CAST: Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, Teyonah Parris, Randall Park, Kat Dennings, Josh Stamberg, Asif Ali
RUNNING TIME: 41 mins
PREVIOUSLY, ON WANDAVISION (MILD SPOILERS): In the sitcom town of Westview, Wanda Maximoff (Olsen) and Vision (Bettany) have started a family with their young twin boys Tommy and Billy. Meanwhile, just outside of the town’s protected perimeter, Captain Monica Rambeau (Parris) of S.W.O.R.D., and her allies Jimmy Woo (Park) and Dr. Darcy Lewis (Dennings), have been investigating the mysterious anomaly that includes multiple missing people identified as characters in the sitcom. After being forcefully expelled from the town, Rambeau has concluded that it all traces back to Wanda.
IN THIS EPISODE: In Westview, Wanda, Vision and their rapidly growing boys adopt a dog. Meanwhile, Rambeau and her allies discover more secrets about the anomaly, including how to potentially breach the perimeter…
NOW FOR THE REVIEW…
Five episodes in to a nine-episode miniseries, we’ve more or less reached the mid-way point of Marvel Studios’ WandaVision, and so far there are still just as many questions as there are answers. But with only four episodes to go, there’s plenty of time for everything to be resolved (if at all), and as with the last entry there’s a lot of interesting new developments introduced here that thicken the waters even greater – and, for the first time in this series, leaves us with a truly jaw-dropping cliffhanger that could potentially change everything about not just this show, but the Marvel Cinematic Universe in general.
We partially return to sitcom territory for episode five of WandaVision – subtitled On A Very Special Episode… – and this time, they’re going full 80s, with homages galore to shows like Full House and Family Ties placed all throughout. It’s in this sitcom period that we first see Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany) parenting their infant twin boys, Tommy and Billy, with the help of their neighbour Agnes (Kathryn Hahn) who always suspiciously seems to come in at just the right moment. To everyone’s surprise, the twins are starting to grow up incredibly fast, going from babies to five-year-olds to ten-year-olds in a manner of seconds, and just as quickly the boys are begging their mother to let them take care of a dog named Sparky.
But, as we are very much aware by now, this sitcom universe – seemingly created by Wanda herself – is anything but genuine. That’s why the other half of this episode continues to focus on the activities of S.W.O.R.D. and Captain Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris), just outside of the hexagonally-shaped forcefield surrounding the town of Westview, New Jersey. It’s here we learn a few more pivotal details, including how Wanda came into the possession of the deceased Vision’s corpse in the first place, and the idea that something intentionally archaic could possibly break through into the ever-changing timeframe unfolding inside what is being called the “hex”.
Don’t expect a ton of answers to certain mysteries here – or at least, not as much compared to the previous episode – but there are quite a number of stand-out moments which are bound to either give you chills or endless surprise, or even both. A critical scene involving Vision and his work-mate Norm (who was revealed in the previous episode to be Abilash Tandon (Asif Ali), one of the many Westview residents forced to become contemporary sitcom characters in Wanda’s world) has some extremely creepy undertones reminiscent of The Stepford Wives and even Get Out, and props to series director Matt Shakman and the actors in this scene for making the overall vibe so uncomfortable to stomach since they show, however briefly, the severe psychological toll that this whole situation is taking on some of these people. The episode as a whole might also be Paul Bettany’s strongest work to date as the synthetic android, because you can absolutely feel the frustration and determination in his voice as he struggles to make sense of what’s happening, with much of it starting to come to a head during the closing moments of the episode (more on that later).
Wanda herself also gets some pretty great chances to shine, as does Elizabeth Olsen who continues to impress with her abilities to eerily mimic the comedic stylings of these ever-changing time periods. She can go from a wide-eyed and doting mother figure in one scene, and then the next stare daggers at someone (or something) with red glowing from her eyes in the next, all while maintaining a certain composure that the actress rarely breaks even when the tone can suddenly shift in a flash. If she really is the bad guy in this scenario – though I wouldn’t yet rule out Kathryn Hahn’s Agnes, who we still don’t know an awful lot about, even if she’s another Westview victim or not – then Olsen is so far really selling her character’s vast descent into darkness and madness, which are fully on display in a very memorable stand-off scene involving Teyonah Parris’s ever-likeable Monica.
For about 95% of the episode, it seems to progress as normal, continuing to be an intriguing and conceptually impressive show. But then, just as the credits start to roll, something rather extraordinary happens. It’s a moment that will leave many Marvel fans – and viewers of other past Marvel properties outside of Disney – completely in shock and awe, because it immediately changes not just the dynamic of the current storyline within WandaVision, but how the MCU in and of itself works. Suddenly, things that didn’t seem possible just a few years ago now seem possible, and it all comes down to this one reveal at the end of this 40-something minute-long episode, which I won’t be a dick and ruin for you here, but know that your inner Marvel fan will be jumping for joy at first, but then contemplating how in the hell this is possible in the first place.
Such is the beauty (thus far) of WandaVision, for whenever you think you have almost everything sussed out, it immediately throws in a major surprise that changes the way you look at everything. It just so happens, in this case, that the surprise here could potentially open up the Marvel Cinematic Universe more than ever before.
SO, TO SUM UP…
WandaVision: Episode 5 – On A Very Special Episode… continues to further both the sitcom universe it has established, and the much larger story surrounding it, with plenty of stand-out moments and impressive acting from its leads, while ending on a surprising cliffhanger which potentially changes everything about not just the show, but the Marvel Cinematic Universe in general.
WandaVision: Episodes 1-5 are now available on Disney+. Episode 6 will be available next week.