Welcome to the last of our episode-by-episode examinations of WandaVision. There are potentially fatal, life-threatening spoilers ahead, and the public health hazard that is Opposite of Cool assumes you’ve seen up through the ninth episode, i.e., finished the series.
Let’s be honest here: super-hero movies and television shows are not exactly renowned for their unexpected developments. I mean, sure, there are all those post-credit scenes littering the ends of Marvel movies — Holy shit, he was trying to call Captain Marvel! — but even those are routine; a surprise party thrown in the same place at the same time for the same people every year. You see enough of it, it stops being a surprise, right?
Indeed, in almost all cases, super-hero movies are a cinematic trip to McDonald’s: instantly gratifying and predictable as a sunrise, which is part of the appeal.Also like McDonald’s, there’s a real risk of indigestion, and the looming threat of scurvy-induced dementia over time if you don’t include some real food in your diet. I’m not the first to make the connection. When it was pointed out that the trailer for Cast Away (2000) gave away the ending, director Robert Zemeckis said:
“We know from studying the marketing of movies, people really want to know exactly every thing that they are going to see before they go see the movie. It’s just one of those things. To me, being a movie lover and film student and a film scholar and a director, I don’t. What I relate it to is McDonald’s. The reason McDonald’s is a tremendous success is that you don’t have any surprises. You know exactly what it is going to taste like. Everybody knows the menu.”The quote was easy enough to find, but I’ll be damned if I could figure out when Zemeckis said it and who he said it to.
Everybody knows the menu.
Which isn’t to say that this final episode of WandaVision is entirely devoid of genuine surprise or depth, only that it comes aggressively packaged in smoke and mirrors, served up as part of a 20-piece red herring combo meal.
Our episode resumes right where the last one left off, Wanda and Agatha Harkness preparing for a magical duel on the mean streets of Westview. It turns out, gentle reader, that I was wrong, and Agatha Harkness really is the villain of the piece. Maybe. Agatha says her plan is to absorb Wanda’s powers for her own nefarious purposes, in much the same way we saw her absorb those shockingly ineffective death rays back in Salem. What Agatha’s nefarious purposes are or might look like, I couldn’t say, and I’m not entirely 100% convinced that they’re really all that nefarious, but…well, we’ll get to that.
In the meantime, Wanda adapts quickly, and telekinetically uses her scarlet Buick to smash Agatha out of the air and into a house. Wanda’s looking for proof of death — there’s an amusing Wizard of Oz bit with Agatha’s boots (but no Agatha) beneath the car — when the creepy white Vision shows up. Wanda at first mistakes him for her Vision, until he tries to kill her. She’s saved by the sudden appearance of the ‘real’ Vision. A fight ensues between the two synthezoids while Wanda trails Agatha to the center of town.
Meanwhile, we see Monica being held captive by ‘Fietro’ in his self-described man-cave. She discovers that he’s actually Ralph Bohner, a
red herring citizen that’s been ensorcelled by Agatha instead of Wanda. Monica uses her new-found powers to detect the energy coming off Ralph’s necklace, freeing him from Agatha’s control and escaping to join the fray in the town center.
As for Jimmy Woo, he’s been hand-cuffed and detained by agents of S.W.O.R.D. Jimmy talks some shit to a smug Director Hayward while managing to steal a mobile phone right in front of two guards who must’ve been specifically chosen for their ineptitude. Once he’s alone, he uses his ‘magic’ skills — remember those? — to escape his handcuffs and call the FBI.
Back in Westview, Agatha tells Wanda that there’s an entire chapter devoted to her in the Darkhold: “The Scarlet Witch is not born, she is forged. She has no coven, no need for incantation. Your power exceeds that of the Sorcerer Supreme. It’s your destiny to destroy the world.”
“I’m not what you say I am,” says Wanda, though maybe she is what Agatha says she is.
“Oh, really?” Agatha begins freeing townspeople from Wanda’s mind control. They’re understandably frightened, angry, and freaked out. They feel Wanda’s pain, experience her nightmares: “Your grief is poisoning us.”
A guilty Wanda determines to let the townspeople go, opening a gap in the wall surrounding Westview to let them out…and which serves to let Hayward’s S.W.OR.D. forces in. The opening also threatens to disincorporate the Vision and the twins, Tommy and Billy, all of whom have arrived on the scene.
Wanda tells her sons to handle Hayward’s military forces while she takes to the skies for her final confrontation with Agatha, and the two Visions get busy destroying the local library. After the boys remove the weapons from the military, Hayward tries to shoot them with a pistol, but is thwarted by Monica who puts herself between Hayward and his targets. Her new powers render most of the bullets harmless, and Billy stops the lone stray.
Hayward hops in a military vehicle, looking like he intends to run some people over — though why he thinks that would work when a clip full of bullets at close range didn’t, I couldn’t say; I guess that’s why he’s in charge of a shady federal organization and I’m not — but before he can do whatever he’s planning, Darcy rams his vehicle with the Funnel of Love truck she took from the circus in episode 7. “Have fun in prison!” she says to Hayward.
The Visions stop destroying the library long enough to talk philosophy, The Ship of the Theseus is a real thing. and Wanda’s Vision uploads his memory and experiences into the white Vision, who goes from merely creepy to uncanny valley creepy as a result. “I am Vision,” says the white Vision…and then flies dramatically off through the skylight, not to be seen or mentioned again in this series.
Wanda afflicts Agatha with an illusion of the sort not seen since Wanda toyed with Tony Stark’s mind in Avengers: Age of Ultron. She casts Agatha back to Salem and her witch’s trial in 1693, but Agatha turns the tables, her long-dead coven rising up as zombies to accuse Wanda of being the Scarlet Witch. “You can’t win, Wanda,” Agatha tells her. “Power isn’t your problem. It’s knowledge. Give me your power and I will correct the flaws in your original spell. And you and your family and the people of Westview can all live together in peace.”
Wanda rejects this offer, and the fight resumes back in the real world, Wanda throwing bolts of magical energy at Agatha, many of which miss, flattening against the hexagonal boundaries of Westview, turning the sky an angry, thunderous red. Agatha seems to absorb Wanda’s power, along with the youth and vitality from Wanda’s body. Wanda floats helpless in the sky, aged and shriveled.
“About our deal,” Agatha says, gloating, “once cast, a spell can never be changed. This world you made will always be broken….just like you.” And with that, Agatha moves to deliver the fatal finishing touch…
…and nothing happens.
Wanda reveals that her earlier ‘misses’ weren’t actually misses at all, but were protective spells applied to the magical boundaries of Westview. “Runes,” says Agatha, as the illusion of Wanda’s defeat dissipates.
Wanda repeats Agatha’s words back to her: “In a given space, only the witch who cast them can use her magic. Thanks for the lesson. But I don’t need you to tell me who I am.” And with that, she absorbs Agatha’s power, taking on the garb and aspects of the Scarlet Witch, the figure Wanda saw in the Mind Stone.
“Oh, God. You don’t know what you’ve done,” says Agnes, now powerless. Wanda returns them both to the town square. “So what now? Lock me up somewhere?”
“No. Not somewhere,” says the Scarlet Witch. “Here.”
“Mm-hmm. I’ll give you the role you chose. The nosy neighbor.”
“I’m sorry,” says Wanda, looking anything but.
“No, you’re not. You’re cruel.” (Catch Elizabeth Olsen’s wicked half-smirk when Agatha says this. She is cruel.) “Wait..you have…you have no idea what you’ve unleashed. You’re gonna need me.”
“If I do, I know where to find you,” says Wanda, looking for all the world like a cat playing with a particularly amusing mouse. Her touch turns Agatha the witch into Agnes the nosy neighbor.
“Hiya, hon!” says Agnes, through a brittle smile of what might be despair. “Say, that’s some kind of get-up you’re wearing! Did I leave the oven on or is that just you, hot stuff?”
“You live here now. No one will ever bother you.”
“Okie dokie, artechokie!”
Wanda smiles, pleased with her handiwork. “I’ll be seeing you, Agnes.”
Finished with Agnes, Wanda rejoins her husband and her sons. The Vision surveys the damage around them. “So it appears that our dream home has been reduced to a fixer-upper. I know you’ll set everything right. Just not for us.”
“No. Not for us,” she says sadly.
The family walks home as darkness falls, and the boundaries of Wanda’s zone begin to shrink, things turning back to normal as the effect passes by. Wanda and the Vision tuck their children into their beds one last time, telling them how proud they are of them both. “A family is forever,” Wanda tells them. “We could never truly leave each other, even if we tried. You know that, right?” They bid the boys good night (and good-bye) as the shrinking boundary approaches.
“Wanda,” the Vision says, “I know we can’t stay like this, but before I go, I feel I must know: what am I?”
“You, Vision, are the piece of the Mind Stone that lives in me. You are a body of wires and blood and bone that I created. You are my sadness and my hope. But mostly, you’re my love.”
“I have been a voice with no body. A body, but not human. A memory made real. Who knows what I might be next? We have said good-bye before, so it stands to reason…”
“…we’ll say hello again,” finishes Wanda.
The shrinking edge of the boundary hits, unmaking the Vision, unmaking the house Wanda had created, unmaking her children, and she’s alone again, standing in the late afternoon sunlight and never-were ruins of her Westview home. She walks back through the center of town, the townspeople frightened and wary of her, to say good-bye to Monica.
“They’ll never know what you sacrificed for them,” says Monica.
“It wouldn’t change how they see me,” says Wanda. “And you…you don’t hate me?”
“Given the chance and given your power,” Monica admits “I’d bring my mom back. I know I would.”
Wanda and Monica bid each other farewell, and Wanda flies off out of Westview into an uncertain future.
We’re going to reserve an over-arching subject or two for a WandaVision post-mortem — where we’ll talk CGI puppet fights as well as the traditional tried and true formula of MCU projects, and how WandaVision does and doesn’t diverge from it — but we can still get after the specifics of this episode.
- Agatha Harkness remains something of an enigma. In episode 8, she often sounded more like a tough-love therapist than a villain, and even here, what she might really be after is kind of murky. Does Agatha want to take Wanda’s power to work her own depredations with it? Or is taking the power from Wanda the end goal in and of itself? If it’s the latter, it’s worth questioning whether Agatha is a villain at all. I mean, so far as we know, there’s not a chapter in the Darkhold devoted to Agatha; nor is Agatha the one mind-controlling entire towns and using reality-warping powers with little or no regard for the consequences.
- That said, if derailing Wanda’s potential for destruction was Agatha’s aim, then this all went about as badly as it could’ve possibly gone, particularly in light of that Darkhold post-credits scene.
- The scary white Vision is a lot closer to his comic book counterpart than the ‘normal’ Vision is. In the Vision’s early appearances, people comment frequently on how frightening, how cold and inhuman, he is.
- It’s weird, all these people laboring under the delusion that Tyler Hayward is going to prison, when in fact he’s more likely to get a raise and a promotion. While Hayward’s most definitely a world-class gaping asshole, I’m mystified as to what Jimmy, Monica, and Darcy think he’s done that’s actively illegal. Hayward leads a federal organization that specializes in ‘sentient weapons,’ i.e., super-powered people. The situation in Westview, where a very powerful, unstable person is using her powers to keep an entire town of thousands hostage, most definitely falls within that purview. I think most of us, given what Hayward knows or thinks he knows, would on the face of it judge his decision to exercise lethal force as a reasonable response to Wanda’s aggression. If Wanda’s causing the problem, it stands to reason that taking out Wanda will fix the problem. We can perhaps argue about method, but the initial motive seems clear enough.
- More, Hayward’s perfectly within his rights to dismiss Jimmy, Monica, and Darcy from the operation. Monica’s a subordinate. Jimmy’s affiliated with another agency that has little or no connection to anything going on here. Darcy’s a civilian who’s not affiliated with any agency at all. And when Hayward does attempt to dismiss them, their response includes assault, trespassing, computer crime, and, in Darcy’s case, attempted murder by way of a Funnel of Love truck. Good luck explaining to the court why you felt sabotage and violence were appropriate ways to express your disagreement with a federal operation attempting to negotiate a super-powered hostage situation. If anyone’s going to prison, it’s Jimmy, Monica, and Darcy.
- Oh, and if all that weren’t enough, Hayward managed to get a non-functioning sentient weapon functioning again. Never mind prison; they’re giving this motherfucker a medal.
- After being told in episode 2 that Dottie ‘is the key to everything in this town,’ this episode is the only other time we ever hear her speak, outside of her asking her husband if an outfit made her look fat back in episode 3.
- Holy shit…it is the Darkhold!
- Is it just me, or did anyone else associate these two images with one another? The second, of course, is from The Incredibles (2004, d. Brad Bird), about another family of super-powered individuals.
- “I do not have one single ounce of original material.” That solves that mystery, I guess. Wanda recreated the Vision from scratch. That means, I think, that the white Vision is the original Vision’s body.
- I want to point out (again) how good Elizabeth Olsen and Kathryn Hahn are here. Their concluding scene together in the town square, look at how they each portray Wanda / the Scarlet Witch and Agatha / Agnes as two distinct, separate characters. Their posture, their voices, the expressions on their faces…it’s really impressive.
- “You live here now. No one will ever bother you.” Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is greater than I can bear! Today you have driven me away from the soil, and I shall be hidden from your face; I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and anyone who meets me may kill me.” Then the Lord said to him, “Not so! Whoever kills Cain will suffer a sevenfold vengeance.” And the Lord put a mark on Cain, so that no one who came upon him would kill him. Then Cain went away from the presence of the Lord, and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden. – Genesis 4:13 -16, NSRV.
- You can see Oz the Great and Powerful (2013, d. Sam Raimi) on the marquee of the Coronet Theater behind Wanda as she walks away from Agnes. In that movie, Mila Kunis played Theodora, the Good Witch of the North who is corrupted into the Wicked Witch of the West. Gaze upon Ms. Kunis below and draw your own conclusions, gentle reader.
- The achingly sad good-bye between Wanda and the Vision marks the second time in two episodes that this series has squeezed an emotional tear or two from your humble correspondent. Good stuff.
- Nice closing as well between Wanda and Monica, two planets orbiting one another in mutual grief. It’s far and away the best writing given to Monica in this series: “Given the chance, given your power…I’d bring my mom back. I know I would.”
Post-credits scene one involves Monica meeting with a policewoman who turns out to be a skrull! “He’d like to meet with you,” the skrull tells Monica. I assume he refers to Talos, the skrull agent last seen in Captain Marvel (2019).
Post-credits scene two, we find Wanda Maximoff outside a remote cabin somewhere in the mountains (I like to think this cabin is sitting at the foot of Mt. Wundagore)…and inside, we see the Scarlet Witch levitating, taking in the contents of the Darkhold.
Oh, boy. That ain’t good.
Next time around, some final thoughts on WandaVision.
|↑1||Also like McDonald’s, there’s a real risk of indigestion, and the looming threat of scurvy-induced dementia over time if you don’t include some real food in your diet.|
|↑2||The quote was easy enough to find, but I’ll be damned if I could figure out when Zemeckis said it and who he said it to.|
|↑3||The Ship of the Theseus is a real thing.|