In the middle of 2016’s Captain America: Civil War, Wanda Maximoff is forced to stay at home at the Avengers Tower, with Vision serving as her guardian. Following an incident in Lagos, Nigeria, in which she accidentally killed dozens of civilians in an attempt to save Captain America from an explosion, Wanda is perceived as a threat around the world—and so Tony Stark and the Avengers keep her tucked away, to protect her from both herself and others. Even Wanda’s own superhero teammates feared what she was capable of.
Before WandaVision, Wanda often found herself limited to this type of role in the MCU, underutilized and stuck on the sideline as everyone else handled much of the hard work. (Even Okoye notices this after knowing Wanda for only a matter of hours.) Elizabeth Olsen’s character had ambiguous powers granted by an Infinity Stone, an accent that suddenly faded without her friends even noticing, and, unlike the other Avengers, no alias or “funny nickname.” In just nine episodes, WandaVision not only course-corrected all of the above, but it also acknowledged these storytelling faults and shortcomings and used them as plot points; the show filled in the gaps and shored up Marvel’s past mistakes, casting Wanda into the spotlight for the first time. After drifting through the MCU for years, as if perpetually disguised beneath the anonymity of a logoless hat, Wanda Maximoff has finally emerged as the all-powerful Scarlet Witch.
In Wanda’s previous film appearances, she always had been largely defined by loss, and WandaVision’s arc follows her as she navigates the various stages of grief. She denies the death of her husband, Vision, inventing a world where he’s still alive and they’re starting a family together; she lashes out in anger when people like Monica Rambeau try to help her face her grief head-on; she attempts to bargain for control of her reality as it crumbles around her, reimagining a life with her brother back in the picture; she sinks into depression, isolating herself from her family; and finally, she reaches a place of acceptance. “It is acceptance in two ways,” WandaVision showrunner Jac Schaeffer recently told Deadline after the season finale. “It’s ultimately Wanda’s acceptance of the mantle of the Scarlet Witch, and then secondly and perhaps more importantly it is acceptance of her grief and of the fact that she has to let Vision and the boys go.”
With Agatha’s (unsolicited) guidance, Wanda confronts her traumatic past and relives some of the most important moments of her life. The experience helps her accept the deaths of her parents, Pietro, and Vision, but it also lets her see that she had the ability to cast spells from a young age—even if she wasn’t aware of it. And yet for a time, she continues to deny her magical roots. “Did you know there’s an entire chapter devoted to you in the Darkhold?” Agatha asks Wanda as she hovers above the town square in the finale. “That’s the book of the damned. The Scarlet Witch is not born, she is forged. She has no coven, no need for incantation.”
“I’m not a witch,” Wanda replies defiantly. “I don’t cast spells. No one taught me magic!”
“Your power exceeds that of the Sorcerer Supreme,” Agatha continues. “It’s your destiny to destroy the world.”
It’s only when Agatha severs Wanda’s mind control over Westview’s residents that Wanda can finally understand how much damage she’s inflicted on the innocent townspeople, and how Agatha is speaking the truth about her magic. Once she accepts her fate as the Scarlet Witch, Wanda’s powers grow even more, and she’s able to easily neutralize Agatha.
As Agatha previously explained, the Scarlet Witch is capable of a mythical form of witchcraft known as Chaos Magic, granting her the gift of spontaneous creation—and she’s only just beginning to learn how to use it. There’s no telling what she’ll be capable of once her power is fully realized, as even the centuries-old Agatha was rattled when she witnessed Wanda don her Scarlet Witch costume for the first time. “You don’t know what you’ve done,” Agatha says after Wanda transforms before her.
Beyond the world-ending prophecy, Wanda’s new title as the Scarlet Witch could be crucial for the MCU as it heads into an era of a mind-numbing amount of projects that will expand into the multiverse before eventually incorporating recently added IP like the Fantastic Four and the X-Men. (Pietro “Fietro” Maximoff, a.k.a. Ralph Bohner, notwithstanding.) In the comics, the Scarlet Witch is considered to be a “Nexus Being,” a rare individual capable of affecting probability and the future, and one who serves as a keystone to the multiverse. While it may have just been an Easter egg, one of the WandaVision in-show commercials featured an antidepressant called Nexus, which works to “anchor you back to reality—or the reality of your choice.” This detail—along with the upcoming debut of time-traveling villain Kang the Conqueror in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, and the fact that Loki is about to meet time cops entrusted with protecting the timeline of the Marvel universe in his upcoming Disney+ series—makes it clear that the MCU is about to get deep into some of the extremely weird lore of the comics.
Having accepted her mantle as the Scarlet Witch, Wanda ultimately leaves Westview with a new purpose. She relocates to a remote cabin surrounded by snowy mountains to learn more about her powers from the Darkhold. This ominous book of spells has previously been seen in various forms on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Runaways (two pre-Disney+ shows that may or not be considered MCU canon, depending on what mood Kevin Feige is in when you ask), and made its first appearance in the comic books in 1972. The Darkhold is an ancient and evil source of dark magic that’s often coveted by villains seeking its treacherous power. Now the book belongs to Wanda Maximoff. She may have been interested in learning more about the Scarlet Witch, but as she’s reading through it in astral form during one of the finale’s post-credits scenes, it seems as though she kept reading well past that single chapter. Billy and Tommy’s cries can be heard at the end of the scene, suggesting that Wanda may be attempting to bring her children to life again—and this time without tethering their source of life to a magical town where thousands of people are being kept hostage.
As Wanda’s visit to the astral plane and the Doctor Strange theme music that plays out the post-credits scene both indicate, Wanda’s new title and the Darkhold will play into the upcoming Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. With Olsen set to reprise her role, Wanda may wind up taking her search for her children’s souls to another dimension in the multiverse, as she once did in the comics when her twin boys were stolen by an demonically enhanced villain. (While we dodged a bullet in WandaVision, we may yet see those horrifying demon-baby arms brought to life.) For all we know, White Vision—who’s flying around somewhere after experiencing an existential crisis—could return with his recently copy-and-pasted memories to reunite with his wife and help find their children together. But it’s more likely that the story of Wanda and Vision is over for now, and the only one joining her for the interdimensional journey will be Stephen Strange, who has made his fair share of bargains in the Dark Dimension, either as her guide or as an enemy attempting to prevent that world-destroying prophecy Agatha spoke of. Whatever the case may be, we’ll have to wait another 12 months to see how crucial Wanda’s recent transformation ends up being to a Doctor Strange film.
Wanda has come a long way since first being teased in a mid-credits scene in 2014’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier. She’s gone from a mysterious figure that even Thanos treated as an afterthought to one of the MCU’s most compelling characters. WandaVision has cemented her status as an outlier in a universe of largely black-and-white characters, one who doesn’t fit the mold of a traditional hero or villain; despite Monica’s forgiveness, let’s not forget the fact that Wanda’s “heroic sacrifice” of her family came after she kidnapped and traumatized nearly 4,000 innocent people so she could play out the plots of her favorite sitcoms.
But after WandaVision’s tremendous success kicking off MCU’s Phase 4, along with her new status as the potentially world-destroying Scarlet Witch, it’s safe to say we won’t find Wanda Maximoff waiting around on the sideline ever again.