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WandaVision’s episode 5 cameo signals the future of Marvel

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A tiny moment radically changes the Cinematic Universe rules

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WandaVision: Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) opens the door with mouth agape Image: Disney Plus

Ever since — spoilers? — Luke Skywalker showed up at the end of The Mandalorian season 2, many inquisitive minds have pressed the cast of Disney PlusWandaVision on the subject of continuity-stirring fan service. Could Marvel Studios cook up a cameo as strong as Freakin’ Luke Skywalker? Just this week, Elizabeth Olsen teased that, yes, they could. Wanda Maximoff aka Scarlet Witch would brush against the MCU and the crossover sparks would fly.

What no one realized is that the Marvel cameo was happening this week on episode 5, “On a Very Special Episode...,” or that the nature of the cameo itself went beyond the Marvel Cinematic Universe as fans knew it.

[Ed. note: This post contains major spoilers for the ending of WandaVision, episode 5.]

The unreality of Wanda’s Westview, New Jersey, reality is falling apart. In “On a Very Special Episode...,” SWORD gets to the bottom of the former Avenger’s sitcom hijinks, then confronts her on her own turf. Or it’s the other way around — after SWORD sends in a drone to take down the telekinetic hero, Wanda steps out of the force field (and much to fans’ delight, regains her Sokovian accent) to tell the feds to eff off. Meanwhile, Vision deals with his own existential turmoil, as it becomes painfully clear that his friends, co-workers, and squeaky-clean life are all pieces in the town-sized dollhouse designed by Wanda’s mind. Maybe.

While SWORD acting director Tyler Hayward would be happy to cut Wanda’s “terrorism” short with a well-timed missile, Monica Rambeau believes there are other forces at work. So do other Marvel fans, who in the last week have gravitated toward a theory involving hexagons and the comics’ more mystical corners. (Let’s not overlook the fact that Darcy now pointedly refers to Wanda’s simulation as “the hex.”) Between debates of whether Wanda could have taken down Thanos, and Monica’s hint of future Marvel crossovers, saying she knows the perfect aerospace engineer who might be able to help SWORD crack through the psychic wall, “On a Very Special Episode...” writers Peter Cameron and Mackenzie Dohr use the in-show sitcom to seed welcome doubt that Wanda is the sole perpetrator of the mind-control games inside Westview.

The ending of episode 5 will have “The Maximoff Anomaly” theory gears turning even faster. Early in the episode, we see Wanda breaking into a SWORD facility to steal Vision’s body, ostensibly to resurrect him in her new sitcom life. In the episode’s final scene, we see something even creepier: the return of Quicksilver. But not the Quicksilver who died fighting in Avengers: Age of Ultron. As Darcy puts it, “She recast Pietro?”

Evan Peters as Pietro Maximoff aka Quicksilver in WandaVision standing in the door wearing a leather jacket and Hawaiian shirt like a wacky sitcom brother character Image: Marvel Studios

Pietro Maximoff is back from the dead ... or maybe not? Standing at the door is not Aaron Taylor-Johnson, the actor who originally played the character back in Age of Ultron. Instead, it’s Evan Peters, who played the character in X-Men: Days of Future Past and Apocalypse. Things are getting weird on WandaVision thanks to the magic of corporate synergy.

Unlike the wheeling and dealing it took to bring Sony’s Spider-Man into the Disney-owned MCU, the incorporation of the X-Men timeline’s Quicksilver into WandaVision is now an open-ended, in-house possibility. Disney’s acquisition of 20th Century Fox in 2019 gave Marvel head honcho Kevin Feige full permission to reboot the X-Men under the Marvel Studios cinematic banner — or in this case, reuse characters from that universe. The “two Quicksilvers” conundrum was always a strain on both mega-franchises, born from loopholes in comics history (X-Men could use Quicksilver as long as it didn’t bring up their Avengers connections, and Marvel could use Quicksilver as long as he wasn’t a mutant) and confusing to the general moviegoer. Feige didn’t deal with the problem for long; as soon as Joss Whedon introduced Pietro in MCU continuity, he was killed off for dramatic effect. “Recasting” Pietro in WandaVision is both a nod to the knotted rights issues that have made audience heads spin over the years, and a mind-bender on its own. What are we seeing?

It’s possible that New Pietro is not actually Days of Future Past Quicksilver, but a clever in-joke. “On a Very Special Episode...” offers zero explanation of the who/what/where/why/how of the situation, besides an appropriate round of applause by the audience indicating we should know what we’re looking at. So consider that a show that’s as much about TV history as it is pushing the Marvel narrative forward might logically cast Peters as homage to the medium. On top of being integral to adjacent comic-book-movie continuity, the actor’s a TV star in his own right, objectively the most popular cast member in the long-running American Horror Story series (based on loud demand to know who he’s playing each season). Casting the chameleon actor as the Uncle Jesse of the WandaVision universe is a joy in its own right.

But, OK, he’s probably actually Quicksilver from the X-Men movie continuity. And if that’s the case, it might have major implications for what Feige hopes to do with the MCU in the future. It’s been clear since the Marvel Studios president announced a slate of Phase 4 movies at the 2019 San Diego Comic-Con that WandaVision would directly affect the MCU and tie in to the upcoming Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. And the future — an explanation for all of these properties coexisting under the same banner — is right there in the title: multiverse. DC has it. Marvel has it. And as Tom Holland’s upcoming Spider-Man 3 casts up old villains from the Sam Raimi days (and even possibly former Peter Parkers Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield), Marvel appears to be one-upping its Avengers ambition by folding in every side of its known comic book universe in order to create the ultimate nostalgia vehicle. Into the Spider-Verse was a huge success, so why not?

While the Russo brothers spent a chunk of time after Avengers: Endgame explaining how they would have incorporated Wolverine and the X-Men into MCU continuity, Feige has remained mostly mum about his plans for the sprawling mythology. First he’s bringing back Blade and Fantastic Four. Then maybe the X-Men can be a blockbuster event or another Disney Plus series or — in a perfect world, according to this writer — an ongoing TV series that sets up occasional event movies (cuz why not both when it comes to the X-Men?).

The point is: Nothing seems concrete, and the inclusion of an old X-Men character looks more like a playful flex of what Marvel can now do than table-setting for the next big iteration of the X-franchise. Besides Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine movies, the X-Men films aren’t especially beloved — even if, hot take, Days of Future Past and Apocalypse are big cartoony fun — so Feige finding ways to wind back to them would be odder than, I don’t know, bringing back old characters from the mess that was The Incredible Hulk. (Oh wait ...).

So what does Evan Peters as Pietro mean for the rest of WandaVision? The “recasting” has a haunting vibe — he is not the Quicksilver of Wanda’s memories. And if it’s a fragment of the multiverse breaking into an already fraught reality, Wanda’s mind might be on the verge of shattering. Comics readers know what that looks like.

A trailer for the rest of the season shows off more sitcom spoofing and Marvel-movie-sized action, so this isn’t The End. But with Peters in the house as Pietro, the show promises to, somehow, get even loopier in its final four episodes.