Things took a drastic turn in last week’s episode of WandaVision ‘Breaking the Fourth Wall’, and in that episode’s final moments the rug was firmly pulled out from Wanda Maximoff’s feet and the illusion of the Westview Anamoly was flipped on its head. A darker, more dangerous threat arose thanks to the presence of Kathryn Hahn’s Agatha Harkness…and she’s not done with Wanda yet.
Shaken by the sudden appearance of Agatha Harkness (Hahn), and her dangerous witchcraft powers, Wanda is forced to relive her past in order to find the root of her magical abilities and just how she came to craft the Westview Anamoly. And for Wanda, these are some very hard and devastating truths that she has come face to face with.
While WandaVision, for the most part, has been a bubbly, happy-go-lucky, decade hopping sitcom with plenty of comedy, and a few thrilling surprises here and there, director Matt Shankman takes a darker turn in ‘Previously On’. With the arrival of a new big bad in Kathryn Hahn’s Agatha Harkness, Shankman gets to explore a different side of the MCU’s magical realm, in the form of the dark and grimy practice of witchcraft. And he takes the audience directly into the horror genre in ‘Previously On’. It’s a stark contrast to what has come before, and this horror-tinged element gives the series a serious edge, and you never know what’s coming around the corner as Wanda has to re-live her past.
Pulled away from the fantasy of her sitcom life, Wanda Maximoff is back to her usual Sokovian self, including her thick European accent, and we get to see the events that shaped her as a woman and as a hero. There was a beautiful childhood, marred by death and destruction at the whims of unexpected collateral damage, her exposure to the Mind Stone and its effects upon her, alongside her first romantic moments with The Vision (Paul Bettany), and her actions following the blip. All of it is a very heavy toll for her to grapple with, and the emotions come heavy and fast in ‘Previously On’.
Two of the episode’s key moments include her original romantic meetings with The Vision, and her final interaction with his corpse, following her return after the blip. In these moments we see Wanda at her most vulnerable, and Shankman showcases how the love that was built between Wanda and Vision is the result of their isolation and loneliness, and that together they were able to find happiness in one another that truly gave their lives meaning. The episode’s most pivotal and heartbreaking scene is where Wanda visits the original Westview, a now broken, dilapidated town following the events of the blip and the site where she would have built a home with Vision. This moment is wrapped up in emotion and will have you in tears thanks to the power of Olsen’s performance and its significance for Wanda’s character.
Part of what makes this episode so interesting is the way in which Shankman showcases how television, and therefore fantasy, has shaped Wanda’s life through the series that she consumed as both a child and a young woman. Shankman explores how the concept of narrative storytelling can be a cathartic, healing activity and how our nature to dive into stories allows us to escape from our everyday troubles. Shankman’s thematic exploration of the power of storytelling through media is incredibly interesting to watch, and it further gives us more insights into Wanda Maximoff as a character that long-time MCU fans will be incredibly interested in.
Stepping up in a big way in ‘Previously On’ is Kathryn Hahn as new big bad Agatha Harkness. A powerful witch practised in the dark arts, Agatha can trace her lineage back to Salem, Massachusetts, and her dark powers make her a compelling and dangerous new villain within the MCU. Hahn shows a completely different side to herself as Agatha, and she’s dangerous, spiteful and incredibly jealous of Wanda’s sudden power, and in her view ‘lack of claim’ to witchcraft. Vindictive and angered by Wanda’s abilities, Agatha revels in Wanda’s past trauma and Hahn gives her a menacing ‘narration’ that follows each past moment of Wanda’s life with sadistic glee. Hahn keeps audiences on their toes in ‘Previously On’, and Agatha is a villain who is sure to really shake up the MCU.
‘Previously On’ is a very big turn for WandaVision, and the growth of Wanda Maximoff within the MCU. Its closing moments will have you on edge thanks to the revelation about Wanda’s identity and we can firmly say that the Scarlet Witch is on her way. Where we go next in WandaVision is anyone’s guess, but the stage is set for a massive showdown, and you won’t want to look away for a second.
WandaVision streams every Friday night on Disney+.
Image: Walt Disney Pictures