Friday, September 22, 2023

A Spooky WandaVision Halloween Special Grows Its Cast

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Welcome to special Westview Halloween in WandaVision! Are you like Vision, wondering where all the kids are? Here they are, binging on candy while their parents are stuck in repetitive decoration loops! Wondering about Pietro’s recast? Well, so are the rest of us, to be honest. I wish I could say I understand more than I did last week.

Every week it feels more like the theories keep expanding. And hey, so did the Hex! It’s like poetry, it kind of rhymes.

wandavision old school

WandaVision moved into the 90s this week with “All-New Halloween Spooktacular,” riffed on Malcom in the Middle (complete with Tommy and Billy Maximoff talking to the camera), and broke the fourth wall left and right. This might have been the most referential episode of the show yet, from the dialogue to the costumes. How well did it work? Good question.

There were certainly a substantial number of terrific moments in this episode. The new Pietro Maximoff stands out most of all. Evan Peters is dynamite from beginning to end as he plays the cool uncle/big brother role to perfection, makes constant digs at Wanda, plays coy about his memories, and generally serves as a figure of mayhem. More than anything else, this episode is defined by the chaos he represents and the limits of Wanda’s control over her surroundings.

Theories about Pietro being some more powerful entity posing as Pietro certainly received fuel here. It is not just the different appearance and the memories he should have but evaded or the memories he does have but should not. He makes multiple comments that you cannot help but side-eye, as if he knows something we (and maybe Wanda) do not. How does he know so much about Wanda’s control when Vision does not? How does he know Vision died? What should we take from him calling the twins “demon spawn” or saying Wanda is just suppressing trauma? Why is he so evasive?

Maybe he knows what he knows because he is a Wanda creation, but the differences from Vision raises questions.

My biggest problem with WandaVision this week relates back to this sense of chaos, and the way the sitcom side of things fell by the wayside. This felt like the first episode where WandaVision did not stick true to the style of the sitcom era. Everything started strong, but once the Maximoffs leave home, any real attempt to stick to the era seem to leave with them.

With so much happening, I understand why WandaVision would find it easy to let the style slack and instead focus on the important events happening around them. Perhaps this was the point. Every episode has had less of a grip on the era of TV it replicates because every episode has chipped away at Wanda’s attempts to control her life.

And maybe it is just harder to distinguish 90s-era clothing language, direction, etc. from the current day.

(The biggest exception being the Yo-Magic ad. Talk about being ripped right out of the 90s.)

It also didn’t help the episode’s attempts at a consistent artistic feel when the episode was spread across so many storylines. Vision ducks out early to try and escape Westview and we get more of Monica, Woo, and Darcy trying to discover SWORD’s agenda. I do not mean to suggest that they did a bad job capturing that 90s sitcom feel but it was not quite on par with previous episodes. I would have loved to see the entire episode show more dedication to the satire.

What does the feel really matter, though? I cannot pretend the episode really suffered all that much. If the style suffers for the sake of some revelations, so be it.

And the episode was clearly chockful of revelations. We found out the (temporary) limit of Wanda’s powers, and that anyone not nearby and playing an active role in whatever Wanda shows “on-screen” is stuck frozen in perpetuity until they are “in scene” again. This was easily the most disturbing part of the episode, with Vision traveling to entire neighborhoods frozen in place and well aware they are frozen. It now makes sense why Wanda let the children “sleep” until now; everyone in Westview is suffering but these people are stuck in a permanent stasis they feel happening to them.

Vision takes this as the final straw to try and escape the neighborhood, and almost succeeds. He was willing to be torn apart (which was disturbing to see happen to him) in order to warn someone outside the Hex of what Wanda is doing.

When Wanda figures this out, with the help of one son’s newfound telepathic abilities, she decides to expand Westview until it has swallowed up the entire SWORD encampment and most of its personnel, including Darcy. Vision is brought back into the fold. He has clearly sided against her at this point and I assume Wanda will try and exert greater control. Will she succeed? I don’t know if she can.

This week certainly did not help the “please don’t make Wanda the villain” side of the audience. As she grows increasingly aware of her power to control Westview, she can no longer play dumb about the harm being done to the people stuck with her. Expanding the Hex was a decidedly selfish and cruel act that brought even more people into the nightmare existence of a WandaVision extra. Even Wanda must realize she has no justified argument here.

Her actions here will demand a response that will threaten not just her life, but the lives of everyone she enslaved. Before, you could argue she was simply part of someone else’s sick experiment. She is decidedly a villain now, even if the larger threat still has greater control.

The problem with Westview’s new territory is that Wanda was already struggling to maintain the fantasy with the smaller Hex. This episode was the most obvious example yet. No one tries to contain their powers and multiple residents show awareness of what is happening. Pietro seems to serve as an agent of chaos accelerating Wanda’s diminished control, but this has been happening in every episode. With Westview covering even more ground, with more residents, and Vision unlikely to stop fighting her, how will Wanda maintain any real control?

Plus, Monica and Woo escaped and are still running free. SWORD’s director is also free and will probably decide on a violent response to Monica’s expansion.

Speaking of, the Super Trio of Monica, Woo, and Darcy crack SWORD’s files and discover that Monica’s cellular structure has changed from entering and exiting Westview. Can you say superhero origin story? It will most certainly require superheroes to break Wanda’s control, and considering WandaVision has served as Monica Rambeau’s proper introduction into the MCU, why not go all the way and deliver our first glimpse of her own eventual superpowered alias?

Only three episodes remain this season. If we assume that, at the very least, the finale will be all about Westview being saved, then Wanda’s control will probably break at some point in the next two episodes. WandaVision basically out of television eras to lampoon and I assume the final episode or two will be tied up with resolving things, so no more fun there.

I hope Darcy’s inclusion in Westview means our final sitcom sendoff involves her as a waitress.

Images Courtesy of Marvel Studios

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  • Bo

    Bo relaxes after long days of staring at computers by staring at computers some more, and feels slightly guilty over his love for Villanelle.

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