NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “WandaVision” are present in this review

 

 

We’ve almost reached the end of WandaVision, particularly with the reveal that Kathryn Hahn’s Agnes/Agatha Harkness was seemingly the mastermind behind all of this miniseries’ twisted events. Even then however, the mysteries behind WandaVision still carry a few questions, such as how and why Agatha targeted Wanda, how the Westview Anomaly was ultimately created, how Director Hayward and S.W.O.R.D. fit into this incident, and most of all, how this show is meant to serve as a multi-episode prologue to one of next year’s Marvel movies, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Before those final mysteries are ultimately solved, there’s plenty to recap over the course of WandaVision’s eccentric events as well. On that note, this week’s episode, “Previously On”, feels specifically designed to make sure that the uninitiated are all caught up on what’s important, before next week’s series finale concludes the show.

This will definitely be good news to anyone that feels a little lost in Wanda’s increasingly complicated MCU storyline, and especially those who may not have seen, or possibly don’t readily recall, the events of key MCU movies like Avengers: Age of Ultron, Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War (though they’re all on Disney+ alongside WandaVision, so nothing’s stopping you from watching them and getting a full refresher, if you already have a Disney+ subscription to watch this show!). For the Marvel faithful that can more easily keep track of MCU canon however, “Previously On” does feel like a bit of a necessary, but still annoying speed bump for WandaVision. It’s full of information that MCU enthusiasts already know, even though it also supplies a useful explanation for how Agatha came to be, and how she ultimately came to target Wanda.

Part of the problem is in trying to recap everything that’s important before WandaVision’s last episode next week, this episode completely ditches almost everything that’s creatively distinct about the show. Instead, Wanda and Agatha just take a guided tour through Wanda’s memories, as Agatha demands that Wanda reveal how she created the Westview Anomaly. Agatha is a powerful witch in her own right, though not so powerful as to exert influence over an entire town, which we see with a cold open that clarifies Agatha’s backstory, which, similar to Marvel Comics lore, confirms that Agatha is a surviving witch from the Salem Witch Trials, who is hundreds of years old. After her own mother and several other witches failed to contain her power, Agatha presumably wandered the MCU for centuries, ultimately being drawn to Westview after sensing incredible magic power emanating from it.

I will also say that Hahn completely steals this episode and runs with it, even though the tour through Wanda’s tragic history nonetheless carries some nicely emotional beats for Wanda herself. Despite her twisted reveal as a mastermind behind several key Westview events last week, Agatha isn’t so simple as just being a straight-up villain. Instead, she seems equally interested in getting to the roots of Wanda’s trauma, while also schooling her in some of the mystic arts, in a way that the Ancient One didn’t go over during 2016’s magic-themed MCU movie, Doctor Strange. This provides a more fantastical angle on the MCU’s suite of magic, which somewhat undermines Doctor Strange and its more metaphysics-based interpretation of the mystic arts, but perhaps Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness will reconcile these dueling MCU perceptions on magic next year.

Regardless, we also finally get an explanation as to why Westview’s false reality is themed around sitcoms this week. As it turns out, sitcoms were apparently contraband in Sokovia while Wanda and Pietro were children, and Wanda liked to watch sitcoms of all eras, from The Dick Van Dyke Show to Malcolm in the Middle, as a way to reinforce that, eventually, everything in life will be okay. This naturally becomes challenged after we witness the Maximoff house getting bombed however, complete with a close-up view of a Stark Industries explosive that was apparently a dud. As Agatha points out however, Wanda could have stopped the explosive from going off with her latent magic abiltiies, ultimately saving herself and Pietro. This is where we get an admittedly intriguing twist about Wanda’s MCU backstory that one may not have considered before now– Wanda didn’t get her reality-manipulating powers from the Mind Stone, and may have actually born with them!

Mind you, we do see Wanda interact with the Mind Stone during another section of backstory, which even gives her a vision of her more Marvel Comics-esque appearance, shortly before she passes out. One frustrating oversight behind this otherwise promising reveal however is that we get barely any clarification as to how Pietro got his own powers as the MCU’s Quicksilver, or even how a fake Pietro that perfectly resembles the X-Men movies’ Quicksilver wound up in Westview. I know that Pietro has been dead for years in MCU canon, but Agatha claiming she simply made a false-faced duplicate with some quick hocus pocus is a lame, anticlimactic explanation for Evan Peters reprising his X-Men movie role in WandaVision. Wanda and her own interactions with the Mind Stone inadvertently activating Pietro’s Quicksilver powers could have also been interesting, though Pietro is instead merely dropped from the discussion. No, Peters’ returning Quicksilver is not plucked from the multiverse, and no, he’s seemingly not Mephisto in disguise. Needless to say, this creates several big missed opportunities in WandaVision’s storytelling.

On the bright side, we do get two more pressing questions answered before Wanda’s backstory tour is done; How did she create the Westview Anomaly, and how do Hayward and S.W.O.R.D. fit into this mess? Well, as I suspected, Hayward is partially responsible for pushing Wanda over the edge, and is likely trying to kill her in order to cover up his botched initial effort to resurrect Vision. After Agatha forces Wanda to relive the pain of losing her family and Vision, she then pulls up a memory of Wanda being called into S.W.O.R.D. headquarters by Hayward, presumably shortly after the conclusion of Avengers: Endgame, where he makes Wanda witness S.W.O.R.D. scientists pulling apart and trying to reverse-engineer Vision’s remains. Yeah, this guy’s a class act, isn’t he? In any case, Wanda looks at the butchered remains of her synthezoid lover, but ultimately refuses (or is unable to) revive him. Instead, Wanda finds a land deed that ultimately leads her to a vacant lot in Westview, which was supposedly reserved for a house that she and Vision would, “Grow old in.” Whether or not this deed is legitimate hasn’t been clarified, but regardless, seeing the Maximoff family house that will never be ultimately triggers Wanda’s mental breakdown, resulting in a surge of her power instantly converting Westview into its monochromatic sitcom form, on top of recreating Vision from thin air!

As we’ve seen however, this Vision copy created from Wanda’s powers can’t exist outside of the Westview Anomaly, and the citizens of Westview are very much being held against their will. If you were hoping for a last-minute reveal that Westview’s oppression was a misdirect, and that Mephisto or Nicholas Scratch or some other related magic-wielding villain was behind everything as well, viewers are simply faced with an undeniable truth– Wanda herself really is the ultimate villain of Westview, and is wholly responsible for the Westview Anomaly, barring some kind of last-minute reveal next week anyway. Agatha still doesn’t seem to be fully satisfied by this confirmation though, ultimately ending this episode by holding Wanda’s children hostage, before declaring that Wanda seems to be something thought only to exist in myth– The Scarlet Witch! This marks the first time that Wanda’s comic book moniker has been uttered in the MCU, and in this case, the “Scarlet Witch” identity appears to tie in to both a formerly unknown history from the MCU’s Salem Witch Trials, and an enduring myth out of Sokovia. Marvel fans would obviously already know that Wanda is indeed the Scarlet Witch though, as well as a ‘Nexus Being’, namely a person or entity that’s able to interact with the whole of the Marvel Multiverse, something that Agatha also implies she has knowledge of.

We only have one episode of WandaVision left now, and some fans may be disappointed that some other larger villain doesn’t seem to be behind the scenes of Westview, again, barring some shocking reveal in next week’s series finale. Some Marvel fans may also find, “Previously On” to be a bit tedious, since it does recap a lot of information that they would already know, whether from Marvel Comics lore, or from previous MCU movies. Despite those annoyances however, along with the frustratingly lame explanation behind the return of Evan Peters’ Quicksilver from the X-Men movies (which seems to be little more than Disney trolling X-Men/Marvel fans), this penultimate episode for WandaVision wonderfully flexes Kathryn Hahn’s kooky performance as an unmasked Agatha Harkness, while also delivering a genuinely heartfelt, painfully tragic examination of how Wanda became so mentally broken in the MCU. I wish that WandaVision didn’t need to virtually grind its ongoing narrative to a halt in order to deliver this character study, especially when it’s nearing the finish line, but if nothing else, Wanda confronting the truth of how and why she enslaved Westview does set up a promising foundation for next week’s final episode.

Better still is that a mid-credits scene teases some big action in the finale, namely when Hayward reveals a re-activated, fully white variation of Vision. This not only teases a Vision-vs.-Vision final battle to round off this miniseries next week, but also possibly indicates how Vision could return in the post-Thanos MCU, namely as a cold, unemotional killing machine, which is exactly what he was when he was converted into his white variation in Marvel Comics lore. One thing’s for sure, the question of what’s next for the MCU in the fallout of WandaVision will probably be just as exciting as next week’s series finale itself, and hopefully that helps to compensate for a bit of a slower penultimate offering this week.

WandaVision Episode 8: "Previously On" Review
WandaVision spends its penultimate episode exploring Wanda's traumas and ultimate mental breakdown this week, resulting in an emotional, but slightly sluggish offering that some Marvel fans may find tedious.
THE GOOD STUFF
  • Hahn and Olsen delivering their best MCU performances yet
  • Wanda reckoning with being the true villain behind Westview
  • Hayward successfully creating White Vision
THE NOT-SO-GOOD STUFF
  • Agatha's prolonged recap disturbs the show's pacing too much
  • Lame, anticlimactic explanation for the fake Pietro
77%Overall Score
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