The penultimate episode of WandaVision is an atypical kind of pre-finale episode. Rather than build up momentum leading to the inevitable final fight that will see Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany) face down Big Bads Agatha Harkness (Kathryn Hahn) and S.W.O.R.D. Director Hayward (Josh Stamberg), we took a trip into Wanda’s past. It was a risky move, especially considering we’ve heard just about everything we need to where Wanda’s past is concerned. Born and raised in Sokovia, orphaned at 10, has a twin brother named Pietro, experimented on by HYDRA; what else is there to know? Not only did WandaVision Episode 8, “Previously On,” surprise viewers by making the smart choice to revisit a past we thought we knew so well (turns out, we did not), but it’s also proof that there is more potential than meets the eye with this new era of Marvel TV.
We’ve always known WandaVision would be a more contained, focused show in terms of its story and scale. This is what happens when you make two supporting MCU characters the stars of Marvel Disney+ TV show. By making those two stars Wanda and Vision, a couple who have experienced plenty of heartache in recent years, we were also prepared for a television show that would likely deal with serious thematic material in addition to the expected visual confectionary of a new superhero story. But nothing could have prepared viewers for just how overt WandaVision‘s grappling with depression, grief, and what it means to be a survivor of a traumatic event (or, in this case, multiple events including The Blip) would be within the story. Even through the gloss of WandaVision‘s high-concept sitcom homage set-up, it was evident that this Marvel Disney+ show was interested in unpacking the sadness bottled up within Wanda, which in turn was permeating every aspect of the show.
Instead of attempting to fill up Episode 8, “Previously On,” with a finale-relevant story, WandaVision leans into its exploration of grief by attempting to answer why these events are happening in the first place. For Agatha, the trip back to formative moments in Wanda’s past is a chance to unearth the secret behind Wanda’s ability to wield Chaos Magic; this is a fact-finding mission dressed up as therapy. But for Wanda, this is actually a therapeutic trip through her memories. She can no longer look away from the moments which continue to hurt her, nor can she erase them or rewrite them with her magic the way she rewrote the reality of Westview.
For 40 minutes, we learn more about the defining moments in Wanda’s past that we thought we knew by heart. Now, we know that on the night Wanda’s parents died, the Maximoffs were watching one of her favorite TV shows — The Dick Van Dyke Show — because they, as a family, love American sitoms. We know that Wanda wasn’t just a random radicalized teen who volunteered for HYDRA experiments and survived by luck; she survived because some degree of power existed within her and the Mind Stone brought out her true potential. In the present day, Wanda just wanted to give Vision the funeral he deserved in the time immediately after fighting Thanos and saving the literal universe. That’s it, just some quiet time to grieve and say goodbye to the person she thought she would spend forever with because, as Vision told her years before, “What is grief, if not love persevering?”
If there is one thing the television medium has arguably done better than movies time and time again, it’s taking opportunities to explore the psychological and emotional terrain of a character for an entire episode. This is something WandaVision has done in general but really succeeded in doing with Episode 8. Wanda Maximoff was deprived of genuine character development in the MCU movies leading up to WandaVision. The chance to spend some quality time with her in WandaVision and go through a therapeutic deep-dive with her has offered us the chance to get closer to her, which is great because she deserves to be heard and understood. Episode 8 reminds us that Wanda is not just some supporting Avenger to Captain America’s team leader — she is a real person trying to mend serious emotional wounds as best she can with the tools she’s been given. It’s something every one of us can relate to and it’s a gift WandaVision has given us by using one of its episodes to explore further.
At first glance, “Previously On” may feel like a frustrating and unnecessary foray into the past. In reality, this episode is one of the strongest WandaVision has delivered us thus far. It reminds us of the power of television, how we can be transported to different places and have the chance to spend meaningful time with characters we love. It also serves as superlative proof that Marvel’s decision to focus its TV shows on supporting characters and use the episodic format to expand their MCU stories is a smart one, and one that will only enrich the MCU as a whole.
WandaVision Episodes 1 through 8 are now available to stream on Disney+. The WandaVision finale will air on Friday, March 5.
“Just seeing it, we all just sat back like, ‘Wow, are we really doing this?'”
About The Author