WandaVision: 1.07 Breaking the Fourth Wall
After the more action packed previous couple of episodes of WandaVision Breaking the Fourth Wall takes a step back and slows things down just a bit. It would be harsh to call it a filler episode when it does so many things right and the twist at its climax makes it a great bit of television just for that alone. It's probably more a compliment to the show's quality so far that it feels a bit slight. Disney have raised the bar pretty high for what can be accomplished on the small screen, both with WandaVision and The Mandalorian before it. It was probably to be expected that with only two episodes to go we would have to get the calm before the storm.
There is also a change in tone with the show that I believe is a consequence of the sitcom time period depicted starting to catch up with the actual time period of the show itself. In the first few episodes of WandaVision the completely contrasting nature of the old sitcom styles with the brief glimpses of the modern outside world gave us a much more interesting narrative, both visually and story wise. Breaking the Fourth Wall brings Westview and its unwilling inhabitants into the early 21s century (I refuse to call them the "noughties") and as such is much more similar to the visuals we are currently used to seeing on TV. The opening credits are based on The Office while the body of the show is a homage to Modern Family complete with the interview-like conversations straight to camera that both those shows pioneered. This does give Elizabeth Olsen the opportunity to give us a pitch perfect impression of Julie Bowen's Claire Dunphy character. I would say though that apart from that, and a few instances where Vision also talks directly at the camera, the conceit of the sitcom reality is starting to take a backseat. I suspect that the final couple of episodes will loose it altogether as we transition to the more familiar Marvel epic battle scenes.
Outside of the Hex, Jimmy and Monica finally meet up with the much talked about aerospace engineer. Fans (myself included) have been speculating as to who this character could be. In my last review, I gave my reasons for hoping that the Fantastic Four's Reed Richards was about to make his debut, and lo and behold..... it's a nobody. Perhaps we've become spoilt by Marvel surprising us with incredible cameos, but this did feel like a major disappointment. Obviously we all read too much into it but the little hints that had been dropped really did seem as if someone important was about to showup. Perhaps Marvel has just trolled us all.
After a failed attempt at penetrating the Hex barrier in the new fancy armoured S.W.O.R.D. mobile, Monica decides to just run through it in her own which has far better results. I did get a bit annoyed as to why they thought driving through it would be a good idea. Everything that has passed through before instantly transform into something else. The front half of the vehicle that did make it through becomes just a regular car as it is ejected. I'm not sure what result they were expecting. Reed Richards wouldn't have made that error, just saying.
Oh well, even without a major character turning up we do get our first peek at another superhero in the making. After being warned previously that her cells had been rewritten by her time in the Hex, Monica's return to Westview seems to have changed her irreversibly. For starters she manages to make it through the barrier and keep her original form. Even more interesting are the glowing eyes and powers Monica has now acquired. There are several iterations of Monica Rambeau becoming a superhero in the comic books and it seems the MCU has just gained one of them.
Of perhaps less interest are Darcy's and Vision's exploits this episode. Last time out, we saw Darcy get swallowed up by the Hex as Wanda extended its reach to recapture or save Vision - depending on your point of view. I was looking forward to seeing exactly who Darcy was going to become in Wanda's twisted version of reality. With the nice satire of government agency S.W.O.R.D. becoming a circus full of clowns, I was slightly disappointed to see that Darcy became an escapologist who barely got to do anything before Vision woke her up. It just feels a bit like a missed opportunity to me to do something more fun with the character. What follows is Darcy and Vision driving very slowly in an attempt to get back to Wanda while more and more obstacles are put in their way. It seems initially that Wanda does not want Vision returning too soon while she languishes in a state of depression. However the episode's dramatic finale reveals what we have all suspected for a while, namely that Wanda is not as in control of the situation as she thinks.
If you haven't yet seen the episode, then I suggest you do not read any further, just accept it's a slightly more low key affair that puts everything in place for what will no doubt turn out to be a spectacular finale. I do however want to address the end of the episode and the reveal contained within, mainly because it is done in such a delightful way.
As I've previously stated, I have not read the comic books that WandaVision is based on. I have however seen the rumours and theories that always float around the internet whenever a beloved geek property is adapted. One name has been constantly thrown around ever since the first episode of the series aired. It soon became obvious over the course of the season that busy body neighbour Agnes was not all she seemed. Fans put two and two together and made Agatha Harkness. As I say, the name means nothing to me and so I look forward to seeing exactly what she is all about.
What is apparent is that she has similar powers to Wanda and has been using them all along to mould events as she pleases. This is shown in what I expect will feature in my end of year review as one of the TV highlights of 2021. Kathryn Hahn finally gets to loose her glorious comedy chops as we are treated to the utterly magnificent song "It was Agatha All Along". I didn't realise I needed a musical number from the show's villain showing how they've been manipulating events from the start, but now Marvel have given it to us I'd be quite happy seeing the entire final battle play out as a big budget production number. I imagine even Marvel wouldn't quite go that far, but I expect we're going to get something spectacular anyway.
Oh and make sure you stay tuned for the post credits scene. Well it wouldn't be Marvel without one, would it?