[Editor’s Note: The following review contains spoilers for “WandaVision” Episode 6, “All-New Halloween Spooktacular!”]
Not to be too crude about an episode introduced by two children, but “WandaVision” is back on its bullshit. The first third of the series was spent holding back information, asking audiences to invest in Wanda’s increasingly unbelievable realities, without providing any significant reasons as to how or why she was playing house with her dead boyfriend. Patience was tested, but after Episode 4 broke from the sitcom format to let us know what’s going on in the real world and Episode 5 successfully balanced life in- and outside of Westview, there was reason to hope Jac Schaeffer’s nine-episode limited series had found its groove.
But in Episode 6, with audiences sitting on the precipice of unprecedented change in the MCU, here we are again, trapped behind an invisible, suddenly expanding wall. There’s some fun to be had in the “Malcolm in the Middle”-inspired ’90s set-up, complete with a grungy opening number and tiny kiddos breaking the fourth wall, but there’s zero payoff on last week’s closing twist, very little progress made toward Wanda addressing her trauma, and too many empty, less-than-spooktacular shows of force. Aside from its weekly small-screen aesthetics, “WandaVision” still feels far too much like an inflated feature film that just keeps dragging out its story via inconvenient weekly installments.
OK, so what actually happened in Episode 6? Not much! It’s Halloween in Westview, New Jersey, and Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) is dressed up as a “Sokovian fortune teller” who just so happens to look a lot like the Scarlet Witch seen in Marvel comics. Soon after she descends the staircase for her grand entrance, Vision (Paul Bettany) does the same, also wearing a uniform reminiscent of his character’s ’70s era threads (and, apparently, a booger). Soon, Uncle Pietro (Evan Peters) and the small tykes follow suit, and anyone still heartbroken that Hugh Jackman never donned his horrific yellow X-Men uniform can find solace in “WandaVision’s” blunt bit of fan service.
But that’s not story! While Wanda spends the episode trick-or-treating with Pietro, Vision pretends to help the neighborhood watch, and instead heads off on his own solo mission to figure out what’s really going on in this town. Of course, he already got a pretty big hint last week when Norm (Asif Ali) begged him to “make her stop,” but apparently that’s not enough evidence for Vision. So he walks to the darkness on the edge of town, where everybody’s got a secret, or something that they just can’t face — like the lady not hanging Halloween decorations, or Agnes (Kathryn Hahn) sitting at a stop sign, not sure how to get back to the center of town.
“Am I dead?” she asks Vision, after he zaps her out of her stupor. “No,” Vision replies, “why would you think that?”
“Because you are,” she says, before screaming the word “dead” at him until he sends her on her merry, oblivious way.
Vision being told about The Avengers is technically an important moment for him, just as learning he doesn’t know who The Avengers are is an important moment for us, the viewers, but it’s the “dead” thing that should have a real impact. We, of course, have known Vision is dead for a long time now, but what’s more up in the air is if he has to stay dead post-“WandaVision.” The ending of Episode 6 seems to confirm that he will, as Vision’s robo-body is ripped apart as soon as he leaves Westview’s bubble. Fortunately for him, Wanda saves him by expanding said bubble. Unfortunately for us, we’ll have to wait until next week (hopefully) to see if he remembers, believes, and investigates what he’s been told.
So if that’s all that happened with Vision, what about Wanda? Sadly, there’s even less. In real life, it’s often infuriating when people answer a question with a question, but it’s doubly so on TV. “WandaVision” enacts this practice too often in Episode 6: literally when Wanda asks her brother, “What happened to your accent?” and he responds, “What happened to yours?” (Given the fandom’s obsession over Wanda’s accent, this doubles as a meta joke, as well.) But there are more offered queries that go ignored for no good reason. Earlier, Wanda asks Pietro the billion-dollar question: “Why do you look different?” His answer could mean the rumored X-Men integration is true, which would mark a significant change in the MCU, but it also should mean something to Wanda. Who is this man claiming to be her brother? Why is he here? And why doesn’t he look like Aaron Taylor-Johnson, the brother she knew and watched die?
But there is no answer. He can’t remember (or claims he can’t remember), and Wanda does the same. What’s left are the same questions we’ve been asking for six weeks, all of which are hugely pertinent to our investment in Wanda’s story. If Pietro is to be believed, along with the long-held beliefs of many MCU fans, she needs to grieve. “I’m just trying to do my part,” Pietro says. “Come to town unexpectedly, create tension with the brother-in-law, stir up trouble with the rugrats, and ultimately give you grief. That’s what you wanted, isn’t it?” That kind of meta banter really belongs in the next decade of sitcoms, but that’s not really the point: Such an on-the-nose quip may set off alarm bells for viewers waiting for Wanda to deal with her trauma, but it doesn’t actually motivate her to do anything.
MCU fans may be satisfied by Wanda’s massive flex to end the episode. And seeing a character long described as one of Marvel’s most powerful characters demonstrate what she can do is pretty cool. It’s just not all that meaningful. Knowledge is the real power, Wanda doesn’t have it, and neither do we. Another week, another wait. But time is running out.
“WandaVision” premieres new episodes every Friday on Disney+.