WandaVision Episode 7 Analysis: Modern [SPOILER]
Wandavision Episode 7 and why the costume and set designers need a raise
Spoilers for WandaVision through episode 7.
All pictures are from Disney+/Marvel either via their promotional department or screencaps.
Small edits were made after posting to fix typos as well as repeated and/or incorrect words.
I know that in terms of plot points and such there's a lot to unpack with WandaVision episode 7 but lemme be up front with you that there are two things that I am going to talk about:
- Monica getting her powers
- Raving about how the art and costume departments of this show deserve ALL the raises
There will be some other stuff sprinkled in but that's the main. Trust me it'll be worthwhile though. Especially when you see the story art and costuming has been telling this whole time.
Seriously, ALL the raises.
Also yes, I stumbled on a title theme for these WandaVision entries and I'm riding it all the way until the end. Sue me.
So as I've said before WandaVision exists, for me, to be a Monica Rambeau delivery system and anything above and beyond that is extra. Thus, as you may imagine, I teared up with joy when she got her powers last night and how beautifully done that scene was.
Teyonah Parris has spoken about how she tried to capture the essence of what Akira Akbar brought to the role of Monica as a child. You can see that and the way WandaVision tied this key moment in Monica's life with the way she's been raised and who has inspired her.
First and foremost "I will solve this problem by running directly at it" is entirely the influence of Carol. That's not even a question. Maria at least took a moment to think before doing the risky thing.
Second, there is the theme of how Monica is someone who has a strong sense of identity. We first see this in Captain Marvel when Monica is the one who teaches Carol who she used to be. Monica is the keeper of knowledge of people. These are the things I know about you, these are the landmarks you need to return back to who you are.
So of course Monica is the one who can force her way through the Hex's barrier and remember who she is well enough that the Hex can't rewrite her. The part about how the Hex had already changed her on a molecular level was secondary, frankly. Once Monica knew what was happening she had all she needed to make sure she, personally, didn't get lost.
And then as far as the barrier trying to rewrite her: Well Monica told it her story. She held on to the memories of her mother, and of Carol, and herself and she came out of it unchanged except for the growth and power - figurative and now literal - she has gained from her experiences.
Beautiful. Beautiful beautiful beautiful I loved it, perfect, A++ would tear up while watching it again. And again and again and again. Love.
Raving About Art and Costumes
Okay, the art and costuming departments on this show are INSANELY good. I noticed it from the very beginning and have only gotten more impressed as the story has unfolded and we can appreciate the full extent of the work they do. What I'm talking about here is only scratching the surface but it'll at least start to give you an idea of why I keep flailing and screaming and going "LOOK! LOOK AT HOW GOOD THIS IS!!!"
Let's start with how the art told us everything we need to know about Agnes - aka Agatha - from the very beginning.
Here's the title card from episode 2. Not much to look at, right? It's a riff on the cartoon credits from Bewitched. It shows our heroes, Wanda and Vision. It shows the neighborhood. It shows Agnes as the wacky next door neighbor.
But look closer. Look at the placement of everyone.
Vision and Wanda are at the forefront. They're looking forward at something which makes them smile. They don't see what's going on behind them. They're oblivious to the dynamics of what's happening.
The people in the neighborhood are trapped behind the window. They're forced to watch what's going on but they are powerless to interact with it. They are helpless and stuck. They want to do something. They've got hands pressed up against the glass in longing, but they can't.
And then there's Agnes - who I'm just going to call Agatha from now on to save time.
Yes, Agatha is bursting in the door like she always does. But compare her to Wanda and Vision, and compare her to those at the window. What's going on?
She's coming in.
Agatha isn't stuck. She's not helpless with her face against the glass. She can come into Wanda's world and interact with her. Moreover Wanda doesn't see that Agatha can do this. Wanda doesn't know Agatha has power the others don't.
Also, look where Agatha is coming in from: the side. She's not a part of the two factions we are first introduced to in episode 4: Wanda vs SWORD. We see Wanda in this picture. We see Monica in this picture. Agatha isn't standing with either of them. She's literally got her own angle. She's a third player in the game with her own desires and agenda.
The entire reveal of episode 7 laid out in a single title card shown in episode 2. Fucking amazing.
Understanding Costumes and Colors
Now let's start to talk sets and costumes, and the story they've been telling us this whole time.
First, let's talk about the needs and challenges of a costume department when superheroes are involved.
In comics, superheroes have distinctive color palettes and silhouettes. Iron Man doesn't look like Thor doesn't look like Hulk doesn't look like Spidey. Miles Morales in his spider suit doesn't look like Peter Parker in his. The characters have to be easily identifiable on the page.
When translating this to movies and TV, the costume designers have to not only translate the comic costumes into something which looks good on an actual human being (or CGI approximation thereof) but into something which tells a visual story.
In any live medium a costumer who is worth their salary knows that the clothing has to be communicating to an audience as much as the actors are. (Ditto set design, which I'll get to in a second). As with comics, things like color palettes and silhouettes are used to tell the audience which characters belong together, which characters are enemies, what is a character feeling in that moment, and so on.
There's an extra challenge in a superhero show because the characters come with ready-made color palettes. If you listen to the DVD extras on the first Avengers movie one of the things they talk about is how do they visually show that the Avengers are a team who belongs together when each individual character has a distinctive set of colors. It was a challenge for them to find the common colors and concepts that would connect them, even if it was in subtle ways. A challenge they solved for, but point being this is part of why you need a costume department with smart and talented people.
One of the things the MCU as a concept has used is the Infinity Stones. These brightly colored rocks created color themes for the phases and for the characters. Tony's arc reactor and much of Phase 1 is Space stone blue, for example.
Wanda, the Scarlet Witch, is connected to the red Reality stone. Anything representing Wanda needs to be red.
The Power stone is purple. Agatha's magic is purple so that tells us what stone her power comes from and what color to pay attention to in order to see her influence.
Vision's yellow Mind stone is obviously a factor here but Vision himself is not an active player in what is going on. Maybe he will be in the future but he's only just making steps to get agency. Yellow does show up, but not as much.
And there's another stone which is a factor here: our pal the Space stone. The one not only represented in the color of Tony's arc reactor but the stone which gave Carol Danvers her powers.
What color are Monica's eyes when she comes through the barrier?
Space stone fucking blue. Monica straight up told Wanda's Reality stone to go fuck itself, her powers were going to connect her to the women who raised her.
God damn do I love that Monica scene.
Shapes and Patterns
Now let's move beyond colors. The show starts out in black and white, after all. How do we identify characters when we can't see their colors?
We use patterns.
In addition to being connected to red, Wanda is connected to flowers. We see this in the closing credits with the red roses that form. In the black and white world, she wears floral patterns.
At first glance in this picture Wanda is wearing the classic 50s housewife dress. No thought to it beyond that right?
But look closer. The typical 50s housewife dress includes said housewife wearing pearls. Wanda isn't wearing pearls. Her necklace instead suggests floral shapes. Then look at her apron. Again, flowers.
In episode 2 we're still in black and white. Wanda? Still wearing flowers. The show is teaching us that Wanda = red = flowers. When we see these things we know those are references to her.
And notice our new friend Geraldine. We don't know the color of her dress but we can see its pattern: the exact pattern of the Hex barrier when you get close to it. Even if we'd never seen a promo or been aware that Teyonah was introduced as playing Monica, we can tell by looking at her that she is connected to the outside world in ways that others in town are not. She's the only one who wears that hex/pixel pattern.
Now what about our friend Agatha? Her true color is purple, but you can't show purple in black and white. Moreover Agatha is in hiding so she's not going to wear purple. How do you visually represent Agatha as being distinct from Wanda without giving the game away?
How about plaid? When we meet Agatha in episode one, she's wearing plaid.
Episode 2? Again plaid. But notice she's not only wearing it, she's surrounded by it. Costume and set design are telling us what's really going on in this scene well before we get the Agatha credits adding in the purple magic effects. Plaid not only represents Agatha but her influence.
Oh wait - what pattern was Wanda's kitchen towel in episode one?
Now let's fast forward.
Remember episode 5? Wanda and Vision have that huge fight. Vision challenges Wanda for hurting the townspeople. Wanda both insists she knows what she's doing and that she's not in control of everything. Can we believe her?
Look at the shirt she's wearing. Agatha plaid. Blue and red plaid at that, and we know what color blue and red make when you combine them.
But I dunno. Are we sure Agatha's influence is growing here?
You tell me. What's Pietro wearing and what pattern is on the curtains and that pillow?
Fast forward to episode 7. What's Wanda wearing?
A plaid bathrobe. She's not just wearing a Modern Family costume shout out, not just the costume of any "before" person in an antidepressant commercial, she's wearing something that expressly tells us that Wanda is covered in and being weighed down by Agatha's influence on her.
And let's talk sets again. What's the wallpaper? Flowers encased in squares. Wanda trapped by Agatha. There's red in the kitchen but it's only tiny pieces here and there. Wanda's own influence in her life is the mirror of Agatha in episode one with that towel: mere accessories, not the focus.
Also this doesn't relate to color but as long as we're talking giving credit to the set designers, look at the name of the cereal. Sugar SNAPS. If that's not the definition of "God damn it, take my angry up vote" I don't know what is.
But! Let us not despair like Wanda is. Because look at what Wanda's wearing when she ultimately finds out the truth about Agatha:
A red hoodie. One with stripes on it, so Agatha's influence isn't entirely gone. But Wanda's coming back into herself.
Let's Talk Pietro
Again, there is much, MUCH more that we could talk about in terms of the amazing work done by costumes and sets, but I figured let's bring this to provide an answer to a question I saw a lot of people asking after episode 7, namely what the hell was Pietro wearing and why?
Let's take a step back. Can we prove that Pietro's costumes tell a story the same as Wanda's do? One pair of plaid boxer shorts isn't saying much, right? Well here's the thing, Pietro's color is blue. There's no doubt of that because it's the color of his costume.
What's Pietro wearing when he shows up on Wanda's doorstep?
Going back and seeing the purple on his shirt in this scene was another "God DAMN it" moment akin to the realization of the name of the cereal. Fucking hell the costume people are good.
So! Going in to episode 7 we know that Pietro is blue and Wanda is red. We have just been taught by the show that Agatha is purple. We've also just seen Agatha take control of Wanda's mind, which is represented by purple CGI surrounding Wanda's head.
Therefore, what can we conclude when we see Pietro dressed like this:
Ignore the actual items of clothing for a sec and notice the color: mostly blue. Some purple, but mostly blue.
Now look at locations. Where's the purple? On his chest. Not even covering it, just a splash. It's still surrounded by blue.
His chest is where we saw Agatha's magic touching him in the scene where it was revealed she brought him into the hex. His chest is where Wanda's red magic hit Pietro when she lashed out at him.
Now look at one of the most notable examples of blue: the hat on his head.
Why is Pietro wearing this outfit? Because the costume department is telling us that Pietro has been yanked around by Agatha and Wanda - literally pushed and pulled - but his mind is his own.
Yes, in episodes 8 and 9 we may find out that he's somehow been mind controlled or had his memories altered but ultimately - I can guarantee - we're going to find out that Pietro is a good guy. I'll even go so far as to say he's not showing up to hurt Monica in that scene but to help her.
Let's see if I'm right.
Other thoughts about the episode which I wanted to mention but don't fit anywhere:
- Darcy saying Vision and Wanda belonged together initially pissed me off because at that point Darcy didn't know Wanda was also under someone else's control. Which meant as far as Darcy knew, Wanda had been raping Vision. But then I realized that all Darcy had seen was what Wanda allowed to be shown so odds were high Darcy didn't know about Vision being manipulated. For all she knows Vision only lost some of his memory because he tried coming out of the Hex a few hours earlier. So it made me shout at the screen when it happened but I'll allow it.
- Wanda noticing the bug on the curtain gave me Westworld vibes where the insect symbolizes that things aren't as under control as we think. In this case I wondered if Wanda's thought process was wait… I don't remember creating bugs.
- This technically falls under the clothing thing but notice how Monica's clothes also confirm for us that she's the one in control of her transformation. When she appears again she's still in her original outfit, complete with SWORD logo. (And remember for Monica SWORD = not only her job but her mother.)
- The absolute nothing at the reveal of Goodner (who is not a character from the comics) made me wonder if the pacing of certain plot points was affected by production needing to shut down and resume later due to covid. Like did the editors have to stitch together what they had, so some scenes stressed that the reveal in ep 7 would be significant but what was shot for ep 7 didn't connect to that at all emotionally. Though I also suspect we're going to find out that Goodner isn't as she appears. My bet is on her being one of the Skrulls Monica befriended back in the 90s.
- Finally, shout out to the person or people in the costume department who made that shot of Agatha in full Melissa Steadman from thirtysomething moment happen. Somebody probably slammed their hands down on a table and said "No! She's got to wear ONE giant earring or the whole thing is RUINED!" and refused to back down. I, who still own the thirtysomething soundtrack, felt extremely seen. I salute you, costume department person or people. I salute you.