“Long lost bro get to squeeze his stinkin’ sister to death or what?”
After waiting long enough for the audience’s welcoming cheers to subside, a white-haired man wearing a Hawaiian shirt beneath a black leather jacket asks Wanda Maximoff this question. Just after nearly brawling in their living room, Wanda and Vision are stunned in silence.
“Pietro?” Wanda finally replies.
This scene closed out last week’s loaded fifth episode of WandaVision, burying some of the biggest moments of the season beneath a splashier headline: Pietro Maximoff has risen from the dead.
And yet, that Wanda’s twin brother is alive after being killed in 2015’s Avengers: Age of Ultron was somehow not the most surprising twist. Rather, it was the actor who was wearing that bright Hawaiian shirt and leather jacket, and also who wasn’t—instead of Aaron Taylor-Johnson reprising his role, it was Evan Peters, reprising his role as the mutant also known as Quicksilver from 20th Century Fox’s X-Men films.
Along with Pietro’s return come many questions that extend far beyond the hexagonal boundary of Westview, and well past the plot of WandaVision itself. While all the answers may not come in the final four episodes of the season, Pietro’s one small step into Wanda’s house could be one giant leap for mutantkind. Ahead of the next episode of WandaVision, here’s what you need to know about the big reveal, and what it might mean for the MCU for years to come.
Pietro Maximoff (in the MCU)
Before getting to Peters’s Uncle Pietro, let’s revisit the original Quicksilver of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Kick-Ass, Tenet), Wanda’s twin brother made his first and only appearance in Age of Ultron (unless you count that quick cameo in the Captain America: Winter Soldier post-credits). Though Pietro and Wanda are crucial to the plot, both have limited roles and are attached at the hip for most of the film. (One of Wanda’s most memorable scenes without Pietro, for example, comes when Hawkeye gives her a pep talk and tells her: “The city is flying, we’re fighting an army of robots, and I have a bow and arrow; none of this makes sense.”)
Pietro and Wanda are products of Wolfgang von Strucker’s experiments with the Scepter, the device Loki used to wreak havoc in The Avengers that contained the Mind Stone. The twins turned to Strucker and HYDRA after Stark-created weaponry killed their parents in war-torn Sokovia. And so, like Wanda, Pietro is a character born out of grief. Gifted with enhanced speed, Pietro, along with his sister, teams up with Ultron to take down Tony Stark and the Avengers.
When Pietro uses his powers, he moves in a blur across the screen, and he has a cocky and quick-tempered personality to match his super speed. But in a messy film that focused more on world-building than its own plot—introducing not only Wanda, Pietro, and Vision, but also Ulysses Klaue and Wakanda while setting the stage for the events of Captain America: Civil War and Infinity War—Pietro never has much time to shine before he takes a few bullets to save Hawkeye and a Sokovian child in the final battle against Ultron. Hawkeye later pays tribute to him by naming one of his kids Nathaniel Pietro Barton, but beyond that, Pietro is largely ignored in the films that follow. Now, with Peters filling in the role, where Taylor-Johnson’s Pietro stands remains to be seen. Will the previous iteration simply be forgotten, or even erased?
Pietro Maximoff (in the X-Men Universe)
Until 2019, Fox also held the rights to the character, and the X-Men version of Pietro couldn’t have been more different—he didn’t even share the same name. Appearing before Age of Ultron hit theaters, 2014’s Days of Future Past introduces Peter Maximoff as a rebellious young American who helps Wolverine and Professor Xavier break Magneto out of imprisonment in the 1970s. Living out of his mom’s basement, Peter is a mutant with super speed who has developed into a bit of a kleptomaniac—which, I mean, can you really blame him?
With no tragic event anchoring his origin story, Quicksilver is less serious than his Russian-accented MCU counterpart, and his scenes are typically played to comedic effect. He doesn’t have much of a role in his first X-Men film either, but unlike Pietro in Ultron, Peter has one of the most memorable scenes in what was a far superior movie. Rather than always moving too fast for our eyes to catch on screen, in Days of Future Past, we get to see what super speed looks like from Quicksilver’s perspective as he handles a bunch of guards at the Pentagon:
After Magneto is freed, Peter’s purpose in the film is pretty much finished, though Evans reprises his roles in the subsequent X-Men films, Apocalypse and Dark Phoenix.
Speaking of the metal-bending mutant villain, Magneto is actually Peter’s absent father in the X-Men universe. The father-son connection is hinted at in Days of Future Past, when Peter mentions that his mom once knew a guy who could control metal, and he confirms that Magneto is his father in the following film, which is set a decade later. (That’s really all you need to know about those latter X-Men films; it seems like even Oscar Isaac wished that Apocalypse had never happened.)
With Fox’s properties now under the Disney umbrella, the two Pietros have merged in WandaVision. But with only a few seconds on screen last week, we don’t know what that will look like yet. Will Pietro still be an “enhanced” product of an Infinity Stone, or will he be the MCU’s first mutant? Will he—and Wanda—be retconned to be the children of Magneto, or will they keep their Sokovian lineage? If Pietro really is alive again and here to stay after the events of WandaVision, here’s hoping he’ll at least bring some of his trademark slow-motion action sequences with him.
Into the MCU
With an alternate Pietro stepping into the MCU in WandaVision, Marvel begins its Phase 4 by plunging deeper into the multiverse. Marvel has been dipping its toes into alternate universes since 2015’s Ant-Man and 2016’s Doctor Strange, but whether it’s Scott Lang taking a subatomic trip into the Quantum Realm or Stephen Strange making bargains in the Dark Dimension, most visits to other dimensions have been brief, always hinting at a greater role for the multiverse some time in the future. The most recent MCU film, 2019’s Spider-Man: Far From Home, toyed with an introduction to other versions of Earth, but mentions of the bigger multiverse in that film were little more than a deception from the villain Mysterio.
The arrival of X-Men’s version of Pietro in WandaVision—assuming that some of his mutant backstory carries along with him—could signal the multiverse as a means of entry for some of the many characters whose film rights have returned to Marvel after Disney bought Fox in 2019. Characters like Nightcrawler or Beast could now finally meet Spider-Man or the Hulk. And yet, as recently as 2019, Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige said that “it will be a very long time” before the X-Men enter the MCU. Perhaps he was just misdirecting, or maybe that sentiment changed when head writer Jac Schaeffer told him the idea to bring back Pietro in WandaVision.
In addition to the confirmed return of Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool, will other actors from any number of Fox’s X-Men films reprise their roles in the MCU as well? Can we expect Hugh Jackman to pick up that 4,000-calorie Wolverine diet to reprise his iconic character for the 11th time on screen? Or is Peters’s return as Quicksilver simply a fun, one-off deal that will live and die again in Wanda’s reimagined sitcom reality, until the X-Men truly join the MCU “a very long time” from now?
Even beyond the return of the X-Men or the Fantastic Four, the MCU already has laid out clearer plans for building out the multiverse. The upcoming Disney+ series Loki will bring the Asgardian trickster back from the dead (again) after he managed to escape during one of the time-traveling events of Endgame, and early looks at the show provide a glimpse at Loki dealing with various worlds, universes, and timelines as he literally faces a group of time cops. And despite what Tom Holland tells you, the next Spider-Man film will reportedly feature Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield dusting off their red-and-blue tights to star alongside Holland. Finally, WandaVision will directly lead into Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, an early sign that there’s more in store for Wanda after Westview.
If this is all starting to sound like a dizzying mess, well, that’s because it is—for now at least.
Back in Westview
For the purposes of WandaVision as of now, Pietro is playing a classic sitcom trope of a long-lost relative who comes to visit out of the blue. And it looks like cool Uncle Pietro has popped onto the scene just in time for Billy and Tommy to experience their very first Halloween (a sad truth for two 10-year-old boys; that’s the sort of childhood experience you miss when you rapidly age up).
And yet, Pietro’s insertion into WandaVision may be a deliberate misdirection to send Marvel fans into a frenzy before revealing that some villain is messing with Wanda’s head behind the scenes. (With less than half the season remaining, there’s still much to learn about Dottie and Agnes, for example.) Pietro could be just another manifestation of Wanda’s grief as she continues to lose control. Or perhaps Westview really did just provide a perfect opportunity to recast Pietro for later films or TV shows, playing into the fact that—from Darrin Stephens on Bewitched to Aunt Vivian on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air—sitcom actors can suddenly change at a moment’s notice in a long-running series.
But if last week’s big reveal really is an attempt to bring in the X-Men, WandaVision may also be sacrificing some of its premise for the sake of the bigger picture. Most tweets and recaps after last week’s episode focused on Pietro’s arrival before anything else, despite the fact that “On a Very Special Episode …” Vision finally figures out that Wanda was manipulating and terrorizing the residents of Westview, and the Scarlet Witch steps outside of her sitcom reality for the first time to threaten the director of S.W.O.R.D. face-to-face.
WandaVision had efficiently paced itself through its first five installments, while standing up on its own as a refreshing reboot for the MCU. Now, with the arrival of a mutant, the show may look so far into the future of Marvel that it loses sight of its present. But if WandaVision’s great fourth episode—which seamlessly tied the events of Endgame into Westview—is any indication, the big gamble may prove to be worth the confusing wait.