Warning: There are very slight spoilers for episode 1 of WandaVision ahead.
When the first full trailer for WandaVision finally dropped, many of us had the same reaction: I don’t know what hell is going on in this show, but I am here for whatever Kathryn Hahn is doing in it. The comedic actor’s neon, ‘80s aerobic instructor look stood out immediately in the flurry of vignettes from various TV decades; an anchor in an otherwise chaotic tease of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s first official series on Disney+. At that point, it didn’t matter who Hahn’s WandaVision character was — though some fans seem sure she’s a Marvel comics villain in disguise. For the rest of us, she was there and that was enough.
But once the first part of the series drops on January 15, you will find yourself singing a slightly different tune. Nothing is quite as it seems in Wanda Maximoff’s (Elizabeth Olsen) new world. We’re dropped into a ‘50s-style sitcom, where she and Vision (Paul Bettany) are living an idealized life. We’ve no idea what their backstory is in this apparent alternate universe, what they’re after, or what any of it means. They don’t even know their on-screen backstory. At one point, in bursts Agnes (Hahn), Wanda’s neighbor, de facto new best friend, and the woman who’s about to wedge herself into the super couple’s lives.
“She's used as a function for so many things. She’s the confidant, she's a gossip, she wants to give advice whether or not it's warranted,” Hahn tells Refinery29 over Zoom. As she describes her WandaVision character it dawns on her that she’s once again playing the best friend — a role she played numerous times at the start of her career, in films like How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, Anchorman, and A Lot Like Love. Now an Emmy-nominated actor for her role in Transparent, Hahn says she was able to bring that expertise into this heightened, MCU world. “It was like a pair of shoes that I had put on many, many times before.”
While Wanda and Vision exist outside of this bubble for most Marvel fans, who remember how their ill-fated romance sprouted in Captain America: Civil War and met a tragic end in Avengers: Infinity War, Agnes belongs to this retro setting. In that way, she’s almost our guide, especially when, as ‘50s housewife Agnes, she starts rattling off recipes that every homemaker is expected to know and flipping through women’s magazines full of sex tips for pleasing one’s husband. But, as the series’ trailers foretell, WandaVision keeps trucking from one decade to the next, and along with it goes Agnes. She is introduced as the old-fashioned equivalent of Kimmy Gibbler from Full House in episode 1, but any astute viewer will clock that she’s doing more than providing laughs. And when you consider that Hahn’s other, more recent, claims to fame are dark, emotional stories (I Know This Much Is True and Private Life, to name a few), your spidey senses may start to tingle.
“The source material is anchored in a pretty dark story — there's a lot of trauma, a lot of loss, and a lot of power in that particular superhero,” says Hahn, referring to Wanda. While her self-proclaimed “best friend phase” early on in her career meant offering support to heroines played by Christina Applegate and Kate Hudson, who found themselves in hijinks-driven romantic entanglements, Hahn is now supporting a character who’s been through actual hell.
Wanda’s first entry in the Avengers timeline in Age of Ultron saw her witness the death of her twin brother Pietro (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). In Infinity War, Vision dies at Wanda’s hand in an attempt to keep his power from falling into the hands of super-villain Thanos (Josh Brolin), whose goal is the destruction of the known world. Thanos then turned back time and killed Vision again, rendering Wanda's painful gesture futile. Look into the comics that inspired WandaVision, and you’ll see even more darkness in both Wanda and Vision’s stories. That’s what makes this best friend something else entirely, for Hahn.
“That is a character in a trope that I know very well,” she says. “I was excited to see her as a confidant to this character that has obviously so many levels and so many layers going on.”
But for now, that’s all Hahn can tease. WandaVision is a very slow burn, and even after the first three episodes, audiences will still be scratching their heads and asking what in the world is going on.
We can be certain about one thing, though. Something is definitely afoot. WandaVision may have pulled an expert at playing the on-screen best friend into Wanda’s orbit, but absolutely nothing in this show is that simple.