Halloween. The one time of the year where it’s perfectly acceptable (and encouraged) to think about the dead and the living. Or the living dead. Or in the case of Westview, the “dead” living. Some deeply troubling visions of what is happening in the Anomaly are brought to the forefront in this episode. And more Pietro, which is kinda fun and kinda weird.
Spoilers ahead, so don’t read if you haven’t watched the episode.
First, the cheesy, comic-accurate Halloween costumes. The wardrobe department for the show went overboard on this and it was great. Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany were great sports for wearing those ridiculous outfits. This is another example that sometimes it’s best to leave what’s on the comic book page, in the comic book page.
I have to admit that I have not always been a fan of Evan Peters. I enjoyed his performances in X-Men: Days of Future Past and X-Men: Apocalypse as the Fox version of Pietro. But I haven’t enjoyed his work on American Horror Story, mainly because it’s just not my kind of show (watched the first season and couldn’t bring myself to watch any of the others). Here, though, he gets to ramp up the snark and obnoxiousness to a big degree, playing someone who knows they are in a TV show and is fulfilling a predetermined “role”. From what I could glean out of this episode, this is Pietro from Avengers: Age of Ultron, not the Fox version. He just doesn’t have the same memories (or those memories have been altered by the Hex).
Watching Evan Peters and Elizabeth Olsen play off each other for the majority of the episode was fun. You can see Wanda is not entirely comfortable with this new version of her brother. Reading into Olsen’s performance, I get the sense that Wanda understands on some level that she can never have her brother back, only a facsimile that is a shell of who she grew up with. Watching Olsen play Wanda as she’s coming to grips with this person who is and is not her brother was enjoyable, though I did feel it dragged a bit toward the end of the episode. The gut-punch at the end was something else, though. Whatever Wanda’s feelings about this new version of Pietro are, they pale in comparison to her desire to protect Vision.
Which brings me to Paul Bettany’s work in this episode. He had quite a bit of heavy-lifting to do, since the vast majority of his scenes involved people who he wasn’t directly interacting with. Watching him wander through Westview and finding people either locked into repetitive motions (creepy) or be completely frozen in place (double creepy) was disconcerting, to say the least. The tension of his journey as he ventured further and further away from Wanda showed that Wanda’s immense control over the town is having a massively negative effect on these people (if that wasn’t already apparent by now). And it wouldn’t be a Halloween episode if there wasn’t some horror to the events shown, which we received in spades when Vision managed to escape the Hex’s barrier. The disintegration of Vision would have most likely resulted in him returning to the state Wanda found him in when she raided the SWORD compound.
The storyline outside the Anomaly (well, while it was outside the Anomaly, but more on that in a moment) is reaching a crescendo. Tyler Hayward, from his first appearance in episode four, has been on my radar as someone to not trust. Once it was established that Wanda appropriated Vision’s remains from a SWORD facility, the idea that SWORD was there to deal with Wanda went out the window. They are attempting to deal with Wanda but their real goal is to recover Vision’s body for use in a new weapon’s program, codenamed Cataract. I was not able to find any reference to that within the Marvel Comics canon, so it’s a new invention for the show (or possibly an old reference that has been renamed). The confrontation between Hayward and Monica Rambeau was well-acted but a bit cliched, which is not a negative in this case. Hayward and Monica both have legitimate points: Wanda is a massive threat but she is also their best chance to resolve the Anomaly. Having said that, Hayward’s low blows regarding Maria’s death made me want to reach through the screen and smack the hell out of the character, which is a testament to how well Josh Stamberg carried his end of that scene.
The ending was appropriately chilling and frightening, again a good inclusion in a Halloween-themed episode. Wanda expanding the Hex to engulf Vision as he was dying also led to practically all of the SWORD operatives, including Darcy, to be consumed as well, transformed in seconds into clowns, a circus, a used car lot, etc. Monica and Jimmy Woo are off to meet with an aerospace engineer who can get them back into the Anomaly (and I have a pretty good idea who that engineer is but I’m going to hold off on any predictions). And Hayward revealed his true colors by abandoning virtually all of his operatives and barely escaping the area.
The stakes have been raised yet again with only three episodes left in the series. Wanda’s powers are expanding and growing beyond what she should be able to accomplish. Agnes’s scene with Vision near the boundary was tense but also manufactured in my opinion. What role she is playing in this story is still not clear to me but it’ll be fun to see what that is. And we still have no idea who is ultimately behind Wanda’s actions or if this is really is just Wanda dealing with the immense grief and loneliness she experienced after being returned from the Snap. Either way, I’m looking forward to next week’s episode (which seems to be taking its sitcom cues from Modern Family like this episode took from Malcolm in the Middle).