s clear talent for producing quality music). So Marvel, please, pay attention to what the fandom is telling you and stop killing your villains before you’ve had a chance to use them properly: I don’t want to have to revisit this subject in two weeks time.

Episode Rating: 9.5/10

“WandaVision” Episode 4 Snaps Us Back To Reality

SPOILERS FOR WANDAVISION AHEAD!

It seems we’re not the only ones who can’t get enough of WandaVision, and the opportunities it gives us to come up with theories, endlessly debate possible clues, and have fun in the vast sandbox that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Coming off a shockingly strong third episode, WandaVision now turns its focus to events happening in the “real” MCU, outside the magical force-field encircling or entrapping Wanda’s suburban utopia of Westview…and allowing us to witness everything from new perspectives, putting many of the series’ most bizarre moments into context.

WandaVision
WandaVision | digitalspy.com

But the absurdity of the show hasn’t decreased a bit: how could it, with the reveal that WandaVision‘s sitcom adventures are indeed being broadcast onto every vintage TV within a 5-mile radius of Westview, giving familiar MCU heroes a chance to develop their own theories about what’s going on? It’s getting pretty meta around here, so let’s dive right in.

The fourth episode is roughly split down the middle by a small time jump, with the first ten minutes or so following S.W.O.R.D. Agent Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris), and the remaining twenty minutes mostly focusing on astrophysicist Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings): both are returning characters from other MCU properties who, for a variety of reasons, have gotten entangled in a bizarre missing persons case in rural New Jersey…or rather, a missing town case. These two characters form the crux of the episode, and their brilliant performances make this interruption from the regular program both worthwhile and entertaining, but neither are able to fully overcome an infuriating time constraint that forces them to jump from one plot-point to the next like pinballs.

Monica’s part of the episode starts off extremely strong, as she’s in the process of being spontaneously resurrected from scraps of floating dust and ash – in what Spider-Man: Far From Home humorously referred to as “the Blip”, the moment when the half of Earth’s population that had been snapped out of existence by Thanos was suddenly brought back to life in Avengers: Endgame. Far From Home used the concept as an excuse for light comedy, but WandaVision‘s darker tone allows the series freedom to explore the event’s catastrophic aftermath: in Monica’s case, a hospital suddenly overcrowded by hundreds of patients being resurrected in their beds or in hallways, causing a panicked stampede. But for Monica, who has no recollection of being snapped and no idea what’s going on, there’s a more pressing issue before her: the death of her mother, Maria Rambeau, who was being treated for cancer five years before when Monica snapped while waiting beside her hospital bed for her to wake up after surgery.

The reveal that Maria and her daughter never got to say goodbye is heart-wrenching, particularly because we in the audience knew how much Maria loved Monica just from her one appearance in Captain Marvel. I know I shouldn’t have to write a eulogy for a fictional character, but Maria Rambeau was instantly charismatic, vivacious, energetic, and a daring yet coolheaded adventurer. WandaVision reveals that she was also one of the founding members of S.W.O.R.D., and helped set up guidelines in case the vanished, including her own daughter, ever returned one day. I know that Maria’s death is probably real and irreversible…but oh, I want to believe that she faked her own death and is up in space on Nick Fury’s secret space-station, working on some top-secret mission. I theorized a while ago that Maria and Monica would be a mother/daughter S.W.O.R.D. Agent duo, and I was right, but not in the way I’d imagined. I’m disappointed that such a potentially dynamic relationship was pushed offscreen, and deeply sad that one of the MCU’s few Black heroines has already died so tragically.

WandaVision
Monica Rambeau and Jimmy Woo | syfy.com

Monica, who works at S.W.O.R.D. helping to observe and respond to threats posed by “sentient weapons” (and cautions her boss that S.W.O.R.D. shouldn’t be designing sentient weapons themselves, possible foreshadowing some future conflict), returns to work after the Blip only to find herself “grounded”, i.e. restricted to terrestrial missions. This at least confirms that S.W.O.R.D. has an interstellar presence, something we all questioned when the organization’s new acronym was revealed. It’s all part of Maria’s plan to stabilize agents left traumatized by the Snap and the Blip, but Monica is understandably upset until she becomes invested in her new assignment: helping the FBI track down an entire town in New Jersey, that’s disappeared behind a glowing force-field, leaving those outside the bubble with no recollection of the town, or its citizens. A bit like Beauty & The Beast – which also involves a powerful sorceress turning a group of innocent people into warped versions of themselves.

Unfortunately, we don’t get to spend much time with Teyonah Parris’ Monica before she vanishes into the force-field too, leaving the only witness, FBI agent Jimmy Woo (Randall Park), horrified and in urgent need of backup. Maybe without that thirty-five minute mark looming on the horizon, we would have had more time to see Monica’s life beyond her work. A single scene of her visiting Maria’s grave could have gone a long way, as trope-y as it sounds.

The episode’s second half picks up twenty-four hours later, as an armored truckload of scientific professionals are escorted into the S.W.O.R.D./FBI camp outside Westview – one of those professionals being Darcy, whom we haven’t seen since 2013’s Thor: The Dark World, back when she was still an intern to Jane Foster (who I guess is too busy being Thor to answer S.W.O.R.D.’s calls right now?). She hasn’t changed a bit: her unshakable sense of humor injects the perfect amount of levity into the intense atmosphere. And it takes her no time at all to discover that, for whatever reason, Westview is broadcasting episodes of WandaVision onto vintage TV sets: revealing to S.W.O.R.D. that superheroine Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) is behind the recent disappearances.

I have to admit, I do love indulging in the nifty meta humor of watching S.W.O.R.D. Agents pick apart every detail in the WandaVision broadcasts, only to now do the same to the S.W.O.R.D. Agents myself. Marvel is lovingly teasing us keen-eyed fans, taking it right up to the brink of parody with visuals like Jimmy Woo’s giant whiteboard of theories (he seems perplexed by the hexagon imagery prevalent in Westview: it’s clearly because the number 6 is associated with the devil, a.k.a. Mephisto!). Darcy and Jimmy even get too invested in the series, sharing snacks while waiting for Wanda to have her twins. They’re like highly-trained fandom theorists, but we in the real world have an advantage over them: because WandaVision‘s broadcasts to the MCU choppily edit out all the scenes in which Wanda loses control over her reality – something that confuses S.W.O.R.D. nearly as much as it does me.

Dinner with the Harts, Dottie’s exploding lemonade glass, the beekeeper…all of it’s been cut by some supernatural network censor. S.W.O.R.D.’s attempts to break through to Wanda with drones, radio transmissions, and human agents, all end in failure as anything that goes into Westview becomes distorted by Wanda’s reality-bending magic. Unfortunately for S.W.O.R.D., that means they miss the best part of episode three, when Wanda turns on Monica and throws her out of Westview: they only experience the aftermath, as Monica comes flying out of the sky and crashes into the S.W.O.R.D. camp.

Thankfully, we the audience are treated to a flashback to that same encounter, but from Monica’s POV. Last week’s episode ended before we could see how things went down, but now we get to witness the violent power of Wanda’s hex-magic as she propels Monica through the side of her house and across town, hurriedly repairing the wall just moments before Vision (Paul Bettany) enters. As Wanda and Monica face off, the aspect ratio shifts as well as the style of Elizabeth Olsen’s acting (and nary a laugh-track to be heard), indicating that Wanda isn’t confused or conflicted about what’s going on: her fantasy has been disturbed by Monica’s presence, and to protect it she momentarily has to break the fantasy façade she’s built to deal with the intruder. This is followed by a freaky jump-scare moment from Wanda’s POV as she turns to greet Vision – and briefly sees him as a gray, corpse-like figure with blank eyes and a hole gouged out of his forehead. Her reality is splitting open, despite her claims that she has everything under control.

WandaVision
Dead Vision | comicbook.com

The strong implication of this week’s episode is that everything in Westview is entirely Wanda’s doing. Wanda says so herself, and Monica’s first words after her crash-landing are “It’s Wanda…it’s all Wanda”. But I’m not buying it, and I’m not willing to accept S.W.O.R.D.’s findings as fact when they’re not even working with the same information we have. As I’ve said before, I think Wanda has some control over Westview, but I believe that’s a small concession on the part of whatever greater power actually designed this pocket dimension for her to inhabit, and is now using it to ensnare her children.

At least this episode will encourage us all to step up our theorizing game if we’re to beat S.W.O.R.D. to the answers. Time will tell if it was wise to introduce the MCU’s next great wave of space-based heroes as essentially a group of over-eager Wanda stans investigating Lizzie’s every move, but hey, it gives us a weirdly fun challenge to look forward to as viewers, so…I’m not complaining.

Episode Rating: 7.9/10

Who’s Who In “WandaVision”

SPOILERS FOR WANDAVISION AHEAD!

As WandaVision‘s central mystery expands across several decades of television history and at least two distinctly separate realities, so too does its cast of characters, both major players and bit parts. And with Wanda raising the stakes dramatically in episode three, it’s becoming more important to tell characters apart and work out the most important details in any Marvel Cinematic Universe property – who’s connected to whom, and who’s working for whom? WandaVision hints at the idea that charming newlyweds Wanda Maximoff and Vision are being manipulated by dark forces lurking within their quaint suburban community of Westview: but after yesterday it’s looking more likely that Wanda herself has a hand in causing the strange events that plague her and her husband from day one of their married life together.

Let’s get into it, shall we?

Wanda Maximoff

WandaVision
Wanda Maximoff | cnet.com

Our series’ heroine has always been something of a lone wolf. After the events of Avengers: Endgame, with Vision dead, her strongest tie to the Avengers family was severed – and it looks like she decided to finally follow Hawkeye’s lead and just retire. But Hawkeye already had a family with which to settle down. Wanda first had to build one of her own, which would require her to do…whatever she did to bring back Vision back to life, possibly only in her dreams. Noting how violent her reaction has been to the S.W.O.R.D. logo whenever it pops up in Westview, many fans have speculated that Wanda was working with S.W.O.R.D. (which stands for Sentient Weapon Observation and Response Division in the MCU) to resurrect Vision when she went rogue and decided to hijack the experiment, eloping with her android boyfriend into a pocket dimension that she created on the site of the real town of Westview…or which someone else created for her, in order to lure her into a trap. Either way, it’s beginning to look like the citizens of the real Westview are now trapped there with her against their will, and are the real victims in this messy situation.

Allegiance: let’s mark her down as a free agent for now. It may turn out she’s being too heavily manipulated to see the chaos she’s causing, but honestly, it looks like she has a lot of control over Westview and is enjoying her newfound power. So even if she’s not entirely at fault, I don’t think she’s blameless either.

Vision

WandaVision
Vision | indianexpress.com

How did Vision go from being killed by Wanda to being resurrected by Thanos, to being killed by Thanos, to being resurrected yet again in WandaVision? Well, extrapolating off the theory that Wanda was working with S.W.O.R.D. to resurrect the android post-Endgame, my guess is that S.W.O.R.D.’s tech was capable of rebooting Vision – but without any of his past memories, including those he shared with Wanda. Learning this could easily have spurred Wanda to betray S.W.O.R.D. and steal the android’s partially-rebooted body for her own purposes, and would explain why Vision’s memory seems so fragmented. He clearly remembers Wanda, or at least has been convinced to think he does, but he seems clueless about his past, and even his purpose in Westview: unlike Wanda, who enters the sitcom reality with a clear motive to settle down and fit in. But he’s also inquisitive, which will serve him well in the coming days/decades.

Allegiance: I believe he’s linked to Wanda, at least for now. He’ll probably try to exercise his free will as the couple clash in later episodes, but I have a nasty feeling Wanda will be able to tug him along whithersoever she goes. Doesn’t mean we won’t get an epic battle sequence out of it, though.

Agnes

WandaVision
Agnes | hollywoodlife.com

Many of us are so convinced that Wanda’s overly-friendly next-door neighbor Agnes is actually the evil witch Agatha Harkness from Marvel Comics that it’s become almost second nature to refer to her as Agatha. With literally every clue pointing towards this being the case (apart from the similar names, Agnes’ wedding anniversary is the same day the Salem Witch Trials started, she wears a witchy brooch, and even owns a rabbit named for Harkness’ son in the comics), it seems almost too easy a connection to make. Personally, I suspect Agnes will be Agatha in some form or another, and is probably still a witch, but I’m not convinced Marvel isn’t totally reinventing the character as a more sympathetic antiheroine, a victim of manipulative forces. My guess: she’s responsible for luring Wanda into the pocket dimension surrounding Westview at the orders of Mephisto, Marvel’s devil, and is thus aware of what’s going on – but isn’t fully evil.

Allegiance: Agatha Harkness being Mephisto’s right-hand woman in the comics paves the way for Agnes to fill a similar role. But her small panic attack in yesterday’s episode makes me think she’s unwillingly serving the devil and trying to escape from him. There’s an interesting story to be told there about the toxic and abusive relationships endorsed by the same patriarchal system that many classic sitcoms upheld.

Dottie And Phil Jones

WandaVision
Dottie Jones | decider.com

Dottie (and, to a lesser degree, her husband Phil) is perhaps WandaVision‘s biggest enigma to me at the moment, and I’ve cycled through several theories about who – or what – she is. Her high status among the citizens (particularly the women) of Westview strongly implies that, like Agnes, she may be a witch. And with witches and Mephisto going hand-in-hand in Marvel comics, it’s not too much of a stretch to extrapolate that she could be working with the devil to steal Wanda’s twins – after all, she did lead the eerie communal chant of “For The Children”. But I’m beginning to wonder if the lemonade glass exploding in her hand and revealing her red blood (in the black-and-white episode) was an attempt by Mephisto to alert Wanda to the fact that Dottie, whether she’s a witch or not, is also a third-party intruder with her own agenda in Westview.

Allegiance: if Dottie has an ulterior motive for wanting Wanda to hurry up and have kids, what is it? Like Mephisto in the comics, she could be trying to absorb young Billy and Tommy into her soul to increase her demonic power…or, if she’s not evil, she might be trying to protect the children before someone else has a chance to kidnap them.

The Townsfolk

WandaVision
Mr. Hart, Vision, and Mrs. Hart | dailyadvent.com

Despite how it looks, not everybody in Westview has some grandiose plan to steal Wanda’s babies – and now that episode three has confirmed that Westview is a real town in the real world, it would seem that most of the background players in WandaVision are just regular people who got sucked into the sitcom fantasy against their will. Judging by how close Westview appears to be to a large S.W.O.R.D. complex, some of these people might be low-level S.W.O.R.D. staffers, nonthreatening to Wanda. Vision’s co-worker Norm could fall into this category (his actor, Asif Ali, also played a low-level Cybertek employee in Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.). Others, like Herb and possibly the mailman Dennis, might have a better idea of what’s going on – Herb even begins to disclose the truth to Vision, telling him that “Geraldine” arrived in Westview “because we’re all…she came here because we’re all…” before being stopped by Agnes, who confronts him with a panic-stricken expression. We’re all…trapped, I assume? Dennis has his own bizarre run-in with Agnes while walking past Wanda’s house, where they exchange what seems like coded banter.

Allegiance: most of these folks, with the possible exception of Herb and Dennis, probably don’t have any strong allegiances that will put them at conflict with Wanda, Mephisto, or even neighbors like Agnes. If that changes, I’ll be sure to point it out.

“Geraldine”

WandaVision
“Geraldine” | elle.com

Long before WandaVision premiered, it had already been confirmed by Marvel that Teyonah Parris would be playing Monica Rambeau in the series, so “Geraldine’s” secret identity was never much of a mystery. Set photos and promotional material had also revealed that Rambeau, last seen in the MCU as the young and impressionable daughter of retired test pilot Maria Rambeau in Captain Marvel, would now be working with S.W.O.R.D. in some capacity. If WandaVision were following the comics exactly, this would totally make sense: there, S.W.O.R.D. deals with space and explores alien worlds, and MCU Monica grew up surrounded by aliens thanks to Captain Marvel’s dealings with her mother. But MCU S.W.O.R.D. tackles “sentient weapons”, making Monica’s chosen career path a little more confusing. In the comics, Monica also has superpowers – which I think Wanda might have accidentally given to her when she wrapped Monica up in a hex-magic cocoon and tossed her out of WandaVision.

Allegiance: Monica seems loyal to S.W.O.R.D.; though a conflict could arise if S.W.O.R.D. responds to Wanda’s actions with further violence, and Monica cautions them to go gentle. Monica was raised to see the good in everybody: I think she’ll sympathize with Wanda’s pain, and genuinely want to help her.

“Ralph”

WandaVision
Mephisto | looper.com

In the first three episodes of WandaVision, we’ve learned more random details about Agnes’ mysterious husband “Ralph” than we’ve learned about Agnes herself…but where is he? Who is he, really? Until he shows up in person, we won’t know – but my suspicion is that he’s none other than Mephisto himself, and that his marriage with Agnes is more metaphorical than anything (but literal enough that Agnes actively avoids her “mother-in-law”), a way of hiding in plain sight while observing Wanda. Agnes’ remarks about him paint a disturbing picture of a repulsive character whom Agnes wants to leave, but can’t.

Allegiance: if “Ralph” truly is Mephisto, he serves no one but himself, but freely manipulates those around him, like Agnes, Dottie, and of course, Wanda.

So what do you think? Which WandaVision characters do you want to know more about heading into episode four? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!

“WandaVision” Episode 3 Welcomes Wanda’s Twins To Westview

SPOILERS FOR WANDAVISION AHEAD!

Now awash in technicolor splendor, Wanda Maximoff’s eerie suburban reality gets a shake-up in the third episode of WandaVision, with the series’ increasingly dangerous protagonist unceremoniously making room for two new additions to her faux family by kicking out an unwelcome visitor who had slipped through the cracks in last week’s episode. But as the invisible barriers around the town of Westview shrink ever inwards, it seems many of our characters – including Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany) themselves – are starting to catch on to the fact that the world they know is actually some kind of custom-made, maximum-security prison…and Wanda herself is possibly the jailor.

WandaVision
Vision and Wanda | cnet.com

This week’s episode strands us in the middle of the 1970’s, an era of acquired tastes: from the over-the-top fashion and hairstyles (I could write a whole separate blog post about Paul Bettany’s hair alone), to a whole new line-up of beloved classic sitcoms to mine for material, including The Brady Bunch; which WandaVision subtly parodies with this week’s opening sequence graphics and new design aesthetic. But though the change in decades has spontaneously updated every character’s appearance and wardrobe (I feel for the citizens of Westview, never knowing what time period’s atrocious fashion sensibilities they’ll be saddled with on any given day), it appears that the story has picked up right where we left off…in the late 60’s. Wanda’s entire maternity spans about a day, during which the world around her moves ahead by years.

Time and space don’t seem to mean much within the poorly-defined boundaries of Westview. Not only is the year and decade changing with each passing sunrise, but the exact location of the town is hard to pin down too…since there doesn’t seem to be anything beyond its outskirts. Wanda’s doctor (played by Randy Oglesby) seems excited to head to Bermuda for a vacation, and even packs his bags and starts his car to leave, only to promptly change his mind with the ominous phrase: “Small towns, you know. So hard to…escape.” Taking all the clues into consideration, it’s safe to say Westview is a prison in that no one is able to leave – that is, unless you get Wanda mad and she telekinetically body-slams you through the side of a house and catapults you out of her mini-universe. I’m not sure that’s a risk worth taking just to get to Bermuda, but hey, it’s an option.

So who’s running the prison? The most likely candidate is still the devil himself, Mephisto, and his henchwoman Agatha Harkness from the comics – who’s probably already shown up in WandaVision as Wanda’s nosy next-door neighbor, Agnes (Kathryn Hahn). Once again, we hear from Agnes about her as-yet-unseen husband, “Ralph”, whom many of us believe will turn out to be Mephisto himself: Agnes’ comment that he looks better in the darkness only adds to the mystery surrounding this character.

But this week’s episode also puts a new possibility on the table, and it’s one I never initially suspected: could HYDRA be behind all this? The covert Neo-Nazi organization hasn’t been very active in the Marvel Cinematic Universe since Age Of Ultron, where – interestingly – their last major act was unleashing Wanda Maximoff and her twin brother Pietro on the Avengers, in an unsuccessful attempt to divide and conquer the superhero team. But Wanda’s old HYDRA handler, Baron von Strücker, was referenced in one of WandaVision‘s tantalizing commercial segments, and this week’s commercial features another nod to HYDRA, spoofing the Calgon “Take Me Away” advert from the 70’s with an important message about the rejuvenating powers of Hydra Soak: a bath powder that comes in a cute little blue package and features the tagline “find the goddess within” – a possible reference to Wanda’s latent mutant powers, unlocked by HYDRA’s experiments on her? This ad diverges slightly from the pattern established in the previous two, but not so radically that we can throw out everything we’ve theorized.

WandaVision
Hydra Soak | newsweek.com

Some Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. fans have been quick to point out the similarities between Hydra Soak and the blue soap used by HYDRA to mind-control citizens of their alternate reality in The Framework, in the long-running MCU-adjacent series’ fourth season. If that is what WandaVision is referencing with Hydra Soak, it’s theoretically possible that HYDRA is using some form of Framework technology to keep Wanda’s mind and spirit trapped in her sitcom bubble, while her unconscious body would remain in stasis – perhaps at some other location entirely. I’m nervous to jump onboard this theory because S.H.I.E.L.D. fans have been burned before, but I can’t deny it piques my interest going forward. Forget Ultron infomercials – give me more of that HYDRA mind-control soap!

But I’m not ruling out Wanda as the series’ big bad either. Whether provoked to action by her “mama bear” instincts, or motivated by some subconscious agenda, Wanda once again displays the cool-headed confidence and decisiveness that suggests that she has at least some control over Westview and its people, including interlopers like “Geraldine” (Teyonah Parris), and is in fact holding them hostage as extras for the sitcom she wants her life to be. It’s still hard to say what’s her doing and what’s not – for instance, when Vision gets put on rewind for asking too many questions about Westview, is that Wanda trying to shield her husband from the truth, or someone else stepping in to shut him up? – but Elizabeth Olsen effortlessly conveys the brokenness and bewilderment that makes this mystery work. Wanda herself doesn’t seem to know whether she’s really in control, but she clearly enjoys the feeling: so watching her step into her power and struggle with the consequences should be thrilling.

Compare that to Vision, who needs irrefutable facts and data to back up any decision he makes, and is clearly uncomfortable living in a world where he doesn’t know his place or purpose. Again, we’re seeing the very highest quality of acting from stars who’ve never really had a chance to shine in the Marvel films – and I’m thoroughly excited to see Paul Bettany take us on a journey of self-discovery with the innocent Vision as he begins to exert his independence from Wanda, as I assume he will after learning that his wife re-animated his corpse.

But as the intertwined wedding rings in the closing credits suggest, these two are bound together by something – and now it’s clear that will be their twin sons, Billy and Tommy, making their long-awaited MCU debut at last. In the comics, both boys grow up to be Young Avengers; with Billy becoming a sorcerer like his mother (and one of Marvel’s most prominent gay superheroes), and Tommy inheriting his uncle Pietro’s super-speed (a power which Vision also possesses in the MCU). Billy, in particular, is incredibly powerful – but both boys spent their infancy in the comics being hunted by demonic entities who wished to absorb their strength. WandaVision has teased that storyline, with all of Westview pressuring Wanda to have children and possibly using magic to induce her sudden pregnancy. It’s understandable why the couple are trying to hide that they’re expecting throughout episode three.

“Geraldine” is unlucky enough to be on hand when Wanda goes into labor (nine months early), and helps deliver baby Tommy – after first having a bizarre run-in with the stork painted on Wanda’s nursery wall, which comes to life and pursues her fish-patterned pants. The chaotic scene is exacerbated by an incident on the front lawn, with Wanda’s neighbor Herb (David Payton) cheerfully sawing away at the fence separating his property from Wanda’s with a hedge-trimmer. Following the birth, Vision finds Agnes also outside, questioning Herb about “Geraldine”. Vision confronts the two, and gets a string of vague excuses for their strange behavior – culminating in Agnes implying that “Geraldine” shouldn’t be allowed around Wanda because she doesn’t have a family, husband, or even a home, and Herb trying to let Vision in on some secret about the town only to be silenced by an uncharacteristic outburst from Agnes, who frantically implores him to “stop it!”.

The brilliantly edited sequence cuts back and forth from Agnes’ sinister gossip to the scene inside the house, where “Geraldine” and Wanda are making small-talk while looking after the newborns. Wanda casually mentions that she has a twin, and namedrops Pietro, sparking a glitch in reality as “Geraldine” suddenly blurts out that “he [Pietro] was killed by Ultron”, exposing her true nature as an intruder to Westview. Wanda circles her around the cribs menacingly, and then pauses, catching sight of the sword-shaped necklace pendant around her neck: the same sword she saw last week on a helicopter in her rosebush, and on the mystery beekeeper who emerged from the sewer.

WandaVision
Monica Rambeau | metro.co.uk

But chillingly, when Vision enters the house just a few moments later and asks where “Geraldine” went, all Wanda says is that she had to leave in a hurry. There’s no happy sitcom ending this week: only a haunting shot of Wanda standing above her twins’ cribs, smiling down at her babies. And a final scene, set to “Daydream Believer”, of “Geraldine” flying through a night sky past a Westview billboard and hitting the earth hard, while armored vehicles and military personnel surround her. She’s been flung out of Wanda’s reality, clearly, and back into her own – confirming two things: firstly, that she is Monica Rambeau, an Agent of S.W.O.R.D.; and secondly, that Westview exists in the real world as well as in Wanda’s. In the real world, the town is encircled by roadblocks, force-fields, spotlights and barbed wire…but there are lights in the windows of visible houses.

So is WandaVision the harrowing account of an entire town being held captive by a mutant sorceress and distorted into a sitcom fantasy? I expect more answers when the series returns next week, with an episode some are speculating will recount Monica Rambeau’s adventure in flashbacks, explaining what’s going on outside the WandaVision bubble, allowing us to catch up with old friends like Darcy Lewis and Jimmy Woo, and hopefully clarifying whether the population of Westview is really being forced to wear 70’s clothes against their will.

Episode Rating: 10/10

That Grim Reaper Clue In WandaVision Episode Two Could Be Huge

SPOILERS FOR WANDAVISION AHEAD!

The first two episodes of WandaVision, which dropped on Disney+ this morning, certainly gave us plenty to talk about – and potentially theorize about. Although it’s still too early to predict exactly what great big catastrophe Wanda Maximoff and her family are headed towards, we can already begin to see clues coming together and potential story threads emerging from the tangled web that is Wanda’s new reality. The quiet suburban paradise that is Westview is not what it claims to be on the brochure, and there’s reason to believe that multiple powers are at play behind the scenes, manipulating the entire town – and especially the Maximoffs – for their own agendas. But what are these agendas? What do these dark forces want with Wanda, or her husband, or her soon-to-be-born twin sons?

WandaVision
Grim Reaper | gamesradar.com

The most prevalent theory in the fandom – and a very convincing one, at that – is that the prime mover of events in WandaVision is Mephisto, Marvel’s version of the Christian Satan, and the lord of a fiery pocket-dimension he calls Hell (but which isn’t, technically). This theory is backed up by little references scattered throughout the first two episodes of WandaVision: from the name of Agnes’ adorable bunny (Señor Scratchy is a cute and devastatingly clever play on Satan’s real-life nickname, Nick Scratch), to the fact that Agnes basically just comes out and says it in episode two, noting that the devil’s in the details, but “that’s not the only place he is”. Agnes herself has long been believed to be Agatha Harkness, a sorceress from the comics who is Mephisto’s trusted acolyte and partner-in-cosmic-crime.

And as for who Mephisto is in Westview, well, there are good theories about that too: some fans think he’s Agnes’ mysteriously absent husband, “Ralph”, whom she’s only namedropped about a dozen times at this point. Personally, I wouldn’t be surprised if he turns out to be “Ralph”…or if “Ralph” then turned out to be the salesman who routinely interrupts the WandaVision broadcast to advertise painful memories from Wanda’s past, disguised as historically-accurate household appliances and accessories…or if the company behind those vaguely disturbing infomercials turned out to be the same company that Vision is working for in Westview – you know, the company where nobody knows what they produce, market, sell, or even do on any given day. It’s all connected, as they like to say in the MCU.

But as you can probably sense, I don’t think Mephisto is necessarily the main villain of WandaVision. I’m sure he’ll be a villain, and I strongly believe he’s the one who’s secretly in control of Wanda’s dream-world, feeding her wish-fulfilment and fantasies to keep her content until the day when she gives birth to her twins, and Mephisto arrives (or more likely sends Agatha – sorry, Agnes) to kidnap the kids and harness their chaotic power for evil in a ritual sacrifice or something similarly unpleasant. But if that’s not main villain behavior, then what is? Well, I think there’s a few ways this could go, actually, but simply put – my theory is that Ultron (yes, that Ultron) is coming back, and he’s bringing a brand new comic-book villain with him.

WandaVision
Ultron | editorial.rottentomatoes.com

I know, I know, it sounds ridiculous. But let’s start with the opening credits for WandaVision, episode two – a fun little black-and-white animated montage modeled on the Bewitched opening sequence, that follows Vision as he glides through the walls of the Maximoff family residence. Caught up in the moment, you could easily miss the fact that at one point he passes straight through a wall that is, uh, filled with bones. I know I did, the first time around. But more importantly, you might (and I did) also miss the distinctive four-pronged helmet that is lying amidst all those bones – the helmet which belongs to a Marvel Comics villain named the Grim Reaper.

The Grim Reaper, wearing his helmet and wielding a scythe/buzz-saw/helicopter hybrid weapon has featured prominently in a number of comic storylines over the years, so just having him show up in WandaVision as an antagonist would make sense even if he serves no larger purpose. He’s also a powerful necromancer – and maybe that has something to do with the way in which Vision has been restored to perfect health after having his head bashed in by Thanos. Certainly it could be useful, given the Reaper’s helmet is lying in a small graveyard. But I believe there’s more they can do with the character, and there’s even precedent for it in classic comics. Allow me to explain.

1991’s Reaper And The Robot story arc featured the Grim Reaper and a familiar robotic fiend, the genocidal super-computer known as Ultron. In the MCU, Ultron has only been utilized once as a villain, rising to power in Avengers: Age Of Ultron and briefly enlisting Wanda Maximoff to his cause before betraying her trust and then acting all shocked when she and her brother Pietro betrayed him in turn. Ultron died a couple times, with Wanda ripping the heart out of his main body, and the last of the robot warrior skeletons into which he had uploaded his consciousness being pulverized by Vision at the end of the movie. But Ultron is almost beyond human comprehension – it’s hard to say for certain that he died, especially now that Vision is out here proving that you can literally have your head crushed TWICE and still come back in some shape or form.

In the aforementioned comic storyline, Ultron takes refuge from the Avengers in an underground lair that just so happens to be situated within a sewer system, where the Grim Reaper finds him. WandaVision episode two, meanwhile, ends with an anonymous character (randomly dressed as a bee-keeper) emerging from a manhole cover in the middle of the road, the implication being that people are infiltrating Wanda’s world through the sewers. This character is wearing the logo of S.W.O.R.D. on their bee-keeping uniform, which would seem to suggest they’re not out to harm Wanda but to rescue her from whatever trap she’s landed in, but that being said, the character in question definitely doesn’t appear friendly – especially not with their face strategically kept in the darkness. It’s gotten to the point where theorists are legitimately considering whether this person is the Spider-Man villain Swarm, an obscure character comprised of a humanoid swarm of mutant Nazi bees under the control of a dead German scientist whose skeleton they hold onto for…reasons. As much as I’d love that kind of a bizarre plot twist, I think it’s far more likely this character is either a harmless S.W.O.R.D. agent from the outside world, or the Grim Reaper.

But if the Grim Reaper is around in Westview, and if Ultron is supposedly down in the sewers, what happens next? Well, in the comics storyline, they meet and team up – with Ultron’s primary motive being to design murderous robotic versions of superheroes, including Wanda’s twin brother, Pietro Maximoff. In the MCU, it might not be possible to do this without first obtaining his body from wherever it was buried: and that’s where having a necromancer on your team suddenly makes sense. Without knowing the themes of WandaVision yet, it’s hard to say how this plot-point would or could be integrated: but I imagine there would be some kind of struggle between Wanda and a resurrected Pietro, perhaps more emotional than physical, and we’d finally see Wanda confront all the regrets and mistakes from her past that she’s pushed into the darkest recesses of her mind. Subtly supporting this notion is the existence of those strange infomercial segments interspersed throughout WandaVision, that hint at parts of Wanda’s past she’s tried to forget: including the death of her parents, and her history as a HYDRA lab experiment. And based on how the series is proceeding, episode three’s commercial will likely bring up another painful chapter of her life – her time with Ultron, and her brother’s death.

WandaVision
Wanda and Pietro Maximoff | popsugar.com

If this storyline is adapted in any way, some elements will surely be altered. Perhaps Mephisto will be involved (in fact, I’d expect him to be), or perhaps Ultron will be radically different from how we last saw him. But with the pieces all falling into place, I can’t not present this as a possibility. We know so little about how WandaVision will play out, this is the perfect time for truly wild speculation.

On that note, what do you think? What are your best guesses about WandaVision, and what villains do you particularly want to see? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!

“Secret Invasion” Is Happening: Now Give Us MCU Quake.

If a Fantastic Four movie announcement hadn’t overshadowed everything else at the Marvel presentation during the Disney Investors Meeting, Secret Invasion definitely would have been the big headline coming out of the event. The Skrulls are literally about to invade the Marvel Cinematic Universe and don the skins and personalities of all your favorite MCU heroes; this is big news, people. Why it didn’t make more of an impression is a mystery to me – though, personally, I feel it has to do with how dreadfully ugly the logo for the new series turned out to be (yes, I know it’s a direct nod to the comics upon which this storyline is based; no, I don’t care, it’s still ugly).

Secret Invasion
Secret Invasion | marvel.com

The Secret Invasion will start out as a Disney+ series (though technically it was foreshadowed in the post-credits scene of Spider-Man: Far From Home, which revealed that Nick Fury and Maria Hill were both being impersonated by shapeshifting Skrull aliens), but it will likely expand across the entire slate of MCU movies and series. If it’s going to play out at all like the comics, it has to be on an epic scale: otherwise, they might as well call it Secret Skirmish. The Ms. Marvel series will likely include some Skrull action, thanks to its new connection to Captain Marvel 2: which will almost certainly be where the Secret Invasion reaches its full extent – unless the Secret Invasion series gets renewed for multiple seasons, and becomes Agents Of S.W.O.R.D. (more on that in a moment).

Samuel L. Jackson will return to reprise the role of Nick Fury, and star in the new series – which means that yes, this is the Nick Fury show we heard rumors about just a few months ago. Not a prequel exploring his backstory, thank goodness, but something actually relevant (I swear that’s not a jab at the long-delayed Black Widow movie). Fury will have a key role in the Secret Invasion, heading up the S.W.O.R.D. team from his headquarters in space. On earth, his Skrull ally Talos is probably still impersonating him, so there’s ways for Jackson to appear even when Fury technically isn’t onscreen.

Ben Mendelsohn will be co-starring alongside Jackson, as Talos: suggesting that he will spend more time as himself than as Fury or other characters, which is great, because Mendelsohn is an incredibly charismatic and underrated actor. Talos will be in a tricky position in Secret Invasion, having to battle misguided friends (and perhaps even members of his own family). With the Skrulls currently being depicted as good guys in the MCU, it’ll take something drastic for even a few to turn against Fury and Talos and infiltrate the ranks of Earth’s mightiest heroes: something that drastic could easily divide Talos’ own loyalties, causing him to question his allegiances to Fury – and perhaps even betray him. I expect his character to have plenty to do.

Secret Invasion
Talos | marvelcinematicuniverse.fandom.com

But…the show still needs a female lead. There are some great candidates: Maria Rambeau is presumably still out there, and I’ve long hoped she’ll be a prominent member of the S.W.O.R.D. organization by this point in the MCU timeline; Monica Rambeau, her daughter, could rise through the ranks during the events of WandaVision; and Abigail Brand, S.W.O.R.D.’s leader in the comics, might show up to fill this role. Personally, I hope all three feature heavily in this series. But I also want another woman to appear in Secret Invasion, and that woman is – you guessed it – Quake. Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s Daisy Johnson, seismic Inhuman superheroine and the most well-written character in the Marvel Universe (you heard me), appearing via Multiverse shenanigans or just plain and simple S.H.I.E.L.D. canonization. It appears I can’t write a single post about the MCU without mentioning Quake, but that’s because the entire MCU seems to be leading up to a place where her inclusion is not only beneficial but necessary.

Oh, and, uh, in case this wasn’t clear already: just bring back Chloe Bennet as Quake. She is the character. She’s lived and breathed Quake for the past seven years, and she’s made it abundantly clear she’s not ready to call it quits. And the series finale this year left Daisy wandering on an emissary mission through space, headed for some sort of weird-looking space anomaly. That could easily have been a portal to another reality, and if Marvel wants, they can just leave Daniel Sousa and Kora out of the equation. Say they’re off somewhere else, or don’t say anything at all. I don’t care. I only need Quake in the MCU, and I need her because she’s far too good a character to waste, or to throw aside just because she comes from Marvel TV. Reminder: Charlie Cox’s Daredevil is also a Marvel TV character, and yet is strongly suspected to be appearing in Spider-Man 3.

Quake is a crucial character in the Secret Invasion storyline in the comics, personally assigned by Nick Fury with the task of assembling a Secret Warriors team to combat the Skrulls that made it down to Earth and were wreaking havoc while in disguise. As one of Marvel’s only widely-known Inhuman characters besides Ms. Marvel and maybe Black Bolt (if we’re pushing it), she’s also a great character to help introduce that complicated concept in the MCU. And besides all that, she’s resonated with viewers because of her courage, resilience, and complexity. She’s also Marvel’s first (and to date only) Asian-American lead character, Marvel’s first female lead in live-action, and one of their first superpowered heroines.

Secret Invasion
Quake | cinemablend.com

Now that I’ve derailed this post completely, it’s time to wrap up with a cheery reminder that Secret Invasion doesn’t yet have a director attached, or a release date. So it’s still a long way off, and there’s still plenty of time for Marvel to see the light and cast Chloe Bennet as Quake.

What do you think? Are you excited for Secret Invasion? Do you also want to see Quake in the MCU? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!

“Ms. Marvel” Debuts New Footage, Will Costar In Captain Marvel 2!

Despite the Ms. Marvel Disney+ series only just beginning filming in Atlanta over the past few weeks, a sizzle reel compiled from behind-the-scenes interviews with the series’ creators and clips of new footage from the show was already completed in time for the Disney Investors Meeting on Thursday night, and gave us our first official look at newcomer Iman Vellani as the MCU’s first Muslim superhero, Pakistani-American teenager Kamala Khan. It’s not much, but it’s worth a shoutout because of the representation showcased in the sizzle reel itself, and the promise made by Marvel President Kevin Feige that Kamala Khan (a.k.a. Ms Marvel) will go on to costar in future Marvel films.

Ms. Marvel
Ms. Marvel | gamesradar.com

The brief video spotlights each of the four main directors working on Ms. Marvel, including Adil El Arbi, Bilall Fallah, Meera Menon, and Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy. All are experienced filmmakers, and El Arbi and Fallah directed one of the highest-grossing films of this year, Bad Boys For Life: a gritty, action-packed adventure. Kamala Khan is a superheroine with a very distinctive superpower – the ability to redistribute the atoms in her body at will, to change her shape and size, create giant fists, or grow to incredible heights – so I hope all four directors will be able to carry that over from page to screen in a cool way, while keeping it wonderfully weird. Kamala Khan’s creator, G. Willow Wilson, has said she fears Khan will look “really creepy” in live-action because of her powers, but I have faith in Marvel to do her justice.

While the diversity behind the camera (where it matters most, arguably) is excellent, there’s been some recent controversy around the diversity onscreen…or rather, the lack thereof. A few days, #FixMsMarvel trended on Twitter, after it was discovered that two actresses cast in the series as Muslim women of color, Zenobia Shroff and Yasmeen Fletcher, are not Muslim (and Fletcher is half-white and Christian); that actor Matt Lintz, cast as Kamala Khan’s best friend Bruno, is possibly a Trump supporter (although he claimed later he is not political, which itself is a questionable stance, especially during these times); and that a sexual offender was reportedly cast in another supporting role. That last claim is certainly severe, but the actor in question is not confirmed to have joined the cast, unlike Shroff, Fletcher, and Lintz, all of whose names can currently be found on the Marvel website. For a series that is so laser-focused on improving representation of a traditionally marginalized demographic, these castings do represent missteps – and the MCU’s casting director, Sarah Halley Finn, is no stranger to casting controversy, having previously received criticism for picking a Mexican actress, Xochitl Gomez, as the (arguably) Afro-Latina Puerto Rican heroine America Chavez; and (allegedly) Oscar Isaac, a born-and-raised Evangelical Christian, as Jewish hero Matt Spector.

Ms. Marvel
Ms. Marvel | murphysmultiverse.com

How you choose to digest this information and proceed is your own choice, and reactions to the news will vary. It’s especially disappointing, however, because of how perfectly cast Iman Vellani appears as Kamala Khan: and how excited I think we all are for her to succeed. Vellani doesn’t appear in her Ms. Marvel costume in the new footage, but she’s still channeling her in-universe role model, Captain Marvel – as we can see her purchasing the Captain Marvel costume she wore in behind-the-scenes photos (where I thought she was being played by a child actor: my apologies to Vellani); wearing a T-shirt that seems to hint at a Captain Marvel/Valkyrie romantic pairing (which, if that’s the case, I wholeheartedly support); and staring wistfully at the Captain Marvel posters and memorabilia that adorn her bedroom wall. Heartwarming footage was also shown of Vellani’s freak-out reaction to her casting.

I can understand freaking out, because Marvel president Kevin Feige made it very clear that Ms. Marvel isn’t a one-and-done character: she will soon join Brie Larson and Teyonah Parris in a lead role in Captain Marvel 2, fulfilling her fangirl dreams and allowing her a chance to punch bad guys with her supersized fists on the big screen where she belongs. Much was made out of Vellani’s two-star review for the first Captain Marvel review on her alleged Letterboxd account (which, she clarified, was not because of Brie Larson, whom she “would die for”) – hopefully, her appearance in the Nia DaCosta-directed sequel will make it even better than the first. Meanwhile, Ms. Marvel may also help introduce the Inhumans royal family to the MCU, as a possible reference to Maximus the Mad hidden in the new footage hints that they’re on their way.

Ms. Marvel
Maximus | mcuexchange.com

The Inhumans were the subject of a short-lived ABC TV series, but they haven’t ever really caught on with audiences, except on Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., which was helped by exceptional writing and great character work. For the Inhumans’ MCU debut, I think Marvel would be foolish not to borrow from the best and transfer popular Inhuman S.H.I.E.L.D. characters like Daisy Johnson and Yo-Yo Rodriguez over to the Disney+ series, with actresses Chloe Bennet and Natalia Cordova-Buckley reprising their roles. We already have confirmation that another Inhuman from the comics, the bioluminescent Kamran, will appear and be played by Rish Shah: the stage is set for more to follow.

So what do you think? How do you feel about Ms. Marvel, and how would you deal with the controversies around casting? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!

Nick Fury Heads To Disney+ – Are The Agents Of S.W.O.R.D. About To Assemble?

Nicholas Joseph Fury (better known to general audiences as Nick Fury, and to his friends and family simply as “Fury”) has long been the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s most enigmatic mastermind, the figurative man behind the curtain: subtly moving and manipulating the events of the MCU to better suit his own purposes while cloaking his motives in secrecy. It took us over ten years just to find out why he put together the Avengers Initiative in the first place, or how he lost his eye. But now, Marvel is about to spill some of Fury’s darkest secrets in a new Disney+ series, which will find the spotlight turned on Nick Fury for the first time – with Samuel L. Jackson reprising the now-iconic role, of course. Although the only other real information we have about the series is that Kyle Bradstreet is attached to write and executive produce, there’s actually a good deal of speculation already going on…in which I am about to shamelessly partake, because why not? We’ve been so hungry for Marvel content these past couple of months: allow me this opportunity to indulge myself. I encourage you to join me, because we’re about to have a lot of fun wildly theorizing, and I’m also going to gush about Daisy Johnson for the first time in forever (okay, so it’s been, like, a month, but whatever), so there’s that.

Nick Fury
ign.com

There are several big questions everybody seems to have about this series, but the most urgent one by far is: will this be a prequel, or a sequel set after the events of Avengers: Endgame? If it’s the former, my hype will have plummeted – I just can’t imagine getting excited about only having Samuel L. Jackson return so that he can act as a framing device while a younger actor assumes his role for extensive flashback sequences set prior to Captain Marvel. As we saw in that film, Nick Fury’s life wasn’t actually all that eventful until the superheroine crashed into his life and a nearby Blockbuster. But everything happening right now, all the stuff that’s going on behind the scenes in the MCU that Nick Fury is very much a part of?…that’s what has me intrigued, and has me hoping that this series is not entirely new but is, in fact, one of two or three series’ rumored to be in early stages of pre-production some time ago. I am, of course, talking about Secret Invasion, Agents Of S.W.O.R.D. (which might also be the same thing as Secret Invasion), and Secret Warriors.

Nick Fury
Talos | nerdist.com

For the sake of simplicity, I’m going to combine Secret Invasion and Agents Of S.W.O.R.D. into just one category. It was rumored that Disney+ was making a series which would follow the Agents of S.W.O.R.D. post-Endgame as they deal with a variety of intergalactic threats and generally try to prevent anything on the scale of worldwide decimation from ever happening again. Since we’ve already seen a tiny glimpse of the S.W.O.R.D. organization in the post-credits scene of Spider-Man: Far From Home, which clearly indicated that Nick Fury is overseeing the entire operation, it’s not a stretch to assume that a series about this team would necessarily involve Fury, probably in a starring role. My theory has always been that an eventual Agents Of S.W.O.R.D. series on Disney+ will start out with the team (comprised of humans and shape-shifting Skrull aliens) already formed and working overtime from their in-orbit space station, but will inevitably grow, over the course of one or maybe two seasons, into a full-scale, Secret Invasion storyline. For those unfamiliar with the notion, let’s break it down: basically, in the comics, the Skrull aliens are villains, and eventually attempt to overrun Earth by force, disguising themselves as well-known superheroes and wreaking havoc. In the MCU, this will have to happen for a very different reason, because the Skrulls have thus far been depicted as peaceful refugees trying to establish a new homeworld after their entire way of life was obliterated by the militaristic Kree aliens – but that reason has already presented itself. In Far From Home, it was revealed that the Kree already have sleeper agents on Earth – making it extremely likely that the Skrulls will want to eradicate them before they pose a problem. If this causes rifts between them and the humans on the S.W.O.R.D. team, we could see several Skrulls go rogue and use their abilities to sneak off the space-station and down to Earth – a secret invasion in more ways than one. I’ve talked at length about how certain characters could get roped into this, but the one we need to focus on today is Nick Fury, because of course, all of this will be happening under his watch. A Secret Invasion series would find the S.W.O.R.D. Director attempting to stop the invasion with the help of his team – which, in my opinion, would consist of established characters like the Skrull general Talos, American Air-Force pilot Maria Rambeau, Maria’s daughter Monica, the half-Skrull Hulkling, the infamous Flerken cat Goose…and “astro-ambassador” Daisy Johnson, who will finally make the jump from Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. to the MCU proper. Daisy’s space-faring partners, Kora and Daniel Sousa, are give-or-take: I don’t mind them sticking around, but Daisy is currently my top priority, and if we have to make sacrifices to ensure she shows up as an Agent of S.W.O.R.D., then I’m prepared to do so.

When Secret Invasion becomes a massive hit for the Disney+ streaming service thanks to Daisy Johnson’s as-yet hypothetical involvement, the spin-offs will start – and that’s where Secret Warriors comes in. We might as well just refer to this one as the Quake Spinoff, because that’s essentially what it has to be. Another rumored project, this series is said to revolve around a storyline in the comics where Nick Fury enlists Daisy Johnson and a small, elite team of superhumans to take care of the Skrulls that have made it to Earth. This, of course, is where I anticipate Daisy reuniting with S.H.I.E.L.D. teammates like Yo-Yo Rodriguez, but it’s also the other potential series that Nick Fury could lead. That being said, it’s far more likely to be an eventual spin-off of Secret Invasion, and Fury himself will probably have a smaller role. So don’t get your hopes up for Secret Warriors just yet.

Nick Fury
Quake | wallpaperflare.com

At the moment, I think what we’re seeing is the first step towards Secret Invasion. For those of us who love Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., it’s a first tentative step towards making that show officially canon to the MCU. For those of us who love Nick Fury and just appreciate seeing Black characters in leading roles, it’s about time that this fascinating super-spy moves to the forefront of the action, after more than a decade spent on the sidelines. For those of us who love both, it’s a win-win situation. And for the rest of you…well, I don’t know why you’ve read this far but I hope you’ve gotten something out of this.

So how do you feel about Nick Fury leading a series on Disney+, and which series do you think it will be? Do you think Daisy Johnson will show up in the MCU? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

“WandaVision” 1st Trailer Review!

The Marvel drought is officially over, with the release of the first full trailer for the studio’s first ever Disney+ streaming series, WandaVision. In a perfect alternate reality, The Falcon And The Winter Soldier would likely already be well into its first season or might even have already concluded – but as we can see from the WandaVision trailer, picture-perfect alternate realities aren’t always as perfect as they seem from the inside looking out.

WandaVision
slashfilm.com

The trailer includes everything I was most hoping to see (and was worried I might not) in just under a minute and a half. The classic sitcom elements are all there, from the constantly changing aspect ratio to the laugh track that we hear punctuating two separate scenes. The psychological horror elements are front and center, with cheerful music accompanying scenes of a quaint suburban utopia glitching: time rewinding, scenes repeating themselves in a loop – all we’re missing is some color bars to make it apparent that Wanda Maximoff and The Vision (whose names, conjoined, make up both the title of the series and a clever play on the word television) are in fact living in a classic sitcom-inspired alternate reality as many of us have guessed from the day the series was announced.

The last we saw of these two characters, Wanda was still in a fragile emotional state and recovering from the traumatic events of several previous Marvel films – and as for Vision, well, he had been killed…twice. Once by Wanda herself after it became clear that she was the only person strong enough to kill him and seemingly destroy the dangerous Mind Stone embedded in his head; once by the Mad Titan Thanos, mere moments after dying the first time, when Thanos used the Time Stone to reverse the consequences of Wanda’s tragic sacrifice, resurrecting Vision only to rip the reconstructed Mind Stone out of his head, killing him instantly and far more brutally.

But now, in the WandaVision trailer, we find them happily married and moving into a lovely little townhouse in the suburbs….back in the 1950’s or 60’s, as is made obvious by the fact that everything is black and white, “Twilight Time” is playing, and Wanda and Vision appear to be channeling Dick Van Dyke and his onscreen bride Mary Tyler Moore. As the two get comfortable, they try to bond with the neighbors (including the nosy Agnes: more on her in a moment), which leads to an uncomfortable dinner party with the newlyweds trying to vaguely explain where they came from, how long they’ve been married, and why they’re still childless. As the screen glitches and Wanda begins to panic, the truth becomes clear – with the help of her supernatural powers, Wanda Maximoff has somehow built an entire idyllic dreamscape for herself an a resurrected Vision. Unable to achieve her happy-ever-after in the real world, she’s decided to build one from scratch. It helps when your alter ego is The Scarlet Witch and you can just do this stuff.

WandaVision
collider.com

But nothing comes easily. Even though we see Wanda trying to keep her utopia intact, the entire place is clearly coming apart at the seams. Why exactly is still unclear: is this whole world somehow contained within Wanda’s mind, and the mental toll of trying to hold it together is inadvertently causing it to crumble to pieces around her? Or are the events of this show playing out in, as I suspect, a pocket dimension, one which is quickly closing or becoming unstable and potentially deadly? To me this latter option seems the most likely for a number of reasons: note, towards the end of the trailer, what looks to be a gated compound surrounded by armored vehicles, helicopters and teams of heavily armed agents (who, by the way, come from S.W.O.R.D., the sister organization of S.H.I.E.L.D.). Note how, when we see Monica Rambeau get thrown through mid-air in Wanda’s world, she pops out through a rift in the real world before into the earth at the same location where all the S.W.O.R.D. agents are stationed (notice also how she zooms straight by a town sign in the real world that seems like it might say Westview, just like the name of the town in Wanda’s world, according to Vision’s newspaper). I think there’s something beyond all those electric fences, something S.W.O.R.D. is guarding or observing, and I think it’s probably a portal to another dimension into which Wanda has entered and to which she has now lost herself – and I think Monica is the agent who’s been tasked with trying to get in and retrieve the Scarlet Witch before the effects of her tampering with the space-time continuum bleed out into the real world (I’ve speculated previously that this is why I think Darcy Lewis will also be appearing in WandaVision: she was a prominent figure in Thor: The Dark World because of how much she knew about portals opening between worlds and dimensions, and her expertise could be vital to S.W.O.R.D.). But, no matter how much Wanda may privately realize she’s living out a fantasy, she’ll still resist having to leave and she’ll probably become a destructive force of dark magic if anyone tries to separate her from Vision – or the two newest members of her family, her twin boys.

Yes, it looks like Wanda and Vision have been busy making up for lost time in this new life they share. Their twin sons, Wiccan and Speed, are both powerful and important heroes in the Marvel comics, and it’s great to see them onscreen at last, even if they are still babies. Thanks to Wanda’s reality-warping powers and the fact that she keeps changing the decade (we start out in the 50’s and progress through television history all the way to the 90’s or early 2000’s in the sitcom world), I expect both boys to be in their teens by the end of WandaVision, making them perfect candidates to join the ranks of the Young Avengers team being assembled across the MCU. I’ve speculated that we’ll see Wiccan, one of the most notable LGBTQ+ characters in Marvel history, come out as gay to his mother after meeting Hulkling, his eventual boyfriend, when the latter arrives as part of the same S.W.O.R.D. team sent to obtain Wanda.

WandaVision
Hulkling and Wiccan | comicsbeat.com

Whether Wanda will be so fortunate in her love life remains to be seen. We know she’s in Doctor Strange: The Multiverse Of Madness, so she clearly survives WandaVision, but she could be permanently scarred (mentally, emotionally, and perhaps physically) by whatever happens to her and Vision here – I definitely don’t see Vision making it out alive, meaning Wanda will likely once again be left heartbroken (especially if S.W.O.R.D. takes her children into their custody as well). Hiding won’t work: even in the confines of her perfect reality, the couple are still in danger thanks to their nosy neighbor Agnes, who is very likely the evil sorceress Agatha Harkness.

In the comics, Harkness is an agent of chaos who mentors/manipulates Wanda and gets the younger Witch embroiled in a couple of unsavory situations, including some very literal deals with the devil. Her iconic purple and fuchsia outfit is reflected in the character Agnes’ bright purple leg warmers and hot pink tights (circa 1980-something). and the witch hat she wears while sitting paralyzed in her car on Halloween, which is where Vision finds her and gently tries to wake her with his own superpowers. When she jumps, and hurriedly asks if she’s dead, it prompts Vision to ask her in his most innocent tone of voice why she would ever think that. “Because you are,” she responds bluntly, before bursting into maniacal laughter. I’ve got to imagine that being informed in the middle of the night by a teal-haired woman wearing a witch’s hat that you’re actually dead and your wife murdered you (oh, and also you’re definitely living in a simulation and your kids are probably fake) has to be an emotional gut punch of some kind.

Probably explains why Vision looks so glum in the next shot, where we see him trick-or-treating in the neighborhood while wearing his iconic outfit from the comics as a Halloween costume. It looks absolutely ridiculous, but it’s an Easter Egg, and I love it. Wanda also wears a version of her comics-accurate costume for the Halloween episode, which includes her signature crescent moon tiara, red cape and gloves. Here’s hoping she gets a more sophisticated version of the costume (or at least the tiara) to wear into battle when she’s inevitably forced to defend her family from intruders.

WandaVision
nerdist.com

I have a suspicion she’ll take down some S.W.O.R.D. agents before all is said and done, but they may not all be so easy to kill, even though she’s armed with dark magic. The way the trailer ends, with us getting our first good look at Monica Rambeau as she recovers from being thrown through the air, makes me think these two women will quickly become nemeses. It won’t be a one-sided fight, either: in the comics, Monica has some cosmic superpowers of her own, which are similar to Captain Marvel’s, and she goes under the alias Spectrum. If push comes to shove (and it will), I think Monica is more than capable of holding her own. It’s even possible that she’ll obtain her powers due to her close proximity to Wanda’s magical outbursts: since we know only Wanda, whose powers derived from the Mind Stone, was able to destroy the Mind Stone, it stands to reason that the only way to defeat Wanda is to use some of her own power against her.

Before we go, I have to make a bold prediction: based off this trailer and what we already know, I think that WandaVision is about to be the most wildly original and imaginative thing that Marvel has ever done, and I believe that it has the potential to usher in a new era in the studio’s history. Marvel’s tried and true formula is known to work, but many of us have been wanting the studio to branch out, try some new things and take some big risks: this trailer is all of that. The MCU is about to get a whole lot messier, as the complications of the Multiverse ensure that literally anything can happen from now on and creative freedom can go unchecked, and I’m here for it.

Trailer Rating: 10/10

Marvel Developing “Secret Invasion” For Disney+!

The Secret Invasion saga is a Marvel comics storyline that many fans have been asking to see depicted on the big screen since it was revealed that Captain Marvel would introduce the story’s chief antagonists, the Skrulls, into the Marvel Cinematic Universe alongside their nemeses, the Kree. But it seems that, while the repercussions of the storyline will probably be felt in the films, much or even the entirety of the Secret Invasion saga will occur exclusively on Disney+, in the form of a new series for the streaming service, according to a new rumor.

That means that the details of the story will have to be changed for the MCU adaptation, because the scale will likely be far smaller – but that doesn’t come as too much of a blow, because we already knew that the storyline would have to be changed a lot after Captain Marvel revealed that the Skrulls were actually a largely peaceful people of exiled refugees, rather than the diabolical shape-shifting troublemakers they are in the comics. We actually have yet to meet any evil Skrulls in the MCU, though for a Secret Invasion storyline to work, there will have to be some: the whole premise revolves around a group of Skrulls led by the conniving queen Veranke, infiltrating earth by disguising themselves as prominent government officials and superheroes. In the comics, this story sprawls across the entire Marvel universe: it’s still possible that could work in the MCU as well, but we now know that the main characters standing in the way of Veranke (or whoever leads the Invasion in this adaptation) will be the Agents of S.W.O.R.D.

Secret Invasion
vocal.media

S.W.O.R.D., also known as the Sentient World Observation and Response Department, made what was almost certainly its MCU debut last year in an incredible Spider-Man: Far From Home post-credits scene which showed former S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury leisurely strolling around the hallways of a massive space-station manned by benevolent Skrull and human workers, while simultaneously giving orders to Skrull operatives Talos and Soren, who were posing on earth as Fury and his assistant Maria Hill, respectively. Since then we’ve also been given evidence to suggest that S.W.O.R.D. will have a large presence in the WandaVision Disney+ series. Now, it looks like the agents of S.W.O.R.D. will be getting their own series, in which we may be able to explore the inner workings of their organization, and fully understand their various responsibilities as protectors of earth against cosmic and extraterrestrial threats.

Obviously, we already have an Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. series, and it’s quite good, so it does seem likely that at least part of the inspiration for this Secret Invasion story was borrowed from that MCU-adjacent TV program, which is set to premiere its seventh and final season this very month. In the MCU, S.H.I.E.L.D. ceased to exist several years ago, and the TV series, while popular with a small and devoted fandom (including myself), has drifted further and further away from MCU canon with each successive season. So, despite how unfair it is, there likely won’t be any reference made to the agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. or their many exploits across space and time (though if there is, I have a few ideas for how they could be implemented into a Secret Invasion storyline, which I’ll discuss).

Secret Invasion Agents of SHIELD
aminoapps.com

Barring a surprise cameo in Black Widow or The Falcon And The Winter Soldier, S.W.O.R.D.’s first official appearance is likely to come in WandaVision – which, on the surface, seems like a strange place to introduce a group of space-based characters whose mission involves fighting aliens. But the tie-in to Wanda Maximoff’s multiverse adventure probably comes through the character of Hulkling, a half-Skrull, half-human superhero and member of the Young Avengers, who is the boyfriend of Wanda’s son Wiccan and is already rumored to appear in the WandaVision series. While he may not yet be a full-fledged agent in the series, his status as a bridge between humans and Skrulls makes him a key player in the relationship between the two peoples and, occasionally, a pawn in their politics. Certain members of the WandaVision cast, most notably Monica Rambeau and Thor fan-favorite Darcy, are also presumably more closely linked to S.W.O.R.D. than to Wanda herself – as a child in Captain Marvel, Rambeau was shown to have developed a close connection with the Skrulls and her comics counterpart is a cosmically-powered superheroine, while Darcy is an intrepid scientist specializing in the study of astrological abnormalities, a niche talent that came in handy in Thor: The Dark World and could make her an invaluable member of the S.W.O.R.D. team.

So already we have at least three characters who could easily be introduced as S.W.O.R.D. members who find themselves caught in the middle of Wanda Maximoff’s inner turmoil – perhaps due to Hulkling’s relationship with Wiccan, perhaps for another reason: it’s even possible that Wanda’s attempts to scramble the multiverse might endanger the earth, leaving it vulnerable to alien hostiles, something which could easily make her a target for S.W.O.R.D., though if that’s the case it’s hard to imagine why someone else, with a better understanding of the threat, wouldn’t be sent to deal with her instead. Again, I’m thinking Darcy’s experience with the Convergence incident could prepare her for dealing with this event, which might similarly feature a powerful and dangerous character trying to open a portal between worlds – though in this case, it would be Wanda, and her motives would be more sympathetic than Malekith’s.

The Secret Invasion series will most likely follow soon after – “soon” being a relative term in this case, considering that nothing is going to be happening truly soon with coronavirus still posing a threat to any filming in the foreseeable future. It is said to lead into the events of Captain Marvel 2, and could potentially feature a crossover with a Young Avengers series on Disney+, again because of Hulkling, who is a prominent member of that superhero team. Let’s start wildly theorizing now, shall we?

Secret Invasion Abigail Brand
pinterest.com

My guess is that the Secret Invasion series will start out with the core S.W.O.R.D. team already firmly established, having been assembled by Nick Fury prior to the events of Spider-Man: Far From Home but only just now emerging as a force to be reckoned with in the MCU. Apart from Hulkling, Monica Rambeau and Darcy, the team will be headed by a group of powerful individuals including Nick Fury, Maria Hill, Talos and Soren, and Monica’s mother Maria Rambeau, who was last seen in Captain Marvel, where she was Carol Danvers’ best friend and helped the heroine protect the Skrulls from an entire Kree army. The team’s commander in the comics, mysterious green-haired Abigail Brand, will also serve in a key leadership position. In the comics, a number of notable cosmic characters also stop in for guest appearances – some we’ve already met in the MCU like Captain Marvel, Peter Quill and Gamora; some we haven’t, like Thor’s long-lost half-sister Angela, and the bizarre alien warrior Beta Ray Bill. If we’re lucky, certain S.H.I.E.L.D. members might also make the jump to space, like Daisy Johnson, Melinda May, or the FitzSimmons duo: there are already rumors that Johnson, an Inhuman, could make a cameo in the Ms. Marvel Disney+ series, which will star another Inhuman character – if that is the case, I wouldn’t rule out Johnson and even Ms. Marvel showing up as part-time S.W.O.R.D. allies.

The plot of the series will revolve around this team of characters working on the space station known as The Peak when the Skrull invasion occurs. The invasion itself will be led by Veranke, and could be motivated for a number of reasons: it’s possible Hulkling could have something to do with it, and that the fight breaks out over him, but he’s already getting a lot of attention, so I’d rather that Veranke be inspired to attack earth when she hears of the secret Kree sleeper agents already established on the planet – these agents were briefly mentioned by Talos in Far From Home, in a manner that felt very significant. This way, Veranke and her Skrulls are inherently fighting for a good cause, but they’re also positioned as enemies to S.W.O.R.D., who will of course want to defend earth and deal with the Kree in their own way. If Marvel really wants to rip off Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., they could even have Veranke be a S.W.O.R.D. member herself, who betrays the organization, though in this case she could do so because she feels like her and her peoples’ concerns are being ignored. She might also try to get Hulkling to join her on her mission, which could give his character a fascinating dilemma but doesn’t make him the chief focus of a Secret Invasion storyline.

Secret Invasion Veranke
comicbook.com

Of course, there would have to be some shape-shifting happening, or what would even be the point of a Secret Invasion? In the comics, Veranke herself takes the form of Spider-Woman, but Sony owns the rights to that character and is unlikely to want to stick her in a Disney+ series. Besides which, Veranke impersonating Spider-Woman only works if Spider-Woman is already an established and trusted character in the MCU, which she isn’t. And beyond that, the scope of this series will probably be far smaller than it would be if it were a film – meaning that whoever Veranke does impersonate will probably be someone like Nick Fury, or someone else in the core S.W.O.R.D. team, rather than a big-name Avenger.

In the comics, The Peak is destroyed during the Secret Invasion by a Skrull posing as “Dum Dum” Dugan, a character who has long been deceased in the MCU and thus will have to be replaced. Abigail Brand and a few other agents will, as in the comics, escape the annihilation of their headquarters with the help of emergency space-suits (though, as this event will likely happen at the end of the series, this could be a fitting place to kill off certain characters, even fan-favorites like Talos, who presumably wouldn’t have a large place in the MCU after a Secret Invasion storyline anyway). They will be saved by Monica Rambeau – who basically has to have gained her own superpowers and adopted the Photon mantle by that point, right? – and Captain Marvel, who could show up as a finale guest star. Having Captain Marvel there also sets up the events of her sequel film, in which she may have to team up with the remaining S.W.O.R.D. agents to take down both Veranke and the Kree’s Supreme Intelligence, which is still a considerable threat to the security of the galaxy.

After this story is concluded, I imagine we’ll continue to see the S.W.O.R.D. team in the MCU: Rambeau, thanks to her similar set of powers, can easily become Carol Danvers’ sidekick, and Hulkling will join the Young Avengers as a full-time member. It’s also worth noting at this point that the finale of this series has the potential to introduce – or at least tease – both the X-Men and the Fantastic Four. Mutants such as Lockheed the dragon and Hank McCoy both serve under Abigail Brand as agents of S.W.O.R.D., and Brand runs into Mister Fantastic while he’s being held prisoner on a Skrull starship after the destruction of The Peak. If either of these things happens in the series, even near the end, it has the potential to be the next big MCU crossover event.

Secret Invasion Skrulls
hollywoodreporter.com

So that’s what I think of a Secret Invasion/Agents Of S.W.O.R.D. series, and how it could work. These are all just my personal theories and educated guesses: nothing based in substantial fact. This whole story is also only a rumor at this point – nothing has even been confirmed by Disney, so it’s possible I’m moving too quickly. Nonetheless, I’m very interested to hear what you have to say on the matter, so be sure to share your thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!