WandaVision finale recap: Even an android can cry
So long and goodnight to Wanda's beautiful dark twisted TV fantasy and WandaVision.
In the end, WandaVision did exactly what many of us suspected it would do. From the beginning, many people were worried that the Marvel series would eventually abandon the sitcom frame device and become very Marvel, with its own massive special effects battle. And that's exactly what happened in the spectacle-filled finale. But that's not necessarily a bad thing in this case. There were many things I loved about episode 9, aptly titled "The Series Finale." (Darcy saved the day!) But there were things I wasn't too fond of as well. Overall, I'm not entirely sure how I feel about the finale as a whole, which is probably the result of writing much of this at 1 a.m. immediately after watching the episode for the first time. With that mind, let's break it down into the not-so-good, the good/great, and the very Marvel of it all.
The not-so-good: The spectacle. By this point in the genre's lifespan, it's almost a cliché to say that a superhero movie has final act problems. But, it's a cliché because it's true of many of them. And yes, WandaVision is very much a TV show (It's impossible for me to overstate how much of a blessing the show's episodic nature has been in this exhausting "10-hour movie" landscape), but the finale reminded me of most of Marvel Cinematic Universe and superhero movies that came before it in that the story's emotional stakes kind of got lost in the huge climactic battle between the heroes and villains.
"The Series Finale" picks up where we left off last week with a stand-off between Wanda and Agatha, who is still holding the twins by magical leash. Eventually, the two witches start exchanging magical energy balls, and the White Vision we saw at the end of "Previously On" joins the fray intent on killing both Wanda and Vision. (Note: In this recap, White Vision is the version of Vision S.W.O.R.D. reanimated, and Vision is the version of the character Wanda created in the Hex and we've spent time with this season.) From there, the four characters start flying around Westview as more balls of energy and head-blasts fly across the screen. It's a lot, and it looks like Disney+ didn't skimp on the special effects. The thing I did enjoy about the action sequences, though, is how they struck a nice balance between Marvel Cinematic Universe-level quality but still feeling like a TV show, if that makes sense. For all the many colorful balls of powers whizzing through the sky, the action still felt relatively grounded and proportionate for what the show has been up to this point.
That being said, I had two major problems with the action. First, the structure of the finale meant that Kathryn Hahn — who has, unsurprisingly, given a consistently outstanding performance all season long — was reduced to explaining things in between energy blasts. "Did you know there's an entire chapter devoted to you in the Darkhold? The Scarlet Witch is not born, she's forged." "Your power exceeds that of the Sorcerer Supreme." "You tied your family to your twisted world. Now one can't exist with the other." It just felt like every line of dialogue Hahn had in this finale was exposition, save the end when Wanda trapped her in Westview in the nosy neighbor persona as punishment for all the mischief. When the finale ended, I didn't feel like I had a clear sense of who Agatha was, beyond the fact that she was power hungry.
My second issue is the configuration of the fight. The MCU loves to pit heroes against their foes who are just like them but evil (see: every Iron Man movie, The Incredible Hulk, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Black Panther, both seasons of Luke Cage, and more) and that's what you get here. Vision is literally fighting an evil, emotionless version of himself. In terms of Wanda and Agatha, Agatha keeps saying Wanda is destined to sow chaos, but that's exactly what Agatha did in the Hex. We've seen this type of fight before. Not only that, but there were moments where I lost track of the story's emotional thread because the finale spent a bit too much time on the spectacle. Thankfully, I didn't lose it completely…
The good/great: Darcy hit Hayward with a truck! Also: While the action definitely threatened to overwhelm the story, Head Writer Jac Schaffer's script and director Matt Shakman made sure the moments that were meant to remind us that this story was about grief resonated — and they were more than successful.
Once the battle reaches the town square, Agatha, who wants Wanda's powers, distracts the nascent Scarlet Witch by waking the townspeople up. As that happens, they begin to converge and overwhelm Wanda, forcing her to confront the ways in which her actions have hurt them all. "Your grief is poisoning us!" Debra Jo Rupp's Sharon says. That moment really resonated with me because it's true, at least from my experience. A lot of the time, those who are grieving sort of get lost in their pain — because grief is a powerful force — and don't realize how it negatively alters their everyday demeanor and affects those closest to them. Wanda insists that she's been keeping the people of Westview safe, but it's clear that's not completely the case. Eventually, Sharon asks Wanda to just let them die, but instead, Wanda opens the Hex long enough to hopefully let them escape. (ASIDE: Honestly, MCU actors don't earn enough credit for scenes like this one. Obviously, the red energy field that surrounds Wanda was added in post, which means Elizabeth Olsen had to stand there and cry and grunt with nothing happening around her while shooting. I don't know about you, but I would've felt silly doing that. Thankfully, Olsen fully commits and makes you feel how much Wanda is straining.)
Billy, the twin who shares his mother's powers, picks up on what Wanda is experiencing with the crowd, and the two boys rush out to help their mother. This leads to a really touching moment for the Maximoff family: Wanda, Vision, Tommy, and Billy form a striking super-family formation as they face down S.W.O.R.D. (which advanced further into the Hex when Wanda opened it up). It was both reminiscent of the Incredibles and the Fantastic 4 (Reed Richards didn't show up, but that moment more than made up for it). "Listen, boys, your mother and I never prepared you for this," says Vision to the twins. Wanda adds: "But you were born for it." That whole exchange made me cheer.
Anyway, short story shorter: Vision defeats White Vision with a metaphysical riddle about identity (which leads to White Vision just flying away), and Wanda embraces the Scarlet Witch identity and uses runes (a word that is always silly) against Agnes, who ultimately fails to take Wanda's powers away from her. In the aftermath of the magical brawl, Wanda does the right thing and pulls down the Hex.
As the walls of her beautiful dark twisted television fantasy dissipates, Wanda, Vision, and the twins retire to their home for their goodbyes. "A family is forever. We could never truly leave each other if we tried," she tells Billy and Tommy, both of whom are tucked into their beds. "Boys, thank you for choosing me to be your mom." We know this isn't the first time she's had to say goodbye to her family, so that exchange is truly heart-wrenching. But then, Schaeffer tops herself with Wanda and Vision's tender and intimate farewell. "I have been a voice with no body. A body, but not human. And now a memory made real. Who knows what I might be next?" says Vision before they depart. I know the internet had a field day with Vision's grief line last week, but this line hit me just as hard because I thought it was such a beautiful encapsulation of Vision's journey so far, existential and optimistic in equal measure. From there, Vision and what remains of the Hex disintegrates, and Wanda heads off to not only master her newfound Scarlet Witch powers, but also hopefully deal with her grief.
Before turning to how this all relates to the future MCU, I just want to add that I actually loved the resolution to Evan Peters' guest-appearance on the show. It turns out Pietro is actually Ralph Bohner, the previously unseen butt of Agatha's jokes who is actually just an actor whose home Agatha took over. I'm so happy this didn't turn out to be some Multiverse thing, X-Men thing, and was just a really fun piece of stunt casting.
The Marvel of it All: WandaVision, for the most part, has done a good job of staying focused on its story and not teasing future MCU movies and TV shows. Alas, that all changed with this finale. First, there were Agatha's repeated warnings about Wanda being destined to destroy the world. Not only is Wanda supposedly more powerful than the Sorcerer Supreme, but the show ends on an ominous shot of her astral projection studying the Darkhold in a cabin in the middle of nowhere (major end of The Incredible Hulk vibes) as her (dead?) twins call out for help. Whatever that ending means, it doesn't portend anything good for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, which this show directly leads into. I wonder if that ending means Wanda is stepping to the bad side to bring her children back from a different part of the Multiverse and we'll find her and Strange at odds in the movies. (This ending is also interesting if you've read Tom King and Gabriel Hernandez Walta's The Vision. In that series, Agatha warned the Avengers that Vision would destroy the world, but here she warns Wanda will do that. Furthermore, The Vision ended with Vision on the verge of rebuilding his family, and it seems like Wanda is searching for kids.)
I will say, it is cool that the Darkhold has returned. The very obviously evil spellbook previously appeared on both Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Marvel's Runaways. This is the rare time where a main MCU property is directly drawing on something established by a Jeph Loeb-produced show. I'm curious if we'll ever find out how Agatha got her hands on it after the events of Runaways season 2.
"The Series Finale'' didn't just set up Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness. In the mid-credits scene, Monica receives a visit from Skrull masquerading as an FBI agent. The Skrull tells Monica that a friend of her mother's sent wants to meet here in space. Presumably, that friend is Mr. Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), who was last seen literally chilling on a massive Skrull-filled space station at the end of Spider-Man: Far From Home. Since Teyonah Parris is slated to appear in Captain Marvel 2, I wonder if that movie will lead directly into Disney+'s recently announced Secret Invasion TV show starring Jackson.
In the end, I think I really enjoyed WandaVision, mostly because its goals weren't as epic as we all theorized. As the season unfolded, fans speculated that it would dive into the Multiverse in a major way or introduce mutants and/or Reed Richards into the MCU. But none of that turned out to be the case. Instead, the show was ultimately more concerned with exploring grief, and doing what several previous movies failed to do: developing Wanda into a fully-fleshed out character. Sure, I could complain about how the sitcom homages disappeared by the end and the show's themes got lost in the middle of the finale, but I won't because I think the stuff I enjoyed in the first eight episodes more than outweighs the finale.
Christian's Take: A pretty fun finale, I'd say! I mostly want to use my last bit of space here to offer a bit of a mea culpa. Over the course of these recaps, I've mostly engaged with WandaVision as a puzzle-box show, trying to figure out what was inside and what the secrets could mean and how they might tie into the extensive comic history of the two title characters. As you know if you've been reading along this whole time, most of my theories turned out to be utterly wrong! AIM was not involved, Ultron was just a name-check, and we are not any closer to incorporating mutants into the MCU than we were at the beginning of WandaVision. But I'm fine with all that, because as much as I enjoy analyzing hints and coming up with nerdy predictions, I like that the show turned out to be an emotional journey instead.
To prepare for the finale today, I stayed up last night rewatching all of WandaVision until this point. Lots of things hit harder on rewatch, knowing the nature of what's going on. Vision realized early on that something was amiss in Westview, and went about investigating and interviewing witnesses before finally trying to break out of the Hex altogether. Now that we know that the Vision inside the Hex was never real at all, created entirely from Wanda's memory of him, that storyline plays like a dead loved one actively trying to free themselves from a survivor's nostalgic and simplified posthumous memory. That's pretty fascinating, and it helped me enjoy the finale's Vision vs. Vision showdown more than Chance and most viewers probably did.
The "self vs. shadow self" is a classic mythic trope, and since A Wizard of Earthsea is one of my favorite books I'm always a sucker for it, but I get that it's grown stale after more than a decade of MCU movies leaning on it as a crutch. I just kinda like the spectacle of Vision's body fighting against his mind, his cold android aspect battling his more human side, Hayward's weapon vs. Wanda's Vision. Even the color contrast of green/yellow/red Vision fighting a bleached skeletal double called back to the show's earlier journey from black-and-white sitcoms to full color TV. Plus it led to some fun discussion of the Ship of Theseus, which is and always has been my favorite of the classic philosophical paradoxes. Endlessly fascinating to think about.
Wanda vs. Agatha was not quite as interesting a duel. Like Chance, I didn't love Kathryn Hahn in cackling supervillain mode. Her Salem flashbacks never really worked for me, I never quite got a handle on what her brooch was or how her magic-absorbing power worked, and it was a little grating to hear her dump so much exposition (though the "more powerful than the Sorcerer Supreme" line is definitely exciting). But as a result, I thoroughly enjoyed Agnes' fate. It reminded me of how Aang handles Fire Lord Ozai in the Avatar: The Last Airbender finale -- rather than killing the villain, trap them in their worst nightmare -- and here that has the added effect of turning the character back into her more enjoyable incarnation. I enjoyed Agnes' post-brainwashing lines more than anything she's done since the "Agatha All Along" reveal.
A lot of people have thrown around the word "grief" in relation to WandaVision, because as the episodes went on it became clear that's what it was all about. But that one word doesn't go far enough for me. It's not just that Wanda is experiencing grief and loss, it's that she's one of the few MCU characters who we've ever seen experience them. Of all the people who died at the end of Avengers: Infinity War, only Vision was dead for real. Quicksilver (the real Quicksilver) still holds the record for shortest Avengers tenure. As we saw in the funeral at the end of Avengers: Endgame, almost every MCU superhero was inspired by Tony Stark -- but Wanda lost her family to his weapons. In a superhero world where death never sticks, where even the eradication of half the universe can be undone with enough effort, Wanda has been experiencing soul-shattering loss like a Christ figure so no one else has to.
Can you really blame her for creating WandaVision? For giving in to the temptation to use her massive power to try and undo her losses like everyone else gets to? In the finale Agatha tells Wanda the stakes: She can keep on living a reality where her family is alive, but the cost is destroying the lives of everyone else in Westview. Wanda refuses, and that sacrifice is what really makes her a superhero. You're not a good superhero unless we see you going out of your way to save innocent lives. The real Pietro did it in Age of Ultron when he ran in front of those bullets to save Hawkeye and Sokovian children, and now Wanda has made a similar sacrifice in her own way.
It's a compelling journey, but I still think all the hubbub about the "Scarlet Witch" name is a little overblown. Even if the name has never been uttered on-screen in the MCU before (which I find hard to believe, but am not going to rewatch every movie to verify), everyone knows that the character known as Wanda Maximoff is also known as Scarlet Witch. Treating it like some big reveal is the silliest part of the show for me, and makes WandaVision seem like an origin story or reboot instead of further growth and development for a character we're already familiar with.
I don't want to make facile comparisons, but when I think about why WandaVision resonated so much with me and other viewers in 2021, I can't help but feel it's about more than just being one of the few TV shows actively releasing new episodes while we're all stuck inside. All of us have experienced loss this year. Half a million people (at least) are dead from COVID-19 in the U.S. alone, and though it's nice that vaccines are finally rolling out, when we're all able to leave our houses again there will be a lot of people missing in the world. I know I'm not the only one who dealt with this widespread loss over the past year by retreating into movies and TV. What I like most about WandaVision is that its story is about moving past this state of escapism. Eventually we do have to turn off the TV, learn to live with loss, and try to make ourselves stronger.
If you'll permit me one last bit of unhinged guesswork, though: I think all the people online who speculated that Mephisto would show up in WandaVision were just a bit too early. The show ends with Wanda studying the Darkhold and hearing the voices of her sons, who have been tied up with Mephisto in the past. Are their souls trapped in some kind of limbo now? Will Wanda now be striving to bring them to life for real? Hopefully the answer is "yes" since I'd like to see a Young Avengers adaptation someday, but I guess we'll have to wait for Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness to find out.
Final Grade: B-
Series Grade: B+
- I will never get tired of seeing a bulletproof (or at least resistant) Black superhero on-screen. Monica jumping in front of Hayward's bullets for the twins was truly awesome, in the true meaning of the word.
- The fact that Agatha didn't die in the finale means we'll likely see her in the future. In Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness perhaps?