DIRECTOR: Matt Shakman

CAST: Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, Evan Peters, Teyonah Parris, Randall Park, Kat Dennings, Josh Stamberg, Julian Hilliard, Jett Klyne

RUNNING TIME: 38 mins

PREVIOUSLY, ON WANDAVISION (MILD SPOILERS): Wanda (Olsen), Vision (Bettany) and their young twin boys Billy (Hilliard) and Tommy (Klyne) live in the suburban sitcom town of Westview, which in reality is being held under Wanda’s control, and is being investigated by S.W.O.R.D., including agent Monica Rambeau (Parris). Both sides receive a surprise when Wanda’s long-dead brother Pietro suddenly returns – but he looks suspiciously like Evan Peters’ version of the character from the X-Men franchise.

IN THIS EPISODE: The family heads out for a night of trick-or-treating on Halloween night, while Rambeau and her allies clash with S.W.O.R.D.’s acting director Hayward (Josh Stamberg)…

NOW FOR THE REVIEW…

After last week’s shock cliffhanger reveal that potentially changed the Marvel Cinematic Universe as we know it, all eyes were on this next episode of WandaVision to expand on how it was possible for Evan Peters to reprise his role from 20th Century Fox’s now-dormant X-Men series (aside from, y’know, that whole “Disney owning Fox” thing).

Although episode 6 of the miniseries – subtitled All-New Halloween Spooktacular!, for reasons that will soon become obvious – doesn’t exactly offer any immediate explanations, several hints are dropped along the way about how Peters’ Quicksilver (if that is who he truly is) serves as a major new cog in this ever-whirring mystery, and as ever the series continues to astound and entertain with its playful approach to sitcom tropes, while also expanding (albeit slightly) upon its increasingly sinister plot unfolding behind the curtains.

This episode adopts a bunch of 90s sitcom attributes, specifically what you’d find on the Disney Channel back in the day (with a little bit of Malcolm in the Middle thrown in for good measure), from its “radical” opening title sequence with a punk-rock theme, to its young characters addressing the audience, to a consistent mid-tempo score not unlike what you’d hear in any sitcom from that era. On this particular episode of the show-within-a-show, it’s Halloween and the Maximoff family – including Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen), Vision (Paul Bettany), their twin sons Billy (Julian Hilliard) and Tommy (Jett Klyne), and Wanda’s sofa-crashing brother Pietro (Peters) – are getting ready to dress up in costumes which themselves contain numerous Marvel easter eggs (the original comic-book costumes for both its title characters are on full display here, and are even called out for looking rather ridiculous). Tons of candy, smashed pumpkins, and even the odd superpower are in store for the twins’ night, but Vision is much more determined to figure out what’s really happening in Westview.

On the other side of Wanda’s self-created “hex”, which has completely engulfed the New Jersey town of Westview, S.W.O.R.D. agent Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris) and her allies, FBI agent Jimmy Woo (Randall Park) and physicist Dr. Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings), clash with the increasingly mean acting director Hayward (Josh Stamberg), forcing them to go somewhat rogue and continue their own investigation, including what Hayward might be hiding from them regarding his (possible) true motives.

The episode as a whole feels like a slight press on the brakes compared to the development we’ve seen over the last couple of episodes (at least, for about two-thirds of it); in the sitcom world, things appear at first to be business as usual, with its heavy homages to classic sitcom eras still reigning supreme, while in the real world there aren’t many new discoveries which even begin to compare with the major one from last week. There’s still plenty to enjoy about this episode, and we’ll specify which parts exactly in just a moment, but know that if you’re hoping for more concrete answers about the hidden nature of this situation, or any unexpected last-minute shocks on par with the Quicksilver reveal, chances are you might come away from this episode a little disappointed.

However, that isn’t to say that the pace in which WandaVision is progressing, in terms of both its captivating plot and its highly entertaining call-backs to past sitcoms, has slowed down. In fact, things are more lively than ever in this episode, which takes good advantage of its Halloween setting under the current circumstances, and allows for some fun visual humour involving the reference-heavy costumes its main characters wear. In keeping with the Halloween theme, there is a strong number of creepy, unnerving little details about the nature of this fabricated sitcom world; we see people in entire streets being frozen in place, and other who are stuck in an endless loop with a sole tear trailing down their cheek. A later scene involving Kathryn Hahn’s ever-chirpy neighbour Agnes is also unsettling in the way it’s acted and directed, which once more draws great attention to just how well series director Matt Shakman has guided his actors to delivering some rather perfect performances that match brilliantly with the sitcom era being portrayed. There are also some good character moments, particularly involving the new brother-sister dynamic between Wanda and “Pietro”, with Evan Peters clearly having a lot of fun as the latter.

The ending here is also pretty major, not in terms of surprises but by what actually happens. Without spoilers, let’s just say that this sitcom universe is looking like it’s going to be a lot busier over its final three episodes, as are we with our endless speculation as to what, or who, is really behind all of this. Is it truly Wanda causing everything? Might this version of Pietro know more than he’s letting on? And who exactly is this mysterious person that Monica Rambeau has contacted to help them out? Hopefully we’ll get a few more answers next week on WandaVision, but for now here’s another fun, thrilling and mysterious episode which certainly delivers on its All-New Halloween Spooktacular! title.

SO, TO SUM UP…

WandaVision: Episode 6 – All-New Halloween Spooktacular! doesn’t offer any new answers or major surprises on par with last week’s shock reveal, but there’s still plenty to enjoy as the series pays homage to 90s sitcom tropes, complete with countless Marvel references and an ever-deepening mystery that’s getting more and more sinister as the series goes along.

WandaVision: Episodes 1-6 are now available on Disney+. Episode 7 will be available next week.

 

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