Since Disney bought Fox, and along with it the X-Men stable, the grand question for the MCU has been when and how would the X-Men unify into the universe we've known for ten years.
Turns out Wanda Maximoff is the key to solving everything.
[For the last time. Spoilers abound!]
And WandaVision, after its slow boil first few episodes (which I loved), is providing a far more substantial bridge from Phase 3 to Phase 4 than I dreamed it would be.
I'm so pleased to see Wanda showing off just what it means to be a reality altering power in the MCU. In comics she has been one of the highest tier powers out there for a long, long time. But in the Avengers movies she's largely been a purveyor of what seem to be presented as mind tricks and flinging red balls of energy.
In WandaVision? After that slow played hand that suggested maybe she was the one who was trapped, in Episode 5 we've had so much revealed it's dazzling to keep track of how rapidly the pace has picked up.
But let's dive in.
So. In Episodes 1-3 we had the slow boil, and after Monica Rambeau was kicked from WestView at the conclusion of Episode 3 and we shifted to full widescreen we had our 'other perspective' Episode 4 to fill us in on what SWORD had been up to with its observation efforts from the outside.
Getting Jimmy Woo and Darcy Lewis back into the MCU fold was a fantastic part of Episode 4, and sets up a great new dynamic for any forward potential for an 'Agents of SWORD' show that has been rumoured as the evolution of the SHIELD series. (I had no idea until I looked it up now getting ready to make jokes about 'Agents of SWORD'. Bring it on.)
I was surprised by the release of a mid-season trailer for WandaVision after last week, but given the pacing shift this week it makes a lot of sense. I haven't watched this trailer – I feel like I don't want to engage with another tease when we're now 4 weeks away from end of season. Let me enjoy the surprises as clean as possible!
But now the Episode surprises have arrived. OMG OMG OMG.
Episode 5: Sex, Lies and Mutants
The shift into Family Ties mode was a treat this week, and kudos to the team for how they've gotten the weird colour filtering (and horrendous outfit palettes) just right.
The tension on what exactly the deal is with the people of WestView has been building, and to see Agnes drop character in the opening moments with the twins crying was striking. Is there something else about her we don't know? If everyone else is so deeply mind controlled, how is she seemingly just 'playing along' and performing her role as the perfect neighbour who always arrives just when she's needed? There's more questions to the Agnes story than the rest of the residents of the town.
The suspicion on what exactly Vision's deal is has also been put to rest this week. Was he a manifestation of some kind? No, he's the real deal. But we also saw Wanda glimpse his dead form in an earlier episode too. So while he is 'alive' and has access to his powers, it may not be that he is fully restored but is existing through the sheer force of her will? When he looks into Norm's mind we see the yellow flare of his Mind Stone power – where is that coming from without a mind stone? More questions…
This feels like it will setup a big denouement now that we know that he is not on board with what is happening with WestView. No doubt he would rather be dead than live in a forced fake reality where thousands are held hostage. How will Wanda deal with his demand to let him go?
The rapid ageing of the twins is also raising big questions. With so much of the town being entirely real, as we see with the clothes Monica Rambeau left 'The Hex' wearing, will it turn out the boys are her very real children? What age will they be when we reach the end of the series? Was that speech to the boys about not avoiding your feelings – hello Wanda, listen to yourself – also the moment that locks their journey in as they are from here out?
The drone sequence was a spectacular moment to draw more lines in the sand amongst the SWORD gang as well as draw Wanda out of the Hex for the first time. Rambeau just wanted to talk. Director Tyler wanted to 'take the shot', you know, like every idiot who ever thought guns could handle a power like Wanda. Big mistake. Huge.
As Wanda emerged, it was interesting to see her outfit shift back to a style we know from Endgame (remember this series is set just weeks after the Unsnappening, well before the events of Spider-Man: Far From Home). She's got that cool coat on and she's angry as hell and she has a clarity about this world she created and wanting to be left to enjoy it.
But on her return, and her big clash with Vision, it's clear that she actually isn't entirely sure how/why this started, she just knows she wants to protect him from the reality of his death… and then we get the knock at the door…
I adore everything about this moment. The slow reveal of Pietro's return and the discovery it is the Fox X-Men universe's Quicksilver and not her dead MCU brother – a "recast" as Darcy beautifully says to save us saying it. (And, look, Aaron Taylor Johnson was nice, but Evan Peters was glorious in his take on this classic character.)
This is the moment of moments for the future of the unified MCU. It is Wanda who has broken the wall between realities to bring us her other brother. And we can only imagine what this will mean for a lot more of our X-friends crossing the great divide between realities too.
We don't know what the Big Bad will be for Phase 4, but this moment feels like it could signal some big reality breaking events on the horizon. And with the knowledge that our next Doctor Strange adventure is In the Multiverse of Madness there's a good chance events that are starting here will ripple through the next few years of movies and TV shows.
Perhaps we could argue it really began in Into the Spider-Verse, but we know alongside next year's Doctor Strange that reality warping events will definitely continue into the next live-action Spider-outing given the known casting of all previous Spider-Man actors as well.
It's a pleasure to watch the show keep playing with its sitcom tropes, with Wanda trying to roll credits and go to bed to avoid that fight with Vision as he refuses to let it happen. Nice touch.
Some final thoughts and questions from Episode 5:
- Is Monica Rambeau unaware of some powers that may be waiting to reveal themselves? The 'blank' scan? Were these powers always there? Did the Unsnappening do something – and is that something other unsnapped people might discover? Is this a potential part of the rise of mutant kind in the core MCU?
- "Sit, Sparky, sit. Good dog." The classic Ubu Productions end of show quote gets an outing. Hat tip indeed.
And the one to really scratch your noodle…
- Did Sparky eat the poisonous plant on purpose to get the hell out of this situation? Dark thoughts indeed.
WandaVision is turning out to be a remarkable Disney+ series. Where our Defenders titles on Netflix were entirely enjoyable as superhero TV goes (let's not count Iron Fist in that description), they intentionally sat outside the MCU process. WandaVision shows us how deeply Disney is willing to integrate TV and film story progression to make everything have the highest stakes possible for the whole MCU.
That's an exciting prospect for how fresh the next phase has the potential to be.
EDIT: Fixed my stupid Maria / Monica errors. Ungh, idiot...
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