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It Was Agatha All Along. But Who Is Agatha?

The finally revealed villain of ‘WandaVision’ has a new name—Agatha Harkness—but that name has been around the Marvel universe for a long time

Marvel/Ringer illustration
Spoiler warning

“You didn’t think you were the only magical girl in town, did you? The name’s Agatha Harkness. Lovely to finally meet you, dear.”

At the end of WandaVision’s seventh episode, Agnes finally unveiled her true identity to Wanda Maximoff, confirming that the former Avenger was never the only witch hiding in Westview. The cliff-hanger also confirmed that the Scarlet Witch was never the series’ villain at all; as the theme song goes, “Who’s been pulling every evil string? It’s been Agatha all along.”


Through all the technical malfunctions in the neighborhood to Pietro’s resurrection to Sparky’s sudden death, Agatha was in the director’s chair. Now Wanda’s role in the Westview Anomaly has been cast in a new light; she was never solely responsible for what amounts to kidnapping an entire New Jersey town. Equipped with the knowledge that Agatha has been manipulating her and the residents of Westview, all of Wanda’s previous actions and the degree to which she’s responsible for them suddenly become muddled.

But despite Agatha’s reveal being the series’ biggest twist to date, many Marvel fans had Agnes pegged for a fraud since before the series premiered. WandaVision is just the latest in a long line of TV shows—including Mr. Robot, Game of Thrones, and Watchmen—for which fans have Zapruder’ed trailers and dissected dialogue to figure out major plot points long before the shows have the chance to reach them. And with WandaVision, there were also decades of comic book story lines, in which Wanda and Agatha are often linked, to help piece everything together.

In the comics, Agatha is one of the most powerful witches in the Marvel universe—as well as one of the oldest. Agatha is so old that the details of her past feel like the kind of hyperbole only found in the punch line of a “Yo Momma” joke. As her Marvel Fandom page explains: “Agatha Harkness was old enough to remember 500 years before Atlantis sank to the bottom of the sea (purportedly c. 10.500 BC).” She was persecuted during the Salem witch trials in the 17th century. But when the character first appeared in an issue of Fantastic Four in the early 1970s, Agatha was a retired governess hired to take care of Franklin Richards, son of Sue Storm and Reed Richards—a.k.a. the Invisible Woman and Mr. Fantastic.

Marvel

After Franklin grew old enough and gained his own superpowers, Agatha began overseeing the growth of an Avenger: the Scarlet Witch. Wanda always had magical abilities, but before learning under Agatha she had little understanding of witchcraft. Wanda’s training began the day they came together in a 1974 Avengers comic. Along with Agatha’s cat, Ebony, who can transform from a cute little black cat into a massive panther in an instant, Agatha and Wanda are attacked by a villain named Necrodamus—and Wanda learns to push her abilities past her previous limits.

This dynamic of Agatha mentoring Wanda has continued in the comics for years. Even after Agatha is killed (by being burned at the stake) and later killed again (by Wanda that time), she often appears in astral form, hanging around to teach Wanda the ways of witchcraft like a spirit guide or a Star Wars Force ghost. She plays a role in Wanda choosing to use magic to give birth to her twins, and helps wipe Wanda’s memory after the demon Mephisto reabsorbs the magic used to create Billy’s and Tommy’s souls.

Now, unless WandaVision’s Agatha has used some sort of de-aging spell that would hide the fact that she was born thousands of years before Jesus Christ himself, the show has taken the opportunity to offer an entirely new take on the character. Part of what makes that seventh-episode reveal so compelling—even if you saw it coming—is how different this iteration is from the comics, due in large part to Kathryn Hahn’s fun performance in the role. (While we’re here admiring Hahn, apparently she sang “Agatha All Along”, too? She hasn’t even really done much yet as Agatha and she’s already one of the better villains in the MCU for that alone.) WandaVision’s Agatha appears to be much younger and more evil than her comic book counterpart, her cat has been swapped out for a rabbit, and she seems to have about as much interest in mentoring the Scarlet Witch as Wanda would care to chat about Ultron or the world outside of Westview.

Ahead of the season’s penultimate episode on Friday, Westview has a new villain. And yet there’s still much unknown about Agatha Harkness and her past. Apart from the fact that she’s been messing with a grieving Avenger for some time and her apparent affinity for all things purple, all we’ve seen of the real Agatha is her creepy dungeon-style basement. We know nothing of her motives.

When Wanda walked down the stairs of Agatha’s house in search of the missing twins at the end of the seventh episode, the aspect ratio of the screen adjusted to indicate that we were leaving Westview, placing the basement outside of Wanda’s hex. And while Wanda may be the Scarlet Witch, she hasn’t spoken much about magic or witchcraft in previous films—after all, in the MCU her abilities were created through HYDRA’s experimentation with the power of an Infinity Stone. This book, on the other hand, looks like the kind of witchy stuff you could find in a Grimm fairy tale:

Disney+

Between the ominous red lighting and all the bones, cicadas, satanic carvings, and vines crawling across the walls (which Monica can see emanating purple energy with her fancy new powers), plus that glowing book, Agatha is clearly up to something spooky down there. The book could be one from the comics known as the Darkhold, an ancient and evil artifact that has appeared in titles like Doctor Strange throughout the years. It’s also called the “The Book of Sins,” the ultimate source of evil spells in the Marvel universe. With little time left in the season, it makes sense for WandaVision to begin to delve further into the mystical arts to fulfill its task of setting up the upcoming Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.

Whether the demon Mephisto will appear in WandaVision, as many continue to speculate, remains a mystery as well. Agatha’s husband, Ralph, has yet to show himself and could be a prime entry point for the character, but it would be pretty late in the season to introduce another villain, especially one as important as the deal-making devil of the Marvel universe. Agnes had been sticking her nose in Wanda’s business since the WandaVision premiere, leaving bread crumbs along the way to hint that she was the true anomaly in Westview. Agatha may take on the role that Mephisto played in Wanda and Vision’s tragic story, and could have already reabsorbed the magic used to create the twins herself by using that glowing book of hers or, ya know, by eating them. (All right, she probably didn’t eat them, but Agnes did go out of her way to mention biting kids last episode. As long as Billy and Tommy don’t merge with her body and flail around on her outstretched limbs at some point, we’re cool I guess.)

As “Agatha All Along” comes to a close, the song details the current state of Westview with the series finale quickly approaching: “It’s too late to fix anything, now that everything has gone wrong.” The twins are missing. Pietro is an imposter. And Wanda, one of the most powerful beings in the MCU, is under the spell of another witch. If Vision, Darcy, and Monica can help free her from Agatha’s hold, Wanda may be the only solution to the magical problems of Westview, just as Monica once suggested.