“What is grief, if not love persevering?”
Caution: Spoilers ahead!
Following that fantastic reveal in the closing moments of “Breaking the Fourth Wall”, the penultimate episode of WandaVision sure has a lot of explaining to do. With Agnes (Kathryn Hahn) holding the boys hostage, she forces Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) on a trip down memory lane in order to unlock the secrets and source of the Avenger’s power. What follows is Marvel’s most intimate and moving exploration of grief and loss, with a career-best (and most certainly award-worthy) performance from Olsen.
A common criticism when it comes to Marvel films is the lack of consequences, or the fact that we don’t really see these consequences have a ‘lasting effect.’ The notion of heroes suffering has only really begun to be explored in the MCU. In Shane Black’s Iron Man 3, the director highlights the fact that Tony Stark experienced debilitating anxiety attacks following his encounter in the wormhole. Then, following the devastating events of the snap, the Russo brothers gave a bleak snapshot into how the world, as a whole, dealt with losing 50% of the population. However, there is one character who has experienced more pain and suffering than most, yet who’s grief has never truly been acknowledged or explored; Wanda Maximoff.
However the emotional rollercoaster of “Previously On” finally adds a satisfying amount of context and clarity to the events leading up to the creation of Westview. Consisting primarily of key moments from Wanda’s past, the duo begin with the emotional recreation of Wanda losing her parents thanks to a Stark Industries bomb, as described in Avengers: Age of Ultron. Agnes painfully makes her relive every key moment, hinting that perhaps her latent powers stopped the bomb all along.
The pair also travel to the HYDRA base in which Wanda and Pietro volunteered as test subjects, as experiments with the effects of Loki’s staff and the Mind stone were carried out on the subjects. In a hugely gripping sequence, it appears that Wanda connects with the stone and experiences a vision of her future self as the all powerful Scarlet Witch. Amongst the pain and suffering, we also experience a quietly intimate and comforting moment between Vision and Wanda, reinforcing just why we’re so invested in their moving relationship.
Throughout the episode the pacing intensifies, particularly as the layers of deception are finally lifted. Revelations comes thick and fast, particularly as we learn the truth of what really happened at S.W.O.R.D headquarters. Wanda didn’t attack the building and steal Vision’s lifeless body, Director Hayward (Josh Samberg) fabricated the whole story. This revelation adds more evidence to the fact that Hayward may have been the real antagonist all along, particularly considering the way he refers to Vision as merely expensive vibranium.
“Breaking the Fourth Wall” is the perfect showcase for Elizabeth Olsen’s nuanced and deeply moving portrayal of the often sidelined Avenger. She clearly pours everything into the heartbreaking moment Wanda uncontrollably unleashes her trauma and grief to manifest Westview and Vision. She’s the true emotional core of the series, perfectly contrasted by the more hammy Hahn, who gleefully revels in revealing Wanda’s true moniker – “the Scarlet Witch.” Once again there’s another post-credit scene in the episode, which hints at even more devastation for Wanda, setting up a thrilling climax.
“Previously On” is a powerful and hugely moving episode from Marvel, with the episodic format finally giving Wanda’s intimate moments of loss the weight they deserve.