Amidst the chaos of reality alteration and time fluctuation, this week's WandaVision episode explores the gut-wrenching lifecycle of one member of the Vision/Maximoff TV family, whose all too brief life and death may amount to a tragic hint at the nature of Wanda's Westview.
Spoilers ahead for WandaVision
We're talking, of course, about Sparky the dog.
Introduced partway through the episode as a stray dog found by Wanda and Vision's rapidly aging twin sons William and Thomas, Sparky quickly becomes part of the family. However, things take a turn for the worse when Sparky eats some poisonous plants in Agnes's yard and dies, at least according to Agnes, prompting Wanda to explain to William and Thomas why they can't just undo the death of a living thing.
However, it may or may not be significant we do not see Sparky's demise - it's only explained by Agnes when Wanda and the twins find her suspiciously rustling in her flower bushes. Sparky's lifeless body is also never seen - it's covered by a towel or dishcloth the entire scene.
"There are rules," Wanda says.
Sparky the dog's tragic TV history foreshadows the episode's biggest twist (we won't spoil it here) – but his comic book history is somehow even more tragic.
Created by writer Tom King and artist Gabriel Walta for their Vision limited series, Sparky the dog became a part of Vision's synthezoid family, but his brutal, violent life became much more a symbol of the story's calamitous themes than of the normal, human family Vision sought in the suburbs.
Synthezoid's Best Friend
Since his earliest days joining the Avengers, the synthezoid Vision has sought to understand the complex nature of his existence, and to become closer to humanity through his actions. At one point, that meant forming a relationship with Wanda Maximoff and attempting to raise children – the comic book saga that forms the spine of WandaVision.
But after his marriage with Wanda crumbled, and after Vision suffered an escalating series of personal misfortunes including being fully disassembled for years, he resolved to form a new kind of family in the suburbs of Washington, DC, building an entire synthezoid family consisting of his wife Virginia and twin children Viv and Vin.
Unfortunately, as with many of Vision's attempts to embrace the nature of human life, everything went horribly wrong.
First, the villainous Grim Reaper, brother of Wonder Man whose mind formed the basis of Vision's original personality, attacks. With Vision away, Virginia defends her family by straight-up murdering Grim Reaper, then burying him in the backyard – the start of Virginia's violent streak, which becomes the driving force in the downfall of Vision's family.
This comic book moment may even be what WandaVision episode 2's Grim Reaper Easter egg was referencing.
In the Bewitched-style animated opening credits of WandaVision episode 2, Grim Reaper's distinctive helmet is seen stuffed under the floorboards of Wanda's house - perhaps metaphorically standing in as a skeleton in Wanda and Vision's closet (or a body in the backyard, so to speak).
And it's with Grim Reaper that Sparky himself also enters the story.
Poor, poor Sparky.
The Many Deaths of Sparky the Dog
Poor Sparky the Dog didn't begin life as 'Sparky' the Synthezoid terrier. Before that, he was Zeke, a regular old dog-next-door, the loving pet of Vision's neighbors.
After Virginia kills Grim Reaper and buries him in the yard, hiding her actions from her family, Zeke the nosy neighbor dog does what dogs do, and gets curious about the patch of freshly dug earth out behind the Vision house.
Digging into the grave, Zeke inadvertently comes into contact with Grim Reaper's cybernetic scythe, his weird weapon that has the power to drain the lifeforce of those it touches and release powerful energy blasts. Alas, just as dogs do what dogs do, the cyber-scythe does what cyber-scythes do, and drains Zeke's lifeforce, killing him.
Finding the dead dog, Vision makes the totally normal decision not to take responsibility for the death of Zeke on his property and instead removes the dog's brain, putting it into a new synthezoid body, Frankenweenie-style.
Vision gives the synthezoid dog to his kids, who choose the name Sparky for the dog (chosen from a list of mail-in suggestions from Vision readers at the time, with the winning suggestion of Sparky credited to reader Michael Strobl). And all seems great for Sparky, who even gets his own Vision powers, making fetch extra super fun. At least for a while.
Heads up - if you're sensitive to violence against animals, be wary of this next bit. Don't worry, it's not too graphic.
Virginia Vision's violent nature continues to grow throughout Vision, culminating in her accidentally murdering one of Viv's classmates, a bully. Overcome with rage and distraught at her mother's actions, Viv lashes out. Virginia responds with her own violence, beating Sparky to death in a fit of anger.
Things just go downhill from there – we'll spare you the specific details, but long story short, the only person left from Vision's family is his daughter Viv, who joined the Champions (though they don't really seem to be in touch too much, at least on the page).
The Happy Ending
Speaking of Viv, she and Sparky actually get a little bit of a happy ending (though, you know, Viv's family is dead). Through the technology of Tony Stark and the magic of Wanda Maximoff, Sparky is resurrected and given to Viv.
And that's pretty much it for the little robot dog who could, whose tragic death, life, death, and life again formed an odd metaphor for the tragedy of Vision's attempts at normalcy.
But it's that metaphor that also makes Sparky's inclusion in WandaVision so striking. Though Sparky doesn't quite seem to be a silver bullet to uncovering the secrets of the show's still unfolding plot, the cycle of life and death and the struggle to escape the tragic events of the past that he represents comes through directly from the page to the screen – even leading to a dark moment between Wanda and Vision that seems to form the first cracks in their bond.
With Wanda now toying with forces of remaking reality itself, and even bridging the question of whether she can raise the dead – or would, to preserve the life she's created – the inclusion of Sparky seems to point at an equally tragic outcome in Westview for Wanda and Vision.
And of course, there's a question to be asked: where did Sparky come from? If Wanda controls everything in Westview, why and how did she create Sparky - and why let him die? Did he just wander in past the perimeter?
Then again, there's the light at the end of the tunnel for poor old Sparky, which may mean Wanda and Vision have something to hope for as well. After all, we don't actually see Sparky's body, just Agnes holding him wrapped up in the bushes.
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