‘WandaVision’ season 1 recap – episode 5
(Courtesy of Marvel Studios)
"On a Very Special Episode..."
Directed by Matt Shakman
By Janice Yun
Feb. 6, 2021 1:39 p.m.
Warning: spoilers ahead.
From a supernatural couple’s quarrel to a surprising interdimensional guest, “WandaVision’s” latest episode is a rollercoaster of emotions.
The fifth installment of the series shifts back and forth between the original sitcom plot and the new S.W.O.R.D. storyline until the two worlds eventually collide. As agent Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris) and the rest of the S.W.O.R.D. intelligence agency work tirelessly to save the residents trapped in Westview, Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany) have trouble navigating parenthood in a fabricated reality. For viewers who were growing tired of the slow burn in the first few episodes, the introduction of an outside perspective creates the sense of chaos and urgency that Marvel fans know and love.
[Related: ‘WandaVision’ season 1 recap – episode 4]
After taking a brief intermission in the previous episode to provide background on Rambeau and S.W.O.R.D.’s investigation of Westview, episode five’s opening scene returns to the sitcom set where Wanda’s family is now living in the 1980s. With references to popular ’80s sitcoms like “Family Ties” and “Growing Pains” as well as poofy permed hair and painfully bright yoga outfits, the show once again introduces a new decade through every minor detail.
The arrival of the couple’s new twins, Tommy and Billy, also amplifies the nuclear family-centered sitcom style while generating new mysteries in the show. Early in the episode, it is revealed that Tommy and Billy have the power to age themselves up at will.
Stirring up even more suspicion, Agnes’ (Kathryn Hahn) subtle gestures and expressions further add to the character’s mystery, especially in an unusual early scene where Agnes acts out of character. After Vision hesitates to let her near the twins, Agnes reacts awkwardly and asks Wanda if she should “take it from the top,” as if Vision went off an implied script. Her performance sets an ominous tone early in the episode, which continues to build as the plot progresses.
While certain moments are obviously off-key from their classic sitcom roots, “WandaVision” creatively utilizes the mundane TV format to depict the couple’s supernatural problems. When the twins question why their father seems distant, the scene captures the quintessential style of family-oriented sitcoms as Wanda, the parental figure, sits her young ones down to teach a wholesome and somewhat cheesy life lesson: “Family is forever.” Tommy and Billy’s innocent worry and Wanda’s simple and cliche reassurance provide an interesting contrast to the complexity of the actual problem.
In a similar way, the married suburban lifestyle works to highlight the growing tension between Wanda and Vision. While the supernatural beings argue as they float in the air, the show still manages to portray them as an ordinary married couple quarreling in their living room. Presenting the complicated problems of a superhuman family in the context of a regular American sitcom is a bold move, but it ultimately humanizes the couple and helps audiences empathize with their struggles.
[Related: ‘WandaVision’ season 1 recap – episode 3]
The couple’s feuding is a major theme throughout the episode, as Vision’s character finally breaks from the unquestioning compliance he showed earlier in the series. After noticing unusual occurrences, like when he receives an email from S.W.O.R.D. and momentarily breaks one of his co-workers out of Wanda’s trance, Vision eventually confronts her and refuses to be controlled like the other residents. Although his character has been fairly docile and out of the spotlight, Bettany’s emotional performance shines in this episode as Vision undergoes a dramatic release of the confusion and fear he has built up.
While Bettany taps into new emotions and finally showcases his range of acting abilities, Olsen has remained consistent in painting the complexity of Wanda’s character. In perhaps the most striking scene of the episode, S.W.O.R.D. agents observe the Westview barrier as Wanda steps out of town for the first time – right onto the S.W.O.R.D. base. Wearing her full superhero uniform and speaking in her original Sokovian accent, she chillingly threatens the agents to stay out of her home. Olsen’s menacing delivery is paired with an epic instrumental score typical of Marvel films, framing her as a powerful antagonist.
But the clashing of two worlds doesn’t end there. In the final scene, viewers see a shocked Wanda as she opens her door to a new visitor, revealing her long-lost brother Pietro (Evan Peters) – also known as Quicksilver – but not the one from her universe. The interdimensional arrival of the X-Men character opens up a flood of questions for Wanda and Vision, S.W.O.R.D. and undoubtedly the audience.
Although the show was certainly teasing with its initial slow pace, the series now appears as if it may move faster than Quicksilver himself.