WandaVision’s Big Bad: Of Easter Eggs, Foreshadowing, and Red Herrings

SPOILERS for WandaVision, through Episode 6, HBO’s Game of Thrones final season, and Season 1 of FX’s Legion, below. And speculation on the real Big Bad.

WandaVision is one of those shows that knows its audience. The show doesn’t take pains to explain the history of the Marvel Universe–we either know it already or will use our Disney+ subscription to catch up. It serves up slow-burning mystery, and it knows that its viewership includes detectives bringing to bear decades of comic book and movie scholarship. It selects an engaged audience.

So in addition to telling a story that fits solidly in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it gives us a categorization game: Easter Egg, Foreshadowing, or Red Herring?

  • Easter Eggs are gifts for the lore scholars. They aren’t predictive of the plot, but they give the keepers of occult knowledge a game to play, and reassures them that the show writers also have their bona fides.
  • Foreshadowing is a set of details with predictive value for the show’s plot. When the audience re-watches, they’re rewarded by proof of the plan.
  • Red Herrings masquerade as Easter eggs or foreshadowing, but are deliberately misleading. The show writers are messing with us.

There’s a lot to analyze in Episode 6, but two questions loom large in my mind. Is Evan Peters’s Quicksilver a sign of the multiverse, or a red herring? And how is Wanda doing all this?

“She Recast Pietro.”

Quicksilver in Episode 6 seems neither the Fox X-Men Quicksilver nor the dead MCU Quicksilver. His dialogue suggests he’s a constructed sounding board for Wanda to talk to herself, to justify the ethics of what she’s doing in Westview, and to help her introspect about how she’s doing it. But he also tells her things she’s not ready or willing to admit. He’s one of the four Westview residents (including Vision, Agnes, and Wanda herself) who have some awareness that Westview is not real. Is it Wanda creating what she needs to keep up the show, or is someone else urging her to keep up the fiction?

With disappointment, I’m starting to concede that Evan Peters, and his presence in the Fox X-Men movies, is a red herring. I fear Ian McKellen won’t be making any appearances after the credits. There are good arguments for a Multiverse in Phase Four that touches non-Disney studio movies, but ultimately, it’s a story element that overshadows the story being told.

It’s disappointing because casting Aaron Taylor-Johnson could have accomplished the same thing. While the recasting serves as a reference gag for Bewitched, that specific recasting smacks of the show’s creators just messing with us, and to have it go nowhere is a letdown.

There may be a modicum of redemption if the end of WandaVision does hint at mutants in the MCU, possibly through S.W.O.R.D. (which, with the Cataract project looks a lot like Weapon X). But it’s a joke that feels a little mean spirited.

Cataract: the Weapon X files

“I don’t know how I did it. I…I only remember feeling completely alone. Empty. I just…Endless nothingness.”

The mid-season episodes declared that Wanda was to blame for the terrifying state of Westview, but I can’t imagine Marvel Studios choosing to build sympathy for Wanda Maximoff only to turn her into a Daenerys Targaryen villain in the final stretch. There’s something behind Wanda’s newfound Reality and Time warping powers (not to mention her ability to introduce two new Souls into the world), and the ways she is using them. The clue may lie in WadaVision’s most disturbing in-show commercial yet: Yo-Magic.

I’m snacking on Yo-Magic!

Just as Wanda was “empty,” the boy on the island is hungry, and a sinister-looking shark tells him that he used to feel that way–until he started snacking on Yo-Magic! The shark’s doing great, but the boy, unable to access Yo-Magic for himself, starves and dies.

All the WandaVision commercials have referenced some past trauma or manipulation, from Stark Industries’ unexploded bomb, to Baron Strucker and Hydra “unleashing the goddess within,” to the incident in Lagos where Wanda inadvertently caused death and mayhem. Yo-Magic doesn’t reference anything we’ve already seen, so it seems like a revelation. It’s something that happened in the hidden backstory of WandaVision.

The shark gave me vibes of the Shadow King in FX’s Legion, a parasitic villain who lived in David Haller’s mind and used the boy’s powers for his own ends. Something is feeding on Wanda’s power, and it also seems to be connected to her twins, since their birth seemed to be the point of this reality. “For the children.”

David “Legion” Haller and his Shadow King parasite

You can’t have the main villain just show up in the penultimate episode, so i’ve been looking askance at Agnes, knowing about Agatha Harkness from the comics. Until Pietro took over Agnes’s role, and left her “lost.” I also know from the comics, that the twins were born of an attempt by Marvel’s devil, Mephisto, to stitch his own soul together. One of the Halloween decorations looked like Mephisto, Quicksilver told the twins to “unleash hell, demon-spawn!” and…

…I’m starting to feel led down a path here. Introducing the Devil into this storyline of trauma at human hands seems as off-arc as introducing Fox’s X-Men. Unless I’ve missed diabolical details in the first several episodes, the Mephisto theory comes only from comic books published in the 1980s. These are more “occult” details than Evan Peters’s casting. If the X-Men are a red herring (or, more charitably, an Easter egg), Mephisto is too.

I don’t know what the answer is, but I’m going to go out on a limb. Wanda is displaying expanded Infinity Stone powers beyond the Mind Stone Hydra used to “unleash the goddess within.” Hydra and Strucker loom in her past. Two souls have been brought into the world–just as two souls were lost to claim the Soul Stone in Infinity War and Endgame. And there was a sinister, Hydra-associated guy who watched it happen. Someone who had tried and failed to assemble the six stones himself. Captain America’s old foe, the Red Skull.

The Red Skull is now a floaty ghost guarding an Infinity Stone

The Red Skull feels like an odd choice for a WandaVision Big Bad, but he has the established MCU connections to the central mysteries: Wanda’s powers, and Wanda’s children (their souls). He’s tied to Wanda’s origins through Hydra, and his newly-cosmic scope and knowledge of Infinity Stone lore open him up to future story directions. And maybe most fundamentally, he’s a weird, unexplained element in the cinematic universe that begs for explanation and exploration.

Addenda