“I’m sorry … I’m just so tired … It’s just like this wave washing over me again and again. It knocks me down, and when I try to stand up, it just comes for me again … It’s just gonna drown me.”
WandaVision is a show about grief. It’s never pretended to be about anything else, and “Previously On” made it clear that even now—with only one episode left before the end of this story—it’s going to bravely and boldly stay true to what it is: a story of a woman’s journey through depression, trauma, and grief that’s so strong her body literally cannot contain it.
As such, the most important moment in this episode wasn’t the mid-credits teaser or Agatha’s long-awaited delivery of Wanda’s superhero name or even the moment Wanda created Vision and the entire new reality that took over the town of Westview.
All of those moments mattered—because every moment of Wanda’s journey has mattered. However, the moment that encapsulated the whole series in all its character-centric, emotionally-driven glory came when Wanda revisits a quiet moment between her and Vision in the Avengers compound soon after she came to America following the death of her brother.
In this moment, Wanda looks small and lonely and achingly human—sitting cross-legged on her bed, watching Malcolm in the Middle because sitcoms have given her comfort in some of her life’s worst moments. She’s not a superhero here. And she’s not a villain either. She’s a woman.
And she’s exhausted.
Grief is exhausting. And the way Elizabeth Olsen plays that bone-deep exhaustion as she explains to Vision what it feels like to live a life defined by loss—a life where you constantly fear the next wave that you know is coming—is so uncomfortably real that it feels difficult to watch because not a single adult alive hasn’t felt that at some point. To be human is to know loss. Whether it’s the loss of a loved one, the loss of a place that mattered to us, the loss of a relationship, or the loss of a version of ourselves we’d finally learned to love—we’ve all known grief in some form.
Because we’ve all known love in some form.
And as Vision says, “But what is grief, if not love persevering?”
The power, insight, and truth in those few words exemplify the kind of perfect writing everyone who works with words dreams of creating once in their lifetime. And those words, coupled with the depth of humanity Paul Bettany brings to Vision’s delivery of them, get to the heart of who Vision is, who Wanda is, and why they’re the kind of soul mates most people search a lifetime for.
Vision isn’t technically a person, but his unique perspective on the universe allows him to see people for who they really are and what they really need. He’s driven by a desire to understand people, to empathize, to help. Upon first glance, he might not seem human, but he has more humanity in him than most actual humans. And similarly, upon first glance, Wanda might seem like a “weapon of mass destruction” or a witch, but her powers are activated by her humanity—by her love persevering despite her pain.
That’s the heart of this episode; that’s what it’s all about. It’s the story of love persevering. And as such, it’s the story of a woman persevering.
The waves keep coming. But she keeps standing. Even when she has no idea how she’s doing it. Even when it would be easier to let herself drown.
And it’s all because the love in her keeps persevering.
But sometimes all that love can be both a blessing and a curse. Because what do you do when the love still exists but it has nowhere to go?
That’s what happens after Wanda sees Vision’s dismembered body at S.W.O.R.D.’s headquarters. The juxtaposition of Vision’s beautifully human expression of empathy with his body being treated as spare parts by a man who could never understand him like Wanda did was haunting. And it only got worse when Wanda reached out and couldn’t feel him anymore.
The horrible pain in Olsen’s “I can’t feel you,” felt ripped from the memories of anyone who’s ever stood by the body of a deceased loved one. It’s that final acknowledgement that they’re gone—and that there’s nothing we can do about it, no matter how much we want to still be able to feel them. The helplessness and the emptiness were so visceral, but so was the tenderness and the love that refuses to leave.
The love that keeps persevering.
It’s that love that takes Wanda from that lab without burning it to the ground and guides her to Westview and that little lot on a quiet street. And it’s that love that encircles the lost dreams that lot represents—the home, the life, and the family that she and Vision never got to build.
In that moment, standing in the frame of a life she never got to fill in, Wanda grieves not just for the man she loves but for the life she never got to have and the version of herself she never got to be—a wife, a mother, a woman who finally didn’t feel like she was always in danger of drowning. And in that moment, all that love that’s left with no place to go spills out of her.
But instead of destroying everything in its path, it creates a new world—one where she can escape her pain like one of her beloved sitcoms. It creates a world where problems are solved in a half hour and no pain is so intense it can’t be laughed at by a studio audience. It creates a world where all that love has somewhere to go, someone to receive it.
Wanda’s magic is the physical manifestation of her grief—power that comes not just from pain but also from love. It’s love persevering in the most extreme fashion—creating a world where it can live and grow and drive the action.
Wanda feels so deeply and loves so strongly and grieves so intensely that her body literally cannot hold all of it anymore.
That’s what happens sometimes. When the grief is too strong, the only choice we have is to create. For so many people, that’s how we process pain when it becomes too much to carry inside. We take our grief and make something with it.
Wanda makes an entire world—or at least an entire New Jersey suburb.
That’s how strong her grief is, but that means that’s also how strong her love is.
And there’s a message in that for everyone watching—because right now, who isn’t grieving? Many are grieving loved ones. Others are grieving experiences, places, careers, and relationships. And still others are grieving versions of themselves they lost in the last year.
It’s often felt like it could drown us.
But we’re not alone. That’s the beauty of media; it makes us feel less alone. And in watching Wanda feel her grief and work through it, there’s catharsis in it for all of us who are grieving too. Because if Wanda’s story has taught us anything, it’s that television can be a powerful tool for working through our pain.
What was the best thing you saw on TV this week?