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WandaVision finale: the Scarlet Witch arrives, will the MCU survive? | Television & radio

Spoiler alert: This blog is for people watching WandaVision on Disney+. Do not read on unless you have watched episodes one to nine.

‘Save Westview or save your family’

In the end it had to go this way. The marriage to Vision, the babies that arrived in episode three – Wanda could only keep these things if she was willing to maintain the lie at the cost of innocent lives. Or at least their sanity and free will.

WandaVision
Save the twins, or save the town. Photograph: Marvel Studios

It should come as little surprise that a show as clearly in control of its message as WandaVision makes sure to see those ideas through to the last minute, with Wanda still refusing to be pushed into any more boxes. As she fights Agatha for the Scarlet Witch power, Wanda continues to refute the idea that someone else gets to define who she is and what she should be: “I don’t need you to tell me who I am.”

Still, by the post-credits ending Wanda’s got the red headgear, the outfit (a neat reworking of the cheesecake stylings of the comics original – thankfully rejecting the emphasis on cleavage and crotch) and is leafing through magical tome The Darkhold. Agatha’s magic book is under new management, but one suspects Wanda’s not done with the conflict of “who she is” versus “what she is”. Good. More Wanda for us.

Timebomb town

WandaVision
Wanda embraces her inner witch. Photograph: Marvel Studios

WestView is free, and Wanda finally has to face up to the pain she has caused. “When you let us sleep we have your nightmares,” Dottie insists, chilling Wanda to the bone and making an uncomfortable mirror for the “controller-bully of WestView” Dottie she had been in episode two.

We had come to love this cast – sitcoms are great for making you like characters quickly, because we warm to anyone who makes us laugh – so the emotion hits. But even as townsfolk ask to “let us die” there’s a sense that everything is on fast-forward. That the finale is having to cram all its overdue business into one episode. Imagine doing this reveal two episodes ago, at the end of the Halloween story, and letting Wanda’s upset in her Modern Family episode be this much deeper and more angst-filled.

Tonight on WandaVision

As the townsfolk scene suggests, with so much going on it’s hard to feel like we got the fullest exploration of everything the series promised in the 40 minutes of runtime we got. Each moment is beautifully handled, but with a ruthless efficiency that means whole concepts have to be chewed, digested and swallowed before being fully tasted.

Paul Bettany
Paul Bettany gets to act opposite one of his favourite actors for the first time, Paul Bettany. Photograph: Marvel Studios

White Vision shows up, a scrap ensues, then Vision blows his mind with logic – the Ship of Theseus riddle, or as British sitcom fans know it “Trigger’s Broom” – and White Vision is off the board. Thank goodness he met Wanda first or she would never have had a moment with the pale reflection of her husband.

Similarly, we’ve known the real Agatha for all of one episode, so there’s barely time to explore her outlook, and her crazy relationship with Wanda, before the setup/payoff of the runes (nice move, Wanda) and the end of that story. Agatha is now cursed to live Wanda’s life – trapped in the suburbs, uncertain why sometimes she feels like her life isn’t real – until … well, until we come back for her.

It’s not that the show doesn’t handle these things well – every beat is clearly workshopped to be the best it can be, and everything important is dealt with – it’s that there’s barely a moment to breathe or explore between the key points. This is efficient moviemaking … but WandaVision is a TV show.

WandaVision
Agatha is trapped as Agnes, but for how long? Photograph: Provided by Toby Moses

Ultimately, the revelations of episode eight might have been better as a midpoint in a story that went on to explore all the interesting dynamics at play. Wanda knowing Agatha is trying to exert influence on her and having that battle within the confines of sitcom – a neighbourhood rivalry that slowly expands. Wanda with two Visions in play, hiding one in an abandoned house and having “an affair” of sorts. Vision aware of the situation, living with Wanda daily, aware that this idyll and his life could all end at her hand – rather than having to show up and rush through “Wanda, I know what’s happening, but the final battle’s already started”.

The way Darcy and Jimmy get a bit lost speaks to this, too. Jimmy adds escapology to his oeuvre, charmingly quoting Vision’s magical “flourish!”, but his main job in this finale is to make a phone call. And while Darcy’s one truck moment certainly had, ahem, impact, she is just as quickly tossed aside – removed from events off-screen, in fact. She never met Wanda at all.

Nowhere does this become clearer than with Monica Rambeau, whose few lines with Wanda have always been charged with weight – saying she would have done the same to bring back her mother this week is as on-target as ever – but the two women never get time to understand each another or become friends, and Monica’s transition to superhero can’t help but feel under-explored. By her next appearance she will already be in the outfit, being awesome.

Photon
Monica Rambeau gets her hero moment, as she protects the twins from Hayward’s bullets. Photograph: Marvel Studios

And this is without looking at the early Marvel claim that WandaVision would be “about six hours of content”. The total series ended up being five hours and 41 minutes long … but over an hour of that was the same seven minutes of credits repeated each week. I’m all for crediting those involved (despite how rarely it feels like the catering and drivers really make a difference to the creativity of the production) but … doesn’t another 90 minutes feel like the right amount of time to explore all the angles this finale had to rush through?

Ralph Bohner

Ah, Evan Peters. Back in the show notes for episode five I hedged that “If this isn’t the start of a Marvel multiverse, it’s certainly a joke about doing one” and I have to confess: I was hoping for the joke option.

For all the guesswork across the internet, it never made sense to me that Agatha would pull a whole super-human from another dimension to convincingly be Quicksilver. That’s a huge amount of effort compared to just making a regular guy look fast and remember Pietro’s past. After all, he doesn’t even look like the brother Wanda lost!

Evan Peters
Evan Peters’ role wasn’t so x-citing after all. Photograph: Marvel Studios/Courtesy of Marvel Studios

For me, the Quicksilver casting is a hoot. Playing at exactly the right meta level for this particular branch of the MCU. Remember Rhodey in Iron Man 1 looking at the suit and saying “Next time, baby?” Or imagine if Avengers had been put out in episodes – Tony’s throwaway gag about a “life model decoy” would have been speculated as a setup. Speculation is fun, so long as you let the show be the show.

That’s why I’m only delighted by the reveal of Ralph Bohner (even if Monica escapes him far too easily after all the talk of Quicksilver being so overpowered he could solve the plot of Days of Future Past in seconds). Canonising the Fox series as an aside would be a daft, backwards-looking way for Marvel to say “the multiverse is here”.

So while I slightly begrudge the clumsy way a federal witness and an aerospace engineer are mentioned only to turn out to be means to ends – a way to get Jimmy to WestView, and to get a space vehicle delivered – this one is fine. Because it’s WandaVision. It’s a recasting a gag and it works.

And honestly, isn’t it better that Marvel start its own MCU X-Men stories in a year or two without getting stuck with the Fox franchise as its starting point?

‘Flourish!’

Showrunner Jac Schaeffer and team wrote the final episode with about as much wit and heartbreak as could be crammed in. Appropriately echoing the Doctor Who story Forest of the Dead, this story of a faked and edited reality ends with putting the kids to bed. As the cruel sweep of the hex closes in, Vision and Wanda finally discuss what, exactly, he is – a discussion that takes them from blood and circuitry right up to the next possible afterlife.

It’s stunning writing on par with the season’s best work last week, and somehow sits just fine next to homages to The Wizard of Oz (Agatha’s shoes under the car Wanda throws at her) and Terminator 2 (White Vision emerging from the flames).

Less of a prestige finish is the end of Hayward, who’s arrested and hauled off. And presumably White Vision is off somewhere pondering his own existence – exactly the kind of misplacement the Sokovia Accords were created for.

Where do we go from here?

With the show doing its own thing, the MCU’s next stages are wisely relegated to mid- and post-credit scenes:

WandaVision
The Scarlet Witch dives in to the Darkhold. Photograph: Marvel Studios
  • Wanda’s kids are crying out from across the dimensions and … well, she’s not going to stay on vacation for long when that’s going on. The events of Spider-Man No Way Home and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness beckon. And will probably be her fault.

  • Monica’s taking her superpowers into space with the Skrulls, joining Nick Fury, who was holidaying there at the end of Spider-Man Far From Home.

  • White Vision is probably not coming back any time soon, and may be gently dealt with in an off-screen mention, but if Marvel wanted to give DarcyVision a go – hilarious science genius attempts to show military synthezoid how to be human – I’d be into that.

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