Major spoilers below for the latest episode of WandaVision, titled "Breaking the Fourth Wall," so be warned!
For all the weekly twists and turns that WandaVision delivered in the 6 and 7/8 episodes that preceded the final scene of Episode 7, nothing could have prepared me (and many other viewers) for the magical majesty that was Kathryn Hahn's basement reveal and musical intro. Not only was it a mystical delight because it managed to nail the Agatha Harkness twist despite everyone seeing it coming from miles away, but also because it truly took WandaVision from sunny sitcoms to something far more spooky and spellbinding. And Marvel's head honcho Kevin Feige was all-in on making the MCU a scary place.
Wanda's trip through Agatha's house and her descent into the basement lair is so effective in how it sheds all of the Hex's sitcom pretense as it embraces cryptic mysticism. When CinemaBlend spoke with WandaVision's director of photography Jess Hall, whose talents are on display within literally every frame of the show, I asked him to talk about the epic feat of bringing that final scene to life (as it were), and here's how he put it, ending on Kevin Feige's key intention.
Mary Livanos, our producer, and [director] Matt Shakman and I – it was one that we had to kind of revisit together a couple of times to decide on quite how it was gonna work - the aspect ratio, where the transition was going to happen. A lot of thought went into it, but ultimately, just the idea of going down, you know, it's a very iconic concept. You go down into a basement, you're headed for darkness. So I just really was playing with that very simple iconography. And finally, I could kind of get into my full MCU dramatic-film-lighting, which I've been looking forward to for a while. So just embracing all the kind of LED technology that we have our disposal now, and a great set design by Mark Worthington, and embracing the darkness. You know, that was Kevin Feige's note was, 'This needs to be dark and scary.'
We are truly living in amazing times, relatively speaking, when mastermind Kevin Feige is not only curious about making the MCU as darkly mysterious and scary as Marvel's comics can get, but actually makes it happen through the truly unique and immersive format that WandaVision has delivered thus far. It's probably easier to do with extremely talented professionals on hand such as Jess Hall, Mark Worthington and Matt Shakman, among the many others involved behind the scenes on the Disney+ series. Plus, WandaVision is so good at mixing up genres that it can dip its toes into horror-laden waters before shifting into something as comedically macabre as the "Agatha All Along" musical sequence. Granted, there are few ostensibly disturbing Marvel moments as Agatha admitting she killed Sparky before her gleeful cackles led into the closing credits.
Still, even though WandaVision didn't stick around in Agatha's lair long enough for fans to completely understand all the interesting and speculation-friendly imagery that may or may not tie into the multiverse, the shift from Wanda's idealized Hex life to Agatha's reality was as tense and impactful as any transitional moments in the show to this point. Here, cinematographer Jess Hall talks about why the 2000s-era sitcom aesthetics made it a slightly more difficult lead-in to such a big shift.
Yeah, a lot of people have really picked up on that transition. And it was one of the hardest, because things are starting to break apart. I mean, the sitcom wall is very complete in the earlier episodes, but as things become more complicated, you start to see a fracture. And you're seeing it fracture now to the point in Episode 7 where you're also now at a period where the look of the period of the sitcom shows is not a million miles away from the look of a modern digital film. They're using similar cameras, they're using modern lighting technology. So you know, these two things are sitting quite close, but then you've got this massive dramatic reveal to engineer in the space of, like, a staircase. So that was a big challenge.
As challenging as it was to pull that off, as well as everything else in WandaVision, I certainly hope it's been as worth it for the cast and crew as it's been for viewers. Specifically viewers like me that can't watch a normal TV commercial without picking it apart for Mephisto references, or how it might serve as a connection between WandaVision and Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness.
WandaVision still has a lot of answers and connections to deliver with its final two episodes on Disney+, though we probably shouldn't expect Patrick Stewart to be the one showing up as the mega-mega-cameo. Fingers crossed for Ian McKellen, though, or really anyone else that is capable of blowing our minds the way this show excels at.