“WandaVision” Episode 5 Review: “On a Very Special Episode…”

Worlds continue to collide, as reality bleeds through into Wanda’s utopian dream, while a surprise cameo has potentially universe-changing effects.

Starring Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, Kathryn Hahn, Teyonah Parris, Kat Dennings, and Randall Park

Going into WandaVision, there was an unnerving sense of not knowing quite what to expect. An MCU-based TV show, in which two Avengers star as leads in homages to classic sitcoms was so tonally far removed from their past appearances that many fans were put off by the seemingly bizarre non-sequitur. Throughout the first four episodes, however, small hints have snowballed and began to unravel the secrets of the seemingly perfect Westview, even though many more mysteries still remain. Last week’s episode revealed more than the others, confirming that the events of WandaVision do, in fact, still take place in the same universe as the other MCU offerings, and that it, so far, appears that Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) has constructed her own reality within the confines of Westview, presumably as a result of her grief surrounding Vision’s (Paul Bettany) loss. While episodes 1 – 3 based the entirety of the action squarely within the confines of Wanda’s world, episode 4 took place exclusively on the outside, so “On a Very Special Episode…” really gives viewers a sense of how the show is going to handle the collision of these two worlds moving forwards.

On the outside of the so-called “Maximoff Anomaly” it becomes clear that the conflict moving forwards is going to revolve around SWORD’s increasing concern over Wanda’s incredible amount of power. Director Hayward (Josh Stamberg) immediately terms her a terrorist, even trying to subversively eliminate her when given the opportunity, reigniting some of the fear towards super-powered individuals that was originally ignited in Captain America: Civil War. It’s the typical behaviour of suited military men, who see power as innately dangerous, ignoring the will of the person who wields it.

The SWORD storyline nicely creates a camaraderie between Jimmy (Randall Park), Darcy (Kat Dennings) and Monica (Teyonah Parris) through the disagreement of whether or not Wanda is a threat. Monica, in particular, seems to have a deeper understanding of Wanda than the others in SWORD, having described her own feelings while under Wanda’s control, as being submerged under her grief. Whether this is, in fact, Monica’s own grief, or whether it’s a subconscious projection of Wanda’s over the entirety of Westview is unknown, but Monica’s own feeling at the loss of her mother certainly makes her feel a deeper connection to Wanda herself.

Monica is a commanding, steely hero in this episode, demonstrating a deep trust for Wanda and a desire to reach out and help her, instead of resorting to dramatic measures to eliminate her for good. She has an understanding of who Wanda is despite her actions, defending her acts to establish a perimeter as indicative of her desire not to actively harm anybody. In a few telling moments, she also brushes off and avoids conversation about Captain Marvel, hinting at potential anger towards her former friend.

In Westview, the time period has moved on to the 1980s, bringing with it bright colours and huge hair. However, even though Vision and Wanda have the family that they wanted, things are even more bizarre than usual. Wanda seems more out of control than ever, unable to calm her own children, who age randomly, as well as something incredibly unnerving about neighbour Agnes (Kathryn Hahn).

There is clearly far more to Agnes than meets the eye. She seems less influenced than other members of Westview have been, and more aware of the situation she is in. It’s also noticeable that the audience are still unaware of her real-world identity. At the beginning of the episode, she chillingly breaks character to ask Wanda if she should take the scene from the top and attempt it again, and barely bats an eyelid at any of the strange happenings, including Wanda’s magic, and seemingly telepathically delivering a dog house right on cue.

This episode demands far more from Elizabeth Olsen than any have before, as we see her perfect world uprooted from around her. We see her at turns being a committed and loving mother, to a desperate wife, and a vengeful Avenger all within the space of one half hour. A key highlight would be the confrontation between Wanda and SWORD outside Westview, finally confirming Wanda’s awareness of the world that continues to exist beyond the town’s boundaries, and her key proclamation that she just wants to live in her world and will not let anybody take it away from her.

However, where before it seemed that Wanda was pulling all the strings, this episode hints more than ever that that isn’t the case. Not only are her children seemingly immune to her influence, but so too does the appearance of Sparky the dog prove unexpected, and yet thoroughly predicted by Agnes. Even Wanda concedes that she doesn’t even know how everything began, which is either an unsettling admission and suggestion that perhaps this entire situation has been manipulated around her profound grief, or she’s just attempting to gaslight Vision out of his own suspicions.

Most of the compelling action from this instalment comes from Paul Bettany, who finally starts to realise something is amiss in Westview. From hearing Norm’s real inner thoughts, Vision confronts Wanda with his concerns, unleashing an anger that we have yet to see from the character, and making his next moves truly unpredictable. The stakes are certainly high for the tragic central couple, with every moment of happiness tinged with the bittersweet understanding that, despite Wanda’s incredible lengths to avoid grieving Vision, the illusion must ultimately come crashing down eventually.

Then, there’s that cameo at the end. While not nearly as exciting as The Mandalorian‘s cameo (which I had managed to go unspoiled for, up until reviews for this episode came out – thanks, Internet), it’s certainly an interesting moment that could signal the start of the multiverse concept that will play a large part in the Doctor Strange sequel that Wanda will star in, and is also, apparently, a key element of Spider-Man 3. It again highlights Wanda’s limit of control within Westview for, though she’s able to manipulate reality to an awesome degree, even she can’t cheat death.

The direction of WandaVision continues to be a strong point, with a brilliant commitment to the style of 1980s sitcoms at key points. The way that the show highlights the bleeding through of reality through a shift to a more modern cinematography, as well as the departure of a jaunty sitcom soundtrack and canned laughter to a more ominous, silent stirring is deeply compelling, and makes each of these moments truly electric and highly volatile. The sense of unpredictability is continually strong, and makes each episode utterly riveting.

WandaVision is getting more and more exciting with each instalment, and with four more to go, there’s still no guessing how the story will continue to unfurl. However, this episode has hinted more than ever that perhaps Wanda isn’t the true mastermind behind this situation at all. After all, we still have no concept who Jimmy was attempting to track down when he found Westview, nor have we seen Agnes’ husband, and she is certainly more than meets the eye. Then, there’s her troubling fascination at the start of the episode about taking care of the twins, who promptly age right after she sees them, and her burying the dog.

Considering the significance of Wanda and Vision’s twins in the comics, it could be possible that this situation was engineered purely for them, and that Agnes has some sort of interest in them ageing, and the sequence with the dog could have been placed there for her to test the true capabilities of Wanda’s powers. With WandaVision now tipping past the halfway point, there’s bound to be more fascinating and groundbreaking revelations ahead, and the idea that Wanda created the town herself is looking almost too convenient at this stage.

WandaVision is streaming exclusively on Disney+, with new episodes released on Fridays.

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