Each week on WandaVision, Wanda Maximoff’s psychically-constructed television fantasy has advanced itself forward in the history of the American sitcom, not only updating the production design but the style of comedy and tone. As the consequences of Wanda’s new reality become more complicated, so too does the world she creates become more emotionally honest. Now, in an episode inspired by turn-of-the-century single-camera sitcoms, Wanda is running out of artifice to hide behind, and soon it may all be gone.
You’re Not the Boss of Me, Now
“All-New Halloween Spooktacular!” represents the most dramatic evolution of WandaVision’s sitcom illusion yet. The laugh track is gone, the pace of the dialogue is up, the fourth wall is broken, and we “woosh” into prompted cutaway gags at the drop of the hat. The era of the idealized TV family is over — the kids misbehave, and the adults aren’t terribly functional, either. It seems to be drawing from Malcolm in the Middle, minus the working class angst. The most obvious nod would be the twins acting as narrators and setting up scenes for the audience, although Billy (Julian Hilliard) and Tommy (Jett Klyne) are still mostly accessories to the plot.
In-universe, the symbol of this tonal change is the addition of Wanda’s twin brother Pietro (Evan Peters), an era-appropriate self-aware troublemaker who plays Halloween pranks with young Tommy and becomes a true confidant for Wanda. Pietro is the first person Wanda has been able to talk to about her predicament without judgment. Unlike Vision, Pietro remembers his old life right up until the point he was shot, and he views Wanda’s transformation of Westview as a net positive, putting Wanda’s happiness over whatever sacrifices the rest of the town are forced to make.
The downside of this episode’s earnestness is that it comes at the expense of the comedy. There aren’t really any laughs this week, and that can’t be blamed on the new setting — contemporary single-camera sitcoms may be more grounded, but they’re still funny, and that’s almost entirely missing here. It seems we have left that part of the series behind and that’s a shame, even if it’s a necessary consequence of reframing Westview as a terrifying place for anyone not named Maximoff.
Leaving the Mission Area
Between Vision, Pietro, and the twins, Wanda is surrounded more and more by people she cannot control. The rest of the Westview townspeople are slipping into the background, to very eerie results. As Vision discovers during his exploration of the town, citizens who are out of sight are also out of mind, stuck in feedback loops or unable to move at all. Vision may have exposed the limits of Wanda’s control by exploring the outskirts of Westview without telling Wanda where he was going, as if she only devotes energy to animating a given neighborhood if a member of the family is going to be there. This adds a whole new layer of cruelty to life within the anomaly.
During his travels, Vision encounters Agnes (Kathryn Hahn) idling at a stop sign on the outskirts of town, mentally blocked from proceeding any further. Agnes becomes the second person Vision temporarily frees from the illusion, and since Vision does this while in his true, familiar form, Agnes recognizes him and informs him of his death. Vision still doesn’t have the context to understand this — he doesn’t remember being an Avenger or even what the Avengers are — but after he breaches the Hex perimeter and begins to disintegrate, it probably won’t be long before he puts together that final integral piece of the mystery.
Vision has been framed as the conscience of the Avengers since his birth in Age of Ultron, and that’s no different in WandaVision. He’s sacrificed his life once before to try and save the universe from Thanos, and there’s little doubt that he would accept death once again if that would set the people of Westview free. But, just like last time he martyred himself, his death is stolen from him, this time by Wanda as she expands the perimeter of the Hex in order to keep him from falling apart in the real world. His only hope now is to try to convince Wanda to let him go, something she is clearly not prepared to do right now. But there is one character who may be able to get her there…
You Mean to Tell Me that a Shady Intelligence Agency May Be Up to No Good?
Back at the S.W.O.R.D. compound, Captain Rambeau, Dr. Lewis, and Agent Woo find themselves dismissed from the rescue effort. Despite evidence to the contrary, Acting Director Hayward still thinks that he can neutralize Wanda’s Hex by force, and doesn’t have time for any voices in the room who are still sympathetic to the rogue Avenger. Hayward also gives us our first taste of the resentment that exists between those who “blipped” and those who lived through the immediate aftermath of the Thanos apocalypse, which is something I’d love to see explored in greater detail within other MCU productions going forward.
It’s also clear now that Hayward has plans for Vision, since he’s been secretly keeping tabs on him all along. Odds are good that, after Wanda comes to her senses, the final confrontation of the series will be our heroes vs. Hayward and S.W.O.R.D. over the fate of Vision. Perhaps the reason he seems so eager to kill Wanda has less to do with what she’s done to Westview and more to do with her stealing Vision’s body. He may see Wanda’s takeover of a New Jersey suburb as just another obstacle between himself and a piece of incredibly advanced technology that he can exploit and weaponize.
Forced to go rogue, Rambeau and Woo plan to deliberately breach the Hex and attempt to make contact with Wanda before Hayward can try a more violent solution. This decision could have grave consequences for Monica Rambeau, as her first sortie into Westfield has left her body changed in ways no one yet understands. But Monica is also of a self-sacrificing sort, and believes that she can connect with Wanda in a way that others cannot by sharing the pain of losing her mother to cancer. Monica theorizes that killing Wanda while the anomaly is still active might not solve anything, whereas Wanda likely has the power to set things right if she wants to. Incidentally, this may also be the only way to restore Monica’s body to normal, though we don’t actually know what’s been done to her and what the long-term consequences could be to either her or the townspeople.
Shortly after Rambeau and Woo depart the camp, however, Vision’s escape attempt necessitates that Wanda expand the radius of her spell to keep him alive. This expansion also envelops the entirety of the S.W.O.R.D. camp and transforms it into a traveling carnival. Hayward is the only named character we know for certain to have escaped in time. We don’t see Rambeau and Woo get caught up in the expansion, but Darcy definitely does. Will Wanda have plans for the new cast additions? How far can she push her abilities? These seem to be the pressing questions as we leave the middle chunk of the series into the new status quo of the final act.
- WandaVision Episode 5 “On a Very Special Episode…” Review
- WandaVision Episode 4 “We Interrupt This Program” Review
- WandaVision Episode 3 “Now In Color” Review
Fan Theories Be Damned
We’ll wrap up this review with a brief installment of Smartass Corner to examine this episode’s implications on fan speculation. As always, if you don’t like to think about information that’s not in the text, this is your exit.
“All-New Halloween Spooktacular!” seems to torpedo the theory that Agnes is secretly the comic book witch Agatha Harkness, as she appears as desperate to escape the fantasy as anyone else. When Vision momentarily allows her real personality to surface, she recognizes him as a dead Avenger and wonders whether or not she’s died, too. If Agnes is going to be a secret secondary villain for the show, the story certainly doesn’t support it so far. And with Haywood being built up for the Big Bad role, there really isn’t much room for another one. You never know what might happen in the remaining three episodes, but at this point even if she is Agatha, she’s probably not playing the more involved role that fans have assumed.
This episode also puts a pin in speculation about the Fox X-Men universe bleeding into the MCU following the arrival of Evan Peters as Quicksilver. In an interview with Marvel.com, showrunner Jac Schaeffer seems to confirm that swapping Peters in for Aaron Taylor-Johnson was born out of a desire to play with a pair of sitcom tropes — the long-lost relative and the unexplained character recasting — rather than a tease at a multiversal incursion. To hear her tell it, it sounded like an idea she had to sell to Marvel Studios head honcho Kevin Feige rather than a mandated seed for future X-Men appearances in the MCU. We’ll see what happens in the coming episodes and films, but it’s probably better not to get over-excited about the two universes combining.
As I’ve written here before, attempting to get ahead of the show you’re watching by reading various television tea leaves can be fun, but can also be a disservice to what the storytellers are trying to accomplish. It’s important to remember to cool our jets now and then and just let the story unfold in due time rather than playing the home game. The show we’re getting remains pretty interesting and is worth enjoying on its own merits.