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WandaVision - Breaking the Fourth Wall - Review: Modern Fantasy

Everything changes (but, as it turns out, nothing has really changed) on this week’s Modern Family-inspired episode of WandaVision.

After her time-stopping outburst in the previous episode, Wanda wants to take a day to herself. As the world of The Hex begins to glitch out, Wanda shills Billy and Tommy off to Agnes to get some “me time.” Additionally, when Vision doesn’t come home, Wanda surmises that after Halloween, he doesn’t want to see her anymore. Although she pretends she’s fine with that, she clearly isn’t, and all these factors lead her into somewhat of an existential crisis.

Vision, meanwhile, finds himself in the midst of the former S.W.O.R.D. encampment, now a carnival, with no mark left over from his near-disintegration. Recognizing Darcy from before, he “wakes her up” from her role as an escape artist, and she tells him about his past and the mystery behind The Hex. The two steal an ice cream truck to find Wanda, but they encounter several literal roadblocks, and Vision believes that Wanda is using her magic to try to stop him. After several more setbacks, Vision removes his lapel mic mid-talking head and takes off on his own to find Wanda, leaving Darcy on the road.

Rambeau and Woo, who escaped Westview’s sudden expansion, find an email that Darcy had sent before she was absorbed into The Hex that details how Hayward was trying to bring Vision back in some way to be used as a weapon, which is presumably why Wanda broke into S.W.O.R.D. to steal his body. This brings us to a whole other load of questions, including how Wanda, presumably with Vision’s body, ended up in New Jersey in the first place.

The episode’s “commercial” segment is for an anti-depression medication called “Nexus,” advertising a novel solution for depression - simply invent a world you like better! In the comics, Nexus is notably the name of both a gateway between realities and of powerful beings that can affect the timestream and are linked to that gateway, so...yeah!

Rambeau and Woo get in contact with S.W.O.R.D. Agents who are still loyal to Maria Rambeau (and another mysterious boss - Nick Fury?) who provide them with a space rover and suit for Monica to once again enter The Hex, although this time unchanged. The attempt seems promising, but the rover can’t force its way through the magical wall, and the first half is spit out, turned into a truck bumper. Instead of being deterred, however, Rambeau immediately gets back up and dashes through the wall, summoning memories of her younger self (as seen/heard in Captain Marvel© Marvel Studios) to retain her true identity as she passes through the wall. Monica doesn’t just keep her personality upon her latest trip into The Hex, however - she also gains some form of super-resistance that makes her eyes go blue, and seemingly protects her somewhat from Wanda’s powers.

Rambeau finds Wanda at her house and tries to convince her that Vision is in danger. However, Wanda still doesn’t want to hear anything about the outside world, and Agnes comes to her neighbor’s defense, ushering her away. As she follows Agnes, Wanda leaves Monica with a warning: “Don't make me hurt you.”

At Agnes’ house, Wanda begins to get a bad feeling when she realizes there is no sign of Billy or Tommy anywhere. When Agnes says they might be playing in the basement, Wanda wanders down thataways, only to find a mysterious, overgrown chamber with a glowing book on a stand.

Agnes meets her down there, flaunting her purple-tinted magic abilities for the first time. Agnes reintroduces herself as the witch Agatha Harkness, and, accompanied by her own theme song (the meme-rific “Agatha All Along”) reveals that she was responsible for everything in the Hex, after all. (Oh, The Hex! I get it now).

In an end tag (the first of the series, in fact) Pietro catches Monica snooping around Agnes/atha’s house and says - aptly - “snoopers gonna snoop.”

I’ve already written a review detailing a fairly negative element of this show that I feel is unignorable. While I still hold those opinions very strongly, I want to analyze these last three episodes holistically. So, ironically, I’m now going to ignore those “unignorable” feelings entirely, instead focusing on the artistry of Jac Schaeffer’s universe (however serving of a higher power it may be in my mind).

That said, my feelings toward this episode were not all sunshine and daisies. For one, I think the reveal that Hayward and Agnes were the bad guys was essentially set in stone from day one, making the ado surrounding Agatha’s reveal seem a bit redundant. The “Agatha All Along” bit was certainly kitschy, but I think that would’ve worked had the villain reveal been even a bit more surprising; as it is, the song feels like force-feeding us shock toward something fans had worked out well before the show was even released. Hey, I’m not a total Scrooge though - the song is definitely, as the kids say it, a bop.

At times, the format and execution of the “sitcom-of-the-week” in this episode felt half-hearted, as if it was a bit less fun to emulate sitcoms from the last decade than it was to recreate ones from eras long past. I won’t lie, I would tend to agree with that idea. The petering out of the Mockumentary as a genre still feels fresh, and its habitual partner, the workplace comedy, isn’t even dead yet, with late ‘10’s greats like Superstore and Brooklyn Nine-Nine still preparing for the ends of their runs. That said, the delightfully eerie moment when Wanda tells the unseen interviewer “You’re not supposed to talk” stands out as a major highlight of the past 4 episodes, so maybe the episode was worth it just for that.

One thing I will say in praise of this episode is that it really zeroed in on the “comic-booky” feel, something which I have recognized has been executed well in the entirety of this season, but came through strongly here. The jauntiness of WandaVision’s story consistently does covers for a lot of its flaws, making it fun and engaging to watch even if it is secretly not particularly special. It truly presents itself as being unique to the TV space, which allows me to believe it.

Another positive: Monica Rambeau continues to be the best tether the show has to any kind of grounded character arc here, and I am in awe each week of Teyonah Parris’ performance. Echoing and arguably perfecting the Captain Marvel motif of getting back up again, I almost wish that the story was restructured so that Rambeau was the main character, with Wanda working - for lack of a better metaphor - almost as a Villanelle to Rambeau’s Eve, perhaps? I think that show, overall, would have more to say not only about trauma and grief, but about Wanda as well; one thing that I have found the most bothersome about this show is that it keeps telling us it’s a show about Wanda and Vision without ever diving deeper into the characters of Wanda or Vision.

I’m still holding out hope for one last surprise that makes this story feel more complete, although it sounds like the only one in store might be the highly-teased “major” cameo that many predict to be either Sir Ian McKellan as Magneto, John Krasinski as Mr. Fantastic, or Benedict Cumberbatch as Dr. Strange. I know I promised not to talk about the show’s corporate shill-iness any more, but I can’t help but point out that if the major talking point of your show is what will happen after it’s over, I can’t help but think there’s something wrong there. But hey, there's two episodes left, so nothing is set in stone, right?

What did you think of “Breaking the Fourth Wall?” On a scale of 1-10, how stuck has “Agatha All Along” been in your head this week? Let me know in the comments!

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