Plot summary: The boys rapidly age at will and adopt a dog, while Vision begins to suspect Wanda is hiding things from him. Plus an unexpected visitor.
Episode Title: ‘On a Very Special Episode…’
Air Date: February 5th, 2021
Directed: Matt Shakman (5)
Written: Peter Cameron (1) and Mackenzie Dohr (1)
Our decade progression continues here with shout-outs to 80s sitcoms Family Ties, Full House, Growing Pains, Who’s the Boss? and Roseanne.
Sparky the Dog is named for a synthezoid dog from the award-winning comic Vision by Tom King, which saw Vision create himself a little family in the suburbs. Naturally it was one of the main inspirations for the show.
The theme song is an homage to The Greatest American Hero, but the opening credits also contain references to Full House, which of course featured Elizabeth Olsen’s sisters Mary-Kate and Ashley as the young Michelle Tanner.
Wanda is attributed the birth year of 1989, the same as her actor, Elizabeth Olsen and yours truly.
The episode’s title is a reference to the trope of 80s sitcoms that tackled controversial and heavy subject matter… such as the death of Sparky.
Wanda and Vision struggle to get the twins to sleep, with even Wanda’s magic not doing the trick. Agnes drops in and offers to help, but seemingly becomes aware she’s in a sitcom, asking Wanda if she should take it from the top.
Laughing it off, everything returns to normal, but Vision is troubled by Wanda not acknowledging the moment. No time for that though, as the babies are suddenly five year old boys!
After the opening credits, Monica Rambeau completes a battery of tests and attends a briefing, where Hayward takes the position that Wanda is holding thousands hostage in the town, which Jimmy Woo, Darcy Lewis and Monica dispute.
Hayward digs his heels in, showing CCTV footage of Wanda breaking into S.W.O.R.D. headquarters and stealing Vision’s body, in direct violation of the Sokovia Accords.
Back in Westview, Tommy and Billy have found an ostensibly stray dog and successfully convince Wanda to let them keep it. Agnes drops by immediately with a kennel as a gift, again troubling Vision, who asks Wanda what she isn’t telling him.
They name the dog Sparky and Wanda conjures a collar. The boys are told they aren’t old enough to look after a dog, so grow to ten year olds on a whim!
Monica, Darcy and Jimmy make plans for a way to safely get back inside and debate if Wanda’s children are real and exactly how powerful she might be. Analysis of Monica’s recovered ‘costume’ proves that Wanda is re-writing reality, not simply casting an illusion.
Vision helps set up brand new computers at his work, opening an email from Darcy that seems to have an effect on everyone in the office. Testing a theory, he phases his fingers into his co-worker’s head, briefly causing him to ‘break character’, pleading with Vis to “stop her.” Vision returns him to character.
Monica successfully pilots a drone from the 80s into Westview, with it not being altered due to matching the era of the ‘show’. Wanda’s eyes glow red and she seizes control of the drone.
Moments later alarms sound and they rush to the perimeter, where Wanda strolls through the hex in full Avengers attire and tosses the drone at their feet. After Monica fails to get through to her, Wanda mind-controls Hayward’s agents and makes them point their guns at him as a warning.
Back inside, Wanda and the boys search for Sparky, who ran away during the drone incident. Agnes breaks the news to them that he ate some of her azaleas and died.
Wanda stops the boys from ageing themselves up, telling them they can’t always run away from their problems. The boys insist Wanda can fix anything, even death, but she claims she can’t.
Later that evening, Vision confronts Wanda about her manipulation. She rolls credits, hoping to end the conversation but he pushes the issue and demands to know the truth. He remembers nothing before Westview and notes there are no other children in the town.
She’s saved by the bell, literally, and is stunned to find ‘Pietro’ at the door. After a long pause she embraces him, with Darcy noting that she ‘re-cast’ her brother.
Commercial of the Week
And we’re back! This week it’s Lagos paper towels, “for when you make a mess you didn’t mean to.” Lagos being the place where Wanda accidentally blew up a building at the start of Civil War, earning her house arrest status from Tony Stark.
Gonna blow your mind here by pointing out the red juice the kids spill is evocative of… blood!
For as big of a surprise as it was to see Evan Peters ‘back’ as Quicksilver, it made the fandom pretty insufferable for a few weeks, as some took it as tacit proof that Magneto and other X-Men characters would soon follow, or that the Fox X-Men movies would be treated as an alternate reality. It’s just a reference to the sitcom trope of recasting, and Peters was a cute choice. Enough, past audiences!
Head writer Jac Schaeffer talked about 80s sitcoms featuring couples that bickered a lot more compared to the relative domestic bliss of years past, which is reflected in Vision managing to shrug off Wanda’s reality manipulation. It starts with him not playing along when she tries to ignore Agnes’ weirdness, leads to bickering about concealing her abilities and culminates in the tense kitchen standoff. I loved the touch of her using the end credits to silence him and him defiantly talking over them, with their conversation exploding with intensity after Vision had been so passive up to now.
I remember having my mind blown by Wanda casually walking out of the hex, fully aware of everything, as up to that point I had assumed everything shown to date was a product of her subconscious. This changed everything from my perspective.
The part that didn’t really work for me was the kids, unfortunately. While I can get behind the weirdness of them ageing on command (especially as it gives us a route to their Young Avengers identities) and talking to kids about death fits the bill of the Very Special Episode, there were simply far too many more interesting things happening to care much about those scenes. Vision is stumbling onto the disturbing truth, Wanda’s threatening the government, and Evan Peters has rocked up, how could I possibly get invested in bad child actors? Most child actors are bad, I’m not trying to single them out.
These were probably my favourite opening titles, though. Not just because I’m a sucker for the 80s (swooned at Wanda’s big hair), or the pitch perfect theme song, but the incorporation of actual childhood photos of Elizabeth Olsen and some of the creepiest fakes you’ll ever see for the young Vision. Truly haunting stuff.
Most Marvellous Player
Elizabeth Olsen getting to do the extremes of sitcom housewife and blockbuster badass in the same episode demonstrated her range even more than past episodes, and the latter really made it clear that if given appropriate attention, she could be used as one of the MCU’s top tier characters, rather than being relegated to the side-lines in favour of bigger names. When she’s not getting her Jean Grey on, she continues to excel as a sitcom mother smiling through everything, and her emotional conversations with Billy and Tommy are played pretty well, even if there are so many oddities happening around them that it made it difficult to focus.
Paul Bettany is excellent as well, with his mild worries mounting across the episode, genuinely troubled by the mental disconnect between he and Wanda. His outburst of rage takes the episode’s emotional intensity up to 11, and he effortlessly turns it from anger back to confusion.
Teyonah Parris, Randall Park and Kat Dennings play the mention of Captain Marvel perfectly, with Jimmy thinking nothing of it, Monica desperately trying to change the subject, and Darcy making a face into her coffee. Parris in particular remains fantastic as a pragmatic puzzle solver, cutting through Hayward’s narrative and trying to reason and connect with Wanda emotionally. There is a difficult to pin down authenticity to everything she says and does that makes me excited for her future in the role.
While Hayward is undoubtedly a dick, bickering with Jimmy about Wanda being bad news and ordering a literal drone strike, this episode more than any other takes the position of Wanda herself as the villain.
Monica and Norm describe the mind control as painful and violating, with the latter pleading with Vision to make it stop. She complains about the babies not doing what she wants and gets cockier about using her powers openly. Even the mailman’s dialogue talks about her “not letting” Sparky get far. And Hayward isn’t wrong when he says resurrecting Vision violates his will, as well as the Sokovia Accords. Oh, and the whole superhero movie standoff scene which intentionally or not, evoked Magneto turning the police’s weapons against them. Fitting, as she’s sorta/kinda his daughter.
Check out The Matt Signal, in which I recap episodes of Batman the Animated Series every Saturday and Sunday. This weekend it’s finally time to get into The New Batman Adventures, with a Christmas anthology episode and Tim Drake joining the Bat Family as the new Robin.
The Superhero Pantheon also reviewed the whole series, obviously.