by @holocronJosh for @mar_tesseract
WARNING: The following review contains spoilers for WandaVision – Season 1, Episode 8: Previously On
“What is grief, if not love persevering.” Vision’s poignant line in Previously On encapsulates the complex themes and raw emotions explored in this week’s heartfelt episode of WandaVision. Previously On lives up to its title in providing a touching trek through Wanda’s trauma-filled past, while offering insight into the origins and motivations of the series’ villain Agatha Harkness.
This week’s episode marked a departure from the established structure of the series by shifting away from the sitcom elements and the adventures of Monica’s team, instead opting for a more intimate focus on the show’s lead. Indeed, Previously On was an emotional roller-coaster to say the least. Not only to see the horrors Wanda has experienced in her life, but to watch our titular character relive them was both disturbing and touching in an uncanny way. The beautiful moments with the Maximoff family highlight what could have been for Wanda and Pietro, in addition to (finally) explaining the sitcom influence on the Hex.
The pinnacle of the episode’s touching sequences, however, came with a conversation between Wanda and Vision at the Avengers Compound. In the MCU films, little time is actually spent on Wanda and Vision’s relationship, relative to the grander plot mechanics at work. As such, we only get to see glimpses of their intimacy and love for one another in the films. WandaVision has elevated the Wanda-Vision bond immensely, perhaps most evident in this scene in Previously On. Wanda’s grief and turmoil is palpable, truly brought to life by yet-again another stunning performance from Elizabeth Olsen. Paul Bettany deftly plays Vision as he captures the robotic nature of his character, while conveying such empathy and care for a woman he is beginning to love. This scene more than any other emphasized the strength of Wanda and Vision’s relationship and, in turn, the immense grief Wanda felt upon losing Vision.
Coupled with its series of touching moments, Previously On was filled to the brim with revelations and explanations. In fact, it’s quite commendable that the writers and director were able to assemble an episode that packs in so much emotion, while simultaneously delivering so much information in a manner that feels natural and not like an exposition dump. The explanations/revelations kick off with the episode’s first scene, showcasing Agatha Harkness’ evil origins. A departure from the comics, we see Agatha be punished for the misuse of her magical powers by her fellow coven members, before she unleashes her dark magic upon them and kills them all. After last week’s revelation that is was “Agatha All Along,” (the song is still stuck in our heads), Agatha’s true motivations were uncovered in Previously On as it was revealed that she infiltrated the Hex to learn how Wanda managed to wield such extraordinary power and create this world. While we’re not exactly sure what Agatha wants to do upon learning Wanda’s power, we suspect she’s up to no good.
With the emotional moments adding layers to Wanda’s character, so did the reveal that Wanda had latent abilities. Although not explicitly stated, Avengers: Age of Ultron suggests that Wanda and Pietro acquired powers upon HYDRA experimentation, which, as revealed in this week’s episode, is only partially true. Wanda had some predisposition to magic powers, before these abilities were enhanced by an infinity stone. This definitely changes the way we view Wanda throughout the series and also has implications regarding inborn abilities of human characters. Are Wanda’s innate abilities suggestive of her being a mutant? Are other people around the world like her in sharing unique powers?
The episode’s concluding moments set up WandaVision’s season finale perfectly. After various films and episodes, we finally get our first mention of Wanda’s superhero title – The Scarlet Witch. It appears that this is some type of prophesied, legendary powerful being that Agatha believes Wanda is. The brief visual preview of Wanda in her classic Scarlet Witch costume was one of the series’ most impressive visuals yet and has us excited for the time when we get to see this costume in the flesh.
Akin to last week’s episode, we once again got a post-credits scene this week, adding yet another layer of complexity to things. All Wanda wanted to do was grieve in peace in this artificial world she conjured, but she can’t achieve the peace she desires for multiple reasons. While Agatha poses a mystical, superpowered threat, Hayward and SWORD are a more technological menace as we see the live-action debut of White Vision in Previously On. This sets the stage nicely for the episode to come as we’re likely to see a Vision vs. Vision battle, in addition to the resolution of the conflict between Agatha and Wanda and a set-up for upcoming MCU films.
After last week’s somewhat stuttering episode, WandaVision returned with a bang with Previously On. Delivering the series’ most emotionally impactful and intimate moments yet, episode 8 also pulls the curtain back on what’s going on behind the scenes in terms of Wanda’s past, Agatha’s motivations, and the nature of Westview. All of this set the stage nicely for next week’s finale.
Images courtesy of Disney+ and Marvel Studios