So Was It Agatha All Along? - WandaVision Episodes 8/9 Review
After eight weeks of speculation, theories, and Marvel madness, was the first Disney Plus series from Marvel Studios worth our time and passion?
Up till now, Disney Plus has only really had The Mandalorian as their huge franchise series, which is quite impressive considering its subscriber amount. When the service was announced and launched we were promised series based on the likes of Star Wars, Marvel, and Disney, all with budgets worthy of the big screen.
While we may have had to wait a bit longer for Marvel's many planned series, 2021 is more than making up for it, but did WandaVision start and finish effectively?
Hell yes. While there are those who are disappointed about certain theories, or unanswered questions, ultimately we need to remember the MCU is an ongoing series in itself, and that aspect of questions and answers will always be there to keep people hooked. This was our first time experiencing the MCU week to week, which meant viewers, and the internet as a whole was free to go nuts with speculation.
A lot of responsibility has to be taken by the audience, as the series may have thrown some red herrings, it never built to anything major that wasn't resolved. The final episode wrapped up our core conflicts and characters pretty well, in a way that was both emotional, and epic.
Series like The Mandalorian, and Game of Thrones have suffered similar criticism, but what has also plagued WandaVision, is its mystery. Much like Westworld, Lost, and even How I Met Your Mother, which all tie themselves to an ever-expanding story and "mystery-box", the mystery is usually for most, disappointing. But while those series were responsible for building up audiences too much over several seasons, with plotlines that eventually went nowhere, WandaVision didn't do that.
But that isn't to say these final two episodes weren't without their flaws...
Let's start with episode 8, "Previously On" which isn't me recapping the series, that's genuinely the episode title. To paraphrase a classic Simpsons episode- so it's come to this: a Marvel clip show. I jest. Episode 8, takes us briefly through the past of our villain Agatha, and then predominantly Wanda. The episode acts much like episode 4 did, as it explains how we got to this stage of the story, and generally who Wanda is, and what her powers are.
Though the notion of having to handhold the audience through all these details is a bit on the nose, it's hard to deny the context, and emotion the episode gave us.
My main issue with episode 8 lies with the almost Christmas Carol like vibes of Agatha accompanying Wanda through her memories like some form of a guardian angel or ghost. The performances of Elizabeth Olsen (Wanda) and Kathryn Hahn (Agatha) mostly sell it, but structurally this could have been altered to work better and more naturally for the story as a whole.
We get very on the nose explanations to elements of the series, such as why "The Hex" is a collection of sitcoms, as Wanda watched many of them in moments of comfort in her past. Again, conceptually it's a very basic approach, but to be fair, sitcoms do have a history of being a tool to learn English for many of those from or in foreign countries.
But also, subtlety has never been a strength of the MCU.
However, we do get some nice reveals in the episode, including Wanda's potential destiny, and a very touching scene between her and Vision following the events of Age of Ultron.
In it, Vision asks- "what is grief, if not love persevering?" A line that demonstrates not only the great metaphors Marvel can come up with but also how they have made a very emotional and compelling concept for the series.
The end of the episode sees Agatha seem to confirm her theory that Wanda is The Scarlet Witch, a being later described as creating chaos and spontaneous creation. Sounds like a great plot element for the MCU right? *hums the Doctor Strange theme*
With the backstory out of the way, episode 9 gives us what had to be a big climactic end battle, which again, may disappoint some, but often with mainstream media, there has to be a balance. While the show has been able to introduce zany, meta, and thought-provoking concepts, there still has to be that comic book action that fans want and expect.
As a fan of both Wanda and Vision's very visual powerset, I was more than happy after two episodes of backstory and plot description to finally get to the fun crazy antics we love to see.
With the introduction of an alternate or evil "White Vision" at the end of Previously On (Paul Bettany playing this version, and the original. Though which version is the original is a notion best kept for Theseus) we get our two conflicts as we see android v android and witch v witch.
While some may find this dull or predictable, the episode makes it a fun play on the powersets, with all four characters being visually distinct enough for it not to fall into the realms of Venom, or Black Panther, where two similar-looking characters scuffle in a bland CG environment.
With Wanda ensuring the twins are safe after Agatha kept them hostage, and Vision now on board with protecting their home, we are led into the main drama of the episode.
In the town centre of Westview, Wanda faces off against Agatha who not only goes into more detail about the destiny of The Scarlet Witch but also showing the repercussions of what Wanda has done, without fully realising.
The episode brilliantly uses the creepiness, and tension of the series to show us the effects of Wanda's ideal world, with the residents of Westview confronting her about the effects her spell is having on them, after being set free by Agatha. We even get the beloved Debra Jo Rupp (credited as Sharon Davis/ Mrs Hart, but is most known as Foreman's Mom in That 70s Show) stating "if you won't let us go, just let us die". Wow...
Wanda's pain and lack of control are clearly on display, with the writer's and director showing her constant battle between being a hero and controlling her powers. When she realises the damage she has caused, Wanda promises to let the residents go but soon realises opening The Hex, comes with consequences...
Reunited with Vision, and the twins- Tommy and Billy, Wanda must once again close off the town to stop her family from disappearing along with the spell. With the townsfolk at least out of harm's way, and the agents of S.W.O.R.D now inside, another battle ensues, this time involving the entire family, along with Monica and Darcy (lack of availability for filming, unfortunately severely reducing Darcy’s role).
The various battles all give us what we want, including a more powered up Monica, a battle of the minds with The Visions, and Wanda going fully powered in her attempt to take down Agatha.
All in all, it is fun, visually impressive, and exciting action, that on the whole succeeds as another memorable Marvel set piece.
However, the biggest flaws of episode 9 are especially evident here as the acting-director of S.W.O.R.D - Hayward is belittled down to nothing more than a moustache-twirling villain. Suddenly he is willing to shoot children, but equally disappointing he is taken down with ease.
As for Agatha, unfortunately, her plans and motives are somewhat vague. Sure, she poses a threat to Wanda and her powers, but the series doesn't really tell us what her stealing Wanda's power would mean for the rest of the world? The song might have said “it was Agatha All Along”, but really she only tapped the surface, in manipulating certain moments.
The last three episodes seemed to constantly try and bolster Agatha’s involvement and role, while the finale makes it apparent more focus on Wanda was what was needed, and maybe a bit more context for what Agatha actually was doing all along.
The entire sequence along with its aftermath highlights that the series and finale's strength is with our two lead characters. Wanda's ability to learn quickly and accept her destiny is nicely coupled with her ever-evolving realisation to let go. Vision gets a fitting moment to use his brains and wit, to literally outsmart himself, setting up to a fantastic conversation later on with Wanda, where he wonders what he will evolve into next.
With our enemies defeated and the inevitable tearful goodbye, we are once again shown our fondness for these characters and the world the series has set up. The charm and fun of the season are capped off by some great dialogue, and brilliant performances from Bettany, Olsen, and our two young actors Julian Hilliard and Jett Klyne (Billy and Tommy). All demonstrating how integral they have all been in selling us the characters they play.
We of course get our crazy end credit scenes (two to be precise) along with a stunning new look for Wanda, ripped straight out of the comics. It very much echoes Magneto from the X-Men movies, thanks to her elegance and now rogue nature.
Despite her actions, which the series has partially shown as not being within her control, by the end, we see that Wanda is definitely the anti-hero of this story and the MCU as a whole. Just as she's always been. She exists in the moral grey area of characters like the aforementioned Magneto, which has undoubtedly stirred up conversation amongst viewers, working to the benefit of the character for her complexity, flaws, and appeal.
The series doesn't glorify or paint the events as good or bad, but tie it all back to relatability, emotion, and struggle, feelings and actions that Wanda and the rest of the characters will undoubtedly be haunted by going forward...
Oh and Quicksilver was a man called Ralph Bohner controlled by Agatha. Marvel trolled us, and that’s hilarious.
If you enjoyed what you read, and want to support Dave and our commitment to fresh content, support Dave with a cuppa over
Subscribe here to Fresh Take for more opinions on the world of film and television.
And subscribe to our podcast Well Good Movies, for more film and TV fun!