So that X-Men timeline def ain’t converging on the MCU huh.
Turns out fake Pietro (or “Fietro”) was in fact a ruse, and Marvel was being cheeky in casting Evan Peters. If any of you bet big on Ian McKellen or Patrick Stewart being the finale’s “mind-blowing” cameo, maybe pull those tickets now while you can or be prepared to take the L.
As juicy as the prospect seemed, I’m relieved. Because the introduction of the X-Men universe would’ve rendered WandaVision the show as merely a gimmick to expand the MCU’s roster. Worse things have happened to Wanda and Vision. We may not be diving into the larger mutant mythology just yet, but the MCU is finally game to dive deep into the lore of the Scarlet Witch.
Wanda’s grief is the centerpiece anomaly after all and I think WandaVision is a better show for it—and should make for an excellent re-watch if you haven’t done so already. (Spoiler: those first batch of episodes hit HARDER.)
WandaVision allowed stars Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany to ham it up and flex other acting muscles outside of wires and green screens. The show’s penultimate episode in particular provides a portal to truly understanding Wanda Maximoff – the lonely Sokovian orphan who had to adapt to a new country and is now forced to grapple with losing the love of her life.
Episode 8 isn’t so much a retcon than it deepens our understanding of someone who’s lost and lost tremendously.
As kids, Wanda and Pietro lose their parents. It’s the origin story of countless superheroes including villains, tales with traumatic origins that spur characters to do the extraordinary, or their worst. The twins grew up in a failed state, but lovely mama and papa Maximoff found a reprieve from the violence outside their door via imported American sitcoms. (When the dad opened the suitcase full of DVDs, reader, I bawled.) Then the bomb drops on their apartment, and Wanda is never the same.
Fast forward to Age of Ultron, when Wanda and Pietro are on the opposing side of the Avengers. Wanda initially uses her magic to realize the Avengers’ worst nightmares. In the end, it’s Wanda’s worst nightmare that comes true. Pietro dies in the conflict, and Wanda loses her only attachment to her family – the one thing that defined the human part of her superhuman capacity.
Who hasn’t coped with loss by binging sitcoms? In grappling with Pietro’s death, she found a companion and eventual life partner in Vision. Infinity War took a shortcut to this, but here we see how two lonely beings found comfort. When they had no one, they had each other. And then Thanos happens.
Consider Wanda’s POV in the saga. In one reality, she kills Vision in order to stop Thanos from reaching his goal. In another reality, Thanos rewinds time to bring back Vision, kills him again, and Wanda is present in both instances. One, she’s responsible. In the other, she’s helpless to stop it.
The Avengers might’ve lost in Infinity War, but Wanda loses after the fact. Because even after they bring back the other half of the universe in Endgame, Wanda can’t go back OR bring back Vision. It’s the reality she has to grapple with while everyone else finds solace in reunion. Even Steve Rogers travels back in time to find his happy ending with Peggy.
It’s a miracle that Wanda was only a villain for half a movie.
With Elizabeth Olsen in the role, there’s no one better to transmit that grief. (And if you’re floored by her performance so far, I strongly recommend Sorry For Your Loss on Facebook Watch. It’s free!) Because with Olsen, we don’t just see—we feel how grief compounds, how it beats you into an uncontrollable, unrecognizable, inhuman thing. How grief, in its own way, is a destructive, life-altering force. Wanda can hold her own against Thanos but she cannot exist in a world without Vision.
Through Olsen, we understand the wish fulfillment that comes with wanting to bring a loved one back from the dead, though not as a form of closure, but to avoid reality. Wanda, fortunately, is superhuman so she has the ability to remake the world to escape her grief. And how does she do it? Remaking a reality where Vision is alive, where her brother in some way is still alive. Turns out she wasn’t just doing her best impersonation of I Love Lucy. Wanda’s been doing her best recreation of her parents whom kept their heads high despite their circumstances – a spirit and upbringing that literally revolved around the campfire of nightly sitcoms.
I get the criticisms of Episode 8 in that it overexplains the show’s mystery box, that the show up until then keenly withheld key info to provide an exposition dump that’s often the case with penultimate episodes. I get the complaints, but I don’t agree with them.
Counterpoint: Episode 8 provides a vocabulary to things we already know of Wanda’s story. The episode fills in the blanks across the season while pulling double duty filling the blanks between films. We know Pietro and Vision are dead, we know Wanda’s parents died and that Wanda volunteered for the Hydra experiment to be exposed to the Scepter. Episode 8 merely illuminates that her powers may not have been exclusive to the infinity stone, but that it awakened something that was already there.
The flashback-heavy episode deepens our understanding of each pivotal point in Wanda’s life, and it’s a chance to sympathize with perhaps the most heartbreaking character in the MCU – something that only seemed possible in tragic villains like Zemo or Killmonger. WandaVision as a show strikes a different and harrowing chord, because it’s not a mystery box show like, say, LOST. It’s a show ultimately about grief, and how grief can warp your life like a mystery box, as if the trauma and memories are actual rooms in your mind to navigate and find a way to cope with. (Seriously, watch Sorry For Your Loss.)
Not to detract from Agatha’s influence or an all-around show-stopping Kathryn Hahn. Wanda’s pain is the show’s beating heart all along. Agatha is the villain manipulating behind the scenes like a cross between Zemo and Killian. An upfront and obvious villain would be too easy. Wanda, now given the moniker of Scarlet Witch, will have to reckon with the choices she made that led her here.
How will it all wrap up? Will we have a witch on witch showdown? Are we getting Vision v. Vision: Dawn of Vision 2.0? I’ve tried to guess what will happen next and I’ve been wrong each time, and thank god for that. WandaVision has made for a genuinely thrilling viewing these past couple weeks with the kind of ongoing cultural conversation you just don’t get anymore when series are available to binge all in one day. With weekly breakdowns, feverish chatter online and within my own inner circles, on top of wholesome memes I can appreciate, WandaVision has been the right kind of insufferable.
Before I sign off, I’d like to make one final prediction on the finale’s big cameo: Dick Van Dyke.
I think Paul Bettany is trying to misdirect here, though perhaps his initial quote could’ve also been a misdirection… but I digress. I’ve been thinking about this since that gut-wrenching flashback with Wanda’s parents. But it wasn’t until my daughter put on Mary Poppins Returns that made me think such a cameo could be possible. As Dick Van Dyke has shown even at his old age, he is more than game to make an exuberant appearance or two. (Also, I firmly believe Disney has Dick Van Dyke locked away in their vault only to be used for special occasions.) I can’t stop thinking about the emotional resonance this would make for Wanda at the end.
Who will that “mind-blowing” cameo be? And more importantly, how will WandaVision resolve my trio of crushes on Elizabeth Olsen, Kathryn Hahn, and Kat Dennings? There’s three of them but only one of me 😅
See y’all after the finale 🤙