#WandaVision Episode 7- The Wickedness gets overloaded #Agnes #Monica

Secrets are revealed, heroes are born and Darcy is a hoot as she finally gets a guest spot in her favourite TV show.

Spoiler alert: This blog is for people watching WandaVision on Disney+. Do not read on unless you have watched episodes one to seven.

Agatha All Along

If you were a fan of the Marvel comics or the WandaVision speculation videos that have become an industry in themselves, you couldn’t help but be aware that “Agnes” was going to turn out to be the mentor/ally/oddball/antagonist Agatha Harkness. If you weren’t … well, you knew they hired the wonderful Kathryn Hahn to do more than cameo every week, right?

If your show’s reveals are predictable, though, make sure you make them fun – giving Agatha her own theme tune is a hell of way to end episode seven. As you hoot along to the chutzpah, there is also the unsettling shift in power that someone else getting a title sequence conveys. If Captain America: Civil War lifted the “John Doe has the upper hand” beat from David Fincher’s Seven, here it has undergone an even more radical transformation. And been given lyrics.

As fans sprint to look up the Harkness henchmen that Pietro might be – is he her animal familiar? Pulled from the Nexus? – it is worth pondering if the name “Agnes” was chosen for us, the audience, to obscure (badly) her true identity, or if someone involved with Westview would know the name if they heard it. Is she the person Jimmy Woo was in town to locate?

Sure, she might be a dog-killing weirdo. But it wasn’t a real dog. (Was it?) That Agatha’s purple magic is behind a lot of WandaVision is not necessarily the same as her being the real danger. That said, she also seems to spend her time watching pre-school TV with kids – in this case Yo Gabba Gabba – which, villain-wise, is a trait she shares with the Master from Doctor Who.

A Wanda through the basement
When someone pitches you the story “Character decides to stay home and take a break”, your heart sinks a bit. Those are hard stories to make work, because the main character’s big goal is to do as little as possible.

And so it proves with Wanda, whose underpowered sitcom plot this week mostly relies on things being shown to her – her changed world on the fritz, Monica showing up, a curious walk down to the basement where Agatha, unforced, reveals herself. The writer, Cameron Squires, struggles to find a way to make Wanda an active character – and this is the wrong show in which to have that problem.

The sitcom trappings work much better. Visually, the title sequence riffs on Happy Endings (I had to look it up to find out it went out in the UK on E4 between 2011 and 2013); musically, it’s doing the US Office, but mostly this episode is Modern Family and the technique is exemplary.

Here Wanda’s to-camera interview discusses the concerning realities of WandaVision, rather than some daffy bit of family business; a “cutaway gag” is used to show SWORD soldiers fleeing in terror. Both have the rhythm of sitcom, but treating this stuff like it’s funny is what makes it unsettling. It’s a glorious management of tone.

Nowhere is this more apparent than Vision quitting his interview and quitting his chat with Darcy at the same time in interrupt scenes. There’s no way that works practically – if this were a normal reality, one or the other would have been filmed first – so the eeriness that this is their internal thought processes literally happening lands hard. Something similar kicks in when Wanda realises her interviewer shouldn’t speak. This show is broken.

Take a moment, too, to check out the performances of Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany – respectively channelling Modern Family’s Claire and Phil Dunphy with meticulous gestures and delivery. “Am I right?”

Sword Retreat

In a witty one-two punch the caption “Created by Wanda Maximoff” is followed by “S.W.O.R.D. Temporary Retreat”, which gives you some idea of where those guys are emotionally.

It is another strangely perfunctory week for Woo, sadly. Barely does the character have a character this time around – reading exposition about Hayward and watching Monica drive a truck. His magical flourishes seem all used up. And, as with Agnes, we were all well ahead of Hayward’s now-revealed plans to misuse Vision. What else was that CCTV footage, and the talk about making weapons, for?

Meanwhile, it seems nothing can stop Monica Rambeau from walking through that darned barrier. In a bizarre echo of episode four, first she tries a tech solution, but when that becomes tricky she plunges herself through. It is almost like she knows she has a superhero origin to be getting on with.

Marvel’s FX expertise helps a lot of these moments work in ways most shows couldn’t manage (or afford). There is an astonishingly “solid” feel to the truck/barrier scene, which would feel even more perfunctory without it, while Monica’s odyssey through the barrier is hauntingly bizarre, filled with a sense of voiceover destiny akin to things we saw in Richard Donner’s Superman. And did you see her land in full-on hero pose outside Wanda’s house? Wow.

Perhaps it was inevitable that Darcy getting to appear in her favourite show would be a hoot, but Vision taking part in this daft runaround is a huge bonus. Another thin story strand – they literally have to block the vehicle’s movement to prevent too much happening, and there’s a point where no amount of meta is enough to hide it – is helped enormously by having character chemistry and emotional reveals to lean on. Compare and contrast with Wanda being left alone with the back-to-characterless twins. Her story comes alive only when she has to face off with Monica in a conflict that feels as if it could be settled with three minutes of conversation.

Another conspicuous mention of Ultron, by the way. That is quite a few for a show that doesn’t need to reference the AI villain by name to make sense. Perhaps I am just delighting in the fan theory that sees him return from the digital ether to get Vision’s body back for himself …

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