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Spoilers for discussion of WandaVision episode 8.
See what I did there? Like The Wonder Years but with spoilers? Because this was a flashback episode? Eh? Eh??
Okay, SPOILERS ahoy and discussion shall be had after the picture just for safety's sake.
The New MCU
One of the things I'm finding interesting about WandaVision is how it's setting up the future of the MCU. Spider-Man Far From Home was more of an epilogue to Endgame than it was a fresh new story in a brand new phase. Of course in theory Black Widow's movie was meant to be the first step in the new MCU but covid ruined that schedule by pushing its release date well past when WandaVision started airing.
Granted, to all appearances Black Widow takes place in the past so how much it would open up the future MCU remains to be seen.
But point being with characters like Captain Marvel hanging around the MCU needs to be dealing with problems that are more than can be solved by a guy in a metal suit and another guy who uses a shield real good.* And to a certain extent the way you handle that issue isn't so much going bigger (e.g. "Thanos! But now there's THREE of him!") as it is wider.
(* Don't @ me. I love Tony but even he didn't want to be dealing with these kinds of things.)
Episode 8 of WandaVision gave us signs of that with the concept that Wanda wasn't just affected by the mind stone but that she also had latent powers waiting to be tapped into. Not throwing away what we know about her, just putting another, entirely believable, layer on top of it. Likewise I'm both assuming and hoping this is what we're going to be getting from the MCU: additional layers which don't ruin the universe we've spent years caring about, but which add to our understanding of it.
That being said, I'm curious how the new world building is going to go. Note: curious. There's a segment of fandom that sadly mistakes "Some stories take multiple parts to tell" with "HUGE GIANT PLOT HOLE! FAIL!!!!!!!!!!!" So as I cite some examples here note that I am firmly in the former camp and not the latter. These are things which don't yet have answers and I'm interested to see how the new MCU addresses them, if at all.
For example: What exactly is SWORD's deal? When we got our first behind the scenes glimpse of them in episode 4 I was assuming they'd been operating in the background ever since Maria founded them (which was long enough ago that Monica could grow up and work there and have it be understood that she was the right choice to take over for her mother with nobody coughing nepotism hire behind her back). The Monica and Hayward scene about how Monica wanted to go back up to work implied that, like in the comics, SWORD is more focused on space than on Earth.
So it makes sense that the Avengers, who had Nick Fury as their contact, would only know about SHIELD. Likewise I'm down for assuming that SWORD probably didn't have the power and budget that they wanted until at the very least after the Attack on New York (aka the first Avengers movie).
But after that… what? Because here's the thing that stands out to me: How did SWORD get Vision's body?
And again I'm not saying this question ruins anything. I'm not saying it's a plot hole. I'm only saying that it's a puzzle piece we in the audience could use in order to understand this broader MCU we're being introduced to.
Because think about it: yes, half the universe got dusted. That caused a lot of chaos (no pun intended) and trauma. But part of the reason why that happened is that Steve had been making huge fucking speeches about how We Don't Trade Lives Except Maybe Thousands Of Unnamed Wakandans For Reasons The Russos Swear Are Totally Not Racist Even Though It Explicitly Makes The Point Black Lives Are Expendable And The Android Based On A White Dude Isn't.
Ahem. Who left this salt on my keyboard?
Anyway, Steve had just staked the literal entire universe on the importance of keeping Vision alive. So after that failed he… what? Left the body there in the dirt for a groundskeeper to pick up and put in recycling?*
(* In Wakanda I assume there's bins for paper, plastic, and Vibrianium.)
You can't get me to believe that Steve Rogers of all people would treat Vision's body like trash. So okay: How does Steve give Vision over to SWORD? SWORD was previously run by Maria so I'm 100% down with why Steve would trust them, but how did that conversation go? Why would he believe Vision needed to go into the hands of people he'd never met instead of staying under Avengers custody?
Then how do we get here from there? I'm fine for assuming Thanos's attack got more officials on board with SWORD needing to be a bigger organization. I'm also fine for thinking Hayward had a different philosophy about it than Maria, which is how it may have gone from being clandestine to having a mall sized lobby with glass everywhere and giant fuck off monitors showing both the news and which floors you should go to for dead android storage, sentient weapon plans, and teeth whitening services.
But again, how did the Avengers get there? Who told Wanda they dumped Vision off with a random heretofore unknown government agency?* And if the Avengers knew about SWORD why didn't they call them in for help during Endgame?
(* Maybe this is the real reason why Steve ran away to hide in other timelines. He knew Wanda was rightfully going to kick his ass once she found out.)
Now obviously on a meta level the answer is "Because Feige didn't know what they were going to do with SWORD yet." And also, I cannot stress enough, I personally am fine with any answer which is "We're finally acknowledging that the Russos are shit-ass storytellers and it's easier to pretend what they did never happened than it is to try to craft a through line from their crap to where we want the MCU to be." Just, again, I'm curious to see how they handle it.
I'm assuming we'll get more of these answers in Falcon and Winter Soldier and maybe even Loki.
And Then There's Wanda
Speaking of shitty things the Russos did, one of the worst was the erasure of Wanda and Pietro being both Jewish and Roma. I'm willing to grant that maybe the Roma thing was Ike "Anyone who isn't a white dude is icky" Perlmutter's fault but the Jewish part is inexcusable.
Yes, they weren't legally allowed to say Wanda and Pietro were mutants and, by extension, that their dad was Magneto. I get that. But there is a LONG way from "Their dad isn't played by Michael Fassbender in another studio" to "Wanda has a fucking CROSS NECKLACE IN HER ROOM."
There have been many people who have made far more articulate and intelligent points about why this erasure is bad but suffice it to say that at any time, let alone now when antisemitism is on the rise, it is an extremely bad look to not only erase the faith of Jewish characters but especially children of a well known Holocaust survivor.
So one thing I was keeping an eye out for during all of Wanda's flashbacks is how they handled that issue. And it's sad that this is such a low bar but at least the scene in her room at the Avengers compound didn't have that stupid necklace there. Yay for that. Maybe this is hope that Wanda's faith is another thing they're going to fix in the new MCU?
But the problem is that they also made it clear and MCU canon that Wanda and Pietro joined Hydra. Not SHIELD, as the tie-in comics said they thought they were joining. Hydra.
The NAZI ORGANIZATION.
And look, I get it. They have to aim some of these plot points for the audience equivalent of the cheap seats where "Wait… was that a STARK toaster?"* is considered mind-blowing analysis. I get why it wasn't a SHIELD logo, or even a "Dubious Experiments Being Done By A Shadowy Organization We Won't Name Due to Space Constraints" logo. I get it.
(* Yes, this is my new MCU "Bless your heart for trying" touchstone since it's shorter than "Hey did you notice the guy who stood up to Loki may have been implied to have been a Holocaust survivor?")
But that doesn't make it good. And while I'm willing to grant a completely fresh start to the new MCU in terms of my benefit of the doubt in their storytelling techniques, sadly with this one they have a lot of work to earn trust again. And having Wanda and Pietro sign up to work with Nazis - even if you want to argue that they didn't know Hydra was made of Nazis - is so not the way to do that.
And this isn't even getting into how much stronger the story they're telling is if they acknowledge Wanda's canon faith. The scene where Wanda says "I just want to bury him" becomes so much more powerful if you remember that, according to Jewish tradition, those who have passed need to be buried under ground within seven days of their dying. That Vision has not been given that respect for five fucking years is especially horrifying to Wanda.
Or it would be, if she was Jewish. Which she may not be in the MCU. But she should. And just play that scene in your head again and think of all the new layers of meaning and pain Wanda is going through if that's part of what's fueling her reaction.
Other things I'm curious about is what Agatha's deal is. I know there's a lot of people out there thinking Agatha is evil and the WandaVision Big Bad but personally I think she's true neutral. Granted this may be due to my bias as I think the MCU could use more neutral aligned characters to make things interesting. (And oh will you be treated to my rants on the subject of what "neutral" is supposed to mean when Loki's show comes along.)
But… we have Hayward. Who is all but twirling his nonexistent mustache while preparing to fire nukes at kittens. We don't need an additional big bad here - particularly one with their own agenda - adding to the mix. Especially with only one episode left to tie up loose ends. (Or tie them up as much as they're going to be in order to lead into the movies).
So Agatha doesn't need to be evil for the story to work. And when you watch episode 8 you see she's not really doing anything evil. She has Wanda trapped, sure. She theoretically has Billy and Tommy under her control. But she's not doing anything bad with that. She's explaining how magic is supposed to work and walking Wanda through an episode long therapy session. She's poking Wanda to get reactions but when you consider that stabbing Billy in front of Wanda would also get a reaction, all things considered "Hey let me gently guide you through your life traumas" is not making Agatha The Worst Witch, so to speak.
The vibe I get is that Agatha is in a similar position to Wanda: she's connected to powerful magic which is hard to control. Agatha has learned some things over the years but she thought, based on what she saw Wanda was doing, that Wanda knew more. Agatha wanted that information for her own benefit and here we are.
The only thing that doesn't work is how does this tie to what we saw last episode with Agatha All Along? I love the song but even at the time I was curious about what was the through-line of everything Agatha did. Because some things were to deliberately poke at Wanda (like messing with the talent show) but others didn't involve Wanda at all (like having Vision see Herb be stuck in place).
So regardless of whether Agatha is neutral or evil, I feel like we haven't yet been told what her end goal is. Which again: not a plot hole, just something I'll be interested in seeing the answer to.
Other thoughts which fit better in bullet point form:
- I literally ran out of room in the last entry (for real Substack kept flashing blinking alerts at me about how Gmail couldn't handle all those pictures) but one thing I wanted to add is that I know that the MCU character colors don't necessarily tie to the stone which gave characters their power. Wanda got a boost from the yellow Mind Stone but her color is Reality Stone red. Carol Danvers was the blue Space Stone but when she goes Binary she glows gold. The tl;dr explanation is that it's a balance of needing to be true to the comic color palette while working with the MCU color palettes. In other words, the use of Reality Stone red elsewhere in the MCU adds meaning to Wanda wearing her comic canon red regardless of which stone she personally interacted with.
- If we're paying attention to colors though note that Wanda wasn't wearing red when she was at SWORD. She was in blue and purple, which at the very least means she wasn't feeling like herself (which hey: she was grieving so yeah).
- Agatha pointing out Wanda's accent makes me think we're leading somewhere with this. Like yes, anybody who knows somebody who speaks multiple languages knows that they'll fall back into their mother tongue/accent under certain circumstances. It's not weird for the real world. But the show constantly pointing it out makes it feel like Chekov's Speech Pattern.
- I will say nothing about what we found out about Wanda in this episode has gotten me away from "Cool motive, still mind rape." I'm fine for the combination of her grief and connection to chaos magic meaning that the start of this was out of her control. But we've seen multiple times when she wasn't caught up in playing pretend and deliberately kept the magic going anyway. It doesn't make her more sympathetic when we know she saw the people of Westview living their own lives and she's keeping them as her personal My First Sitcom Dolls. Again, let's get Jessica Jones in here to explain it to Wanda in small words.
- "I've always been alone" - uhh, really Vision? Because even if we allow for you being a different being than JARVIS (something I am STILL bitter over), you were born in a crowded room of Avengers, immediately joined them to fight Ultron as a team, and then moved into Avengers Compound with all of Avengers 2.0 as your roommates. Given that you don't need to go to the bathroom when exactly during your approximately one week of life so far did you have ever a moment to yourself?
- I'm not entirely a Grinch here. Episode 8 did far more to establish why Wanda cared about Vision than multiple movies ever even tried to do (again: the Russos are shit-ass storytellers, especially when it comes to women characters). I mean that single moment of Wanda tearing up while looking down at Vision's body in the SWORD lab carried the weight of the entire relationship right there, it was beautifully done. I'm just saying Vision's "I've always been alone" line was a clunker.
- Speaking of clunkers, ooof that green screen when Wanda was standing on the plot of land Vision bought. I'm assuming the money saved there is going to whatever big CGI events we're getting next week.
- Kudos to the makeup department in the Salem flashback scene though. Not only for the obvious stuff but the subtle way they made Agatha look like she could be a teenager.
- I'm sure there's a ton of Costubers getting ready to make a meal about how historically accurate the costumes in the Agatha flashback were. As for me I was just happy to see the actresses wearing chemises.
- Bless you, Agatha, for "Fietro." I was wondering what name we were going to use for him.
- Five years of having Vision's body and SWORD is still trying to figure out how to fully dismantle him? I know the Snap made it hard for everyone but something tells me none of the members of this particular research team ever made Employee of the Month.
- It stands out to me that Wanda's first trauma happened when she was 10 years old and Billy and Tommy are currently frozen at that age. Particularly when you consider that one theory of childhood trauma is that the person's way of viewing the world becomes stuck at the age the trauma happened unless something is done to help them address it.
- I hope Elizabeth Olsen has a good masseuse and/or yoga instructor to help get her through all of those deep back bends she's been doing.
- Finally, if you enjoy dives into how things work you may appreciate this video which shows how the theme songs for WandaVision all have common through lines which led up to Agatha All Along hitting as hard as it did.