“Previously On” was a devastating episode, hitting us all like a grief-laden truck right in the feels when we least expected it to. The penultimate chapter of WandaVision takes Wanda (and us viewers) on a walk down memory lane to uncover the wounds and traumas buried deep within her psyche – from her parent’s death in war-torn Sokovia to her brother’s death at the hands of Ultron to being refused a proper burial for her lover, it’s all misery piled upon misery one after another.
But all that heartache is not without its salve, and the writers have done a heck of a job of carefully placing some Tolkien-level dialogues. One, in particular, stood out as a ray of hope amidst all the pain and suffering as part of Vision’s speech and plunged us all in a contemplative mood over the weekend – “But what is grief if not love persevering?”
Although much is in here that we could glean intuitively, this one-line poetry may be overlooked by many, especially at first glance. Let’s take a deeper look at the significance of this line in the broader context of what the world is facing collectively right now.
Grief takes center stage
Desperate to uncover the secret to Wanda’s “magic on autopilot”, Agatha pushes Wanda through one traumatic memory door after another. These flashbacks are painful to watch in themselves, but what makes the whole escapade seem worse is how it’s all undertaken to sate Agatha’s curiosity.
Sure, it does give context to casual Marvel fans who haven’t exactly been keeping tabs on all the things related to Wanda throughout the five movies she’s been in. But more than that it makes us understand the gravity of what she’s been through, for it is through her grief that she bursts out the Chaos Magic that lets her create her own bubble to live in.
Even though Wanda isn’t exactly in control of things, she has been the sole creator of the magic that has possessed all of Westview and settles in the sitcom illusion that we’ve been seeing since the start. Grief has a way of suppressing its origins and letting us get cooped up in our own illusory comfort zones.
But love is never truly lost
The only respite from the trauma-tour of the whole episode comes from Vision. Wanda is grieving the death of her brother, sitting in the bedroom watching reruns of Malcolm in the Middle (haven’t we all been there) when Vision enters her room and joins her. This flashback (second to last) is set between the events of Age of Ultron and Captain America: Civil War. During that time, Vision is still a little awkward around humans and doesn’t understand what makes them tick. However, even though he expresses his inability to feel grief, for he’s never really had a loved one before, he does impart a few words of comfort that only an outsider can.
“Well, it can’t all be sorrow, can it?… But what is grief, if not love persevering?” – these words resonate deeply with Wanda (not to mention the millions of people watching WandaVision) and sows the seeds of a future love that both of them will share. There is little doubt in the Marvel fan community that this might be the single greatest piece of dialogue in all of MCU.
“But what is grief, if not love persevering?” is probably the best quote in the whole MCU. That hit hard pic.twitter.com/n12RJ32wLW
— Urich (@Urich_mate) February 26, 2021
It easily sums up the whole idea upon which the whole show is built. Grief can take on many forms – sometimes it is a loud, messy affair while other times it is silent and simply unprepossessing. But the idea that grief is love persevering makes us see it in a different light, not as something that needs to be overcome or be rid of as soon as possible, but rather something that just is. The feeling of sadness and grief implies that love still remains, even if the person is no more. The memory of the love that one is holding on to may not be all that bad a thing.
What the world needs right now…
Vision’s words couldn’t come at a better time. Though we’ve had many instances in history when the collective will was plunged in despair, the pandemic has posed an unprecedented challenged that nobody saw coming. And it’s not just the threat to life that is the cause of our communal grief, though that in itself is a big reason. We’ve also lost our social spaces, the normalcy of our quotidian lives, and the physical human interactions that are the bedrock of our lives and our loves. Systematically dismantled by the virus, the loss of these social aspects hit us hard and we’ve all taken to grieve in our own way.
Somehow, in these trying times, respite has come from surprising channels – TV being one of them. Bingeing on our favorite TV shows and movies, getting inspired by stories, and reliving the old days seems to have been our way out. Just like Wanda, we too have been forced to stay indoors trying to cope with the loss of things and people that meant the world to us.
I have lost several dear friends, both parents, and a son. I hated my own sorrow until tonight, when I heard: "But, what is grief, if not love, persevering?" Heart-healing poetry. Thank you, @wandavision. pic.twitter.com/9nENdIGHSs
— ralphgarman (@RalphGarman) February 27, 2021
There are many who have pointed out that Vision’s optimism isn’t something new. But they’re mistaking the finger for the moon. Shows such as WandaVision, with their unique storytelling and well-placed dialogues, are what the world needs right now, especially when they help recontextualize the dominant emotion that the world as a whole is experiencing. If there’s anything that WandaVision has taught us, it’s this – television (and other forms of media) can play an important role in expressing our grief.
With a single solitary episode left in the season, there’s much to look forward to. Will the Scarlet Witch show Agatha a world of pain, or are there bigger baddies to be worried about? And what’s the big reveal that Elizabeth Olsen is so excited about? Perhaps when the dust settles and the pandemic has waned, we’ll truly grasp and appreciate how lucky we all are to have loved and to have grieved for things that were beautiful and didn’t necessarily have to last, like WandaVision.