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What a Mess! WandaVisionEpisode 5 and the Doctrine of Sin

Episode 5 of WandaVision not only hints at exciting changes for the Marvel universe but also captures the complicated nature of sin.

Caveat Lector: This post contains spoilers for episodes 1-5 of WandaVision.

Worlds—more accurately, universes—are colliding in Westview!

“On a Very Special Episode…” ends with the arrival of Pietro Maximoff. But he’s not played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson as he was in Avengers: Age of Ultron. No, Evan Peters is reprising his role of Quicksilver—Pietro’s superheroic sobriquet (or “funny nickname,” as Tyler Hayward would say) in the X-Men movies since 2014. 

The boundary between the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Sony’s Marvel films is apparently not one of those things Wanda says “are forever!”

Fandom is caught up wondering what Wanda’s “recasting” of the late Pietro means for Marvel universe mix-ins to come, including whether the MCU will finally have proper mutants. Are MCU X-Men in the offing? (“X-Men” is trending on Twitter even as I write!) 

While the nerd in me can’t wait to see where this development takes us, I’m also pondering this episode’s themes. 

Grasping and Grasped by the Wrong We Don’t Want

Just before Pietro/Quicksilver knocks at their door, Wanda and Vision have been arguing.

A chat with Norm’s “suppressed personality” at work has confirmed Vision’s suspicions (and what Monica Rambeau has reported to SWORD): Wanda is mentally controlling the citizens of Westview. She’s mentally controlling him. And he has confronted her: “What you’re doing here, it’s wrong.”

At first, Wanda tries to gaslight Vision, as she did regarding Agnes’ momentary self-awareness near the episode’s beginning. “Do you really think I am controlling everything?” Wanda asks. In the end, she says, “I don’t know how any of this started in the first place.”

As I watched the scene, Elizabeth Olsen’s performance made me think Wanda was finally taking responsibility. Reading the transcript at Scraps from the Loft, I’m no longer so sure—the script itself leaves room for doubt.

The moment captures the complicated nature of sin. 

Wanda does know she is responsible for Westview’s “rewritten reality.” She casually conjures a dog collar from thin air in Agnes’ presence, telling Vision she’s “tired of hiding” her magic. She flatly asserts her ability—perhaps even what she perceives as her right—to control Vision as she controls Agnes, Norm, and the others, even causing the “end credits” to roll in an attempt to shut down any discussion. 

And she also knows she’s in the wrong. As she explains matters of life and death to Billy and Tommy, she asserts “there are rules in life” no one can change. Here, I’m certain Olsen’s delivery suggests Wanda’s wrestling with her own cognitive dissonance.

(I even wonder whether Agnes—who, I remind you, showed some actual agency in the opening sequence—killed poor Sparky in order to put Wanda in just such a situation, where she would hear her own hypocrisy about refusing to run from grief and release Westview from her psychic control. No such luck. As Ben Avery observed in a recent episode of the Welcome to Level Seven podcast, Wanda’s got Westview in her grip the way Billy Mumy’s Anthony had Peaksville in his in the classic Twilight Zone episode, “It’s a Good Life.”)

Wanda is conscious of her wrongdoing, but she is at the same time unconscious of “how any of [it] started in the first place”—and perhaps ignorant of how she could make it stop even if she wanted it to. Has the “Maximoff Anomaly” grown too powerful even for Wanda Maximoff to control?

It’s a small step from Wanda’s situation to the apostle Paul’s and ours:

The good which I want to do, I fail to do; but what I do is the wrong which is against my will; and if what I do is against my will, clearly it is no longer I who am the agent, but sin that has its dwelling in me. I discover this principle, then: that when I want to do right, only wrong is within my reach.
—Romans 7.20-21, Revised English Bible

Wanda didn’t set out to do wrong, but in her natural and understandable grief, she has. She has succumbed to the “urge to run” from it. Vision’s death was “too sad,” and she is trying to (or actually has?) “reverse” it. 

She is in the wrong, but she is not (at least, not yet, and I hope not ultimately) the villain of the piece. Instead, like the rest of us, she is a sinner—morally responsible for grasping what is wrong, but also in the grasp of sin itself. 

“I have what I want,” Wanda insists, “and no one will ever take it from me again!” But does she really? What she really wants is the authentic family relationship people like Norm have (or had, before Wanda intervened). What she has created is a counterfeit, and she knows it. She may not know how, at this point, to exchange the counterfeit for reality.

Only Compassion Can Clean Up the Messes We Make

Though she doesn’t frame it in theological language, I think Monica understands the situation. She has compassion for Wanda when others in SWORD do not. She didn’t know the drone SWORD launched into Westview was armed. She never dreamed of “taking a shot” at Wanda. And she tells Wanda, “On some level… you know I am an ally. I want to help you.”

Compassion for sinners, including ourselves, doesn’t mean ignoring the wrong we do. It does mean acting as allies to them, and to ourselves, in order to clean up those messes no one meant to make.

Lagos paper towels can’t do it (even if they are more absorbent than the next leading brand). And even the most compassionate person can’t fully clean up their own or anyone else’s messes. Only Christ can (Romans 7.25).

But following Christ’s example, we can extend what compassion we can, seeking reconciliation and a renewal of relationships, striving to bring down barriers—even when they aren’t hexagonal in shape and colored like TV static.

More Miscellaneous Musings

“On a Very Special Episode…” more than lives up to its title. Yes, it’s poking fun at the way network TV used to hype sitcoms during sweeps, but it’s also packed full of fun flourishes. intriguing developments, and more mysterious questions.

  • These “opening credits” may be my favorite yet. They’re a pitch-perfect homage to the sequences that started every episode of Family Ties and Growing Pains, two sitcoms I grew up with, and the lyrics are clever and not a little ominous. 

I like the bookending of “You wander the world with a vision” in the first line and “WandaVision” in the last, and am struck by the almost threat-like quality of “We’re making it up / ‘Cause we got love”—a peek into Wanda’s obsessive attachment to Vision after his demise.

  • “Kids,” Agnes says ruefully after the infant twins transform into five-year-olds. “You can’t control ‘em, no matter how hard you try.” What parent can’t relate? And what will happen should Tommy and Billy grow any older in Westview, firmly outside Wanda’s control? (If you’ve read the source comics and know the answer, don’t tell me!)
  • Speaking (again) of Agnes, why is she able to break free from Wanda’s control while poor Norm is not? Where was Herb, with whom Agnes was speaking about the truth of Westview’s situation in episode 3?
  • Is Wanda’s control over the situation as complete as SWORD believes it to be? Yes, as Dary Lewis notes, Wanda is censoring her own show… but if Wanda really wants to be left alone, as she tells Monica, why are episodes of life in Westview being broadcast at all?

What are your surmises and speculations about WandaVision? Let’s talk in the comments below!

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