SPOILERS FOR WANDAVISION AHEAD!
In eight weeks, Marvel’s WandaVision took us on a wild and occasionally bizarre journey for which I will forever be thankful – there was something about the experience of waking up at three o’-clock in the morning to watch episodes as they aired on Disney+ (or, in the case of the WandaVision finale, having to resist the temptation to do so because I’d promised my family to watch it with them for the first time) that felt truly special, and which I can’t wait to repeat in two weeks once The Falcon And The Winter Soldier gets going. Along the way, I and other fans contributed to the experience by crafting complex fan-theories, and losing ourselves in elaborate worlds of our own creation, not unlike the series’ grief-stricken heroine.
But in the end (and much to the shock and dismay of fans who got too invested in their theories), WandaVision was never a story about Multiverse shenanigans, or the enigmatic aerospace engineer’s true identity, or Mephisto. Did that revelation blindside me too, to some extent? For sure. I was rooting for Dick Van Dyke to show up as Marvel’s Satan until the very end. But the true plot twist was that WandaVision was always a deeply personal and excruciatingly intimate story about one woman (well, witch) processing overwhelming grief; one man (well, android) trapped in an existential crisis; one unusual couple who now stand alongside Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s FitzSimmons as the MCU’s best-developed and most romantic duo. And the finale, while it could certainly have better served other characters and subplots, never once lost its focus on Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen, turning in Emmy-award deserving work) and The Vision (Paul Bettany), nor diminished the painful love that binds them together – and that’s what truly matters, at least to me.
That painful love nearly gets Wanda killed just a few minutes into the episode, as the White Vision (also Bettany, a cameo he blew way out of proportion) lands in Westview. Wanda, who hasn’t seen her husband since the morning of the Halloween episode, is slightly perturbed by the android’s unfamiliar appearance, but ultimately accepts his proffered embrace and gentle caress – which quickly turns into a death-grip. The White Vision is close to popping Wanda’s head open (he may have no emotions, but his voice certainly sounds gleeful as he mocks Wanda: “And they said you’d be powerful) when the real Vision suddenly arrives, punching his alabaster counterpart down the street and into a gas-tank. But even as White Vision is rising from the flames and Agatha Harkness (Kathryn Hahn) is recovering from an earlier fight with Wanda (which left her lace-up boots trapped under a car in a clever nod to The Wizard Of Oz), Wanda still finds time to apologize to Vision, and fill him in on their situation – because their love and concern for each other’s feelings precedes all else.
But to save Westview, they have to divide and conquer their opponents. Vision takes to the skies, battling the White Vision in an evenly-matched fistfight that makes good use of their respective laser beams and phasing abilities. But Wanda is up against an experienced sorceress who effortlessly absorbs every one of her hexes and sporadic outbursts of Chaos Magic, slowly leeching Wanda’s strength and stamina in the process: the distinction between Agatha and Wanda, which Agatha exploits, is the latter’s lack of knowledge about either her supernatural powers or her destiny as the heiress to the legacy of the mythical Scarlet Witch, whom Agatha claims is “forged” rather than born, possessed of no coven yet stronger than the Sorcerer Supreme himself, the subject of an entire chapter in the mysterious Darkhold, Agatha’s book of dark magic – which was previously seen on Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., albeit in a slightly different form.
But all of Agatha’s cat-and-mouse games only serve to enrage Wanda, until the sorceress hits her where it hurts, by releasing all of the inhabitants of Westview from their enchantments and watching them turn on Wanda: forcing her to confront the pain and trauma that she’s caused her neighbors, random strangers whose lives she’s completely upended. It’s clear that Wanda never meant to hurt any of the people she absorbed into The Hex, and that she convinced herself she was actually doing them all a favor by giving them new identities and storylines of their own, but that’s not how it feels to people like Dottie (Emma Caulfield), who’s revealed as a frightened mom named Sarah, or Mrs. Hart (Debra Jo Rupp), who literally begs for death. And Wanda, in one desperate selfless act, listens to their pleas and opens the boundaries of The Hex – giving the townsfolk an escape-route, and allowing in a handful of armored vehicles from S.W.O.R.D.
But when faced with the choice of saving Westview or her family, who begin to crumble away before her eyes as The Hex’s walls come down, Wanda wastes no time re-establishing the barrier: trapping everyone inside for a final confrontation that splits the family up still further, with Billy and Tommy going after the S.W.O.R.D. intruders (neither using their powers very impressively, I’m sorry to say), Vision and White Vision wrecking the public library, and Wanda chasing down Agatha. Meanwhile, Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris) is still trapped in Agatha’s house across town, being held captive by…well, I suppose it’s time we talked about that. Despite wearing the face of the Fox X-Men universe’s Peter Maximoff, the character played by Evan Peters on WandaVision is revealed to be a random guy named Ralph Bohner, with no role to play in the finale, no relation to the Maximoffs, and only a vague association to Agatha despite being the “Ralph” she’s referenced since episode one. And then Monica overpowers him and leaves, and we never see him again. So, uh…yeah.
As for Monica, however, she arrives in the town square just in time to save Billy and Tommy, whom S.W.O.R.D. Director Tyler Hayward (Josh Stamberg) tries to gun down. Monica throws herself in front of the children, and her body absorbs the bullets. The CGI in this sequence is a bit weak, and honestly Monica deserved an action scene involving flight or photon-blasts, or just…I don’t know, anything but essentially turning into glowing jelly. It doesn’t help that Hayward is also a pathetic villain, who runs from Monica like a coward before Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings) totals his armored vehicle with her funnel-cake truck.
In the library, a completely different kind of battle rages between Vision and White Vision – a quiet, yet strangely intense intellectual debate over the ancient “Ship of Theseus” puzzle, which trended on Twitter today. Vision pulls out the philosophical thought experiment to convincingly persuade White Vision that neither of them is the true Vision, and that both are, meaning that White Vision’s orders to “destroy the Vision” cannot be fulfilled. A tender moment ensues as Vision restores White Vision’s memories, ultimately resulting in him abandoning his mission and flying away. Whether he’ll return is hardly in question: it’s only a matter of where and when.
But of course the climax revolves around Wanda and Agatha, who engage in an arguably more traditional duel. Wanda even revisits tricks from her early days in the MCU, plunging Agatha into a hallucination from which the sorceress easily breaks free. The pair twirl dangerously through the skies above Westview, as Wanda’s attacks seem to grow more frantic and her spells miss Agatha, hitting the sides of The Hex instead. But the clever twist here is that Wanda’s been purposefully missing – so that when Agatha prepares to end Wanda, she finds she can’t cast a single spell: because Wanda’s been painting the walls of The Hex red with glowing runes. And as we all know from Agatha herself, “only the witch who cast the runes can use her magic in a given space”. Wanda might not have received formal training, but she’s a good listener.
And what better moment is there for her to finally embrace her role as the MCU’s Scarlet Witch? Reabsorbing all the energy Agatha stole from her, Wanda bursts into magical flames, which weave around her to form a sleek, upgraded version of her comics-accurate costume – including long gloves, a cape, and the iconic tiara! The MCU’s slow-burn approach once again pays off, as Wanda’s transformation feels fully earned after years of wearing designer jackets, high-heeled boots, and perfectly-styled hair: all of which worked at the time, but wouldn’t have felt appropriate going into Wanda’s primordial goddess era.
Descending to earth in her new look, Wanda’s first order of business is to imprison – not kill – Agatha, whom she reverts back to her identity as Agnes the nosy neighbor and leaves in Westview. Although we don’t know of any plans for Agatha in the future, I’m sure there’ll be reason to revisit her at some point: Agatha even tells Wanda as much, and Wanda assures her that, if that’s ever the case, she’ll know where to find her.
But as for Wanda herself, she can’t stay in Westview (certainly not with the neighbors giving her death-stares everywhere she goes). She also can’t keep WandaVision going, and that means it’s time for the “incredibly sad” ending Teyonah Parris warned us was coming…as the magical boundaries of WandaVision quietly close in on Wanda’s home, giving her a chance to spend a few more moments with her family before they must inevitably disintegrate. Outside The Hex, it’s broad daylight. Inside, it’s twilight time: Wanda and Vision put the kids to bed, with Wanda thanking the twins for choosing her to be their mom – an intriguing line. But while she chooses to let Billy and Tommy go peacefully in their sleep, Wanda shares one final scene with Vision downstairs in the living room: and it’s the most beautiful scene in the series.
As the room revolves gently around them, changing backwards into black-and-white and bursting into vivid golden light, Wanda and Vision say their goodbyes – and Vision finally gets an answer to the question that has long plagued him: “What am I?” As Wanda explains it, he’s the piece of the Mind Stone that still lives inside her, but he’s more than that: he’s her sadness, her hope, her grief and thus her love. He’s her every emotion and memory made real, and because of that he is deeply, intrinsically human. It’s a beautiful conclusion to Vision’s journey: at least for the present. He tells Wanda in his last moments that he’s been so many impossible things, there’s no knowing what form he might take next.
And as Wanda leaves Westview, taking to the skies on a new journey of her own, I feel certain that someday, somehow, this unusual couple will find each other again. At the very least, the post-credits scene promises a reunion between Wanda and her twins somewhere down the line (we’ll talk about that in a separate, later, post).
WandaVision quietly did what everyone wanted Marvel to start doing in Phase 4, which is to craft more unique, artistic, character-driven stories in multiple new genres. That the biggest complaint being weighed against it now is that it didn’t have enough of the plot twists and action we’ve come to expect from the MCU is a testament to just how exciting this show really was, that it didn’t need to rely on those elements to tell a compelling and beautiful story about grief, love, and the fullness of the human experience.
Episode Rating: 9/10