Prior to the fifth episode of WandaVision, I was already enjoying the show quite a bit. Probably more than most fans. Some of the criticism I had seen online was from folks who either didn’t like the slow burn or didn’t enjoy (or were too young to “get”) the satirical waltz through the history of American sitcoms.
Neither issue bothered me. I love a slow burn. Hell, LOST is on my Mount Rushmore of TV dramas. And, as someone who grew up at the dawn of “Nick at Nite” and perpetual syndicated reruns, I get the joke-within-a-joke about television’s longstanding tropes.
That all changed with the fifth entry in the series, appropriately titled “On a Very Special Episode . . . ”
More accurately, it changed with the final minute of that episode.
Before I get to that, let’s not lose track of what we saw prior to that ending. Monica’s tortured look at the mention of Captain Marvel. The revelation that Wanda is rearranging reality—permanently—but that the underlying substance remains consistent. The sudden resurfacing of Wanda’s long-missing accent, crucially returning only once she briefly steps outside the reality-warping bubble she’s created.
All of this matters. As does the underlying theme of the titular “Very Special Episode.” Namely, death.
The dialogue that occurs on the show-within-a-show heavily implies that there may be one thing even the suddenly very powerful Maximoff cannot do: return the dead to life. Or, at least, she acknowledges that it is better to let the dead remain at rest.
This raises the obvious question: How, then, do we reconcile the fact that Vision appears to be very much alive, although he seems to have no memory of life before Westview? SWORD’s operational personnel seem baffled by Wanda’s ability to put Vision back in working order.
This is especially remarkable, given the state of Vision in the security footage from nine days prior to the events of this episode. Vision is in even much worse shape than he was at the end of Infinity War, after being killed at the hands of Thanos. Remember that, in the MCU timeline, Infinity War takes place five years before “The Blip” is undone in Endgame.
That means that SWORD had been experimenting on Vision’s remains for over half a decade by the time WandaVision begins, which explains why and how he is literally in pieces.
If that were the entirety of the episode’s content, I would have walked away quite satisfied and intrigued, but not in the “I CAN’T WAIT FOR THE NEXT EPISODE” mode in which I now find myself.
I owe that condition to the episode’s final scene, in which the doorbell rings just as Vision and Wanda are in the midst of an argument about the nature of their reality. Vision immediately suspects that Wanda has orchestrated a visitor to interrupt and distract. Wanda, crucially, says that she didn’t do that.
I’ll pause here to say that it takes a lot for a nerd like me (who happens to be a professional writer and storyteller of sorts) to be genuinely surprised by a television show. I typically see the range of possibilities regarding where a story is going, and, although I may be wrong about the most likely outcome, it is rarely the case that an outcome I hadn’t even considered manifests.
Off the top of my head, the only currently in production show that does that on anything resembling a consistent basis is Better Call Saul, the storytelling brilliance of which is beyond the scope of this piece. I will just say that it is especially remarkable that a show that is a prequel of another show—one that has completed its run—can be so consistently unpredictable and compelling. But I digress.
Back to the matter at hand, when Wanda opens the door, we (eventually) see the back of the head of her visitor. MCU aficionados recognize immediately that it’s the hair of Pietro, also known as Quicksilver. Her brother.
Her dead brother.
Now, this presents another quandary. Has she brought Pietro back from the dead? If so, has she violated her own philosophy on death, stated only a few minutes prior? If she isn’t responsible, then what other force is in play?
And, most crucially, why did Vision just say “Wanda, who is this?” Is it his pre-Westview amnesia? Or is something else at work, here? Before we even have time to process or fully consider those questions, the camera cuts to Quicksilver’s face.
And it isn’t that Quicksilver.
Instead, it’s Evan Peters, who played Peter Maximoff and was a member of the X-Men!
Let’s pause again.
The scope of the first three Phases of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with their Infinity-Stone-fueled existential crisis spanning nearly two dozen films, was staggering. While MCU fans certainly believed the films and shows of Phase 4 and beyond would continue to be entertaining, the heretofore unknown levels of crossover “event” movies we saw with several of the P1-3 MCU films (especially Infinity War) seemed impossible to surpass.
Shame on me for ever doubting Kevin Feige and company.
You see, the MCU doesn’t just appeal to me as a fan of big-budget blockbuster movies. It also appeals to me as someone who is intermittently fascinated by intellectual property. And it’s important to understand the history of the Marvel properties before we go any further.
Courtesy of thegeektwins.com, here’s a graphical representation of the Marvel IP as of 2014 (click to enlarge):
This was the state of the Marvel film franchises seven years ago, when Marvel Studios (owned by Disney) had begun to consolidate its holdings. Or, if you prefer to view Marvel Studios as Marvel itself, to buy back the rights it had sold for a song years earlier when the comic business wasn’t so hot.
Even this superb chart doesn’t quite capture everything accurately. For example, as the next chart will show, the Hulk is co-owned by Universal, just like Namor. Here’s the important piece to note: The Maximoff twins have a shared history in the comics between the X-Men and Avengers franchises. As such, aspects of their story “traveled” with the purchase of the X-Men rights by Fox. At the same time, Marvel retained similar rights to those characters in an Avengers context.
This is why there’s a Quicksilver in the MCU and a Quicksilver in the Fox X-Men series. When we’re in the X-Men universe, he’s an American kid who is the illegitimate son of the mutant villain Magneto. When we’re in the MCU, there’s no such thing as a “mutant” (Fox owned all related rights to that concept), and Pietro and Wanda are children of a fictional, war-torn European nation who got their powers through Hydra experiments with the Mind Stone. Their unremarkable parents died when they were young.
However, as Marvel scored hit after hit and bolstered its war chest, it began buying back properties. This included a 2019 deal with Fox that returned the X-Men and Fantastic Four back to the Marvel (and, thereby, MCU) fold.
Note that, as the fine print says, all of those properties in the green Netflix circle have reverted or will revert back to Marvel this year. That leaves only some of the Spider-Man-related characters, such as Venom or Morbius, outside the MCU, along with Hulk associate Rick Jones. Spider-Man himself is shared between Sony and Marvel, which explains how Homecoming and Far from Home exist within the MCU. Universal and Marvel don’t have as friendly a relationship, which is reportedly why a standalone Hulk movie will not happen unless the relationship changes.
Whew. Ok. Lots of information, there. All of which brings us back to Evan Peters.
This is the first time that a former Fox character has appeared inside the MCU. We knew this would happen at some point, and, based on what little I know about the House of M storyline from the comics, I was very confident that the introduction of mutants to the MCU would happen as a result of the events of WandaVision.
However, I was still stunned to see Peters. It was a legitimate “Holy S**t” moment the likes of which are extremely rare.
That’s because my assumption was that the MCU would simply boot up their own X-Men franchise from scratch after WandaVision opened the door for the existence of mutants. Same with the Fantastic Four. I also knew that the MCU would have elements of a multiverse. Characters have already referenced a multiverse implicitly (think Bruce Banner talking to the Ancient One in Endgame) or explicitly (Peter Parker in Far from Home).
What I did not expect is what we may be seeing now—something far more extraordinary. Namely, the notion that not only is there a canonical multiverse, but that one such multiverse may encompass the existing X-Men franchise.
To be sure, there will be an X-Men reboot in the MCU. Feige isn’t going to try to lure a 50-something Hugh Jackman out of Wolverine retirement for another trilogy. But this moment represents a much bigger idea. An idea, in fact, that could improbably allow the next Phases of the MCU to surpass even the scope of the first three.
But this brings us back to the initial questions raised by the latest episode of WandaVision. If there are “rules” governing even Wanda’s immense power, such that bringing someone or something back from the dead is impossible, then how do we explain Vision?
It seems to me that we may find that explanation by looking at the explanation for Evan Peters’ Quicksilver.
Namely, Wanda couldn’t bring back her universe’s Pietro / Peter. But her incredible abilities did allow her to transport another Quicksilver to “The Hex.” One who was still alive.
Likewise, there are perhaps three explanations for Vision. One, because he’s a synthetic being, albeit a sentient one, the “rule” about resurrection didn’t apply to him the same way it applied to her Pietro (or even to a dog), or the “rule” is purely one of self-restraint for Wanda.
Two, the rule does apply to Vision, but Wanda has somehow found a way to circumvent that rule, albeit at a cost. Her defiance of the natural order and the associated strain are damaging reality and are what creates the blending of other universes into her own (which is how Evan Peters got there).
Three, the Vision we’re seeing on WandaVision is a different Vision. The original MCU Vision is dead. Wanda has his disassembled parts stashed away somewhere, and she pulled a non-dead Vision to her pocket reality the same way she pulled Evan Peters’ Quicksilver there, whether consciously or not. Vision’s mind has essentially been wiped, pre-Westview, so it’s impossible to say if this could be the case yet.
It is that third possibility that is most intriguing. I didn’t read Avengers comics as a kid, but I knew enough to understand that Vision’s history is very convoluted. Without going into detail, he is connected to two other Marvel characters: the older Wonder Man, and the much older original Human Torch, a contemporary of Namor and pre-suspended-animation Captain America. Seeing a nod to those characters would be fascinating, especially if this Vision actually turned out to be the actual, original Torch, simply repurposed by Wanda.
Maybe the new Vision is somehow the old Torch! Probably not, but it’s fun to contemplate! Maybe the new Quicksilver will also not remember his personal history and, instead, simply act like a wacky sitcom relative, as he did in this episode! Or, maybe he’ll get mind-zapped by Vision like Abilash / “Norm” did, and he’ll mention the X-Men! Maybe Michael Fassbender will show up someday for the father-son moment denied to us in the Fox version! Maybe Wanda has cross-reality knowledge, or uniquely exists only in one reality! Maybe some aspect of this experience will turn Monica into a second Captain Marvel! Maybe we’ll get more clarity around Wanda’s inconsistent accent! Maybe Acting Director Hayward won’t turn out to be the bad guy (just kidding—he obviously will be)!
Like I said, the storytelling potential is practically unlimited. And, as you may have noticed by the fact that I just wrote about 2,000 words on a 30-minute episode of streaming content, I’m more than a little intrigued. I think a lot of what happens from here will provide crucial backstory that will set up the third MCU Spider-Man film (explaining why Andrew Garfield, Tobey Maguire, and several other Sony S-M franchise players are in the mix) and, quite obviously, the Multiverse of Madness Dr. Strange sequel.
The closing scene of the Mandalorian this year had more of an emotional impact because of the redemption of Luke Skywalker after the direction that character took in Episodes VIII and IX. But I saw that coming. Note that this did nothing to diminish my enjoyment of that amazing moment, which was brilliant and beautiful.
But the Evan Peters cameo is a much bigger watershed moment from a storytelling standpoint. Like many MCU fans, I thought Endgame provided all the closure I needed with most of these characters. While I was still always going to see any future movies, and I was confident I would enjoy them, I didn’t think the potential for a long, tightly connected, decade-long saga across dozens of properties would ever match Phases 1-3. After all, it was the first!
I was wrong.
Where things go from here may take us on every bit as exciting a ride, and with several new wrinkles to boot.