WandaVision Episode 8 Review: An Americana Flashback

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The 8th episode of WandaVision had a lot riding on it. It had the sort of “must wrap things up” quality inherent to something like Lost or Game of Thrones. It’s not a genre breaker like either of those shows and ultimately while WandaVision has a list of shows it does live up to, WandaVision’s 8th episode did something that none of those shows have done and that no Marvel show will ever do again. It was a commentary on how people watch television. 

Today’s recap will be quick and brief, both due to the nature of the episode which can be easily described as an exposition dump. Because of the opinions and spoilers that will count down to the end of this story for Wanda and Vision, opening the MCU in new directions, it will surely cause those operating in the journalism sphere to have a very interesting week going forward. 

The episode’s title “Previously On” could have ended with “the MCU.” while we open with an intriguing development into Agatha’s backstory (I need to go back to watch Doctor Strange. Are witches on a whole other level than Doctor Strange’s Sorcerers?) but we’re not given nearly enough. If Wanda sees it it’s unclear. Instead, we go through her backstory one beat after another. We see the bomb mentioned in the Stark Toaster. We see the HYDRA experiment (I’m going to come back and touch on that) and we see Wanda and Vision bond over – what else – television. 

We see the moment where Wanda created the Hex (and there’s a lot that could be said about someone basically Wal-Marting small-town America. Westview was a dying town and then an Avenger moved in and suddenly it glows with literal manipulated new life?) and we see that Vision bought them a house (and that got me) and then we close with Wanda versus Agnes to protect the twins (creating life in more ways than one) and then the episode ends abruptly. It closes with White Vision and I am embarrassed to say that I need to catch up on the comic book aspect of that because it seemed like something my stepdad, an avowed comic books fan, might be more interested in or know more about.

No, what interests me is Wanda’s relationship with television as a person outside of America because television is pretty much one of the few things that America has given the world that people agree is good. The nuances are bad and the representation is often lacking but television, Philo Taylor Farnsworth II’s invention according to Google – is uniquely American and the reaction of people on the internet from the good and bad has been uniquely American in its diversity of opinion. 

Television is what strings not only the audience outside of Westview along (and the audience outside of outside Westview) but it walks through Wanda Maximoff’s life in a way that underscores the influence of Americana on her culture. Living on Twitter as I do, I read a lot about people from other cultures, immigrants and first-generation Americans, who learn how to speak English from watching American sitcoms. Namjoon, the leader of BTS, honed his English watching friends, and that sticks with me. 

It sticks with me when you see how Wanda watched The Dick Van Dyke Show as her world exploded around her and it sticks with me as every episode in her life was punctuated by a sitcom with a corresponding theme in the order that came with the show. It sticks with me when the director punctuates the town of Westview, one of America’s famous “main streets” and how it’s fallen by the wayside. Television is one of the inventions in the United States that…everybody has leaped on and with streaming it’s more widely accessible than ever. Which begs the question, how have people forgotten how to watch it?  (or am I thinking too critically about it?)

Out of all the episodes of WandaVision, I find myself moved the most by this episode, less because of Wanda’s grief but because her grief is punctuated by the manipulative nature of television that she sought to bring to life. It’s something she leans into like so many of us who feel outcasted and alone and like nobody sees us. Television keeps her going, and for a number of people waking up or staying up late last night, I wonder if they are willing to admit so publicly that the same medium keeps them going in a deeply personal way. 

If the people who are going to spend the weekend writing about this and creating theories about how the show will end are going to talk about how this show bridges the MCU, it’s brought down to the most simple of American formats and how we’ve forgotten how to watch that and maybe how that’s a good thing. Or how it’s a bad thing. It depends on how much TV has impacted your life. 

WandaVision episode 8 is an exposition dump. It provides tantalizing nuggets of information about Agatha Harkness, a Loki-level villain, and then does nothing. It literally just answers a ton of questions and then slips into a reveal that’s supposed to make the audience gasp, but it’s not something a lot of people know or get. It’s a show that’s going to make people question just who that mysterious glowing figure in the Soul Stone, but to me, I want to write about streaming and television.

I know a lot of people who write about a culture who have their own stories like Wanda’s. People who have stories of bombs in their home, of grief and trauma and loss that was marked by television. I know a number of people affected by small towns and grief and honestly, the only thing I can offer the discourse is that their critiques, more nuanced and more questioning, are the ones I want to hear because I can pick through the deluge of American sitcoms to find episodes like this one that they probably loved and hated but never felt comfortable sharing. 

If I were Disney Plus, I would title the final episode WandaVision, now streaming on Disney Plus, and I would invite the audience to speculate on the new age of television where we can acknowledge how powerful it is to so many, how much grief it’s healed, and how we are stepping into a new age like Wanda is dipping her toes into phase 4. It would help explain just how powerful flashbacks would be because it’s clear we need to talk about sitcoms, traditional TV and how we’re moving forward.

But I’m not, and all I have to offer the story of how television has punctuated my grief and rage at the world is that sometimes stuff like this, for all its faults has always been more real to me than the world outside my window. I appreciate how they’re inviting us to look back, then go forward because as Agatha said, “The only way forward is back.” To see the bombs we left in homes, and to see how people still worshipped television anyway.

But I’m not Disney Plus or any streaming service.

WandaVision is now streaming.

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