If you were left confused by the trailer footage of WandaVision from Disney+, you’re not alone. The look at the streaming service’s upcoming foray into superhero television brought up a lot of questions: what universe is it set in, how is Vision (Paul Bettany) “alive”, and does Wanda Maximoff (Elisabeth Olsen) wearing flannel and sweatpants indicate she’s lost her marbles? The good news is that the beauty of Wanda’s powers is in the fact they concern reality, magic, and mental health — confusion and uncertainty were always going to be a factor here. This is meant to be strange.
In Marvel comics, some of the biggest life-altering events took place either directly or indirectly because of Scarlet Witch and her reality-warping powers. She was the catalyst of ‘House of M’ — a storyline in which a few whispered words from her mouth wiped out millions of mutants in an instant — and gained infamy after causing the death of Vision, crashing a plane into the Avengers mansion, and somewhat being responsible for the Avengers disassembly. Wanda’s characterization is defined by a battle against her mind, and often she’s used by others who take advantage of her fragility. Being able to manipulate reality is a dangerous thing in itself, but what happens when someone with those powers predictably becomes unstable under the weight of them?
Although she’s arguably one of the most powerful comic book characters, Wanda was somewhat nerfed by the MCU. Perhaps this was strategic, but some fans were left frustrated by the watering down of her powers —especially since they could be the path to catastrophic yet entertaining arcs. Whatever the reason, we’ve seen little of Wanda’s magic being used to change reality, and more of it being used to harness the environment around her in combat. Because of this, it’s no surprise some fans watched the WandaVision trailers and were flabbergasted. More good news: if you don’t know what you’re in for with the scale of Wanda’s powers, you’re likely going to have a hell of a time getting your mind blown by the potential.
The series appears to take us through multiple constructed realities inspired by American sit-coms — a charming logline if executed well. All appears well, but something under the surface isn’t quite right. In all likelihood, Wanda has either figured out how to manipulate her reality or has stumbled into something she doesn’t yet understand. After the death of Vision during Infinity War, we can assume she will be in a vulnerable state, meaning she may become victim to her capabilities or to someone else’s manipulation.
The way Wanda’s powers work isn’t an exact science, but, typically, those who are in her constructions have a hard time realizing what they’re experiencing isn’t real (like what we saw in the Age of Ultron trances Wanda put the Avengers in), and Wanda herself has been known in the comics to lose herself in them and lose touch with what’s “real.” In one scene in the trailer, Vision seems to have a moment of cognizance when Kathyrn Hahn’s Nosy Neighbor (who may be based on a witch from the comics) says he’s supposed to be dead.
WandaVison has a concept so unique in comparison to other MCU entries that to say we’re in for something different is an understatement. With Wanda experimenting with her untapped powers, the possibilities are practically limitless in the same way Doctor Strange’s magic is. With a cast of characters including grown-up Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris) from Captain Marvel, an over-friendly neighbor, lovable Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings), and the introduction of S.W.O.R.D., it’s fair to say we may have underestimated Wanda’s role in this universe and how big an impact this series will have going forward should Kevin Feige bring the full multiverse exploration arc to fruition with the help of Multiverse of Madness and Spider-Man 3 — which Feige has confirmed are part of one bigger story that WandaVision will kick off.
Think of the powers of the reality stone, then imagine their use in the hands of an emotional being going through a major loss that includes her boyfriend and mentors — the worldbuilding taking place in WandaVision could be the beginnings of a conflict that would position Wanda as an antagonist or straight up villain who may have to be fought by her teammates. Civil War created tension in team dynamics, but this would be a different level and take a far more cerebral approach. This could be the most fun, scary, and weird thing to take place in the MCU yet. And that’s saying a lot considering we saw a huge purple man come down from the sky to wipe out half of all life.
WandaVision will be a series loaded with Easter eggs. And while some of the MCU’s quirks have grown stale, the idea of searching for clues in multiple realities as Wanda contends with her mental walls cracking would be an intriguing change of pace. Comic book writers have been criticized for using Wanda’s mental breaks for storylines over and over, so one has to hope that this subject will be treated with tact in the series, and that if we are to see Wanda become out of control, the character will be handled in a way fans can get behind. Despite her mistakes in the comics, Wanda is a good person who feels immense regret over her actions. There’s nuance to play with here, and this fan hopes it’s deployed.
We also catch a glimpse of twins in the trailer; in the comics, their early existence was a fabrication of Wanda’s making. Being unable to let go of — and essentially erase — her children would verge on some touchy ground, but with sensitivity, this could be the emotional crux of the series.
The MCU’s intentions with Wanda’s developing gifts are unknown, but there’s a long history to mine from, so it’s not a stretch to say that the movies will eventually borrow some of it. Whether this means Wanda becomes an antihero, or even potentially a villain should we end up in that dark a timeline, Wanda will never be the same after realizing what she can do.
We know by now that the MCU forges its own path, but we’re probably about to experience a reckoning and shift in power dynamics unlike anything we’ve seen in this cinematic universe, and that reckoning has a half-baked accent and likes to wear red.