- Episode 8 (of 9), 'Previously On'
- Written by Laura Donney
- Directed by Matt Shakman
Spoilers for the latest episode of WandaVision follow. Watch it first before reading this.
Salem, Massachusetts, 1693.
A young Agatha Harkness is escorted through the forest and tied to a stake using magic. She’s surrounded by a circle of hooded women.
“Agatha Harkness, are you a witch?” asks their leader. “Yes,” she replies. “I am a witch.”
The leader tells Agatha she’s betrayed her coven, but Agatha denies it. She says Agatha stole knowledge above her age and station, and practised the darkest of magic. “I did not break your rules,” says Agatha. “They simply bent to my power.”
The witches chant in unison in Latin. Agatha pleads with them, saying she cannot control it – “if only you would teach me!”
“Mother, please…” she continues, looking at the leader of the group.
The whole coven directs its magic at Agatha and it looks like it’s doing her serious damage. Then Agatha’s own magic kicks into life in the form of purple energy, and she throws it back at the other witches. Agatha’s mother, Evanora, flies into the air and directs her own magic at Agatha. Agatha frees herself and creates a shock wave that knocks out all the witches except Evanora, leaving them as wizened corpses on the ground.
“Please, I can be good,” Agatha says to her mother. Evanora says she cannot, and attacks her again. Agatha retaliates and leaves her mother for dead. She removes a brooch from Evanora’s dress – the same one we’ve seen her wearing in Westview – and flies away.
Back in the present, in a dark basement in Westview, Agatha jokes with her rabbit, Señor Scratchy. “I know, she does look shocked to meet the real us, doesn’t she?”
Wanda tries to read Agatha’s mind. “Oh, that’s adorable,” says Agatha. “My thoughts are not available to you, toots. They never, ever were.”
Wanda asks where her children are – Agatha mocks how her Sokovian accent comes and goes. Wanda tries to use her magic again but it doesn’t work. Agatha incapacitates Wanda and tells her there’s a “basic protection spell” on each wall, cast by magical runes – she explains that only the witch that cast the runes can use magic in any given space. “How do you not know the fundamentals?”
Wanda asks who she is, but Agatha throws the question back at her. “I was so patient, waiting for you to reveal your true self. I got close with fake Pietro – Fietro, if you will – but no dice.” (She explains that Pietro wasn’t literally her, just her eyes and ears – a crystalline possession. She adds that necromancy was a non-starter because the real Pietro’s body was on another country – “not to mention riddled with holes”.)
She taunts Wanda that she’s so riddled by self-doubt that she believed Pietro was real.
Agatha says that when she sensed all the powerful magic happening in Westview, she “couldn’t make heads or tails” of it. She grabs an insect from the wall and demonstrates mind control. “Quick incarnation and a feeble psyche and you’re good to go.” But with thousands of people under Wanda’s control, interacting together in complex storylines, “that’s something special, baby.”
And as Agatha turns the bug into a bird and back, she says that transmutation requires “years of study to achieve even the smallest convincing illusion” – and yet Wanda has manipulated every small detail, even miles away on the edge of town. “What’s your secret, sister? I need you tell me how you did this.”
Wanda says she didn’t do anything, so Agatha slams her against the wall. Agatha says she tried to be gentle, “to nudge you away from this ridiculous fantasy, but you’d rather fall apart than face your truth.” She reminds Wanda of what she said to Fietro about feeling empty, alone, endless nothingness… “Let’s start there.”
Agatha creates a door in the wall. “It’s been fun playing pretend for while, hasn’t it, Wanda?” she says. “But it’s time to look at some real reruns.”
Wanda refuses to go but Agatha reminds her who’s got her kids stashed away in her “bewitched basement”. Wanda hears Billy and Tommy calling for help.
Wanda’s back in the Maximoff apartment in Sokovia, her parents still alive. Her father brings back a suitcase containing DVDs of classic sitcoms. He says he’ll sell them tomorrow, but for now, there’s more for TV night. Pietro tells him to talk in English – the “only rule of TV night is we try to practise our English.” Pietro calls for Wanda, who walks into the scene and is suddenly her 10-year-old self.
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This TV night is Wanda’s pick, and it’s season 2, episode 21 of The Dick Van Dyke Show, “the walnut episode”. Pietro says it’s always a sitcom with Wanda. Meanwhile, Wanda’s mother looks out at gunfire on the street outside.
The family enjoy the show together… and then a huge explosion.
Wanda and Pietro find themselves alone, surrounded by wreckage, their parents dead. They see a Stark Industries bomb, still active – and The Dick Van Dyke Show is still playing. “At the end of the episode you realize it was all a bad dream,” says Wanda. “None of it was real.” She reaches out towards the bomb as Pietro tells her not to.
Agatha pulls Wanda out of the vision, and asks if she stopped that bomb: “You used a probability hex.” Wanda denies it – she says the bomb never went off because it was defective, but they didn’t know that at the time. They were trapped for two days.
Agatha acknowledges how much trauma there was, and yet they were “safe as kittens” all along. “So what I see here is a baby witch obsessed with sitcoms and years of therapy ahead of her,” Agatha says. “It doesn’t explain your recent hijinks. Where’d you get the big guns, Wanda?”
Another door opens. Wanda says she doesn’t want to go back there, but Agatha says it’s good medicine – “the only way forward is back.”
Back in Baron von Strucker’s HYDRA compound, Agatha wonders why Wanda and Pietro’s reaction to the death of her parents was to join an “anti-freedom terrorist organisation”. Wanda says they wanted to change the world.
Wanda walks into a room containing Loki’s Scepter. A voice on the intercom asks her to state her name and status – she confirms she’s a volunteer. She’s ordered to “touch the sample”, as a scientist reminds his colleague that no test subject has survived contact with the artefact. The blue jewel levitates out of the Scepter and as Wanda raises her hand, the blue coating explodes away, revealing the Mind Stone inside. Wanda is bathed in its energy and when she looks up, she sees a silhouetted figure floating in the light. It has the form of the Scarlet Witch in the comics. She collapses to the ground, and the scientists rush in. She’s still alive, so they put her in isolation.
In her cell, Wanda watches TV. The scientists examine the footage of Wanda’s Mind Stone encounter, but see nothing. Wanda turns of the television with her mind.
Agatha pulls Wanda out of the flashback: “So, little orphan Wanda got up close and personal with an Infinity Stone that amplified what otherwise would have died on the vine. The broken pieces of you are adding up, buttercup. I have a theory, but I need more.”
Agatha takes Wanda to her room in the Avengers Compound, where she’s watching an episode of Malcolm in the Middle. Wanda recalls that it was the first home she shared with Vision – that she was in a new country, Pietro was dead and she was all alone.
Invited in, Vision phases through the wall. She asks him to sit next to her on the bed. As Vision tries to get his head around a joke in the show, he says he’d like to know how she’s feeling – if that would be of some comfort to her. She says that the only thing that would bring comfort to her is seeing Pietro again – she says it’s like a wave that keeps knocking her down again and again, and she feels like it’s going to drown her.
Vision says that, “It can’t all be sorrow, can it?” He explains he’s always been alone, that he can’t feel loss because he’s never had someone to lose. “But what is grief, if not love persevering?” he asks. Vision interrupts the moment as he finally gets the gag on TV.
Agatha wipes a tear from her eye, and recaps: parents dead, brother dead, Vision dead. “What happened when he wasn’t there to pull you back from the darkness, Wanda?” Wanda doesn’t want to go any further, but Agatha urges her on. Wanda says she wanted him back, and she marches into SWORD headquarters.
Wanda tells the security guard that when she came back (from the Blip), Vision was gone. She says that she knows he’s in the building, and that he deserves a funeral. The guard directs her into the building – she doesn’t need a door pass, because she has magical powers to open the door.
She walks into Director Hayward’s office – he tells her it’s an honor to meet her. He says he understands she’s there to collect Vision’s body, and that he has something to show her. They look down on Vision’s body in pieces, being hacked apart and dissected by SWORD scientists, the wires inside him visible. She asks what they’re doing. “We’re dismantling the most sophisticated sentient weapon ever made,” he replies. She counters that he’s not a weapon and they can’t do this. “In fact, it is our legal and ethical obligation,” says Hayward.
She says she just wants to bury him, but Hayward asks if she’s sure that’s what she wants. “Not everyone has the kind of power that could bring their soulmate back online. Forgive me… back to life.” She says she can’t do that – that’s not why she’s there. “Okay,” says Hayward. “But I cannot allow you take 3 billion dollars worth of vibranium just to put it in the ground.” He says the best he can do is let her say goodbye to him here. She tells him Vision is all she has, but he says the problem is that “he isn’t yours”.
Wanda smashes the glass and floats down to Vision. Soldiers point their guns at her, but Hayward tells them to fall back, to let her see for herself. Wanda puts her hand to Vision’s head and says, tearfully, that she can’t feel him. Wanda returns to her car and looks at the envelope next to her.
She drives to Westview, and looks around the town – much more run down than we’re used to seeing it in the idealized WandaVision version. As she drives around, she sees the real-world versions of Herb, Phil Jones, Mrs Hart and the delivery guy. She arrives at the derelict ruins of a house in suburbia and stands in the foundations. She opens the envelope, which contains property deeds for the famous property on 2800 Sherwood Drive, Westview, New Jersey – in the name of Wanda Maximoff and The Vision. Vision has left a note in a heart: “To grow old in. V.”
Wanda collapses to the ground, crying. She screams out and unleashes a colossal amount of magical energy. The house rebuilds around her and the shockwave spreads throughout the town, rewriting everything as a black-and-white 1950s sitcom. In the living room, she rebuilds Vision in black-and-white – and she’s transformed into the ’50s housewife version of herself from episode 1. “Welcome home,” says Vision. “Should we stay in tonight?” They kiss on the sofa, as present-day Wanda watches.
Wanda looks up and sees the studio lights and the seats for the studio audience. Agatha slow claps. “Bravo!” she says, before disappearing.
Tommy and Billy call for help. Agatha is floating above them in the street, using magical rope to grab them by the neck. Wanda assures the boys it’s okay.
“You have no idea how dangerous you are,” says Agatha. “You’re supposed to be a myth, a being capable of spontaneous creation, and here you are, using it to make breakfast for dinner.” Wanda tells Agatha to let go of her children.
“Oh yes, your children,” Agatha responds. “And Vision, this whole little life you’ve made. This is Chaos Magic, Wanda. And that makes you the Scarlet Witch.”
Outside the Hex Field, an agent tells Hayward the team is ready for launch. Hayward says it’s about time. “We took this thing apart and put it back together again a million times,” says Hayward. “Tried every type of power supply under the sun, when all we needed was a little energy directly from the source.” The weaponized Stark Industries drone Wanda brought out of Westview glows with her red magical energy.
A SWORD operative operates a machine and powers up another Vision, drained of his usual colour. Vision 2.0 wakes up and looks at his hand.
If you were feeling uncharitable, you could describe ‘Previously On’ as an unashamed info-dump – the traditional episode where the writers go big on exposition to answer all the questions you’ve been asking for the previous seven weeks.
Nonetheless, it would be a harsh way to talk about a wonderfully crafted piece of TV that uses Agatha Harkness’s own quest for explanations as a clever framing device for flashbacks, diving deep into the heart of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It also packs the sort of emotional punch that seemed impossible when Wanda and Vision were joking their way around ’50s suburbia in episode 1.
While Agatha has clearly been up to no good in every iteration of Westview – not least by creating a fake Pietro to act as her spy – she’s obviously as confused as we are about how Wanda managed to create her all-encompassing Hex field. The question is, does she want to understand Wanda’s abilities so she can harness them for herself, or is she genuinely worried those Scarlet Witch powers are a threat to the world? In the MCU, the line between heroes and villains is often blurred, so it could go either way.
Agatha’s efforts to put Wanda in a magically enhanced psychiatrist’s chair reveal elements of the Avenger’s past she was reluctant to confront by herself. We now know that her magical powers were always inside her, and that the Mind Stone enhanced what she’d already used to save herself (and Pietro) from that Stark Industries bomb. Her HYDRA-induced Scarlet Witch vision suggests she might be about to rival Captain Marvel for the title of most powerful being in the MCU. And the scene where she arrives at the house that would have become her home with Vision is utterly heart-wrenching – in context, it’s easy to understand how grief caused her to conjure up her utopian sitcom world.
We now know, however, that one of our major assumptions about WandaVision was wrong. After Hayward used CCTV to show Wanda’s post Avengers: Endgame visit to SWORD HQ, we believed she’d taken his dismembered corpse to Westview. It turns out this wasn’t really the case, as she headed off to Westview without getting her wish to give her partner a proper funeral.
So perhaps Hayward is now the true bad guy of the show. You can see him trying to manipulate Wanda into using her powers to bring Vision back to life, subtly seeding the idea that reanimation is possible. After she tries to communicate with Vision, it’s conceivable that a bit of residual energy reanimated part of his Synthezoid body.
It now seems that all Hayward has wanted from the start is to get his “sentient weapon” back online. In WandaVision, not all villains get a catchy theme song.
- The familiar Marvel Studios logo gets a magical twist as it disappears into Agatha-style purple smoke.
- After ‘We Interrupt This Program’, ‘Previously On’ is the second episode not to feature a commercial break. There’s also no sitcom-themed opening credits.
- The real-life Salem witch trials took place between February 1692 and May 1693, so the timing of the flashback is correct. The witch trials also play a part in Agatha Harkness’s backstory in the comics.
- The name of Agatha’s mother, Evanora, is also the name of the Wicked Witch of the East in The Wizard of Oz – Dorothy’s house famously landed on top of her at the start of the classic 1939 movie. This probably isn’t a coincidence – especially as Salem is on the East Coast of the United States.
- It turns out the brooch Agnes/Agatha has been wearing throughout WandaVision is a family heirloom, taken from her mother.
- There had been much speculation that the man and woman who appear in WandaVision’s commercial breaks were Wanda and Pietro’s parents. This episode confirms that’s not the case, however. Iryna Maximoff is played by Ilana Kohanchi, while Olek Maximoff is played by Daniyar.
- The events in the Maximoffs’ living room – where the death of the twins’ parents by a Stark Industries bomb led to their being radicalised by HYDRA – provide extra background to events in Avengers: Age of Ultron.
- The DVDs visible in Olek Maximoff’s suitcase are I Love Lucy, Bewitched, The Addams Family, I Dream of Jeannie, Who’s the Boss? (remade in the UK as The Upper Hand), and Malcolm in the Middle.
- ‘It May Look Like A Walnut’, the The Dick Van Dyke Show episode watched by the Maximoffs, first aired in the US in February 1963. It was written by the late Carl Reiner, who later went on to direct Steve Martin classics The Jerk, Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid and The Man With Two Brains, as well as starring in the Ocean’s 11 movies.
- We know that the Maximoff twins are about 10 when their parents are killed, which places the flashback scene around 1999. Though DVD movies were launched in early 1997, the format didn’t really explode into life until the turn of the 21st century, when cheap players became widely available. It’s therefore unlikely that quite so many classic sitcoms would have been available on DVD for the family to watch – it’s more likely they’d have been watching them on VHS. (Though Olek would have struggled to fit them all in his suitcase.)
- The mysterious figure that Wanda sees in the Mind Stone is wearing the classic Scarlet Witch costume from the comics – the same one Wanda wore for Halloween in WandaVision episode 6.
- The way the Scarlet Witch figure is reflected in Wanda’s eyes is reminiscent of the way the Phoenix Force manifests in Jean Grey. Both characters are powerful Nexus Beings in the comics.
- The TV show Wanda watches in her cell in von Strucker’s HYDRA base is The Brady Bunch.
- If you look back at the CCTV footage in episode 5, Hayward uses some clever sleight-of-hand to make us believe Wanda took Vision’s body. Clever editing of her arrival at SWORD HQ makes it look like she forced her way into the building. We never saw her take the body, but we assumed she did. But if the real Vision isn't in Westview, what was Hayward tracking in episode 6?
- Wanda has been known as the Scarlet Witch for decades in the comics, but the name had never been used in the Marvel Cinematic Universe until Agatha told Wanda that it's who she really is.
- This is the first episode of WandaVision not to sign off with a ‘PLEASE STAND BY’ message.
- It looks like Project Cataract was always a mission to bring Vision back from the dead – those eyesight references are far from subtle.
- A colorless Vision appeared in John Byrne's 1989 'Vision Quest' arc. This new, emotionless version was created after Vision's body was dismantled and subsequently rebuilt.
New episodes of WandaVision are available every Friday on Disney Plus.
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Richard is a freelance journalist specialising in movies and TV, primarily of the sci-fi and fantasy variety. An early encounter with a certain galaxy far, far away started a lifelong love affair with outer space, and these days Richard's happiest geeking out about Star Wars, Star Trek, Marvel and other long-running pop culture franchises. In a previous life he was editor of legendary sci-fi magazine SFX, where he got to interview many of the biggest names in the business – though he'll always have a soft spot for Jeff Goldblum who (somewhat bizarrely) thought Richard's name was Winter.