WandaVision: The Series Finale wears its heart on its sleeve for an emotionally satisfying conclusion to Marvel’s first television foray.
Welcome, friends, to our discussion of the final episode of Wandavision.
Mysterious Voice: Sings Agatha All Along
Look, Mysterious Voice, I know things got a bit contentious last week, but this week I’ve got something to reveal.
Mysterious Voice: Oh what’s that?
Look around this website page, don’t you see them? I learned a little something from you last week! The runes in the hypertext are mine – so only I get to talk this week!
Mysterious Voice: “Noooooooooooooooooooooooo!”
Well, now that we’ve handled that, let’s talk about the finale to WandaVision!
Let me start with what I didn’t love to get it out of the way. The climactic battle was what we’ve been trained to expect from basically every MCU property thus far. We had two major face-offs: one between Memory Vision and White Vision, and the other between Wanda and Agatha Harkness. Both have the sort of weightless CGI properties that mar so many big budget blockbusters. The Vision fight in particular gave me bad flashbacks to the weightless flighted fisticuffs of Man of Steel and The Matrix Revolutions. Agatha and Wanda throw ill defined color blasts at one another for what feels like quite a long while before it is revealed that Wanda has set a savvy trap for Agatha and crafted her own runes within the hex. Monica Rambeau briefly appears to show off her new powers.
But all of that is really table setting for the real crux of the episode, the emotional conclusion of Wanda and Vision’s story. I’ve always largely felt that Joss Whedon and The Brothers Russo failed to properly serve either character on their past film appearances, so WandaVision had a lot of work to “fix” them. Centering the entire show on the audience buying the romance between a witch and a purple robot man, especially a romance as ill-defined before the show as this one, is a risky gamble, but here it pays off extremely well.
As Wanda and Vision face what has always been their inevitable ending – the elimination of the hex and the end of their story – the show takes on a wonderfully elegiac feel. On the one hand, the show has been extremely savvy in the way it has allowed the audience to elide its affection for every sitcom couple from the Petries to the Dunphys onto our heroes. There’s a near visceral sense memory of a beloved sitcom – and of the married couple at its heart – that the show so ably call back, and it is perhaps inevitable that an audience will have a Pavlovian response to new characters in the same scenario. Or perhaps the magic is simpler, and it is the chemistry between two very good actors that makes the romance work.
Nevertheless, I really felt something at the end of the show. I was genuinely surprised too, as I’ve always found something about the Vision makeup triggers some sort of uncanny valley in me. It has made it harder for me to embrace the romance. Even the show’s now iconic “what is grief, if not love persevering” line struck me more as a lovely sentiment well phrased than the emotional haymaker it seemed to be for so many others. And yet when Wanda and Vision tuck their children in for one final goodbye I felt a real pang of sorrow (at least until they’re invariably resurrected for a Young Avengers show someday). When Wanda and Vision say their final goodbye – and Wanda reveals to Vision his true nature – the show really had me. At the end of the day, I’m not sure if I really care if the show’s emotional success comes from manipulating my TV addled brain, a lifetime of exposure to comic book story telling, or some sort of more genuine empathy: it made me feel something.
So, where do we go from here?
The obvious answer – made clear by the stingers – is that Monica is headed to Captain Marvel 2 and Wanda is headed to Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. It seems clear we’re going to get a space arc incorporating Monica into a broader story of Captain Marvel, the forthcoming Ms. Marvel, and perhaps Thor or the Guardians. Wanda, now the Scarlet Witch, seems destined for an antagonistic role in Doctor Strange’s life and, one might speculate, some sort of role in the multiverse shenanigans headed Peter Parker’s way. I still suspect that based on her now established ability to “create” superpowers in others and the show’s choice to namecheck her as the most powerful being in the universe multiple times (over Thanos and Captain Marvel explicitly) I suspect she will still be involved in the ultimate genesis of the mutants.
Marvel has a long history of delayed gratification. From the Mandarin tease in Iron Man 3 to the multiverse in Spider-Man: Far From Home, Kevin Feige seems to delight in lightly playing with the expectations of his hardcore fans. He pays them off eventually, but there have been some wonderful long play teases at work here. Hell, we’re getting the real Mandarin in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (once teased in a long forgotten short All Hail the King, which marked Sam Rockwell’s first post-Iron Man 2 return to the MCU) and the multiverse in the Doctor Strange sequel and Spider-Man: No Way Home. I think all of that’s wonderful, but I worry they went a step too far with the Evan Peters casting. To be clear, it isn’t WandaVision, or any show’s, job to pay off my nerdy fan speculation, but there’s a bit of trolling of the hardcore fans at play that goes a step further than past teases.
The philosophical discourse surrounding the ship of Theseus was a really savvy way to resolve the multi-Vision conflict. Honestly, the show would’ve been better served if it simply omitted the banal fisticuffs and expanded this sequence. That “evil” Vision is thwarted not by violence but, in essence, by an allegory applied as a syllogism is such a brilliant resolution of that character’s conflict. While Marvel’s apparent inability to ever actually kill a character is deeply at play here, it makes perfect in universe sense that a cybernetic entity like Vision would see multiple resurrections. The White Vision stands as a nifty wildcard for all sorts of future MCU properties.
My parting thought is that Elizabeth Olsen should win an Emmy. The work she’s done here is truly top notch. Beyond just emulating the style, tone, and mannerism of six decades of sitcom hijinks at the highest level I can imagine, she managed to sell a profound romance with a man dressed in a purple latex facemask. She managed to bring deep pathos to a show about a character who is best known in the mainstream for a skimpy red effort and shooting red zappy things from her hands. It’s off-the-charts good work and, I hope, Emmy voters are able see past their genre biases to reward some of the best acting in recent television history.
And, on that note, we have said goodbye before, so it stands to reason…
Audience: “we’ll say hello again.”
See you in a few weeks for The Falcon and Winter Soldier.
WATCH WANDAVISION: THE SERIES FINALE
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