MCU’s first TV series comes to a spectacular close, as Wanda finally confronts what she’s been running from all along.
Starring Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, Debra Jo Rupp, Teyonah Parris, Evan Peters, Randall Park, Kat Dennings, and Kathryn Hahn
After weeks of rampant fan speculation and intense internet discourse, WandaVision has concluded with a balls-to-the wall, blockbuster finale. With so many lingering plot points, a fan might have been forgiven for feeling that just one final episode would be insufficient to satisfactorily tie Wanda’s (Elizabeth Olsen) emotional arc together, but Matt Shakman and Jac Schaeffer successfully balance resolving these plot elements while also maintaining WandaVision‘s beating emotional heart at its centre.
Unfortunately, there will doubtless be many viewers finding themselves disappointed that many fan theories and suggestions, such as appearances from comic book characters ranging from Mephisto to a surprise cameo by Benedict Cumberbatch, were unfounded. Wisely, WandaVision focuses upon the existing players, instead of introducing any last minute twists. While this does lead to a more cohesive and streamlined conclusion, it is indicative of the cross that WandaVision fashioned for itself by including so many Easter Eggs and jaw-dropping cliffhanger moments that, actually, doing the expected was the most unexpected thing to happen all along.
Alas, Tommy and Billy (to our knowledge) are not minions of Mephisto; the Grim Reaper did not make an appearance; the Multiverse wasn’t confirmed; the X-Men did not materialise; Agatha’s bunny rabbit wasn’t Nicholas Scratch. Oh, and neighbour Dottie? Just a regular inhabitant of Westview caught up in Wanda’s spell. Jimmy’s contact within Westview? Also a plot that ultimately led nowhere, much like Monica’s constant mentioning of aerospace engineers only to reveal an ordinary SWORD official who appeared just the once. Additionally, Evan Peters’ role as Pietro was nothing more significant than him being an ordinary man who lives in Westview, who Agatha used to manipulate Wanda. The fact that he looks just like Fox’s incarnation of Quicksilver was nothing but a fake-out to encourage internet speculation, so quite what the creatives thought they were doing with this move is anybody’s guess.
Much of this speculation was fuelled by people involved with WandaVision in the intervening weeks, with both Paul Bettany and Teyonah Parris teasing huge reveals and cameos that ultimately turned out to be fake-outs or misdirections. Media reports from Kevin Feige confirming three hour-long instalments to close the season also threw fans for a loop, with rumours of a secret tenth episode continuing to flutter online. It’s easily speculation that Marvel could have quashed if it wanted to, but being talked about is better than being insignificant, though Matt Shakman did try to warn viewers to temper their expectations before the finale aired, doubtless aware that the pared back product would prove underwhelming for those who were hoping for their favourite comic book arc to materialise on screen.
Over the course of the past 8 weeks, viewers have seen Wanda process her grief and trauma over losing Vision (Paul Bettany), not just once, but twice. As the series opened, we saw her blissfully living in her ignorance, desperately hoping to submerge herself in the false reality she had crafted from her cosmic level of power. She graduated from this to anger, when the outside world started to break in and the veneer of her utopia slowly began to crumble. Through to bargaining and then depression, the finale finally sees Wanda embrace her reality, including her role as the Scarlet Witch.
This series has been highly successful at giving comic book storylines appropriate emotional weight. Not only has it been a masterclass in filming techniques and the slow unravelling of a mystery not just in writing but across the board, it’s shown the massive weight and toll that the events of the Marvel films have upon its characters. Usually found in the background and thrown a line or two in the Marvel ensemble movies, WandaVision finally gave voice and agency to its most beleaguered Avenger. For the Westview anomaly to have been only Wanda’s making, and for its destruction to be Wanda’s decision is a fitting end that gives her appropriate agency instead of being another tool for somebody else to manipulate and use to their own ends.
However, despite being a groundbreaking and unexpected show in its early instalments, much of “The Series Finale” falls back into the familiar trappings of an MCU film. CGI and massive fights that level a town, plus corrupt, ruthless men who seek power, the first two acts of WandaVision‘s finale saw Wanda and Agatha (Kathryn Hahn) continue the fight that was started in the previous episode, while Vision (Paul Bettany) and White Vision (Paul Bettany) came face to face, and Director Hayward (Josh Stamberg) was willing to destroy two (admittedly fictional) children in his quest to destroy any evidence of his involvement in fashioning White Vision as a sentient weapon for his own purposes.
Despite this familiarity, with many minutes dedicated to Wanda and Agatha flying around, hurling magic at each other, while Vision and White Vision also fly around, zapping the other and proving evenly matched (unsurprisingly), the episode does enough to make it stand out, and, in contrast to the slow build that has led us to this place, it feels massively earned. Agatha using the torment that Wanda has put the people of Westview under against her is massively compelling, and, as Wanda battled with her conscience, the show confirmed what fans had long feared, but had been desperately trying to avoid: that, not only Vision, but also Billy and Tommy, would cease to exist if the Hex were destroyed completely. Wanda is forced into a corner of attempting to find a way to free everybody else, while also keeping her family, though ultimately, through embracing her true power (complete with a beautiful new costume that successfully pays homage to her classic comic book look while integrating it with the modern MCU), realises that she must pay the ultimate price in order to save everybody else.
Elsewhere, Vision used philosophy, and not a fight to the death, to neutralise White Vision, persuading him that both, and neither of them, were the true Vision, as, though White Vision is the original body, he is devoid of Vision 1.0’s memories and personality, while Fictional Vision is entirely the opposite. Ultimately, it persuades White Vision to flee in search of freedom, handily keeping the door open for Paul Bettany to return to the MCU in the future, though this does leave an unfortunate wrinkle in the story of Wanda’s closure.
Though these two conflicts were different, the conflict between Agatha and Wanda could have been far more cerebral and metaphorical. While it was massively satisfying to see Wanda using all of her magical tricks against Agatha, and seeing her in action in a way that we haven’t been able to before, it might have been nice to see the pair fighting a mental battle, akin to Professor X’s battles with the Shadow King in the X-Men Animated Series. Following on from last week’s episode where we finally got to grips with Wanda’s trauma and how her sitcom universe had been constructed out of her own escapist tendencies throughout her life, it might have been nice to see Wanda fully confront her grief over Vision, perhaps through being presented with these images by Agatha, to then overcome them and embrace both her destiny, but also the end of her fabricated universe. It might have allowed these sections to pass with more nuance and emotional weight instead of being a typical Marvel showdown.
Where this episode really soars is in its muted third act, which rolls onward with an unnerving sense of cruel inevitability. There’s a numb silence to the way that Vision and Wanda tuck Billy and Tommy to bed as the walls of the Hex approach, and allows one of the best, most touching conversations of the entire MCU. While Vision questions his existence, Wanda explains all that he means to her, and he provides her with a message of hope in return, as she prepares to enter the world without him. Even though White Vision still exists somewhere in this universe, as established by Vision, he isn’t really hers, memories or not. It’s a fitting and emotional conclusion to Wanda’s trauma and grief, and the first opportunity the series has afforded us for Wanda and Vision to have an honest conversation without the veil of Wanda’s subterfuge getting in the way.
In providing a cohesive and streamlined finale, this means that many characters fell by the wayside. Though Olsen and Bettany had plenty of time to flex their full acting range, as did Hahn as the deliciously, devilishly devious Agatha, there isn’t much room for any other characters to do anything meaningful. Despite Episode 4 belonging to her, and Monica being portrayed consistently heroically throughout the series, Teyonah Parris is featured depressingly little, ultimately her story in WandaVision merely serving to give her superpowers in preparation for her appearance in Captain Marvel 2. Randall Park and Kat Dennings also appear very little, despite being integral to the plot earlier on. After driving a car for two episodes, Kat Dennings literally appears for one scene and then disappears, which will be highly unsatisfying if that’s the final time Darcy is seen on screen. As for Jimmy Woo, he performs important narrative functions, but is very underused here.
An interesting idea that this episode leans into is Wanda’s status as a hero or villain. As Agatha points out, Wanda’s torture of the inhabitants of Westview is hardly the acts of a hero and, even though Wanda had no idea of the impact her perfect family life would have upon those around her, her ultimate fate for Agatha, to trap her in the persona of Agnes, is suitably cruel to question what sort of person Wanda is now that she has that power. Not to mention Agatha’s mention of a prophecy that suggests that Wanda/The Scarlet Witch will bring about the destruction of the world. Even though she sacrificed her life with Vision and her children, her manic perusal of the Darkhold could mean danger in the future.
Through its mid-credits and post-credits scene, WandaVision‘s finale also nicely sets up the future of the MCU. Monica is drafted to help an old friend of her mother’s by a handy Skrull. Whether that refers to Nick Fury, who has been spending an indeterminate amount of time with the Skrull while being replaced on Earth by a duplicate, or Captain Marvel herself is uncertain currently, though is sure to be resolved when Teyonah Parris stars in Captain Marvel 2, currently slated for a release in late 2022.
Wanda’s fate, which sees her reclusive existence, finds her both discovering her inner peace in comfy clothes, as well as insistently reading the Darkhold in full Scarlet Witch regalia when she hears the cries of her two children calling for her help. With Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness set to release the, you guessed it, multiverse into the MCU, this is sure to involve Wanda and her cosmic level of magical power. As the plot also proposes Doctor Strange unleashing a massive power against a friend-turned-enemy, it will be interesting to see what enormous lengths Wanda will go to to be reunited with her children, though hopefully the MCU doesn’t go down the route of “incredible power corrupts” and ruins its currently most developed female character.
WandaVision has been a whirlwind of a ride. A spectacular opening into Marvel’s foray into Disney Plus serialised entertainment, the unprecedented level of emotion and depth that we have been able to explore Wanda’s psyche throughout this series has more than justified its existence, especially with a story that would have been impossible to do justice on the big screen. Though Falcon and the Winter Soldier as Marvel’s next TV series to debut is set to be far more traditional Marvel fare, WandaVision has captured audience’s hearts and minds with the tales of a tortured young woman who uses media to escape, and that’s precisely what WandaVision has provided the rest of us. WandaVision is to be commended for its strong creative vision and the courage to do something that was a tremendous risk, but ultimately massively paid off. WandaVision will be fondly remembered as a glittering high point of Marvel’s cinematic history.
WandaVision is streaming exclusively on Disney+.