WandaVision is a tense show, and it’s only getting tenser. As we barrel towards its conclusion, we’re watching Wanda Maximoff’s grip on the reality she’s created for herself and her synthezoid husband in Westview, New Jersey slip little by little. As mysteries spool out on top of mysteries and secrets unravel, there’s a dread inevitability to it all—and a quiet moment this week pushed us closer to that big undoing.
Last week’s “All-New Halloween Spooktacular!” doesn’t so much deal with the prior week’s emotional fallout between Wanda and Vision as much as it dances around it. In between its pitch perfect Malcom in the Middle riffs and focusing much more on Wanda’s relationship with her newly-returned brother, and the Vision exploring the fringes of Westview’s buckling reality, it has plenty of threads to pull on already. And there is tension there (well, at least outside of the comedy riffs casting Evan Peters’ Pietro as the bad-influence uncle to Billy and Tommy), but the moment of the episode that is most intensely ladened with a sense of dread comes early on.
In what should be a moment of comedy—the Vision, revealing his “luchador” Halloween costume that is a riff on his classic silver age comics look—we quietly, intimately see the true fallout of Wanda and Vision’s credits-closing argument in “On a Very Special Episode”. Billy, pivoting to camera for some more Malcom in the Middle homage, acknowledges that his mother and father have been acting off to each other since Pietro’s arrival, but watching it unfold in such a quiet scene between Wanda and Vision is nonetheless as heartbreaking as their all-out shouting match the week prior.
It’s only a brief scene, but its one that left me reeling at its tension. Every time Wanda wants to deflect with the premise of the week, Vision counters with a coldness that speaks to his anger at whatever reality Wanda has made for them. Putting up with her and his silly costume? He had no choice, there were no other clothes she’d put for him in his wardrobe. Taking part in the boys’ Halloween trick-or-treating? No, he’s going to decide his episode sub-plot, Wanda be damned. Even the moments where he gives her what she wants, playing flirty or touching on Pietro’s hijinks, come with little of the warmth that existed in past episodes.
You can see him poking at her defenses just by defying the power she has over not just this conversation, but their entire reality, and the look on Wanda’s face as she realizes what he’s doing speaks to just how cleanly he’s striking through it all. But Wanda can’t react the way she did the week before—the kids are there, Pietro is there. There’s a vulnerability that she can’t handwave away with a flick of chaos magic or a roll of the episode credits, setting her up for the Vision’s most devastating line of all. “And Wanda...be good,” he asks of her, kissing her cheek as she tearfully stares past him. Just like that, whatever their relationship was on WandaVision up to this point feels fundamentally changed: the lie exposed, the magic of their odd-couple romance flickering out as she briefly caresses the door as she closes it behind him.
It’s arguably this moment—more so than Wanda’s later attempts to reconcile her and her brother’s different memories of their past, or even Vision’s attempts to poke beyond the boundaries of Westview—that sets the stage for everything that feels off about “All-New Halloween Spooktacular!”. Like “On a Very Special Episode” before it, the sitcom premise is remarkably loose, nothing really so much happens beyond “It’s Halloween!” compared to the exterior plots of Vision’s investigation or Jimmy, Monica, and Darcy’s rebellion against SWORD Director Hayward. As Vision eventually discovers, everything in Westview outside the direct sphere of Wanda’s influence is breaking down, as if Wanda is too distracted to make these citizens do more than be frozen in frame or loop in place like idle set dressing. It all comes back to that conversation, the idea that the more Vision prods the more Wanda’s defences become undone. When she re-establishes that control in the episode’s climax, expanding the mystical hex around Westview’s borders, is not so much an act of dominance as it is desperation, desperation to save Vision but also reclaim what is slowly but surely slipping through her fingers.
There’s a moment in one of WandaVision’s biggest comic book influences—Tom King, Gabriel Hernandez-Walta, and Jordie Bellaire’s remarkable, similarly dread-laden The Vision—that similarly wouldn’t leave my thoughts after finishing the episode. In The Vision #7 (guest illustrated by Michael Walsh), we’re taken on a whirlwind tour through Wanda and the Vision’s wild romance in the comics, re-contextualizing moments of their history together with the framing of the perfect life and family Vision has established for himself in the series at large. In one moment as Wanda talks about putting Billy and Tommy to bed, Vision (just as he does at the start of “All-New Halloween Spooktacular!”) sidesteps Wanda’s perceived reality in an attempt to expose what’s actually going on with their children:
It’s a louder moment than what we got in WandaVision, but it’s presented similarly as one where Wanda and Vision’s relationship fundamentally shifts. As we head into WandaVision’s conclusion, it feels like we’ve reached a similar inflection point, and Vision is ready to start asking the biggest question of all: if Wanda is to be good, what good can come of the lie she has made for them?
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