What would any of us do when faced with a lifetime of trauma and the power to do something about it? For me, that is the central question behind “Previously On”, the eighth episode of WandaVision. By reliving some of the more traumatic elements of Wanda’s life up to the creation of the Hex, we as the audience are asked to empathize with Wanda, which is not that difficult, given the circumstances.
Spoilers ahead, so don’t read if you haven’t watched the episode.
This could be considered a “bottle episode”, since it involves few of the other characters from the show outside of key scenes. And it provides us some answers regarding the stranger aspects of the series up to this point, including “Pietro”. First, we are given a flashback to the Salem Witch era in American history. I have to say that I’m glad Marvel decided to keep this aspect of Agatha Harkness’ backstory. And it also leads into the idea I posited last week that Agatha isn’t the big bad of the series (that would be Hayward and SWORD at this point). Agatha is after power, pure and simple. We see that in how she is put on trial by her coven before she wipes them all out by reversing the life draining spell they’re using on her. Harkness wants to find out how Wanda has created the Hex and sets up a trip through Wanda’s memories to accomplish this task. And basically mind-controlling a resident of Westview to act as Wanda’s brother was just a ruse to learn more about how Wanda created the Hex (which is a low I don’t even want to contemplate sinking to). She may not be the big bad of the show but that doesn’t mean she’s not a villain.
The conceit of the show is that it has been revisiting sitcoms and tropes from a bygone era. We see now where that idea comes from: Wanda grew up watching classic sitcoms from America. Given that Sokovia didn’t have entertainment being produced locally, she watched old school and bootleg sitcoms to take her mind off her surroundings. Revisiting the death of her family was fraught with tension throughout, mainly because we know how this scene is going to end but we just don’t know when. Agatha’s observation that Wanda may have been magical all along fits. As has been shown throughout the films, Tony Stark knew what he was doing when he created weapons. One of his weapons being a dud didn’t sit well with me from a storytelling perspective but I didn’t think much of it after watching Age of Ultron. Here we get an explanation that helps tie together Wanda’s new powers by hypothesizes that they’ve always been a part of her.
Wanda’s time with HYDRA is also addressed, which allows Agatha to ask a question most of us have wondered: why would Pietro and Wanda align themselves with such an organization? Because they wanted to change the world, which HYDRA was committed to doing (just through the worst means possible). Her interaction with the Mind Stone retcons her powers into aligning with where Wanda is going moving forward. Instead of giving her powers, the Infinity Stone amplified the existing connection to magic she possessed, even giving her a vision (pardon the unintentional pun) of what I presume is herself as the Scarlet Witch we know from the comics.
My favorite scene, though, is Wanda and Vision in the Avengers compound. The scene is set sometime between the end of Age of Ultron and the beginning of Captain America: Civil War. Wanda is still grieving Pietro and Vision, despite not know exactly how to do it, still manages to be there for her. Vision’s line “What is grief, if not love persevering” hit me right in the feels. This is not too long into Vision’s life and he is beginning to grasp both his burgeoning humanity and his growing connection to Wanda.
And then we find out how much of a scumbag Hayward really is. Wanda’s visit to SWORD spins the narrative Hayward has been giving us since episode five on its ear. Wanda never stole Vision’s body, only reaching out to SWORD in order to respect his wishes and give him a proper burial. But SWORD wants its Sentient Weapon, a revitalized Vision without the humanity he learned over the course of his relatively brief life. And then we see the most heartbreaking moment: Wanda standing in the empty lot that Vision had purchased to build them a home.
In a moment of grief so profound and powerful, Wanda unleashed her magic and changed not only the vacant lot but the entire town into her sitcom fantasy. And she recreates Vision from nothing, which explains why Vision has no memory of anything prior to Westview. In an attempt to deal with the grief of losing the last person she truly cared about, Wanda tapped into pure Chaos Magic and create a suburban dream where she and Vision could be happy.
Which leads into the ending confrontation that I’m genuinely looking forward to. Wanda squaring off with Agatha while Hayward bring SWORD into the Hex with their newly reactivated Vision drone (sporting the all-white exterior seen in the comics at one point). Westview may not be left standing at the end of this or if it is, it’s going to be a vastly different landscape. Where Wanda, Vision, Monica, Agatha, and the rest find themselves afterwards is a different story.