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WandaVision - Previously On - Review: Sorry For Your Loss

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WandaVision goes in hard with exposition this week, and yet there are still too many burning questions left on my mind. Read on for my review of “Previously On”:

Salem, MA; somewhere in the 1600’s. Agnes - or, as we now know her, Agatha - is being put to death for being a witch...but not by puritans, like one would expect, but by other witches! As it turns out, she had been experimenting with her powers beyond what was allowed. However, as her coven tries to destroy her, Agatha instead overpowers and kills all of her fellow coven members.

Back in the present: after being lured down to Agatha’s evil witch basement, Wanda discovers that the room’s warding prevents her from using her powers.

Agatha threatens Tommy and Billy unless Wanda goes to relive all her previous memories. It’s implied that she is trying to discover how Wanda was able to power Westview - although I assume there’s a bazillion better ways to do it than physically traveling into Wanda’s memories, but hey, this is supposed to be a grief show, and we’re running out of time! We start in Wanda’s childhood in Sokovia, where she and her family would watch old sitcoms together, including Wanda’s favorite, The Dick Van Dyke Show. Those sitcoms kept playing even as Wanda and Pietro ended up trapped next to an unexploded Stark bomb after their parents died (events previously alluded to earlier in the season, as well as in Age of Ultron).

The next flashback is to an older Wanda, having joined an anti-government resistance secretly backed by HYDRA, receiving her powers from Loki’s staff. She watches sitcoms in her cell between experiments. Then, another flash forward: Wanda and Vision watching sitcoms together in Avengers HQ after Pietro’s death. As she mourns the loss of her brother, Vision offers her the already infamous line: “What is grief, if not love persevering?”

Next, Wanda goes to S.W.O.R.D. HQ to pick up Vision’s body after the events of Avengers: Endgame. She intends to give him a proper burial, but is told that she can’t. She is let in to meet with Hayward, who shows her that they are dismantling his body to create a new Vision.

“He’s all I have,” she tells him.
“He isn’t yours,” Hayward responds.

Wanda breaks into the lab area, but, contrary to what Hayward implied earlier in the show, he actually lets her. She examines his pieces, but after she can’t “feel” him, she leaves, alone.

Wanda then goes to Westview, N.J., where she finds that Vision had bought a lot for them to build a house on “to grow old in.” Overwhelmed by grief, Wanda takes over the town, turning it into the sitcom suburbia we know it as, and creating a fake Vision be the Rob to her Laura Petrie.

Wanda runs outside to see Agatha holding her children captive. The episode ends as Agatha tells her “I know what you are...this is Chaos Magic, Wanda. That makes you a Scarlet Witch.”

The end tag shows that they’ve rebuilt Vision to be a sentient weapon, and are using Wanda’s own Westview magic to power him. Buh buh buh!

While I can’t emphasize enough how entertaining this show is, characteristically, it gets more and more jumbled by the week. Consistently, it finds itself acting as half an MCU film and half experimental television show, with neither half committing quite well enough to create a whole anything. It seems that the further the season progresses, the cooler the episodes are... and the less they hold up to any scrutiny. I want to like this show so badly - everyone else in the world does, it seems - and this episode, beautifully acted by Elizabeth Olsen, makes it hard to tell it no. But there are still some things that hold me back from truly feeling the way I’m meant to feel about it.

For one, there is absolutely no reasoning behind the villains' actions or motivations. For instance: this week's reveal makes the Agatha All Along stuff - what felt like a huge deal a week ago - seem even more sensationalized than it already was. I mean, it was “Agatha All Along,” except it was really Wanda all along, and Agatha didn’t really do anything except make Pietro and kill Sparky (and for what? She seemingly didn’t know that Westview was made through grief, so was doing those two specific things just... wild guesses at what might set Wanda off?). And don't even get me started on Hayward, who has yet to make any kind of real impact on the narrative whatsoever - at least Agatha's done something.

Also, witches just... exist now? The MCU takes such precautions to say that all of their magic is just advanced science - and before you say “Um, actually!” - even Doctor Strange’s powers come from a distinct source; a deep connection to oneself and to the multiverse. Is it the same for Agatha? Or does the term “witch” refer to people who got their powers from Infinity Stones, as Wanda did? And if so, how did so many people get their hands on Infinity Stones in the 1600’s?

Beyond the nerdy confusion, which, to be fair, is not a new concept to MCU fans, this episode also had a sour undertone: while I finally got the emotional character development I’ve vocally yearned for all season (and don’t get me wrong, I appreciated it for what it was), I don’t know how many points you can give for all of it being shoved into a single exposition dump episode near the end. Not to mention that episode came at the expense of a lot of rationality, and brought with it a myriad more questions that I’m starting to think won’t all get answered.

For hope that they will be filled in the finale, I won’t crack down too hard on any of the plot holes. In fact, I’ll just leave this review here: this episode was wonderfully well-made.

But, what continually catches me up: what’s the difference between well-made and good? Is there one? I’m not saying there definitely is or isn’t. But this is something I want to explore. WandaVision is most definitely, without a doubt, well-made. It is well-produced. It is (mostly) well-written. It is well-acted. It is drowning in production money.

But how good is it?

Guess we’ll have to tune in tomorrow and find out.

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