Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Halloween arrives early on a creepy, chilling WandaVision

Elizabeth Olsen stars in WandaVision
Elizabeth Olsen stars in WandaVision
Photo: Disney+/Marvel Studios

A pervasive sense of dread haunts this week’s WandaVision, “All-New Halloween Spooktacular,” but there’s also great joy for those of us who’ve waited almost six years to see Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) in her Marvel Comics-accurate Scarlet Witch costume.

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It’s Halloween in Westview, and Wanda’s outfit is a “Sokovian fortune teller” with red cape, gloves, unitard, and that smashing headpiece. It’s how she was dressed in 1964’s X-Men No. 4, her first appearance. Then she was a member of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, and Jack Kirby’s costume design is classic supervillain. Quicksilver also debuted in that issue, and after the multiverse-breaking cliffhanger of “A Very Special Episode,” he’s joined WandaVision’s show within a show in the form of Evan Peters.

The 1990s offered a dearth of memorable suburban family sitcoms for WandaVision to spoof, so the show skips ahead to Malcolm in the Middle, which aired from 2000 to 2006. All the elements are here: the twins Tommy and Billy (Jett Klyne and Julian Hilliard) break the fourth wall and address the camera directly. There are unusual camera angles and musical effects. Wanda’s relationship with her family, especially Vision (Paul Bettany), is far from idyllic. Their brief scenes together are painful to watch, because it’s obvious that Vision is simply performing the role of devoted husband.

Vision’s Halloween costume is a nod to John Buscema’s original design from 1968’s Avengers No. 57, but there’s not much to behold here. His outfit seems intentionally goofy, like he’s wearing pajamas with a pair of Converse sneakers. Vision announces he’s spending the evening with the neighborhood watch group, leaving Pietro to serve as the boys’ man-child father figure for the evening. Wanda’s annoyed that Vision’s gone off script again, but she’ll later learn from Herb (David Payton) that he flat-out lied to her. There’s trouble in Wanda’s paradise.

Outside Westview, at the S.W.O.R.D. camp, Monica (Teyonah Parris) reads Hayward (Josh Stamberg) for filth after his failed hit on Wanda. She tells him that they don’t actually know what will happen to the Westview residents if Wanda dies. (I’ve been screaming this, as well, so it’s yet another example of how much Monica and I have in common.) Darcy (Kat Dennings) reminds Hayward that he almost got “murdered by his own murder squad,” which bolsters Monica’s point that they should negotiate with Wanda because they can’t outgun her. All Hayward has done is piss her off.

Hayward goes off on Monica like someone who’s gotten tired of his teeth. He claims she’s been an impediment to the mission, when she’s actually provided valuable firsthand intel. He resents that she’s always “advocating on behalf of super-powered individuals,” like some kind of super hero lover. He says she doesn’t know what it was like to have lived through the Blip when it was a struggle just to keep the lights on. And he’s not done with the low blows: He goes so far as to say it was a good thing Monica wasn’t around when her mother, Maria, died. This is a villain monologue and not exactly a subtle one. That’s not a complaint. I’m glad Hayward isn’t a method-acting villain who convincingly plays the part of Nice Guy until the dramatic plot twist. This gives us time to focus on more compelling mysteries, like just who the hell is Pietro?

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Wanda doesn’t fully accept her brother with a different face. Yes, she noticed the recast! She tests him with questions about their past, which he deflects. She wonders why he sounds like he’s from East Jersey instead of Eastern Europe, and he asks her the same thing. Touché! Uncle Pietro is a terrible influence on the twins. He helps them steal candy, smash the jack-o’-lanterns, and cover everyone in silly string, all at super-speed. Yeah, Tommy has super-speed now and Billy’s developing magic powers.

Despite the goofy exterior, there’s something devilish about Pietro. When he says Westview is “charming as hell,” Peters leans into the key word there. Fans have speculated that WandaVision might introduce the MCU’s version of Mephisto. In the comics, Mephisto is based on the demon Mephistopheles from German folklore: Faust made a deal with him at a crossroads, exchanging his soul for worldly pleasures. Wanda was at a similar emotional crossroads after the events of Avengers: Endgame. She confides to Pietro how she felt empty and completely alone.

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Pietro is very encouraging of whatever arrangement Wanda made. He tells her that “Mom and Dad would’ve loved it here,” which manipulatively feeds Wanda’s need for approval. He seems more aware of what’s happened than Vision, but he also starts pumping her for information. How did she pull this off? Where was she hiding the kids? He’s impressed with how far Wanda has come from “giving people nightmares and shooting red wiggly-woos” out of her hands.

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This scene is chilling and pairs well with the rising suspense at the S.W.O.R.D. camp. Hayward sends Monica, Darcy, and Jimmy (Randall Park) packing, but Monica and Jimmy kick some S.W.O.R.D. agent ass and locate a relatively safe space for Darcy to work her hacker magic. She discovers that Hayward found a way to look through the boundary, which he didn’t tell anyone, and he’s been tracking Vision. Hayward wants to reacquire his “asset.” Monica’s ready to go back inside the Hex, but Darcy warns that her DNA is linguine after having passed through the barrier twice already—another fun fact that Hayward kept to himself. She can’t safely return. However, Monica still hasn’t come to terms with her mother’s death so her own mortality won’t stop her from helping Wanda.

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Photo: Disney+/Marvel Studios
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The show isn’t done creeping us out: What Vision discovers as he ventures toward the edge of town is the stuff of nightmares. One woman is slowly trying to hang a Halloween decoration while a single tear falls down her cheek. The closer he gets to Ellis Avenue, the more people he finds simply frozen in place. That includes Agnes (Kathryn Hahn), who is sitting behind the wheel of her car, staring blankly. He “releases” her from the spell, like he did Norm (Asif Ali), and she instantly recognizes him as one of the Avengers. However, Vision has no memory of the team.

Hahn is wonderful here. It’s impossible to know for sure if she’s genuinely horrified or deliberately provoking Vision when she eerily declares, “You’re dead!” Norm played the pronoun game last week and never directly identified Wanda as the all-powerful force responsible for what’s happening in Westview, but Agnes does. She says that there’s no escaping their prison and that “Wanda” won’t even let you think of leaving. “All is lost,” she declares before laughing maniacally.

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Vision still tries to escape, but he only partially succeeds. He starts to break apart as soon he passes through the barrier. Is this because he literally can’t exist outside Westview or was Agnes right when she said Wanda won’t let him leave? Billy senses his father’s distress and warns Wanda. The Scarlet Witch unleashes her reality-warping powers, extending the barrier and turning the S.W.O.R.D. base into a circus. But has she saved her husband or simply reimprisoned him? Regardless, I’m afraid “Pietro” approves.


Stray Observations

  • Clowns, it had to be clowns.
  • Pietro claims he died in the street “like a chump for no reason.” He actually sacrificed himself to save Hawkeye and a Sovokian child, and his callous phrasing is a big clue this isn’t the real Pietro.
  • Like Agnes, Herb also seems aware of Wanda’s control over Westview. When he tells her that Vision isn’t on neighborhood watch duty, he asks if there’s anything he can do for her. “Do you want something changed?”
  • Agnes is dressed as a witch for Halloween. I still want to believe she’s actually Agatha Harkness.
  • Hayward claims that if S.W.O.R.D. takes out Wanda “this whole nightmare ends.” The Marvel Comics villain Nightmare has also been floated as a possible series Big Bad. Nightmare rules a “dream dimension” where people are tortured during their sleep. He was also the first foe Dr. Strange faced, and Wanda is scheduled to appear in the Dr. Strange sequel.
  • Fake Pietro (yeah, I said it) is wearing a ratty version of Quicksilver’s comic book costume. It’s blue here, like in the movies, but was green in his first appearance in X-Men No. 4. Green is usually considered a more typical “supervillain” color.
  • Mastermind was also a member of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. He was able to cast powerful illusions and make himself look and sound like an entirely different person. He later would manipulate and corrupt Jean Grey, inadvertently unleashing Dark Phoenix. Mastermind was then in cahoots with Emma Frost, the White Queen, a mutant telepath who some fans have speculated could be Dottie (Emma Caulfield Ford).
  • By the way, where is Dottie? It’s been three episodes since we last saw her.
  • The Yo-Magic ad is horrifying ... and also hilarious if you’re sick like me.
  • The Incredibles (2004) is playing at a Westview movie theater with The Parent Trap (1998)
  • Joss Whedon famously told Elizabeth Olsen she’d never wear the Scarlet Witch’s comic book costume on screen. He’s a creep for far more serious reasons than this, but I’m still glad he was proven wrong.
  • Even after the jump scare moment in Episode Four, I still wasn’t prepared for the one in this episode.
  • When a S.W.O.R.D. agent leaves Darcy for dead, she shouts, “Are you serious right now?” Kat Dennings is a national treasure.
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