Written by David Holland
This is lengthy, so I don’t really have a clever introduction. Let’s talk about the finale of WandaVision, the episode that crushed me:
Before we get into what this episode was, we need to address something important:
What This Episode Was Not:
Television shows with an element of suspense or mystery are fertile ground for fan theories. “Lost” comes to mind as a prime example. Some people liked the show while other people were obsessed, theorizing about the numbers and the Dharma initiative and the polar bear and all those other things that I don’t remember because I didn’t finish “Lost”.
From its first two episodes, “WandaVision” invited theories of every kind. The strange dinner party scene, the beekeeper, the voice on the radio, and the SWORD logo sent the internet deep into the Marvel lore to find anything that could possibly be related to the strange world that had so captivated our attention. And I will say that, I unabashedly participated in these theories. Remember who suggested that Vision’s company in Westview was a front for his computer brain to do complex calculations for SWORD and its sketchy plans? This guy. And I don’t regret it one bit. Of course, as the show continued the theories became more complex. The internet was flooded with theories about everything from the cameo teased by Paul Bettany (Ian McKellan? Michael Fassbender? Benedict Cumberbatch? Nope, Paul Bettany) to the identity of Mephisto (Dottie? Agnes? Ralph? Señor Scratchy? Nope, no one). Most of all, people speculated that WandaVision would provide a back door for introducing Reed Richards or mutants into the Marvel Cinematic Universe and they were wrong. Before we continue, I can’t emphasize this enough, I participated in those theories.
Having seen the finale, I’m glad they were wrong. Because now that we have talked about what this episode wasn’t, let’s talk about:
What This Episode Was:
“WandaVision” was primarily a show about three things: grief, family, and identity. So it only makes sense that the series finale focused on those same three themes.
I’ve said many times before that Vision’s story is defined by his quest for identity. He wasn’t born, he was made out of many disparate parts, and he wants to understand what he is. Westview’s Vision identity is even more confusing. He isn’t the same Vision that was killed by Thanos, but neither is the reanimated vibranium shell he fights. In many way, a logical discussion is really the most fitting way for a fight between two Visions to end. The two of them engaging in combat would be like a computer playing tic tac toe against itself, and that movie already exists.
Before he vanishes with the rest of the hex, Vision asks Wanda “What am I?” Even in his final moments, he searches for understanding. Of course, being Vision, he knows the answer in the sense that he has the information. He is, after all, the most advanced computer in the world. But it’s not about the knowledge. He looks to Wanda, the woman he loves, for reassurance. Having received it, he returns it to her. “We have said goodbye before, so it stands to reason-” he says, before she finishes, “we will say hello again.”
Wanda also fully steps into her own identity as the Scarlet Witch in this episode. Throughout their fight, Agatha warns Wanda that she has unleashed something terrible, that she is a harbinger of some new destruction. But Wanda tells her simply “I don’t need you to tell me who I am.” Some folks latched onto Agatha’s warning, believing that Scarlet Witch will become a Phase 4 villain. I suppose this is possible, but I certainly hope not. Rather, I believe that by processing her grief, Wanda has come to terms with herself. This would include coming to terms with the vast expanse of her power.
In the previous episode we watched Wanda relive the most traumatic moments of her life. Obviously she has been through some stuff. In the depths of her despair, she lashed out with her power in an attempt to make the world around her more comforting. In a way, it’s the most understandable, human response. Of course when we grieve we look to a familiar anchor. In this episode, Wanda finally has to process that grief. Coming to terms with what she has done in Westview means admitting that she hasn’t created a perfect life for the town’s residents. They’re terrified. They share her nightmares and fear for their families. On the list of worst mistakes made by an Avenger, the Hex is definitely near the top. Not at the top. But near it.
When she realizes that maintaining the Hex would mean mentally torturing Westview’s residents, Wanda knows she has to release the spell. But of course, this means her sons and Vision, her Vision, will vanish as well. But now she is confident of herself, having stepped into her identity as the Scarlet Witch and having Vision alongside her, even if just for a few more moments, to help her process that grief. I will be the first to admit I wanted to find a way for Vision and White Vision to merge so the two of them could have a happy ending. But alas, it was not to be – at least, not this time. For now, she loses Vision again on her own terms.
Of course this episode wasn’t going to get bogged down in parsing the existence of mutants in the MCU. Nor, in retrospect, was it going to involve Doctor Strange showing up to save the day. Because “WandaVision” has fundamentally been a show about family. Sure, it’s a fake family created by magic in a pocket reality, but no family is perfect.
The first episode of the show, silly as it was, centered around Wanda and Vision solving a problem together. That problem was Vision’s fake boss of his fake company coming over for an unexpected dinner. As the season progressed and the Hex began to come apart at the seams, their problems became vastly more complicated. Yet in this last episode they set out to solve them the same way they solved the issue of Mr. Hart: together. That solution involved ending the Hex, which was ended the family. But, to quote Vision, “a thing isn’t beautiful because it lasts”. The joy and grief that Wanda, Vision, and the boys experienced in Westview was real. They grew, worked, and fought together. In a universe that mostly revolves around teams, WandaVision gave us a unique taste of an MCU family. And if the post-credits scene tells us anything, it’s that the story of Wanda’s family is not over yet.
I have said before that I love when a studio is willing to take a risk. And “WandaVision” was certainly a risk. After the first two episodes people had so many questions! But the mystery pulled us in, launched thousands of theories, and kept me off Twitter on Fridays until I got a chance to watch the episode. WandaVision represents a new frontier for the MCU which, like Star Wars, will now tell stories on both the big and small screens. It plays with a unique medium, the “limited-run” series. From what I understand, there are no plans for a season two. Wanda’s story goes from here to a role in “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness”. But using a season of television instead of a movie to tell a contained story opens up all kinds of opportunities, and the creators of “WandaVision” explored those opportunities with incredible success. If this show is any indication of future offerings on Disney+, we have a long future of MCU television to enjoy.