WandaVision Episode 8 – Previously On Review

While it may have wrongfooted some viewers who were expecting the fireworks to begin – fireworks which are most definitely on their way – PREVIOUSLY ON is a surprisingly quiet episode – a quiet which Gandalf would no doubt observe as “the deep breath before the plunge”. Not only does it give WANDAVISION the opportunity to pause, reflect and, like the FAMILY TIES credits, colour in the picture to the very edges. It reaches further back, providing an exploration of events only mentioned in passing during AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON and some emotional subtext for the events of CAPTAIN AMERICA CIVIL WAR.

Yes, for die-hard fans it might feel like a frustrating hesitation before the grand finale – a bad case of narrative blue balls as the series looks to explain some of the series’ remaining mysteries which they, in their encyclopaedic knowledge has already figured out and are eager to get to the payoff. But this is an episode where Marvel has decided the needs of the few outweigh the desires of the many. For die-hard fans, it may be frustrating, but Marvel is well aware they are nurturing a new generation of fans with each new release and so they won’t neglect those who don’t necessarily know all the deep cut references or have the foreknowledge to connect all the Kirby dots. WANDAVISION, and PREVIOUSLY ON in particular, is a richer experience for it.

***SPOILERS & SPECULATION***

When they say PREVIOUSLY ON, they aren’t kidding around as the episode opens in Salem, Massachusetts, 1693, but only after a conspicuous purple takeover of the usual Marvel Studios ident. Agatha Harkness is being brought to trial, not by the ones which made the town infamous famous, but rather by her own coven who accuse her, rightly as it transpires, of betraying them and practicing forbidden dark magic. It’s a sequence which has serious AMERICAN HORROR STORY vibes, so much so you expect Sarah Paulson to pop up at any moment.

WandaVision Previously On Review

There are no cutesy sitcom credits this week, not even a title card as we head straight back to Agatha’s Westview cellar where her agenda is made clear. She wants to understand the source of Wanda’s unprecedented power. Agatha seems aghast at Wanda’s abilities and nonplussed by Wanda’s ignorance of even the basics of magic. We’re definitely moving towards the subtle retconning of Wanda’s power source here.

There are a couple of interesting points of contrast with DOCTOR STRANGE in PREVIOUSLY ON, especially in the idea of study and practice to amplify magical ability. However it seems clear there are at least two types of magic in the Marvel Cinematic Universe because the spells cast by Wanda and Agatha bear little resemblance to the incantations and pseudo-martial artistry practiced by the followers of The Ancient One. Another point of note is that Agatha was drawn to Westview by the magnitude of magical use, a seismic event on the astral plane as it were which makes it almost inevitable that Doctor Strange will also be moved to investigate given its proximity to the New York Sanctum.

WandaVision Previously On Review

The episode’s primary narrative begins, though, when in order to figure out how and why Wanda created the Hex, Agatha casts a spell to take her back through her memories. It’s an emotional and occasionally heart-breaking journey through the key events in Wanda’s life. We get a poignant and wholly satisfying explanation for why Wanda’s fantasies took the form of sitcoms through the years and we also get a glimpse of the earliest moments of the budding romance between Wanda and Vision in the aftermath of AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON and into CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR. Perhaps the most interesting reminiscence, though, is Wanda’s encounter with the Mind Stone, at that point still contained in Loki’s sceptre, which leads Agatha to conclude that the infinity stone amplified a latent ability which would otherwise have ‘withered on the vine’.

It’s in the immediate past of WANDAVISION that PREVIOUSLY ON delivers its weightiest emotional blow as we see the truth behind Wanda’s visit to S.W.O.R.D. Headquarters (Director Hayward lied? Shocker!). Hayward’s deception is the feint which allows a haymaker sucker punch revelation of what brought Wanda to Westview in the first place.

WandaVision Previously On Review

What the episode lacks in action, it more than makes up for in emotional and impactful revelations, not least of all the first-ever use of the name ‘Scarlet Witch’ in the MCU. With an ending that sees Agatha revealed in all her glory in a stand-off against Wanda with her children at stake, you’d be forgiven for thinking the episode had delivered its full payload but stay tuned for a mid-credits scene that drops one last bombshell, this time about Vision.

score-9

9/10

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