We’re approaching the climax of WandaVision, as the final pieces of the series’ overarching puzzles are revealed with two episodes remaining to snap them into place. “Breaking the Fourth Wall” is a particularly eventful chapter, featuring a villainous reveal, a superhero debut, and one, presumably final television homage. WandaVision began with a deliberate detachment from the audience, produced in the style of a bygone era and withholding a ton of information. With this episode, WandaVision becomes familiar in two senses of the world, with the protagonist speaking directly to the audience in the style of the contemporary docu-sitcom.
Wanda’s Vision Turns Inward
The Modern Family-style format of “Breaking the Fourth Wall” puts the spotlight firmly on Wanda, who is finally beginning to cope with and take responsibility for this world that she’s created. Last week, she opened up to Pietro about creating the Westview fantasy, and now she’s set up the device of the docu-sitcom confessional so that she can keep reflecting on it in private (and it really is private now that she’s stopped broadcasting her WandaVision to the outside world). She even gives herself a “Created by” credit in the opening for the first time, though this is also to throw us off the scent of the true mastermind revealed at the end.
For the moment, Wanda’s fantasy world does not really interest her. She just wants to work on herself, and the circumstances of the episode all help her to do that. Previously, it’d be safe to assume that Wanda was arranging for this privacy herself, but given the episode’s final twist, that’s no longer certain or even likely. Agnes (Kathryn Hahn) is the one who offers to babysit the kids, and the traffic incidents that keep Vision assumes are Wanda’s attempts to keep him away are, in hindsight, probably not Wanda’s doing at all. Still, Wanda tells the twins that “if [Vision] doesn’t wanna be here there’s nothing I can do about it,” which isn’t true since she’s capable of arranging any variety of means to retrieve him. She just needs some space right now to collect herself so that her groceries and furniture will stop fluctuating between timelines.
Wanda’s nihilistic breakdown feels earned, relatable, and also totally in fitting with the humor of sitcoms to which this week’s episode pays tribute. “Breaking the Fourth Wall” commits deeper to its style pastiche than WandaVision has in weeks, aided by modern docu-sitcoms being playfully absurd while also having a pace more akin to dramas. Since it appears this episode may be the last to introduce a new sitcom style, it seems the right moment to give showrunner Jac Schaefer a round of applause for executing this ambitious story device exceedingly well. Every sitcom setting has meant something, has informed the story and developed the characters to the degree that it ascends above the level of “gimmick.” Well done.
Petition to Make the Cops Keep Their Clown Suits
Vision awakens from his near-death experience in the former S.W.O.R.D. perimeter, now a traveling circus full of appropriately reprogrammed feds. Vision frees Dr. Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings) from Wanda’s influence, which she handles better than previous subjects, presumably due to having spent only hours inside the Hex instead of weeks. The two hijack a funnel cake truck and head back towards town, only to be blocked by red lights, sudden construction, and a chain of school kids crossing the street in a gag that fits the sitcom style while also strongly evoking The Truman Show.
Darcy gives Vision a quick recap of the three movies he was in, leaving the pair to wonder the nature of his current condition. If he’s been restored by Wanda, why can’t he leave the Hex? All of the matter that’s been retrieved from inside the border so far has remained changed, but not Vision. One possibility — when Vision crumbles and his pieces fly back towards the boundary in the previous episode, those pieces glow purple, not red, like Wanda’s magic. That didn’t have any obvious meaning then, but now we’ve seen that purple is the color of Agatha’s magic. (We’ll get to Agatha.)
It’s no surprise that Kat Dennings fits perfectly into the docu-sitcom world, as deadpan comedy is kind of her thing and Darcy’s role on the show was already to make witty asides for the audience. Vision has been funny playing the fool in previous incarnations of the sitcom fantasy, but now, awake to the illusion and almost totally himself, he becomes the Only Sane Man, a role Paul Bettany seems to be very good at. If this is really the end of WandaVision as a part-time comedy, then I will miss him getting to goof off.
The Adventures of Captain Photon
Outside the expanded Westview illusion, Captain Monica Rambeau and Agent Jimmy Woo continue towards the rendezvous they teased last week. Twitter got itself worked up this past week speculating that they’d be meeting up with John Krasinski as Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four, in case anyone was wondering why I tend not to take fan theories seriously. Instead, something that makes sense happens, and they are greeted by fellow S.W.O.R.D. officer Major Goodner (Rachael Thompson), who delivers Captain Rambeau some of her astronaut gear — a rover and a spacesuit.
Rambeau is confident that the rover will be able to survive the trip through the Hex barrier unchanged (no explanation is given for this but it doesn’t really matter), but instead it is violently repelled. This doesn’t stop Rambeau, who decides to try just running through the wall herself. She’s been warned that her trips through the barrier have changed her body in ways not yet understood, but this won’t stop her — in fact it may actually be part of the reason why, in a visually striking sequence that sees her push through the dense energy field as sitcom derivatives extend prismatically from her form, she is eventually able to push through. The main reason, though, is her indomitable will, as underlined by the audio clip from Captain Marvel that plays over this scene’s dramatic score. It’s the kind of Big Comic Book Movie Moment that WandaVision has mostly gone without so far, but it works.
Rambeau emerges on the Westfield side of the barrier changed, her eyes glowing blue with energy. She sheds her bulky spacesuit, revealing a S.W.O.R.D. jumpsuit that resembles her comic book costume as Spectrum/Photon/Captain Marvel. She rushes to confront Wanda at her home once again and appeals to her via their shared sense of loss. Like last time, Wanda tries to attack her with her superpowers, but to her own surprise, Monica finds she can counter them with her own — a mysterious blue energy field she seems to have absorbed from the barrier. Just when it seems we’re either about to have a super-fight or a Come To Jesus moment, Agnes appears to diffuse the situation and take Wanda inside, where we finally get the reveal that many have been waiting for…
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Okay, Time for Me to Eat Some Crow
Early during the run of the first season of Star Trek: Discovery, fans began to speculate that the amoral, manipulative Captain Gabriel Lorca (Jason Isaac) was actually an evil doppelgänger from the Mirror Universe. This speculation began after a series director accidentally revealed that the series would be visiting the Mirror Universe, but long before there was any hint of that on the actual show. The theory seemed motivated by fans wanting to be reassured that a real Starfleet Captain couldn’t be such a creep. All the evidence at the time was extremely circumstantial and it seemed like a serious reach, so I rolled my eyes and dismissed it. “C’mon, nerds,” I said, “there doesn’t have to be a cartoony sci-fi solution for why this character is an asshole!” Three months later, Gabriel Lorca was revealed to be an evil doppelgänger from the Mirror Universe (Lazy! I hate it.) and I ended up with some egg on my face.
Now, imagine my making the same kind of dismissal of a popular fan theory again, years later, only this time it’s about a show people actually watch and I’m writing about it in a professional capacity. Significantly more egg! I am thoroughly embarrassed.
Agnes has now revealed that she is indeed Agatha Harkness, comic book witch, in a twist that has been properly hinted at and seeded throughout the series, but ambiguously enough that you’d have to be looking for it going in, which plenty of people have been. Fans have been suspicious of Agnes since as early as last July, predating even her appearance in the series trailer wearing that witch hat, literally just on the strength of “She’s a main character who’s not from the comics and her name begins with ‘Ag.’” Since the series premiered, comics-savvy viewers have been quick to point out anything in the show that might confirm that suspicion.
While I’ve been open to the possibility, all the evidence was beginning to feel like confirmation bias to me, so in last week’s review I suggested putting the theory to bed. In actuality, I was the one trying to ignore what I didn’t want to see, because, in all honesty, I didn’t want this to be another twist that a fan community had sniffed out months in advance by drawing conclusions that could only be drawn by looking outside the text. A lot of viewers find that rewarding (and a sincere congratulations to them) but I tend not to. For my own personal enjoyment, I’m glad that Kathryn Hahn made a fool of me, that gave the reveal an extra kick. I regret only that I let her make a fool of me in public.
Now we’re heading into the final two chapters, which seem to promise more conventional Marvel Movie action. We’ve set up a villain for Wanda in Agatha, a villain for Vision in Director Hayward, and the show’s first post-credits scene teases that Monica vs. Pietro is coming up next. And hell, I like a Marvel movie, and the storytellers have earned their action figure smash-up. But, with at least an hour remaining (it’s rumored that the remaining episodes may have longer running times), I hope that there will still be some piece of the charming format experiment that has made WandaVision such a refreshing change from the average superhero fare.