WandaVision director on the 'emotional' finale (and the cut scene with Señor Scratchy)
Warning: This article contains spoilers for WandaVision episode 9, "The Series Finale."
Going into the WandaVision finale, there were many questions fans were hoping to get answers to: What was the story behind Evan Peters' appearance as Pietro Maximoff? Was it really Agatha all along? And were we ever going to see Fred Melamed's Mr. Hart again?
The final episode, released March 5, answered (almost!) all those questions — while also raising a few new ones. So EW spoke to WandaVision director Matt Shakman to get some answers. Here, the director opens up about everything that went into Wanda and Vision's emotional ending — and whether that goodbye is really a goodbye.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You've talked before about the challenges of filming in the sitcom world, but the finale goes more into the blockbuster Marvel territory. What was it like to go from filming in front of a live studio audience to filming two Paul Bettanys battling it out in the air?
MATT SHAKMAN: Well, to quote Paul, it was fireworks, as he said when he talked about working with "the actor that he always wanted to work with": himself. [Laughs] I laughed so hard when I read that interview.
But it was great! The fun thing about this show is that no day is the same, so you would have one day in front of a live studio audience doing a '50s sitcom, and then you'd be outside at night in a forest doing witches trying to kill Agatha Harkness, and then you'd be at a greenscreen, shooting Visions talking to each other and battling in the sky. It was a huge challenge to try to pivot, and hats off to the entire crew that made the show. They were so flexible at jumping with me from one world to the next, and so much of that is preparation. You have to prepare everything: Certainly a live studio audience takes as much preparation in a way as a Vision battle in the sky, but it's storyboarding and pre-vis and getting everyone together to look at what you're trying to create. You're slowly peeling the onion back to say, okay, this is how we're going to accomplish that. Everything takes time. Putting actors on wires takes a lot of time and a lot of energy, and hats off also to Paul Bettany and Lizzie [Olsen] and Kathryn [Hahn], who are so good at being flown up in the air on wires and handling it like pros.
What was the most memorable scene you shot for the finale?
The most memorable, of course, is the goodbye scene between Wanda and Vision. It's where the show has been leading the entire time. It's the inevitable acceptance of Vision's loss, saying goodbye to him for the last time. It's a beautiful scene: It's beautifully written, it's beautifully acted, and we had a wonderful time shooting it. It's also a complicated one because we go back through the decades, and we travel around them as he slowly dissolves, and then we're left in that empty lot where she was going to build her future with Vision. So that for me is the emotional highlight. It's a beautiful scene, and this was always a story about grief and how this amazing character was going to try to come to terms with the loss that she's felt and the trauma she's experienced.
Last time we talked, you said you hoped that the finale felt inevitable and that it matched with the story you were telling throughout the season. Did you ever consider any other ways for the story to end, or did it always end with this goodbye?
I think it was pretty clear from the beginning that that's where it needed to go. It was loosely structured on Elisabeth Kübler-Ross' stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, acceptance, all of that. We knew we were heading toward acceptance, so whatever that meant — acceptance of the fact that she cannot keep this fantasy that she's created, acceptance that she must say goodbye to Vision, something that she has tried with all of her might not to do up to that point, and acceptance of who she is now in this world, and that there is a different destiny out there for her. Acceptance of this new role as the Scarlet Witch and what that means and where she's going with that power. So that's why I said I thought it would feel inevitable to people who were watching it, because we were always telling the same story, which is a relatively simple story. It does have some surprises along the way, but for all of the wonderful theories that were out there and all of the surprise villains who might have showed up, the one villain we always knew we had was grief. That was the big bad of the show. There were other villains — Agatha, White Vision, Hayward, and all sorts of people who are up to no good — but it was a relatively simple story. I think the best ones are.
Did filming during the pandemic affect the story at all?
A little bit. It made it more challenging, for sure. I think if we would've tried to start this project in a pandemic, it would've been very different, but thankfully we had all bonded as a cast. There was a great degree of love and respect for everyone and trust, so it was easier to pick up and continue than it would've been to start anew. We had also shot bits and pieces of every episode, so we had established styles, like what was acting in the '50s and '60s and '70s like? So when we came back to it during the pandemic, we had done a lot of that groundwork.
Comedy's tough, and when you have a director and crew around you all covered in masks and face shields, it's a different environment. Part of creating the proper environment for comedy is laughter and lightness, and when you're in the middle of a pandemic, that's hard. But it's a testament to our actors, how brilliant they are, and they didn't miss a step. I loved everything that we did in L.A. just as much as I loved what we had been doing before the world changed.
The end-credits scenes tease Teyonah Parris' appearance in Captain Marvel 2 and Elizabeth Olsen's appearance in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. How closely did you work with those creative teams to make sure those stories line up?
Very closely. Captain Marvel 2 is being produced by Mary Livanos, who produced WandaVision, so you can't get any closer there. It's direct continuity. It's written by Megan McDonnell, who was one of the writers on WandaVision — again, huge continuity. And Teyonah will be going off to star in it. And it's the same with Doctor Strange. Michael Waldron, who is the writer of it who also created Loki, was somebody we were talking to quite frequently. We talked to [director] Sam Raimi. There's a lot of conversation there, as you get ready to pass the baton and hand off these wonderful characters, and that's part of what I think makes the Marvel universe work so well is that communication between projects.
You guys also had the luxury — and maybe anxiety — of going first. You have to set everything in motion for everything that's coming down the line.
We didn't really feel too much anxiety about that because [Marvel Studios chief] Kevin Feige takes that on and spares us all that anxiety. He's spinning all the plates and making it all work, and he's great at making you feel like this story is the only important story right now. I know he makes every other filmmaking team feel the same way with what they're doing, which is one of his superpowers. He has many. But being totally focused and present for what we were creating was wonderful, and whatever we needed to know about how it would function or how it would set [things] up, he was sort of the keeper of that, more than what we had to do. Our obligation was to tell the best story we could tell about Wanda and Vision.
Is there any world in which you would be interested in returning for a season 2?
Who knows! It's the Marvel universe, so who knows what's to come. We did set out to tell a satisfying and complete story, and I think we hopefully did that. So who knows what the future will bring.
Were there any scenes you shot or anything you left on the cutting room floor? I read that there was something in the finale about Agatha's rabbit, Señor Scratchy.
Yeah, there's always little things that get cut. That was a longer scene that we ended up losing. We shot it, but it was pretty early on that we had to pivot away from it. Finales are tough because you have all these different pieces on the chessboard, and those stories are happening concurrently. What's happening in the town square with Agatha and Wanda is at the same time as Visions in the sky, and how do you move everybody to the inevitable merge point without feeling like you're losing focus? Ultimately the story is Wanda and Vision's story, and we didn't want to derail that. But there was a very fun, Goonies-style set piece involving Señor Scratchy, who was Agatha's familiar, turning into a sort of demon bunny and chasing the kiddos, Monica, and Ralph around the bewitched basement.
Are there any Easter eggs or references that you really love that people may have not necessarily caught yet?
There are a lot of eagle-eyed fans out there! It's hard to say. I haven't thoroughly combed through the internet enough to say, but I think probably everything has been discussed and observed.
We did go to great lengths to iterate everything through time, so that as [Wanda] moved from the '50s to the '60s, it's the same house, but it's now in the '60s. But everything's in the same place: the TV, the couch, the fireplace, the front door, the staircase. We did the same thing with all the props. The magazine that Agatha is reading in the first episode is Glamorous magazine, and that magazine is repeated in every single era with the same model on the cover, just in era-appropriate clothing. The design of the magazine and all the ads reflect that era. The newspaper, the Westview Gazette, goes throughout time as well, and everything is just about Westview. We don't see any franchise stores; you don't see any news or information about the world outside. There is no world outside. If you're in Westview, that's it.
Marvel’s first Disney+ series centers on Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany) living in a world of domestic bliss that’s part kitschy sitcom, part trippy comic book adventure.