Last week’s edition to the WandaVision fable ended on another plot-shifting cliffhanger. Varying YouTube videos and thinkpieces had alluded to nosy neighbour Agnes’s potential involvement in Westview’s strangeness on numerous occasions in the weeks running up to Breaking the Fourth Wall. It was a fanheld theory which was pretty much confirmed during the back end of that episode, when a camped up Agnese revealed herself to be Agatha Harkness; an ancient witch who murdered the other members of the Salam coven three centuries prior.
Throwing Agatha into the mix appears to be WandaVision’s attempt to take some of the strain off of Wanda for once. We’ve spent a good deal of weeks now treating her like the sole antagonist to a show she’s also suppose to be the protagonist of. Previously On attempts to continue this trend of de-villionising Wanda, only it does so in a slightly more empathetic manner than simply chucking in your standard puppet master. While Agatha is undeniably a bad egg, transpires she isn’t the architect of the WestView anomaly, despite last week’s “it was Agnese all along” number. She’s a stowaway to the hex; peeping in at a world that’s still undeniably a work of Wanda’s own mind. Agatha has wormed her way into Wanda’s realm bending sitcom kaleidoscope to leach from Wanda’s abilities. She’s a leach like witch, one who’s crashed the party so she can find a way to become the hostess herself.
To find out the how’s and whys of Wanda’s strange sub-reality, her first act of business after outing herself as a baddy is to use her powers to seve up something audiences are gasping for by this point; clarity. She’s just as desperate to figure all this out as we are. Who is Wanda? What happened after she sought out Vision’s body? And what on earth did she do to thrust her deceased lover into an impossible reality? Using her mercurial tricks, Agnese hurls Wanda and audiences downs helter-skelter of days since past; a theme park ride into the world of Wanda’s yesteryears. Agatha’s actions lays down the foundations which the entirety of this story will be built upon. An origin story to the very TV series it exists within.
In addition to filling in some of the blanks in terms of Wanda’s journey prior to WandaVision, Previously On furthermore gives us an origin to the character of Wanda as a whole. We learn why she hated the Avengers during the events of Age of Ultron (being trapped in a room as a child for three consecutive days with a bomb sporting Tony Stark’s be on will do that to a person); the moment she obtained super powers; and the moment she first begun to develop feelings for Vision. These are all moments we are aware of, yet we haven’t seen them in the flesh until now. For the first time, we are able to assign actual moments to diologue and exposition we’ve been feed throughout proceeding features.
This sort of episode could quite easily have fallen flat. Showing us what we already know can often feel like something of a waste of time. As if we are watching an episode written by a writer with one eye on Wanda’s fanwiki profile. Fortunately, Previously On executes Wanda’s story with enough heart and tension to keep us from growing critical of its efforts. What’s more, showing her story in such explicit fashion serves a larger purpose when it comes to phasing us away from perceiving Wanda as an antagonist, not to mention clarifying her reasons for fabricating a faux world for her dead lover to exist in.
Seeing as most of Wanda’s story has played out offscreen for much of the MCU so far, it’s all too easy for us to forget how awful her life has been up until this point. Everyone she’s ever cared for has been murdered. First her parents, then her brother, and finally her lover; the last of whom she both had to kill and watched be killed in the space of a minute. She’s a character tortured by grief and loss. We often she’d a tear or two for Peter Parker’s loss of his uncle, yet seldom do we stop to think about how crappy life must be for dear Wanda. After all the hell she’s been through, it’s little wonder she chooses to use her reality-bending powers to rebuild a part of the life she lost.
We’ve spent a handful of weeks been fed the idea that Wanda is the villain of this piece; a selfish former Avenger imprisoning a town for her own gain. This week, we’re invited to question why this might be the case. Previously On doesn’t exactly justify it’s protagonist’s actions, although it does give us a logical explanation as to why she got to where she is during the events of this series. It’s an episode that provides exposition through empathy; a glimps into a powerful lifeform consumed by pain.
It’s a heartfelt 47 minutes of television that arrives right on the bankend of this series’ closure. Now we know how this bizarre reality of her making operates, it’s decision before wrapping everything up is to present Wanda’s case in a manner that invites us to take a closer look at her world. A sincere and intimate penultimate episode with a much-needed emphasis on the show’s overall genesis.