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WandaVision, Ep. 5: On a Very Special Episode…

Note:  Welcome back, unwary traveler, to our episode-by-episode exploration of WandaVisionAs always, there are spoilers ahead; this article assumes you’ve seen up through the fifth episode.

A whole lot going on in episode 5, the longest episode thus far at 42 minutes:  family ties, growing pains, leggings, mom jeans — oh, those mom jeans! — and a couple unforgettably vulgar displays of power.  Let’s get after it.

The cold open features Wanda and the Vision, now in a sanitized 80’s sitcom, trying to get their new twins, Tommy and Billy, to sleep.  Wanda suggests to the Vision that maybe they need some help with the boys, and right on cue, Agnes arrives, to audience applause and a tinkling theme.  In tried and true sitcom tradition, like every sitcom neighbor ever, she gives the doorbell a cursory ring and then just breezes on in, and it’s a good thing no one’s ever naked or chasing the dragon or otherwise doing something they might want to keep on the DL.

Anyway.

“I was just on my way to Jazzercise,” says Agnes — because were else would she have been going in the 80’s? — “when I heard your new little bundles of joy were on a sleep strike!”

Wanda Maximoff (Eilzabeth Olsen) and the Vision (Paul Bettany)

An awkward moment follows when the Vision nervously objects to Agnes handling the children, and an uncertain Agnes asks Wanda if she wants to take the scene again from the top.  Wanda convinces the Vision to let Agnes care for the boys, and shortly after that, we see the twins, in yet another nod to television tradition, age from infants to young children.

“Kids,” says Agnes.  “You can’t control them.  No matter how hard you try.”

An opening credits sequence follows, a weird (and clever and funny) blend of Family Ties (1982 – 1989) and Growing Pains (1985 – 1992) that perfectly captures the treacly 80’s in all that decade’s awful, performative emptiness.  You may as well know, gentle reader, that the 10 or 20 seconds of Family Ties and Growing Pains I watched on YouTube just now, researching this post, comprises the entirety of the time I’ve spent watching either of these shows in this lifetime, and it’s 10 or 20 seconds I’m never, ever going to get back.

Back in the real world, Monica Rambeau is undergoing some post-eviction questioning and testing.

“What’s the first thing you do remember?” says Tyler Hayward, S.W.O.R.D. director.

“Pain,” says Monica, “and then…Wanda’s voice in my head.”

“Did you try to resist?”

“There was this feeling keeping me down.  This hopeless feeling.  Like drowning.  It was grief.”

Monica reunites with Jimmy Woo, and meets Darcy Lewis for the first time.  A response team briefing follows, with a recap of Wanda’s MCU origins, noting her telekinetic and telepathic abilities after unspecified experimentation with the Mind Stone.

“Back up, Jimmy,” says Hayward.  “Does Maximoff have an alias?”

“No, sir.”

“No funny nickname?”

“Not a one.”

Nice.

Hayward is quick to label Wanda as the principal victimizer of Westview, and a terrorist, a term Monica rejects:  “I don’t believe she has a political agenda, or any inclination toward destruction.”  Monica also says she doesn’t believe Wanda’s actions are a premeditated act of aggression.

To counter that, Hayward shares video from nine days ago of Wanda simply marching into the top-secret S.W.O.R.D. location where the Vision’s body was being stored and stealing it.  According to Hayward, she then brought the Vision’s body to Westview and resurrected him.  How she might have done this without the Mind Stone, the item that previously animated the Vision, is a mystery to Jimmy and Darcy.

Back in the sitcom, Tommy and Billy have found a small terrier they want to adopt, and Wanda has found the ultimate mom jeans outfit.  As before, Agnes appears on cue, with the Vision noting she’s carrying “exactly the item we require,” a doghouse.  The boys first think to name the dog Sniffy, but after the dog nearly electrocutes himself by way of a wall socket, Agnes suggests Sparky.  Wanda makes it official, conjuring the dog a collar and name tag in an open display of her powers, much to the Vision’s dismay.

“Wanda…!  Agnes was right there!”

“Well, she didn’t notice.  She didn’t even notice when the boys went from babies to five-year olds!”

“That’s not what we agreed upon.  You made no effort to conceal your abilities.”

“Well, I’m tired of hiding, Vizh.  And maybe you don’t have to either.”

“Wanda, we are usually so much of the same mind, but right now…what aren’t you telling me?”

The boys interrupt, asking if they can keep the dog.  Their parents tell them they’re not old enough, and in response, the boys age themselves up yet again, this time to around ten years old.

Meanwhile, at the response base, Monica and Darcy are trying to find a way for Monica to safely re-inter the anomaly zone.  Jimmy speculates on the identity of Wanda’s twins.  Monica assures him that the twins are indeed Wanda’s; that things on the TV show may look fake, but everything in the zone is real.  Darcy says that if everything they’re seeing on the show is solid matter being manipulated by Wanda, that’d be an insane amount of power.  Jimmy notes it would be far in excess of anything Wanda has displayed in the past.

Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris), Jimmy Woo (Randall Park), and Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings)

The trio visits the lab on a hunch by Monica, and discover that Monica’s 70’s pant-suit from episode 3 is largely made of the S.W.O.R.D. uniform Monica was wearing when she went in the zone.  “It’s not an illusion,” says Monica.  “Wanda is rewriting reality.”  Your humble Opposite of Cool guide does not want to say he told you so, gentle reader, but, well…he told you so.

Monica considers the imaging drone that was changed to a toy helicopter.  Why change it?  Jimmy thinks production design.  Monica wonders what if something was sent into zone that was compatible with the sitcom’s era.  If you sent an 80’s item into an the 80’s sitcom currently broadcasting, would there be any need for Wanda’s powers to change it?

Back in the sitcom, the Vision has installed some office computers at work and hooked them up to the early internet.  The email the office gets is a top-secret S.W.O.R.D. communique regarding Darcy Lewis’s findings of radiation at the Westview perimeter.  The Vision’s colleague Norm asks what the Vision is going to write back.  “It’s a joke,” says Norm.  “Can’t you tell?  None of it is real.”

The Vision uses his powers to somehow reach into Norm’s head and free him from Wanda’s influence.  Norm — whose real name, you’ll recall, is Abilash — begs the Vision to make Wanda stop what she’s doing.  He grows increasingly loud and desperate, until the Vision is forced to reverse his liberating effect.

Back home, Wanda and the boys are playing with Sparky.  The boys have taught the dog to sit, speak, and spin on command, and want to show their father.  Wanda tells them he’s at work.

“But it’s Saturday,” says Billy.

“No, it’s not,” says Wanda.  “It’s Monday.”

“This morning was Saturday,” says Tommy.

“There was an emergency at the office and your father had to go in,” says Wanda.  “End of story.”  The boys are unconvinced by this explanation, and Wanda tells them their father just needed a distraction.

“From what?  From us?” say the boys.

“No!  No way!  No!  Sometimes your dad and I aren’t on the same page, but that’s just temporary.  Like the two of you, you might fight over toys, but he’s always going to be your brother, and he’s always going to be yours.  Because family is forever.”

“Do you have a brother, mom?”

Wanda, doubtful:  “I do.  He’s far away from here, and that makes me sad sometimes.”

Sparky jumps up and starts barking at a disturbance at the door.  “Something’s scaring him!” says Billy.  Wanda gets up to investigate, telling the boys to stay where they are (they don’t).  What the dog is reacting to is the 80’s-era drone S.W.O.R.D. has managed to insert into the zone.  The signal from the drone is weak, but is sending back live images.  Jimmy and Darcy note that Wanda doesn’t allow footage of the drone into the sitcom broadcast:  “Wanda decides what makes it on to her show and what doesn’t.”

Monica attempts to communicate with Wanda through the drone, but Wanda doesn’t respond, save for her eyes beginning to glow red (never a good sign).  Hayward tells a subordinate to take the shot.  Monica objects, saying the drone isn’t armed.  “Take the shot!” repeats Hayward.  The visual display from the drone cuts off…

…and the breach alarm starts ringing.

“What did you do?” says Monica.

Hayward, Monica, soldiers and vehicles all rush to the site of the breach…and stepping out of the field, in all her terrible glory, is Wanda Maximoff, the Scarlet Witch, dragging the disabled drone behind her.  She walks right up to the cluster of armed soldiers and flings the drone at Hayward’s feet.  “Is this yours?”  She’s immediately lit up by dozens of points of laser light, rifles aimed at her.

“The missile was just a precaution,” says Hayward.  “You can hardly blame us, Wanda.”

“Oh, I think I can.  This will be your only warning.  Stay out of my home.  You don’t bother me, I won’t bother you.”

“I wish it could be that simple.  You’ve taken an entire town hostage.”

“Well, I’m not the one with the guns, Director.”

“But you are the one in control,” says Monica.

“You’re still here,” says Wanda, in a tone that suggests Monica should have elected to be otherwise.  She charges up her red energy, holding it.

“Wanda, I didn’t know the drones were armed.  But you know that, don’t you?  A town full of civilians, and you, a telepath, brought a S.W.O.R.D. agent into your home.  You trusted me to help deliver your babies.  On some level, Wanda, you know I am an ally.  I want to help you.”

“How?  What could you possibly have to offer me?”

“What do you want?”

“I have what I want.  And no one,” looking at Director Hayward, “will ever take it from me again.”

And with that, Wanda Maximoff releases the energy she was holding.  It spreads among the soldiers, affecting their minds, and all of them turn from aiming at Wanda to aiming at Director Hayward, who’s understandably more than a little alarmed at this turn of events.  Wanda doesn’t even look back to see the effect; she walks back the way she came into Westview, leaving shock and awe in her wake, Monica calling after her.

Another commercial follows, this time for Lagos brand paper towel.  Lagos, you may recall, was the site of an Avengers operation in Captain America:  Civil War (2016) that ended with Wanda diverting an explosion that wound up killing several Wakandan humanitarian workers, which in turn led to the Sokovian Accords, international regulations governing the operation of super-humans.

Back in the sitcom, Wanda and the boys discover Sparky has passed away after eating azalea leaves in Agnes’s yard.  The boys first think to age themselves up again in their grief, but Wanda tells them not to, to resist running from their feelings.  The boys urge their mother to bring the dog back from the dead (“You can do that?” says a stunned Agnes).  Wanda demurs.  There are rules in life.  “We can’t rush aging because it’s inconvenient.  And we can’t reverse death no matter how sad it makes us.  Some things are forever.”

Later that night, Wanda and the Vision argue bitterly about Wanda’s oversight of the town and its citizens, and perhaps over the Vision himself.

“You can’t control me the way you control them,” says the Vision.

“Can’t I?”

The credits for the sitcom begin to roll, but the Vision persists.  “What is outside of Westview?”

“You don’t want to know, I promise you.”

“You don’t get to make that choice for me, Wanda!”

“You’ve never talked to me like this before.”

“Before what?  Before what?  I can’t remember my life before Westview!  I don’t know who I am!  I’m scared!”

Wanda reminds him that the Vision is her husband, the father of Tommy and Billy.  Isn’t that enough?

The Vision asks why there aren’t any other children in Westview.  Wanda asks the Vision if he really believes she’s controlling everyone in Westview, walking their dogs, mowing their lawns, getting them to their dentist appointments on time.  “I don’t know how any of this started in the first place,” says Wanda.

The Vision tells her what she’s doing here is wrong…and then the doorbell rings.  “I didn’t do that,” says Wanda.

Wanda answers the door…

…the breach alarm sounds outside in the S.W.O.R.D. response base….

…and it’s Pietro, Wanda’s brother…but not the Pietro we saw killed in Avengers:  Age of Ultron (2015).

“She recast Pietro?” asks an incredulous Darcy.

Aaaaaaaand…scene!

____

All synthezoid, all the time:

  • Agatha Agnes mentions being sprayed with lavender by her husband Ralph every night, which is supposed to have a calming effect, but that “there’s no taming this tiger!”  Later scenes with Agnes in the kitchen feature a small tiger figurine on the kitchen table.
  • I’m waiting to see where this show takes them before spilling the full details on their comic book counterparts, but I’ll say for now it’s not an accident that, starting with their five-year old versions, Billy is always the one in red, and Tommy the one in blue and green.
  • Interesting that Monica’s labs are blank.  I’m not sure what, if anything, that signifies.
  • Director Hayward says the Vision’s body was being stored at a top-secret S.W.O.R.D. facility, but to my eyes, it looked like the body wasn’t being ‘stored’ so much as it was being ‘actively studied and / or worked on.’
  • On a related note, S.W.O.R.D. certainly seems to have taken an AIM-ish turn in Monica’s five-year absence.  AIM, you’ll recall, is the techno-terrorist mad scientist wing of Hydra.  If it looks like AIM, acts like AIM, and smells like AIM…it’s probably AIM.  It’s not much of a stretch for me to imagine Director Hayward ‘Hail Hydra-ing’ his way across the dance floor at the MCU’s version of Mar-a-Lago, trying to convince the likes of Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy that science works and can totally be used for evil.
  • Vision #6, Jun 2016 – Tom King and Gabriel Hernandez Walta

    Though very different in form, function, and origin from how he appears here, a version of Sparky the terrier first appeared in Tom King and Gabriel Hernandez Walta’s Vision #6, Jun 2016.  No one asked, but King and Walta’s 12-issue series is hands-down one of the best things Marvel has published in the last decade.  Much to my sorrow, Mr. King has since gone on to write exclusively (and successfully!) for DC, taking home an Eisner Award — the comic book equivalent of an Oscar — for Best Writer in 2018.  Good stuff.

  • I feel like I should know the aerospace engineer Monica references, gentle reader, but I’d be lying if I claimed I knew who she was talking about.
  • Not sure either what Monica’s somewhat negative reaction to mention of Captain Marvel is all about.  It raises Jimmy and Darcy’s eyebrows, so I’m not the only one who noticed it.
  • Darcy calls the area effect Wanda controls ‘the Hex’; in the comics, that’s how Wanda refers to her own powers, as hex powers or hex effects.
  • I like how once Wanda’s not preoccupied by the twins, she can sense the presence of the S.W.O.R.D. drone in her space before she sees it.
  • Is Dennis the mailman the same fellow what’s running around in all these commercials?!
  • Pietro Maximoff in Avengers:  Age of Ultron was played by Aaron Johnson.  The Pietro Maximoff at the door at the end of this episode is played by Evan Peters, who also played the character in a trio of X-Men movies produced by Fox.  Same character, ostensibly different cinematic universes.  Very curious!

One last note here before we sign off.  One of my favorite moments in the entire MCU happens in Captain America:  The Winter Soldier (2014).  It’s a quiet bit of business, not an action scene at all.  Sam Wilson explains to Steve Rogers and Natasha Romanoff that the last of the EXO-7 Falcon suits he uses is located at Fort Meade, behind three guarded gates and a 12-inch steel wall.  Steve looks at Natasha, who just shrugs.  “It shouldn’t be a problem,” says Steve, and it’s not, because there’s nothing going on at Fort Meade that can, or was ever meant to, keep out two A-list super-heroes like Captain America and the Black Widow.  The film doesn’t even bother to show us the retrieval.  Next thing we know, Sam has the suit, and that’s that.

We’ve discussed in earlier posts the MCU’s general reluctance to embrace the mythological aspects of its characters and concepts.  With rare exceptions, the movies have proven much more comfortable with street-level elements that can be somewhat plausibly explained.  Judging by their treatment of Thor in particular, the magical and the mythical seem almost embarrassing to the MCU’s showrunners.  For once, that’s not the case here.  Wanda’s confrontation with Director Hayward and the forces of S.W.O.R.D. grants her the full, terrifying scope of her awesome powers.  Elizabeth Olsen is wonderful here, all anger and sadness, dominance and despair.  The show allows her to  put the super in super-hero, and the message couldn’t be more clear:

Don’t fuck with the Scarlet Witch.

As always, if you have any questions or comments, if you see anything I missed, go ahead and lay it on me!

See you next episode.

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