WandaVision Knows What It’s Doing, But Scarlet Witch Doesn’t

WandaVision Knows What It’s Doing, But Scarlet Witch Doesn’t

As WandaVision’s been carefully dropping nostalgic breadcrumbs along the winding narrative path leading to grandmother’s house where the truth lives, the show’s been playing not-so-subtle tricks of the mind meant to make you wonder who the villain of it all truly is. All signs up to this point have pointed to Wanda herself being the culprit, but that answer’s always seemed too easy, and “All-New Halloween Spooktacular!” certainly raised a few more questions

WandaVision Knows What It’s Doing, But Scarlet Witch Doesn’t

After the surprising cameo and dramatic changes to WandaVision’s cast made in “On A Very Special Episode…”, episode six feels very much like the series’ in-universe show attempting to run away from the present day reality butting up against the Hex surrounding Westview. With the instability of Westview’s localised reality now being squarely on SWORD’s radar, Wanda’s picture-perfect fantasy’s becoming increasingly difficult to maintain for different reasons that aren’t all that clear.

Because “All-New Halloween Spooktacular!” was set to shift WandaVision’s show-within-a-show to the ‘90s/early ‘00s, the series’ creative team had more than a few options to choose from for which actual TV sitcom it would channel in order to get a few digs in at the medium. The riff on Malcolm in the Middle elevates Billy (Julian Hillard) and Tommy (Jett Klyne) from just being Wanda and Vision’s inexplicably conjured twin sons to being markedly conscious in ways that nobody else in Westview is — save for their father.

[referenced id=”1670134″ url=”https://gizmodo.com.au/2021/02/wandavision-just-pulled-out-a-few-shockingly-big-guns/” thumb=”https://gizmodo.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/06/wxbwz0dkcxoacbyzzqhf-e1612734670117-300×153.png” title=”WandaVision Just Pulled Out a Few Shockingly Big Guns” excerpt=”WandaVision hit a major turning point last week when it showed the state of the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe outside of Westview, New Jersey by looking back on how Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Paris), Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings), and Jimmy Woo (Randall Park) all came to be involved in the situation….”]

Before the episode properly kicks into gear, we spend a few moments fleshing out the boys’ personalities with a flashback to them playing Dance Dance Revolution before they get ready to go trick-or-treating in the present. In Marvel’s comics, the former Young Avengers Wiccan and Speed are considered Wanda (and to a lesser extent, Vision’s) spiritual children — they’re not…technically the exact same beings the couple wished into being back in the ‘80s. Beyond Pietro joking about them being hellspawn, there’s still time for WandaVision to get into the whole mess of Billy and Tommy being pieces of a demon’s soul who’ll one day be reincarnated as “normal” children born to unsuspecting parents, the show keeps things simple and instead nods to that potential future by having Billy dress up in a DIY version of his original costume.

There were a few other minute details, like intentional winks and nods to meta-details about both the characters and actors in the show, this week as well. Tommy teasing his brother about being a “dorkasaurus rex” feels vaguely like the show having a chuckle at Elizabeth Olsen and Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s roles in Garth Edwards’ 2014 Godzilla, which also starred Malcolm In the Middle’s Bryan Cranston, for example. Jokes like this become particularly dense whenever WandaVision’s focus turns to the newest MCU Pietro — now being portrayed by Fox’s X-Men films actor Evan Peters — who the boys both implicitly understand is one of the stranger people currently living in their town.

Vision, Pietro, and Wanda. (Image: Disney+/Marvel)
Vision, Pietro, and Wanda. (Image: Disney+/Marvel)

Much like the adolescent twins who repeatedly break the fourth wall in ways that nod to Malcolm and hint at their being extensions of Wanda’s mind, Pietro also appears to be much more in on the Westview act than most of the other adults who encounter her. (Wanda also happens to enter the episode sporting her classic comics costume.) One of the more curious things about WandaVision’s Pietro here is how his deep knowledge about Wanda’s past directly clashes with both what we as an audience know about them as characters and what Wanda knows about him as her twin brother.

Though this Pietro does have his signature superspeed, WandaVision keeps it in the style of how it was used the MCU rather than the more visually impressive way it was shot in Fox’s X-Men films. This could all simply be because Fox’s superspeed works better as visual set pieces rather than as a superpower within a sitcom, but the way Wanda keeps finding moments alone with Pietro to discuss the off-ness they feel about him being there makes it feel as if there’s certainly more to him than meets the eye. After Pietro has a flashback to him and Wanda as children in Sokovia, she uneasily points out that she doesn’t recall things playing out quite like that. His reasoning that her memory’s been affected by trauma gives her enough pause to make it obvious that the statement hit her, but she’s still in the thrall of “the show” enough to let the moment pass without comment.

[referenced id=”1666705″ url=”https://gizmodo.com.au/2021/01/wandavision-is-serving-up-mayhemfor-the-children/” thumb=”https://gizmodo.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/22/fvu8urodqdu9io7ldor8-e1611525223587-300×153.png” title=”WandaVision Is Serving Up Mayhem… For the Children” excerpt=”While WandaVision’s double feature of a premiere dropped us right into the swing of a warped, in-universe television reality with no real explanation or context to make it easier to grasp what the hell is going on, the series’ sudden jump into a new era started to paint a more…”]

Vision shares some of his sons’ apprehensions about their uncle because while he may not recognise Pietro, he does know that the Sokovian’s meant to be dead in the ground. Beyond that, the synthezoid clearly still recalls Wanda rolling the credits over him in the middle of their fight and no level of denial from her makes him believe she isn’t the cause of Pietro’s resurrection. Vision arrives this episode sporting a low-budget version of his own old school comics look, and while he’s still able to play along for the sake of…well, it’s not clear who he’s doing it for, he makes clear to Wanda that he still thinks she’s manipulating him. To Vision’s credit, Wanda does come close to chastising Vision for breaking character when he tells her that he plans to check in with the neighbourhood watch, which isn’t what the “episode” has in mind. But in Wanda’s defence, she doesn’t exactly try to stop him even though she presumably could, and the episode does start to give you more reason to suspect that she isn’t exactly lying when she says that she’s not in control.

By the time that Pietro’s grabbed Tommy’s hand and zoomed away only to return within nanoseconds sporting his own version of Quicksilver’s comics costume (with Tommy sporting a miniature one) “All-New Halloween Spooktacular!” establishes that, uneasy as things are with Vision and Wanda, the family does all still genuinely care about one another. The story’s somewhat different outside the Hex where SWORD’s still reeling from having its arse handed to it by Wanda in the previous episode.

Pietro telling Wanda he knows that he looks a little different. (Screenshot: Disney+/Marvel)
Pietro telling Wanda he knows that he looks a little different. (Screenshot: Disney+/Marvel)

As Hayward, Monica, Darcy, and Jimmy regroup in a tent, it’s interesting to see that the drone Wanda destroyed is still charged with her energy even though she’s nowhere near the object (in the past we’ve never seen her powers linger quite like that). While Hayward’s now focused on how to take her out, Monica, Darcy, and Jimmy all feel that SWORD’s best plan of action would be to continue observing and looking at the situation as a rescue mission. Hayward’s heel turn’s far from surprising, but his very pointed question about whether Darcy and Monica’s “sassy best friend” in the group is as scathing as it is ugly. You can interpret it as a dig at Monica herself, but also at Wanda for hexing Monica into that sort of archetype in the first place.

Hayward’s insistence on eliminating Wanda is very much in line with the long history of human military types in genre fiction deciding to shoot first and ask questions later. But because where the series has been headed as of late, though, both Wanda’s Magneto-like talk with SWORD and Hayward’s response bears a resemblance to the kinds of stories that have been featured prominently in the X-Men franchise. As Monica points out the potential dangers that might arise were Wanda to die, Hayward finally does what neither Jimmy nor Darcy felt comfortable doing in the last episode: he explicitly brings Carol Danvers into the conversation to make a point.

It’s always interesting to hear “normal” people within the MCU talk about what the superheroes are up to because, often, they’re the characters who remind the audience of how world-changing events leave people on the ground justifiably scared of those with superpowers. Hayward reasons that Monica’s personal connection to Danvers is one of the reasons she insists on advocating for superhumans, something he believes is in conflict with SWORD’s primary directive. Of course, if you’ve seen Captain Marvel, then you understand how deeply incorrect Monica’s mother Maria might consider Hayward’s perspective, and his jabs do feel personal and meant to hurt Monica emotionally. But it must be said, we as an audience and Monica don’t really know whether time, Carol’s absence, and other events within the MCU changed Maria’s outlook on life, and Hayward isn’t entirely incorrect. While Monica means wells, people like Wanda and Carol — empowered by Infinity Stones — are beings that humanity has reasons to be concerned about.

Monica’s righteous insubordination leads to her, Darcy, and Jimmy’s dismissal from the entire project and as a result, being firmly put in a position to become even more heroic within the series. The show establishes this with Monica and Jimmy making the snap decision to knock out some goons, steal their outfits, and steal info from SWORD to help them break back into the Hex. But “All-New Halloween Spooktacular!” further complicates things in a fascinating way with yet another hint that Monica’s exposure to the mysterious space has left her changed in ways that she hasn’t realised.

Hidden within SWORD’s files that Darcy breaks into are classified details of Monica’s bloodwork that show how being pulled into and thrown out of the Hex meant having her entire physical form rearranged multiple times. Previously, WandaVision revealed Monica’s body no longer shows up properly on scans, and the computer screens we see in this episode give you brief glimpses of molecules within her now radiating a strange glow. This all feels like a pretense for the emergence of Monica’s classic Spectrum powers which would be a very cool addition to the MCU.

But the fact that all of this is coming as a result of second-hand contact with an Infinity Stone is yet another reason to wonder whether WandaVision is trying to tease out the birth of the MCU’s mutants. Were the odd things going on with Monica’s DNA the result of her specifically coming into contact with Wanda, that would be one thing. If merely being touched by the Hex and infused with some of its energy is key to unlocking abilities hidden within people’s DNA, however, there could be a future in which the MCU inverts M-Day and turns Wanda into the mother of mutant-kind.

For the time being, though, Wanda’s mainly concerned with her life in Westview as she, Pietro, and the twins wander through the town taking in everyone’s costumes and talking about the many elephants in the room. In addition to gesturing towards the existence of Kick-Arse the comic book-turned-film series that starred both Peters and Taylor-Johnson — Wanda and Pietro admit to one another that they don’t get why his face looks different, though Pietro at least understands why she’d want to avoid addressing his death in her suburban paradise. The way he talks to her about the dark truths of their lives is both casual and frank, and gives you the impression that he’s a cool uncle who…knows that he’s supposed to be dead, but very much wants to be there for his younger sister.

Pietro also wants to be there for his nephews, who delight in the fact that he makes little attempt to hide his powers, perhaps because most people can’t tell when he’s using them. It’s also worth noting that Pietro’s apparently able to “share” whatever it is about him that allows him to move so quickly by holding hands with Billy and Tommy as they run around grabbing candy and messing up people’s lawns. The Maximoff boys’ high-speed shenanigans could very well be Wanda’s subconscious projecting the deceased Pietro’s abilities into her imagined family, but this week’s plot challenges this idea by showing you a bit more about how the Hex actually functions.

Between the credits, the scene breaking, and her brief visit to the outside world, WandaVision’s given us all every reason to assume Wanda’s a mastermind within Westview who at the very least is subconsciously manipulating everyone within the Hex at all times. Vision even being able to wander away from Wanda and survey the rest of the town could easily be something that’s only possible because he told her that he planned to be away at the top of the episode. When “All-New Halloween Spooktacular!” cuts to Vision, you see that while there’s more and more activity the closer one gets to Wanda, people closer to the Hex’s edge appear to be in a kind of waking rest state, idling as they wait to be given reason to talk. It’s legitimately haunting to see the cluster of light and activity coming from Westview’s town centre starkly contrasted by the darkness and quiet Vision sees as he flies into the air after realising that the people on the outskirts of town can’t really interact with him. Strange as it all is, a bright light shining next to a home with glowing red windows catches the synthezoid’s eye, and it brings him face to face with Agnes, also on pause, in her car.

Pietro appearing dead to Wanda. (Screenshot: Disney+/Marvel)
Pietro appearing dead to Wanda. (Screenshot: Disney+/Marvel)

At the same time that Vision unlocks Agnes’ suppressed personality the way he did with Norm in the last episode, Wanda and Pietro are continuing their discussion about his being alive, and the husband and wife pair both make alarming discoveries that give them reason to be scared. Vision cannot comprehend what an Avenger is when Agnes, confusedly explains to him that he used to be one before dying, but he does process Agnes’ warning that Wanda won’t even let her think about escaping the Hex. When Wanda questions Pietro what happened to her accent, he responds in kind with the same, which is funny because fans have been wondering what happened to Wanda’s accent for years, but unsettling because Wanda can’t answer.

Even more disconcerting, Pietro fully recalls being shot to death during the events of Age of Ultron, and he explains to Wanda that, after dying, he heard her calling out to him wherever he was, and he came running. He makes light of these truths by wrapping them all up in the language of TV storytelling where the manchild uncles roll into town to shake things up, and WandaVision’s in-universe show drains some of the tension of out the moment by bringing the twins back into the picture and revealing that Tommy’s developed his own superspeed independent of his need to touch Pietro.

Rather than letting the show’s sitcom logic fully take over, though, we stick with Pietro and Wanda as the two of them keep dropping any pretense with one another and go into detail about what Wanda’s done. When Pietro first changes into his Quicksilver costume, his ridiculously windswept hairdo reads as WandaVision trying to go for as much comics accuracy as possible. But Pietro marveling at the sheer number of children finally milling about in Westview makes it much easier to consider whether Pietro’s hair tufts bearing a resemblance to a demon’s horns is intentional. Their conversation about kids is strange because it was Westview’s lack of children that was one of the topics of Wanda and Vision’s most recent fight, and the way Pietro talks to his sister makes it seem as if he’s impressed that she rose to the challenge.

When Wanda directly asks Pietro whether he thinks the things she’s actually responsible for are morally objectionable, he points out that the changes were made with some sort of ethical considerations in mind. Pietro’s assertion that she’s making things better by adjusting reality slightly comes across as WandaVision’s reminder of the pieces of House of M’s story at play here. Wanda’s insistence that she doesn’t know how the Hex began reads as authentic, as does the horror in her face when she sees a brief glimpse of Pietro, dead-eyed and riddled with bullet holes. Also eyebrow-raising is the way Wanda suddenly turns on Pietro later in the episode when he jokes that she doesn’t need to be concerned about Vision dying again considering that she can apparently bring him back from the dead.

The loneliness and emptiness Wanda describes as the only things she can recall before Westview sound a lot like the feeling coursing through Westview’s other residents when they’re freed from Wanda’s influence, again implying that Wanda might not be wholly to blame. Before WandaVision lets you sit with all of this for too long, the episode begins to come to a close by pivoting to Vision as he breaches the Hex’s outer walls and comes face to face with SWORD, Hayward, and a captured Darcy. Up until this point, all we really knew about Vision’s resurrection was that Wanda needed his corpse for some reason before she was able to magic it back to life. As Vision tears out of the Hex, though, you see that whatever it is that’s sustaining him is more than just a replacement for the destroyed Mind Stone. It’s extremely difficult for him to break free of the Hex, or even stand once he’s outside it, and not just because his power source is missing. We can’t be clear of the cause yet but you see chunks of Vision’s vibranium body being ripped apart as the Hex attempts to suck him back in.

Billy using his powers to stop Tommy. (Screenshot: Disney+/Marvel)
Billy using his powers to stop Tommy. (Screenshot: Disney+/Marvel)

What is clear, though, is that the experience is agonising for Vision and awful to see first hand. It’s seemingly the pain of being outside the Hex that activates Billy’s burgeoning, and unsurprisingly ill-defined, powers to jump out as he forces Tommy to stop running with a raised hand, and begins clairvoyantly zeroing in on their father’s location. The way Wanda only springs into action once her sons alert her to the emergency is another reason to suspect that they might be parts of her subconscious designed to keep her focused on her family, but what she does in response to Vision being in trouble overshadows almost everything else about “All-New Halloween Spooktacular!”

Every piece of evidence supporting the idea of Wanda’s innocence becomes infinitely less convincing as her pupils dilate and go completely red before everything inside of Westview slows and a massive wave of energy explodes from her body. Monica calling the Hex a self-imposed quarantine earlier in the season was strange at the time, but her words prove to be eerily prescient as the Hex begins to expand. It not only envelopes and restores Vision, but warps an even larger chunk of the world along with it. The show of the Hex sweeping outside of town limits to transform the surrounding area into more Westview is one of WandaVision’s most striking visual sequences yet. It immediately evokes echoes of the snap from Avengers: Endgame, though here the change leaves everyone quite alive.

In its final moments, WandaVision leaves even more questions unanswered than when the episode began, but what seems painfully obvious now is that, regardless of who’s responsible, there’s no way that the world’s not going to know about the Westview anomaly and who’s causing it. What started off as a strange occurrence only airing on local public access TV is quickly becoming a massive event that people are going to be forced to at the very least watch, if not become active participants in. It’s the sort of wild event that could easily draw headlines and lead to the public developing a very particular set of bigoted beliefs about anyone left changed by the Hex. It all makes you wonder “What If?” But that’s probably a question better left for another time.

WandaVision is now airing on Disney+.