So with this week’s episode of WandaVision giving us backstory and exposition galore we have a lot to process. Aptly titled ‘Previously On’, episode 8 finally gives us the rundown of how Wanda got to where she is and how Westview came to be how it is.
We start the episode back in 1693 in Salem, Massachusetts. We see Agatha kicking and screaming as she’s fastened to a pyre, accused of betraying her coven. It looks like things are about to get real hairy for her but soon enough Agatha is back on top of things as she always is- appearing to suck the power and life out of the witches trying to kill her. Including her own mother. They drop to the floor as drained skeletons and Agatha grabs her signature brooch from her mother’s corpse, before zooming off into the air.
Picking up from where we left off last week, we rejoin Agatha and Wanda in Agatha’s lovely, homely basement. After speaking with her rabbit son briefly, Agatha explains that she has been trying for ages to get Wanda to reveal her true self and her powers. She’s frustrated that she can’t understand how Wanda is controlling a whole town and all its details, right down to the crown molding!
Lamenting that Wanda has left her no choice, Agatha proceeds to drag Wanda through every one of her biggest traumas over the years.
We start off in Sokovia as we see the night Wanda’s family was torn apart by the explosion. It’s movie night in the Maximoff household and Wanda is picking what’s screening. From her father’s collection of bootleg DVDs she selects an episode of the Dick Van Dyke show, season 2 episode 21. Things don’t stay sweet for long though, as her home is soon blown to pieces and Wanda and Pietro are left stuck for two days just feet away from an unexploded bomb.
Our next stop on the trauma train is Hydra’s experimentation chambers, where Wanda relives the first time she encountered an infinity stone. After being almost blown away by yellow, glowing energy, Wanda awakes in a barren room with the Brady Bunch playing on TV. Agnes remarks that the stone awakened in Wanda powers that otherwise would’ve died away, before moving things along to the Avengers’ compound.
Wanda watches her past self sit lonely on the end of her bed; her brother dead, herself in a new country and Vision morphing through the wall to comfort her. She’s watching Malcolm in the Middle, clutching a pillow and trying to deal with her grief. Vision is there for her, he encourages her to talk about how she’s feeling, telling her that ‘grief is just love persevering’.
It’s a really touching moment, seeing the two of them being so real and raw with each other. But of course Agatha needs to ruin things by dragging us back to reality: “parents dead, brother dead, vision dead- what happened when he wasn’t there to pull you back from the darkness, Wanda?” she asks.
We couldn’t possibly get through an episode without having to endure some Hayward, so next we head to the SWORD HQ, where Wanda meets the director and sees something that nobody should ever have to see: their loved one’s body cut up and spread out across tables, being pulled apart and experimented on by people in forensic suits.
She watches through the glass as someone drills through Vision’s severed head, with Hayward asserting that it is their legal and ethical obligation to take apart Vision, as he was the most sophisticated sentient weapon ever made.
Next, property deed in hand, Wanda drives to Westview. It’s run-down, grey and sad. She collapses into the empty lot that would’ve been her home ‘to grow old in’- and that’s when it happens. She snaps. In a long explosion of power and energy she spontaneously transforms Westview into the TV show paradise we know it as.
It’s a power most thought was a myth, surely nobody could be capable of spontaneous creation? Of chaos magic at this level? But now, hovering above the ground in her purple garb and her full witchy glory, Agatha finally titles Wanda the ‘Scarlet Witch’.
As is now the norm, however, after we cut to the credits we briefly returned for a mid-credits scene. Having obtained some energy from inside Westview via their drone, SWORD can now finally activate their Vision replica and we finally cut to black as this awakened, white, 3D-printed-looking Vision examines his now-alive hand.
It’s no secret that the episode hasn’t hit all the right notes with a lot of people, given that it is essentially composed entirely of flashbacks- but regardless of your opinion of its form, it certainly has a lot to offer in terms of story.
3. Wanda's Powers And Chaos Magic
Agatha reveals that what Wanda is using is called ‘Chaos Magic’, a kind of magic that is so potent and powerful that most witches thought it was just a myth. In the comics, Wanda first encounters this kind of magic by virtue of being born near Mount Wundagore, where the Elder God slash Arch Demon Chthon was trapped years earlier.
This guy was powerful and used Chaos Magic to make himself somewhat of a god of chaos. I mean he wasn’t powerful enough to avoid being overthrown but that’s besides the point. It’s noted that without Chton’s touch, Wanda’s powers wouldn’t be much more potent than the average witch using energy manipulation- but is this still true in the MCU or is it more the infinity stone that enhanced her the power she has?
Chthon speaks at points about the great taste of weak souls, something that becomes relevant as Agatha goes over the creation of Westview and Wanda’s harnessing and control of the ‘weak’ people living in it.
In talking about the Chaos Magic we also encounter another question...