SPOILERS through WandaVision episode 8.
Episode 8 of WandaVision was the explainer episode and the emotional payoff. “But what is grief, if not love persevering” could be the tagline for the series. It was sad, beautifully executed, and I loved it. I’ve been enjoying this show on two separate levels: the story it set out to tell, and the world- and mythos-building it offers the greater Marvel Cinematic Universe. I’ve mostly blogged about the latter, but it’s worth mentioning the former. WandaVision is a really good story.
But I still want to dissect the mythos. I have questions. Questions that may not be answered in next week’s final episode.
Why do some witches have innate powers?
For me, this was the most exciting revelation. Back in the 17th century, Agatha performed dark, forbidden magic before she was taught. As her coven punished her, she insisted she didn’t break any rules, the magic just bent to her power. In this century, Agatha was confused that Wanda didn’t know the basics of magic, but could handle vast amounts of reality-warping power with no training at all. Even before Wanda’s exposure to the Mind Stone by Hydra, she used a “probability hex” to disable the bomb that fell through their roof. Wanda and Agatha are naturals, intuitive wielders of these powers. Agatha followed it up with years–no, centuries–of magical study, but their gift was inborn. It reminds me of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time, where the sorceresses of the White Tower despised so-called “Wilders,” who began channeling the One Power without any instruction. Wanda Maximoff is a Nynaeve al’Meara.
It’s likely we’ve seen our first MCU mutants, people with intuitive access to powers that mystics spend their entire lives learning how to wield. I’m going to take these “witchbreed” as validation that the Scarlet Witch is an MCU mutant, and that mutation is an innate connection, seeded by the Celestials, to the cosmic powers of the universe. Marvel Studios seems to be offering us a Grand Unified Theory of cosmic power in this universe, one I expect we’ll see explained in the upcoming Eternals movie.
What is the significance of the title Scarlet Witch?
Apparently spontaneous creation, the manipulation of reality itself, is the domain of “Chaos Magic” in MCU witchcraft. And it’s associated with the color scarlet. This does beckon the question of whether Agatha Harkness is a (the?) Purple Witch, and if any other colors are associated with witchcraft. Was Agatha’s mother a Blue Witch? It does sound like the Scarlet Witch is a unique and legendary title, and intuitive use of Chaos Magic is so rare as to be considered mythical.
In the comic books, Wanda’s Chaos Magic came from the dark Elder God Chthon, who was imprisoned in Mount Wundagore, where (comic book) Wanda Maximoff was born. He used Wanda as a conduit for his power, to engineer his eventual return. The Marvel Cinematic Universe may well introduce Chthon to its canon, but there’s a scarlet, reality-manipulating power that is already established in the MCU: the Reality Stone. With Agatha apparently able to siphon power from other witches intuitively (purple is the Power Stone’s color), the idea of an Infinity Coven seems sound, even if I got the membership wrong. It’s lean worldbuilding: use the elements you have instead of bringing in redundant explanations with no foreshadowing.
I’m not saying the Infinity energies are responsible for all the superpowers in the MCU. There are no new explanations forthcoming for the Captain America’s super-soldier serum, Hulk’s gamma mutation, the radioactive spider that bit Peter Parker, Pym particles, and so on. But you can draw lines between Infinity Power and the Celestials, S.H.I.E.L.D. and Hydra weaponry, Captain Marvel, Wanda and Pietro, Ultron and Vision, and at least some schools of Kamar-Taj magic. The fact that WandaVision was being broadcast through residual radiation from the Big Bang, and the show’s visual language of color, implies a link as well.
Side note: intuitive witches who wield powerful magic without any training will surely become targets for Mordo, who, from the second Doctor Strange credits scene, hates sorcerers that “twist things out of their natural shape” and wind up “perverting nature.” Watch your back, Wanda. A regular Reverend William Stryker, that one.
Mordo’s coming for all the sorcerers who twist things out of their natural shape
Was Pietro a Witch? Was Captain Marvel?
By Pietro I mean the original Pietro, introduced in Age of Ultron, not “Fietro.” After all, he survived exposure to the Mind Stone and came away with powers. Captain Marvel survived an explosion of Space Stone energy and came away with powers. Yes, from a certain point of view? Witchcraft is how Agatha’s coven understood their power. Sorcery is how the acolytes of Kamar-Taj understood theirs. Pietro Maximoff probably saw himself as a science experiment. Captain Marvel, an energy accident. They’re all human beings empowered by cosmic forces that we’ve seen embodied by Infinity Stones. Witches, sorcerers, mutations–they’re all different paths to the same energy.
What About Monica?
Yeah, what happened to Monica? And is she a witch/sorcerer/mutation? She was altered by Wanda’s hex, but what does that mean? I have no idea yet. With one more episode left, WandaVision may not have the scope to address the nature of her powers. But Monica will have a lot to talk about when she meets up with Auntie Carol in Captain Marvel 2 next year. I’m hoping in that movie we’ll see a few more witchbreed, like Mystique, Destiny, and Rogue.
Who is “Fietro?”
“Fake Pietro,” Evan Peters’ character, was Agatha’s eyes-and-ears through something she called “crystalline possession.” But Agatha said she wasn’t responsible for him (or maybe she meant she wasn’t him). I don’t believe for a second this was just a glib bit of casting, a wink and a joke shared with the audience for no in-story purpose. If it was a play on Darrin Stevens’ recasting on Bewitched, any actor would have done. If it wasn’t supposed to be a plot point, I have no doubt they could have gotten Aaron Taylor-Johnson, with possibly more tragic effect. Wanda said she couldn’t resurrect the dead. (Agatha seemed interested in that–she knows necromancy, it seems.) The prevailing theory that she pulled him from the Fox X-Men Universe still holds water. (Wait… crystalline possession? Wasn’t there a Nexus of Realities in Marvel Comics… the M’Kraan Crystal?) Whatever the case, I don’t expect this to be explained during the series finale of WandaVision. Free of Agatha’s possession and Wanda’s hex, Pietro might start to wonder about the world he finds himself in. But any solid association with the Multiverse will probably only comes as a tease in a post-credits scene. I’ll hold out a modicum of hope that he goes to check if his (biological) dad exists in this universe.
Or maybe it’s a meta-joke at the expense of fans who analyze this stuff way too much. Ahem. We’ll find out next week.
What Happened To Vision?
Vision’s colorless, revived state happened in the comics too, in a West Coast Avengers arc called “Vision Quest.” It does look like this turn of events will be similar to the comics: Vision has lost his identity and humanity. In the hands of S.W.O.R.D. he may easily become a sentient weapon under their control. For a time.
This is another part of the story that I don’t think will be resolved in the WandaVision finale. The Vision to whom Wanda will (no doubt) say goodbye will be the one she constructed. And hopefully she will do so in the “acceptance” phase of her grief. A confrontation with a weaponized Vision will wait for a future movie, to tear open that wound again.
It’s fun speculating what form that next confrontation will take. I can see Director Hayward, having gone through the events of WandaVision, saying something like, “we’ve been looking to the stars for the next threat, when that threat has been hiding in our towns and neighborhoods all along.” The witchbreed are the threats. The mutants. I once thought S.W.O.R.D. looked like the Weapon X program, but if Vision is their prototype sentient weapon, perhaps this is the beginning of the Sentinel program. I can see Wanda–perhaps accompanied by fellow witchbreed Agatha–spending MCU’s Phase 4 learning about other humans with innate “special” abilities and forming a new coven. A Sisterhood of Mutants, if you will. All the while, in secret, S.W.O.R.D. will be creating killer robots, patterned after White Vision, to meet the threat they are seen to represent. When the mutant coven meets the Sentinel fleet, the stakes will be heart-rending.
But What About the Children?
In the comics, Billy and Tommy were real, then not real, then real again… but it doesn’t appear the MCU is following that storyline. We don’t know the metaphysics of souls in the MCU. Can even Chaos Magic create people, ex nihilo? Do the souls held by the Soul Stone have a role here? Or is this another Multiverse conjuration, like (I believe) Evan Peters’ Quicksilver, and the twins were yanked from a universe where they were possible? Billy and Tommy might become Wanda’s deepest tragedy yet. In the comics, Agatha (who was more a mentor than an adversary, and still may become one) wiped Wanda’s memory of them to spare her the additional grief. It worked, for a time.
OR, if Billy and Tommy are natives of another universe, losing them when Wanda releases the hex (possibly because Hayward’s squad strikes) may lead her to make a magic doorway to find the universe where she can be with her family. Acceptance of grief be damned, if she can’t create a reality where she can be happy, maybe she can find one. And that will lead Doctor Strange and Mordo, separately, to go chasing after her as she weakens the barriers between worlds. Cue Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
A part of me hopes that wont’ be the case. A part of me hopes that WandaVision will give Wanda a successful circuit through the cycle of grief. I’d like her to find a support network. But a happy status quo rarely propels the story forward, and we know that Wanda still has an active role in the MCU. One more week and we’ll find out.