It was *redacted* all along!
Disney+’s very first Marvel series has proven to be a massive hit, outdoing popular shows like Bridgerton to become the most-viewed title of January 2021. Part of its popularity can be credited to the constant cliffhangers dropped on us after massive plot reveals, fuelling speculation and rumours during the horrible week-long wait in between new episodes. It kind of reminds me of Lost. Remember all that fuss over what was in the Hatch? Good times.
Sadly, our time with Vision and the Scarlet Witch is coming to an end. Next week, WandaVision airs its final episode and with no Season 2 renewal in sight, this could be the last time we see either Avenger for some time. Friday’s penultimate episode ‘Previously On’ was fairly eventful, giving us our first 40-minute episode this season (finally!) and no small amount of twists and easter eggs. Needless to say, we’re diving into full spoiler territory here, so if you haven’t seen WandaVision up to Episode 8 - avert your eyes!
Let’s kick things off with the biggest reveal so far: Wanda Maximoff has been a witch since birth. Previously, her powers were explained away in Avengers: Age of Ultron as the result of a series of experiments, carried out by Hydra’s Baron Wolfgang von Strucker. Wanda possesses incredible telekinetic and telepathic abilities, while her brother Pietro (Quicksilver) is a speedster. The origins of these powers and the two’s lineage are fairly complicated in the comics, and have been retconned more than once. First, their parents were normal humans: Django and Marya Maximoff. Then, they were golden-age heroes called Whizzer and Miss America. Then, their dad was Magneto, which made them mutants. And then they found out that they weren’t related to Magneto at all, and they weren’t mutants, and their powers actually came from a being called the High Evolutionary. Comic shenanigans!
WandaVision offers a much simpler, more straightforward retcon by comparison. Episode 8 sees the witch Agatha Harkness walk Wanda through her troubled childhood, revealing that she was born with powers - but they had been drastically amplified after an encounter with the Mind Stone. The Mind Stone even gives her a tantalising glimpse of the future, one in which she’s dressed head-to-toe in Scarlet Witch’s iconic comicbook garb - red tiara and all. This power surge is why she was able to transmute the entirety of Westview and its populace into multiple sitcom eras’ worth of props and costumes with zero magical training, while it took Agatha, “years of study,'' to transform a bug into a bird.
Once Agatha finishes walking Wanda through her childhood memories, she throws leashes on Wanda’s newly-minted children and reveals that Wanda created all of Westview’s illusions using ‘Chaos Magic’, which makes her ‘the Scarlet Witch’. We’ll have to wait until next episode to find out what exactly Chaos Magic is, but it looks like Wanda is a being of prophecy to witches like Agatha Harkness, whose existence has been foretold for an unknown amount of time.
When Agatha walked Wanda through her old memories, we finally got a solid answer to the question that’s been bugging us from the beginning: What the heck are Wanda and Vision doing in a bunch of sitcoms? The show is clearly a love letter to old eras of TV sitcoms - from black-and-white, to colour, to mockumentary - but we never really knew why we were watching these two characters act out gags, only that Westview residents were playing unwilling participants to Wanda’s sitcom party.
The very first flashback we get is the most telling - one where Wanda and her family sit down to watch sitcoms in Sokovia, using these shows as an escape from their war-torn surroundings. We see glimpses of some of the comedies WandaVision has been referencing all season: the Dick Van Dyke Show, I Love Lucy, Bewitched and Malcolm in the Middle. These references weren’t at all subtle, but it’s cool that we got visual confirmation! Wanda never stopped falling back on sitcoms as an escape - we see her binging Malcolm in the Middle right after Pietro’s death in Avengers base as proof. It’s likely that she also checked out The Office and Modern Family at some point before Vision’s death in Infinity War, since those shows were referenced in Episode 7 too.
You can see lots of parallels between these sitcoms and the events of WandaVision - like the episode of Malcolm in the Middle that Wanda watches with Vision, where Hal builds something that ultimately collapses on him. Earlier on in Episode 3, we saw Vision try to build a swingset only for that to break down too. The episode of the Dick Van Dyke Show that Wanda’s family watches is S02E21: It May Look Like a Walnut, wherein the protagonist starts to lose touch with reality, and begins to believe nothing is as it seems. That’s WandaVision in a nutshell - pun intended.