More than a year after Emilia Clarke declared she was going to take a break from big franchise roles following the, shall we say, highly controversial (read: absolutely disastrous) ending of Game Of Thrones, she’s back – and her triumphant return to franchise roles is going to be a big one, befitting the woman who brought Daenerys Stormborn of the House Targaryen, First of Her Name, the Unburnt, Queen of the Andals and the First Men, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Breaker of Chains, and Mother of Dragons, to life; and scored four Emmy nominations in the process. Clarke is in final talks to join Marvel’s upcoming Disney+ series, Secret Invasion, one of the studio’s most hotly-anticipated crossover events.
Funnily enough, Marvel is the one studio Emilia Clarke said she’d consider breaking her no-franchise rule for if they approached her – saying that “I want to do something stupid and silly, like, you know, the Avengers or whatever. Something where I got to have a giggle with mates.” I’m sure it won’t be long before a certain faction of perpetually embittered MCU stans freak out at her over that quote, but Clarke wants to have fun with a Marvel role, and I can’t blame her. The popularity of Kathryn Hahn’s Agatha Harkness proves that silly, campy, supervillains are back in style, at least.
Right now, we don’t know anything about Emilia Clarke’s role in Secret Invasion, but I hope she gets a chance to have that “giggle with mates”, because she deserves it. As soon as I heard about her casting (a bit belatedly, thanks to a poorly-timed dentist appointment), my mind jumped straight to the character of Abigail Brand, who seems like an obvious candidate for a leading role in Secret Invasion that would still give someone of Clarke’s stature a chance to do some real acting. She won’t be commanding fleets of dragons or battling hordes of the undead, but Abigail Brand is a character I’m very excited to see in live-action.
First of all, she’s a extraterrestrial mutant with tattoos on her biceps and choppy green hair to go with her bright green goggles and uniform, whose half-brother is a furry alien – so Clarke has an opportunity to do something silly with the role, if that’s still what she wants. Secondly, Brand’s mutant power is classified as “tactile pyrokinesis”, allowing her hands to turn into burning-hot energy-balls – which is both silly and potentially very cool. I mean, Emilia Clarke with arm-tats and green hair is already going to be intrinsically cool, but add the ability to throw around multicolored fireballs, and my hype-levels just keep increasing. Thirdly, Brand is the commander of S.W.O.R.D., and that’s where things get a bit more complicated.
In the MCU, we’ve only seen the earth-based division of S.W.O.R.D., and the organization’s mission was depicted as being completely different from the comics (observing “sentient weapons” rather than “sentient worlds”). It was revealed that S.W.O.R.D. has a space division in the MCU, but that it was scrapped in the five years following the Blip due to a personnel shortage. And while S.W.O.R.D.’s antagonistic director Tyler Hayward was the one who gave the order to halt manned missions to space, he was arrested at the end of WandaVision, so his seat is now vacant…and it won’t be filled by Monica Rambeau, who’s on her way to space to join Nick Fury. WandaVision indirectly allowed for Abigail Brand to make her MCU debut as Hayward’s successor.
That arc could potentially give Emilia Clarke an opportunity to do some real dramatic acting as well as silly stuff like shoot fireballs out of her hands (something her Secret Invasion costar, Oscar-winner Olivia Colman, said she wanted to do way back in 2016). In the comics, Brand plays a crucial part in the Secret Invasion storyline, which involves villainous shapeshifting Skrulls infiltrating Earth while disguised as prominent superheroes. As one of Nick Fury’s top agents at S.W.O.R.D., Brand is trapped on the organization’s interstellar headquarters when a Skrull terrorist blows it to bits, forcing Brand and other S.W.O.R.D. to don life-support systems and try to survive the vacuum of space (she does, but it would make for some very harrowing television).
Later, Brand joins Alpha Flight, the organization that essentially replaces S.W.O.R.D. in the comics, where she has a hostile relationship with the team’s leader, Carol Danvers. If Danvers does have a cameo in Secret Invasion, as I’ve long believed she may, the seeds of this dynamic could be planted (unless Clarke’s role is a one-and-done type of thing, but I sincerely hope that’s not the case). But Brand isn’t really friendly with anyone – she’s frequently antagonistic to Nick Fury, and his second-in-command, Maria Hill. And now I need to see Emilia Clarke getting her sass game on in heated arguments with Samuel L. Jackson. There’s too many reasons to love this casting.
Of course, it’s possible Clarke won’t be playing Brand – some fans think she’ll portray Spider-Woman, though there’s the underlying question of whether Sony would agree to allow the character to debut in a Disney+ series. A lot of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. fans seem resigned to the fact that Daisy Johnson will appear in Secret Invasion with a new actress (to which I say: don’t give up hope!), but even if Marvel does recast Chloe Bennet, the optics of rewriting the studio’s first Asian-American heroine as a white woman would be downright awful, and I don’t see them doing that. But my money’s on Brand, and it’s the option for which I’d be most excited.
That being said, I’m happy for Emilia Clarke no matter who she’s playing. She’s been through a lot, and I hope working with Marvel, alongside talent like Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn, Kingsley Ben-Adir, and Olivia Coleman, gives her all the giggles she wants from her superhero debut.
But what do you think? Which character do you want Emilia Clarke to play? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Trying to devise ways for characters to spew exposition and backstory organically is always a stumbling block for writers (I speak from personal experience), particularly when that exposition has to introduce complicated concepts like Chaos Magic and “probability hexes”. Which is why it’s so awesome that WandaVision sidesteps this issue by simply devoting all but a few minutes of episode eight (the series’ penultimate installment) to a series of exceptionally well-written and well-acted flashback sequences that allow us to see everything in real-time without being wordy or dull. What commentary there is, is dry, witty, and delivered with characteristic dark humor by onlooker Agatha Harkness (Kathryn Hahn), who describes it as looking “at some real reruns”, an ingenious way of tying everything back to the sitcoms that started it all (quite literally, as we soon find out).
Even before those real reruns get started, though, we’re treated to some more flashbacks of Agatha’s own tragic past. Last week’s “Agatha All Along” musical recap sequence was the campy cultural reset we all needed, and even though episode eight doesn’t provide us with any more tunes to get us through the weekend, we have instead been blessed with Kathryn Hahn hamming it up for an over-the-top ridiculous Salem Witch Trial flashback that reveals how Westview’s resident sorceress (well, one of many) got her start, by stealing forbidden knowledge of dark magic from her coven – and then transforming them into withered corpses, including her own mother (whose pendant she now wears as a creepy reminder). I don’t mind me some Agatha wearing colonial attire – the energy of that outfit is not heterosexual, that’s all I have to say – but I do find it interesting that WandaVision is radically altering the witch’s backstory to remove Mephisto from the equation. Suddenly I have to wonder: will the devilish Hell Lord even appear, or did Marvel play us?
There are still possible nods to Satan early on in the episode, and Agatha’s rabbit in particular is beginning to look suspicious, but for the most part the focus is on dark magic, and its many varieties. The MCU has notoriously been reluctant to ever admit that magic is actually magic: from trying to claim that gods are actually technologically-advanced aliens in Thor, to never calling Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) by her comics alias Scarlet Witch (we’ll get to that), the franchise has historically been more comfortable in the realm of quantum physics and nonsensical science lingo that might as well be magic, rather than the real deal. But that changed today, with Agatha giving Wanda – and WandaVision audiences – a schooling on the subjects of magic, mind control, transmutation, chanting mysteriously in Latin, and opening portals through space and time (yes, I know the latter is something Marvel heroes do on the regular: but rarely does the process require a single hair extracted from the unwilling victim).
Agatha’s basement, filled with macabre trinkets and guarded from Wanda by seals of protection on the walls, is only the threshold of a harrowing spirit journey for Wanda, who is about as clueless to the inner workings of magic as we are, and for Agatha, who’s intent on discovering how the young sorceress accumulated so much power. All along, that’s seemingly been Agatha’s goal: not to summon Mephisto up from hell, or resurrect the dead, but to learn the secret behind Westview’s spontaneous creation, something she had no part in…and honestly, same. Isn’t that what we’ve all been trying to figure out for the past few weeks? Okay, okay, so the vast majority of us probably didn’t steal people from the Multiverse to act as spies in Westview, but the point still stands: Agatha is just a misunderstood Marvel fan-theorist whose been driven to the brink of insanity by WandaVision‘s twists and turns.
But with Wanda unable to give Agatha the information she craves, the cunning sorceress decides to do some digging into Wanda’s past to get to the root of it all – that feeling of emptiness that Wanda claimed was the only thing she could remember about the beginning of her time in Westview. Together, the delightfully dynamic duo set off through one portal after another, reliving Wanda’s trauma in real-time as Agatha inches closer to an answer. They start in Sokovia, when Wanda and her twin-brother Pietro are still children, learning English with the help of classic American sitcoms like I Love Lucy, Bewitched, and Wanda’s personal favorite, The Dick Van Dyke Show. Perhaps even more so than the sitcom-inspired WandaVision episodes, this brief yet touching scene beautifully captures the magic of being immersed in old sitcoms – and subtly explains why Wanda in particular finds them so enchanting: they’re low-stakes. Every ridiculous predicament, every fantastical shenanigan, every little problem gets sorted out in under thirty minutes with no lasting consequences.
But this is Wanda we’re talking about, so she never gets to enjoy such mundane mischief. Moments later, the screen goes black as an explosion rocks the Maximoff family household, killing Wanda’s parents and stranding the twins under a bed while a Stark Industries missile sits a few feet away, beeping ominously, and Dick Van Dyke keeps playing in the background (somehow the TV survived). We learn that it was Wanda who kept the second bomb from exploding, using a probability hex to protect her and her brother for two days. Agatha’s suspicions piqued, they quickly move on to HYDRA’s laboratory in Sokovia. The trailers had previously revealed a snippet of this sequence, which sees Wanda being goaded by HYDRA doctors to touch the Mind Stone: but the resulting collision of powers is a spectacular lightshow, amidst which Wanda glimpses a stunning premonition (the most breathtaking visual in the episode) of herself in silhouette rising from the Mind Stone’s shards, wearing her half-moon tiara and a version of her comics costume, all accompanied by her soaring instrumental theme.
The HYDRA doctors are baffled by Wanda’s strength, but Agatha comments that the Stone only amplified her existing powers. And while that might seem to point towards a mutant origin reveal…that’s not where this is going. The next flashback doesn’t expose anything huge, and Agatha seems disappointed in it, but it’s a brilliant showcase of Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany’s talents, as the couple share a tender emotional moment in Avengers Compound soon after Wanda’s arrival in the States, and illuminates the thematic heart of the series – the intersection between inconsolable grief and unquenchable love. You get an Emmy, and you get an Emmy, and you get an Emmy too, Kathryn Hahn.
Finally, we get to witness events from just a few weeks prior to WandaVision‘s start, and an unedited account of Wanda’s arrival at S.W.O.R.D. headquarters looking for the Vision’s body. Tyler Hayward (Josh Stamberg) framed Wanda’s actions there as those of a delusional and dangerous woman overcome by grief – but like any misogynist trying to portray a powerful woman as a villain, he left out vital context where it benefitted him: like the bit where Wanda actually just wanted Vision’s body to get a proper burial; or the bit where Hayward invited her in and showed her that S.W.O.R.D. had secretly been operating on the android for years, before trying to emotionally manipulate her into violently seizing the body; or, most damningly, the bit where she considered doing just that and then decided against it, exposing Hayward as a liar. I had always wondered how, even with all the magic available to her, Wanda would have lugged Vision’s splintered corpse hundreds of miles from S.W.O.R.D. HQ to New Jersey…but she never did. She got back in her car (Wanda owning a car is somehow weirder to me than her dragging body parts across America), and drove off to Westview alone save for a single piece of paper: a blueprint for a house that she and Vision had planned to build there together, where they could settle down, start a family, and grow old. I didn’t know WandaVision could retroactively make me hate Thanos even more, but I’ve never been so eager to rewatch Endgame just to enjoy the look of horror on his face as he got snapped out of existence.
If you’ve been following along with my reviews, you know I’ve been dubious that Wanda created The Hex. Well, I was completely wrong. Not only did she create it, but we get to witness the moment her reality-altering powers finally exploded outwards over Westview, redesigning the rundown hamlet into a quaint fantasy world, as grief and pain brought her to her knees. No Satanic influences, no Nightmarish manipulation; but one woman standing in the eye of the hurricane, ripped apart from the inside by a love so powerful it could change the very fabric of the universe.
When Darcy wondered aloud why Vision (Paul Bettany) can’t leave The Hex, I thought it was because his body was dead in the real world – but I was operating under the assumption that there was only one Vision, that Wanda really had stolen and reanimated his body. She never did. She made her own, from memory, using her own power to give him life. Which is…still not great from a moral standpoint, but certainly a step up from having kids with a mutilated corpse.
Speaking of kids, Wanda remembers hers are in grave danger as Agatha finally lets her go, and the two confront each other on the soundstage for WandaVision episode one (like, they’re actually on the literal set – and the camera turns to pick out Agatha in the empty auditorium, mockingly clapping in an echo of the live studio audience applause heard in the pilot). Agatha has what she needs: she vanishes, and suddenly Wanda hears her children screaming for help. She breaks another fourth wall and runs from the stage, from Agatha’s basement, out into Westview.
And Agatha is levitating there, Cher-style hair blowing dramatically in the breeze, gripping Billy and Tommy Maximoff by two leashes of purple energy. It’s a bizarre visual, but it’s hard to focus or care (sorry, kids) as Agatha begins talking, and delivers the episode’s big zinger:
“You’re supposed to be a myth. A being capable of spontaneous creation…this whole little life you’ve made, this is Chaos Magic, Wanda. And that makes you the Scarlet Witch.”
It’s a crowd-pleaser moment, for sure: we’ve waited years to hear the Scarlet Witch title used of Wanda in the MCU, and Marvel’s aversion to the supernatural delayed it far longer than necessary. But from Agatha’s words, it seems like the Scarlet Witch is much more than a nickname – it’s an identity, and the implication is that other Scarlet Witches have existed in the past, similarly gifted with the power to wield Chaos Magic (the most powerful magic in Marvel Comics, capable of rewriting reality and destroying the universe). Is she some kind of goddess? A force of nature? A metaphysical construct? My best guess is that WandaVision is adapting the concept of Nexus Beings, living creatures whose mere presence balances the universe – much like the Infinity Stones. These beings, deified archetypes with immense power, have no alternate versions anywhere in the Multiverse: and what do you know, Wanda is one in the comics.
The mid-credits stinger revisits Tyler Hayward, whose planning his attack on Westview and has brought in new equipment to help – or rather, old repurposed equipment. Before the reveal happened, I knew it had to be Vision (as in, the real one that Wanda didn’t steal). But I didn’t expect the White Vision to finally make his MCU debut like this. A hollow emotionless vessel outfitted for war, the existence of the White Vision actually gives me hope that Vision (as in, the fake one that Wanda created) will be able to inhabit this new character’s alabaster body after his old one disintegrates, as it inevitably will when The Hex comes crashing down next week.
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!
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).
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.
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.