WandaVision Episode 9: “The Series Finale”
Director: Matt Shakman
Starring: Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, Kathryn Hahn, Teyonah Parris, Randall Park, Kat Dennings, Evan Peters, Julian Hillard, Jett Klyne, Josh Stamberg, Debra Jo Rupp, Asif Ali, Emma Caulfield Ford, Jolene Purdy, David Payton, David Lengel, Amos Glick, Selena Anduze, Kate Forbes
Runtime: 50 minutes
WandaVision offers an interesting look at the pros and cons of releasing big event television in a traditional, week-to-week style, rather than dropping all the episodes in a season at once like Netflix typically does. For the most part, the weekly release schedule has greatly benefitted the show and Disney Plus. WandaVision is very much the type of show that benefits from the speculation that occurs among viewers between episodes and the constant theorizing about the show’s mysteries and deeper meanings have kept it prominent in the public consciousness for several months, rather than the weekend-long high shows released a season at a time tend to experience. But on the other hand, that speculation can and did become more than what the creators planned and some storylines or elements that fans following the show assumed were confirmed ultimately didn’t happen or played out very differently than they thought they would. In some instances, this isn’t the show’s fault, as some ideas fans came up with were too far-fetched and based on little actual textual evidence. But in other cases, one major one, in particular, the show fails to deliver on things it pretty clearly teased, and the disappointment that causes takes away from what is otherwise a strong, deeply emotional finale.
I’m speaking, of course, of the reveal that Pietro isn’t Evan Peters’ version of Quicksilver from the X-Men movies or anyone else of note but instead a random Westview citizen named Ralph Bohner (he chuckles at the name) that Agatha bewitched. This was massively disappointing and easily the biggest problem with the show overall. It’s possible that had it been revealed earlier that “Fietro” was someone other than Peters’ Quicksilver imported from the X-Men movie universe fans might have been able to accept it, although why the creators felt the need to cast Peters at all if they weren’t planning a Foxverse crossover I’ll never understand. By not providing the answer as to what “Pietro” is until the very last minute they made it seem more likely that his identity was going to be important no matter what it was and to have that all be a set-up for a fairly lame joke stings. The creators specifically responsible for WandaVision can maybe be excused for not knowing how to handle the expectations that come with handling a Marvel property in this regard but Feige and the other long-standing executives had to know that seeing Peters in a show connected to a movie called in the Multiverse of Madness would give fans very specific hopes and quashing them in such a manner is an unusual complete misfire from Marvel Studios that is also uncharacteristically mean-spirited and it leaves the viewer with a sour taste that is hard to shake off during the rest of the episode despite how good most of it is.
Speaking of the Doctor Strange sequel, “The Series Finale” is very simple and standalone, only setting up the movie and other future Marvel properties with a few brief bits throughout. The focus is squarely on Wanda and her family battling Agatha and Hayward, and to a lesser extent, WandaVision‘s established supporting cast, although even among them everyone other than Monica gets precious little to do. This means that those hoping for a major Marvel cameo or two (a hope that was encouraged by a somewhat funny but ill-advised joke from Paul Bettany) will also be let down but ultimately it’s the right call for the story. Another superhero swooping in to save the day would have risked undercutting what is a very intimate, emotional story for Wanda and company that is instead given a (mostly) satisfying conclusion spotlighting the show’s main heroine. Wanda faces her grief and trauma head-on here and it’s for the best that she does so without the aid of any other Avengers other than Vision, even if it would have definitely been cool to see another hero interpreted through WandaVision‘s unique lens.
Wanda blasts Agatha to free the boys from her chokehold and tells them to hide. But Agatha is gleeful at having gotten to absorb some of Wanda’s power and offers to leave her alone to live her fantasy life if she lets her take all of it. Wanda isn’t interested and they continue to fight until Wanda drops a car on Agatha, leaving only her boots in the wreckage for a Wizard of Oz reference. Sword’s White Vision then shows up and attacks Wanda but she is saved by the Westview Vision she created. She apologizes to Vision for lying to him about the Westview situation and they agree to fight to protect their home, with the Visions engaging one another while Wanda faces Agatha after she appears outside the wreck. The action scenes aren’t really anything special for a superhero property and definitely don’t achieve what the Russo brothers did with Wanda and Vision’s powers in Infinity War but after almost no action throughout the show (and over a year without a new MCU blockbuster) it’s still fun to see and the massive budget is obvious, as the visual effects outclass what most other current superhero shows are capable of.
Wanda and Agatha chase each other to the town square, where Agatha rants about Wanda’s significance as the Scarlet Witch. She reveals that the book from her basement is in fact the Darkhold and that it contains an entire chapter prophesizing the Scarlet Witch. Unlike other witches, she is “forged”, does not belong to a coven, and does not need to use incantations to cast spells. It is said that the Scarlet Witch will have a power greater than the Sorcerer Supreme’s (for those that don’t know, Doctor Strange is the current Sorcerer Supreme) and will supposedly destroy the world. Wanda angrily shouts that she doesn’t believe any of this and Agatha moves to torture her by releasing the people of Westview from her control, one by one. Disturbed by their pleas to be freed and questions about their families Wanda lashes out, and ropes of energy begin choking the people. Billy senses his mom’s anguish and he and Tommy head over. Wanda relents and releases the people and then, overwhelmed with guilt she begins dismantling the hex but stops when it causes Vision and the boys to begin disintegrating. The big memorable scenes mostly come later on but Olsen does an exceptional job of portraying Wanda’s guilt over what she did to the people. The issue is also well handled by the script. There’s no question that what Wanda’s done is wrong but the show’s also done such an incredible job showing how all the horrible things that have happened to her led her to this point that it’s hard to be mad at her as a viewer. That’s not treated as an excuse and there’s nothing she can really do to make it up to the people in the end but the show also doesn’t demonize her the way a lot of more recent comics have.
While the gap in the hex was open, Hayward and a bunch of troops drove in to attack Wanda but are nearly killed by Agatha before Wanda saves them. After the Maximoff family briefly reunites Wanda instructs the boys to deal with the military while she and their father take care of Agatha and White Vision. Tommy zips around incapacitating soldiers but Hayward manages to fire off a clip at him and Billy. Monica, who had easily dispatched and escaped from Ralph, jumps in the way and as the bullets strike her body turns into some kind of energized, translucent form that safely stops most of them. Hayward gets one shot around her aimed right for Billy but he catches it with his telekinesis and he and Monica compliment each other on their respective tricks. Hayward then tries to run them all over but Darcy crashes the stolen circus truck into his car and gleefully tells him to enjoy jail.
The two Visions crash into the Westview library, but rather than continue fighting Vision manages to talk White Vision down by telling him to apply a philosophical hypothetical to their situation. They agree that neither of them is really the true Vision and after Wanda’s Vision helps White Vision access his personal memories the latter flies off.
Wanda attempts to subdue Agatha by trapping her mind in an illusion recalling her near-burning at the stake. But the corpses of the other witches briefly come back to life, and, recognizing Wanda as the Scarlet Witch, instead, tie her to the stake. Agatha repeats her offer of allowing Wanda to stay in her Westview fantasy in exchange for her power and Wanda seems to reluctantly agree. As they fly above Westview Wanda hurls blast after blast at Agatha. Some miss but Agatha is overjoyed at the power she’s absorbing until Wanda reveals that she was actually casting the same runes Agatha had used in her basement onto the wall of the hex, meaning that only Wanda can use magic within Westview. Wanda’s power returns to her and she transforms into the Scarlet Witch of legend, in a modernized, very cool-looking update of her comics costume. She forces Agatha to the ground and tells her that she’s going to imprison her in Westview in the role she chose of “the nosy neighbor.” Agatha pleads with her, claiming that Wanda doesn’t know what she’s unleashed and that she’ll need her experience. Wanda says if she does she knows where to find her and transforms Agatha into “Agnes” who immediately begins commenting on how attractive Wanda looks in her new outfit. Again, some may be disappointed by the lack of guest appearances from Doctor Strange or any other mystic Marvel characters (and the show and people who made it do bear some blame for setting up these expectations) but ultimately it’s for the best that Wanda handled things on her own. In a lot of ways WandaVision has wound up playing out as an extremely unconventional origin story and it works very well in that regard, setting up Wanda for more exciting adventures to come as she learns what truly being the Scarlet Witch means and enters the next phase of her life.
Despite that, the show’s main purpose is still having Wanda face her grief and that central emotional arc is resolved beautifully after Agatha and Hayward are defeated. As the hex begins to shrink, the Maximoff family returns home. Wanda and Vision tuck the boys in bed, telling them how proud they are of them. Wanda reminds them that “Family is forever,” so “We could never leave each other even if we tried,” before thanking them for choosing her to be their mom. She and Vision go downstairs and begin saying their goodbyes as the receding hex approaches the house. Vision gently asks Wanda to tell him once and for all what he really is. She first says that he was created from the piece of the Mind Stone in her, before saying that more truthfully “You are my sadness. My hope. But most of all, you’re my love.” As the hex bears down on them a tear rolls down Vision’s cheek and he mentions the various forms he’s existed in over the years before saying “We’ve said goodbye so many times, it stands to reason…” before Wanda finishes “that we’ll say hello again.” As the hex reverts the house back through the decades to its original form they hold each other until Vision fades away. This whole sequence is another absolute triumph of writing, acting, and direction for the show. It might seem like Wanda handles saying goodbye to her children a little easily but ultimately the show is about her accepting reality and the idea of the boys’ importance carrying on even after they fade away is a strong one. Olsen’s performance is, as ever, absolutely glorious. She finds this wonderful balance between sadness and a kind of calm relief. Of course, it’s sad for Wanda to lose so much again but you get the sense that she’s going to be OK even if she continues to struggle, which is really the most perfect message a story about grief can send. She deserves every kind of recognition possible for the wonderful work she’s done throughout this show. Bettany is also great and by the time you get to that last moment of the two of them together, you feel like you’ve come to the perfect conclusion of one of film and television’s best romances. Julian Hilliard and Jett Klyne also deserve major kudos for the work they’ve done as the Maximoff boys. They might not seem like it initially but Billy and Tommy as they’ve been portrayed in this show would be hard roles for young actors to handle and they’ve done so excellently.
After leaving the site of her house, Wanda walks back to the center of town, with the Westview residents giving her looks of contempt along the way. She crosses paths with Monica, who reassures her that she’s not angry as, given Wanda’s power, she knows she would have brought her mother back. Wanda apologizes for everything she’s done regardless and sets off to learn more about her powers, flying away from Westview in her new costume.
Overall it’s lighter on Marvel connections than most were expecting and or hoping but “The Series Finale” does feature two post-credits that tease future projects in exciting ways. In the first, which comes after the initial, stylized credits Monica greets Jimmy Woo, who has taken command of Westview clean-up as Hayward is arrested by the FBI. An agent tells Monica that someone needs to speak to her in the town’s movie theater. The agent follows her inside before revealing herself as a Skrull and stating that she was sent by an old friend of Monica’s mother who wants to meet with her. The Skrull points up, indicating space, which makes Monica smile. Given the movie theater setting and the fact that Teyonah Parris has already been announced as a part of its cast, this is presumably setting up Captain Marvel 2 though it could also be tied to the Skrull-centric Secret Invasion Disney Plus series starring Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury and Ben Mendelsohn’s Talos. The second comes after all the remaining credits and sees Wanda living in a remote cabin in the mountains. As she makes tea a projection of her like the one Doctor Strange uses to travel the astral plane reads the Darkhold. Suddenly she hears Billy and Tommy’s voices screaming for help and the camera cuts to black after a flash of her magical red light. This is almost certainly setting up Wanda’s role in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and suggests that something beyond what we were shown did happen because of the Westview situation. It’s a tantalizing scene that sets Wanda up to have a highly emotional part in the film, although I hope if the boys do wind up coming back to life somehow that it’s done in such a way as to not undermine the growth Wanda underwent in the show.
While it immediately achieved an extremely high level of quality, WandaVision ultimately is, of course, not perfect. There were definitely some story threads that ultimately amounted to less than the show suggested they would, though many people are also unfairly demeaning its quality because it didn’t meet their own extremely specific hopes. But overall it stands as one of Marvel’s strongest, most creative, and most important stories, a status cemented by the mostly strong finale, and thanks to it Elizabeth Olsen’s Wanda now stands as one of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s most complex and compelling figures.
- Another thing Marvel will have to handle very carefully following this show is any possible future meeting between Wanda and White Vision.
- I really hope Agatha’s open-ended final scene means we’ll see her again somewhere. Kathryn Hahn was too good to only use once.
- Before the hex ends, the Westview movie theater is advertising Oz the Great and Powerful. Multiple Oz references are definitely sensible for this show but this one is deeper. Oz the Great and Powerful was directed by Spider-Man trilogy director Sam Raimi, who has returned to Marvel to helm Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
- The use of the Darkhold here doesn’t expressly contradict Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (I haven’t seen Runaways) but it doesn’t really seem like Marvel Studios would be concerned if it did.
- Seriously, just give Elizabeth Olsen her Emmy now.
- Next up from Marvel is The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.
WandaVision Episode 9
WandaVision's finale drops at least one ball but is otherwise a fitting end to one of Marvel's most deep and emotional stories, with Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany again turning in terrific performances.