WandaVision – Season 1 Episode 9
“The Series Finale”
WandaVision completes its first and possibly only season with a climactic battle and a number of emotional resolutions that set up future events.
Finales are always a tricky task as they come with a lot of expectations from the audience. WandaVision has excelled in a deliberate approach to fascinating character driven storytelling with a mystery element propelling the plot forward so there was always a risk that the payoff may not live up to the build-up. This finale isn’t an unsatisfying experience but it’s also far from what it could have been given the available elements that had been set up.
From the first episode this show has been an exploration of grief and how that impacts the lives of those experiencing it whether that be the person grieving or those around them. The previous episode revealed that this entire situation was created because Wanda lost control of her grief as well as her powers and altered the reality of the town to conform to her own coping mechanisms. With that came a construct of Vision to give her the idyllic life free from pain. It was always going to come down to whether she was willing to accept the truth and start healing or be lost in the fantasy because it’s more comfortable than reality. In some ways this episode does that but in many ways it does.
The introduction of Agatha gives Wanda an opposite. She’s an antagonist of equivalent power that can both threaten and challenge her. A lot of this episode is built around them throwing different coloured magical blasts at each other as Kathryn Hahn hams up her performance to be as villainous as possible. None of this is unexpected because it is a Marvel Cinematic Universe production so these things are bound to happen but the important thing is whether or not the resolution is more character driven than action driven. This episode does have the victory come from who Wanda is rather than what she can do to an extent but it’s still lacking in some key areas. A more cerebral approach that minimised the action would have suited this show better.
Part of the problem is Agatha herself. The previous episode set up a potentially nuanced villain with a complicated past and a possible case of being addicted to both using and obtaining magic. There was an implied tragic aspect to her that was ideal for exploration but this episode abandons all of that in favour of her being a scenery chewing villain for Wanda to battle. In other words she becomes a standard MCU villain which completely flies in the face of the added potential of an ongoing TV series allowing more time to develop the available characters. To abandon what was set up about Agatha in favour of spectacle is a misstep when considering the good faith built up over the previous episodes.
Their conflict is largely centred around Wanda’s potential. The previous episode noted that there was some sort of prophecy about a wielder of Chaos Magic known as “The Scarlet Witch”. This is expanded on in a small way through Agatha mentioning that “The Scarlet Witch” just springs up somewhere with no training and may or may not represent a danger to witches in general. That part isn’t clear but Agatha certainly fears it and is clearly frustrated that Wanda commands so much raw power with no knowledge of how to control it. She also wants it for herself and in return is willing to repair the spell Wanda accidentally created in order to let her live in blissful ignorance. In a stronger episode this might have been explored as a tempting offer from Wanda’s point of view as she has spent her life having things forced on her that she didn’t ask for which includes her powers so giving them up in exchange for a happy family life could easily be something that she at least considers.
Agatha attempts to force her to release her powers by directly confronting her with what she has done and showing her the impact it has on those she has done it to. It was particularly effective to see her standing in the middle of a street with the people she has been unwittingly controlling begging her to let them go. In particular Dottie -or Sarah- pleading for her daughter to become part of the plot so that she isn’t locked in her room is really effective. Wanda hasn’t been confronted with the morality of what she’s done in this way before and it comes across as a really visceral experience. The mention of their dreams being her nightmares and experiencing her pain highlights how invasive Wanda’s spell is. Of course she never intended any of this but up until now hasn’t expressed any guilt over removing the free will of a large number of people. This ties in with the blissful ignorance she enjoyed until recently and numbers among the many things she chose not to think about. Agatha actually accomplished something very important here as it forces Wanda to confront what she has done and make the conscious decision to let the people go. She accepts responsibility and resolves not to hurt then any more.
This then leads to Agatha’s defeat which does cleverly use the runes mentioned in the previous episode against her showing Wanda has learned something from the experience. Trapping Agatha in the Hex to remove the threat she represents before deciding to force her into the role of Agnes the nosy neighbour was an interesting choice. Agatha gets to live the rest of her life trapped in an illusion as punishment for crossing Wanda and Kathryn Hahn plays the terror associated with the realisation beautifully. It’s another ethically questionable act on Wanda’s part and there isn’t enough work done on Agatha’s character to properly establish whether she might be deserving of this.
Agatha’s defeat comes at the same time Wanda accepts who and what she is. She embraces the identity of “The Scarlet Witch” complete with a snazzy new costume and full ownership of her powers. Wanda has consistently been in search of an identity, a sense of belonging and a purpose so even though there’s a vague prophecy suggesting that she is a bringer of darkness and chaos this is something she can embrace. Taking ownership of it means she has the power over it rather than it having the power over her. Of course it can still overwhelm her in the future and cause other problems but for now it’s a step forward for her and a very important one at that though it isn’t quite the necessary realisation that her powers and her emotional state are linked
A major issue the episode has is that Wanda goes largely unpunished for what she did. The Hex wasn’t something she consciously created but once she became aware that it was her doing she allowed it to endure and tried to justify it to herself using some mental gymnastics. At a point she chose to keep people enslaved in order to support her own manufactured happiness. This is very ethically questionable and all that really happens is that she puts a stop to it before moving on. There is a failure to interrogate the morality of Wanda’s actions and choices in any meaningful way beyond the lingering fear people have of her once she ends the Hex.
There is an acceptance that loss is something she has to acknowledge before she can begin healing which allows for two really moving moments. The first is when she and Vision put the kids to bed, assure them that the family can’t really be destroyed and thanks them for choosing her to be their mother. Following that is her saying goodbye to Vision after telling him that he is a creation formed by her sadness, hope and love. It’s a beautiful moment with a tinge of hope to it when they both agree that it’s not impossible to find each other again. It’s powerful, heartbreaking and earned from everything the show has done. The episode may fail on general coherence but the emotional beats land just as intended.
Vision’s confrontation with White Vision is much more successful than Wanda Vs. Agatha. Much more is accomplished in far less time. Much of the time is spent with them fighting which proves fruitless as they are two invincible beings hitting each other. Such a conflict could go on forever with no resolution so another way has to be found. White Vision suggests they call a truce and discuss the situation at hand which leads to a compelling thought experiment around identity and existence. Vision has no original material within him and is a construct created by Wanda so arguably isn’t the real Vision as was previously understood. White Vision is made up of the shell of the original but is a different entity because of the circumstances of his creation. They use the Ship of Theseus example in that if all the parts are gradually replaced then does it stop being the Ship of Theseus once the final original part is replaced?
Their discussion is brief but definitive which makes sense for two computers puzzling through a problem and they both agree that on some level they are both the real Vision. Vision unlocks the memories of the original which also gives him access to them so they both understand where they came from. White Vision leaves to presumably explore who or what he is while Vision returns to his family. Vision gives White Vision a sense of self and saves him from being a puppet controlled by others. This parallels his own predicament as arguably he’s a puppet controlled by Wanda though the episode doesn’t go into it. White Vision being out in the world allows Paul Bettany to continue in the MCU while Wanda lets go of her lost love. In some ways it’s a bit of a contrivance but it works well so it’s a forgivable one.
Unfortunately much of what was previously established about Wanda and Vision’s relationship so far is completely forgotten in favour of him supporting her unconditionally as she fights for their home. A significant amount of time was spent pointing to Vision being trapped in an abusive relationship where Wanda had him under her control but it’s forgotten about when he understands why she created the Hex. There needed to be an open conversation with Vision being the kind voice of reason helping Wanda understand why it’s wrong for her to control people in that way. He is grateful for his opportunity to live which makes sense but at the same time he was terrified of her not so long ago and brushing that aside in favour of an emotional conclusion was a mistake because it needed to be explored.
The secondary characters are either forgotten or stripped down to basic archetypes. Jimmy acts as a foil for Hayward with both of them doing very little in the grand scheme of things. Hayward is taken out by Darcy and completely dismissed after that without any real resolution to anything he’s done other than being arrested. This is the MCU and these threads will likely be picked up later but some resolution within the context of this show was needed because work was done to build Hayward and the others along very particular lines. Darcy having only one line and then vanishing was also disappointing given her importance to the show throughout and the way she bonded with Vision.
Monica also received short shrift spending most of her screen time in a basement with Pietro/Ralph being held hostage before she escapes. She saves the twins and her powers manifest further but there’s little more to her contribution than that. Her brief conversation with Wanda was the most puzzling as it’s a complete turnaround from what was said before. Admitting that if she could do what Wanda did she would have brought back her mother completely contradicts her passionate pea for Wanda to accept her truth and find a way to heal. It’s a bizarre conversation that offers Wanda validation for what she did rather than possibly acknowledging how difficult accepting the truth is and saying how proud she is that Wanda managed to do it. That would be in line with what was previously established and an appropriate way for that connection to progress. Following that she’s off to outer space to presumably meet up with Nick Fury which could be interesting.
Wanda is slated to appear in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and she’ll be a welcome addition there especially based on what was done with her over 9 episodes. Based on this it appears that it will be a study in madness rather than the multiverse though that’s just a guess based on how charmingly simple the answers to the questions posed by this show were. Perhaps Wanda will end up descending into madness following her attempts to learn more about the power she wields and Doctor Strange will have to get through to her. The answer will become known.
A messy finale that loses sight of what made the show so strong but still manages to nail the emotional beats. One of the main problems the episode has is Agatha who becomes a scenery chewing villain rather than the nuanced antagonist set up by the previous episode. She does force Wanda to directly confront what she did which leads to her choosing to let the people go. It’s a really effective moment that highlights how much damage she unwittingly caused to those around her and has her choose to stop hurting people because of her grief. The episode fails to properly interrogate the morality of Wanda’s actions or choices but having Agatha show her what she’s done works really well. Agatha’s defeat also works with the satisfying reveal that Wanda learned something from her but the decision to force her into being trapped in the Agnes role is another morally questionable choice that isn’t explored. Wanda accepting who she is through the vague prophecy of “The Scarlet Witch” by deciding to own the identity and taking charge of it ties nicely in with her own search for identity and belong with the suggestion that it may overpower her in the future. Following this is a moving farewell with her kids and Vision as she takes down the Hex. These are really powerful moments that feel completely earned.
A big problem the episode has is that Wanda isn’t punished for her actions in any meaningful way. She accepts her grief and puts an end to the fantasy but her questionable moral choices are brushed aside and the episode fails to interrogate them. Vision’s confrontation with White Vision plays out wonderfully with a compelling thought experiment exploring identity and existence with them both concluding that they are both Vision in some form. Paul Bettany gets to continue in the MCU as White Vision who flies off to presumably explore who or what he is while Wanda has to let go of her lost love. It’s a conceit but a forgivable one under the circumstances. Failing to address the idea that Vision was trapped by Wanda in an abusive relationship was a confusing omission. There should have been an open conversation where Vision kindly helps Wanda realise why it’s wrong to control people in that way rather than pushing it aside in favour of an emotional conclusion. The secondary characters are afterthoughts with Jimmy having very little to do, Hayward being quickly dealt with and Darcy disappearing. Monica spends most of her time as a hostage and has a confusing conversation with Wanda that completely goes against what their connection was prior to this point. In general this episode was a poor conclusion to a show that went from strength to strength in how it presented what it was trying to say about Wanda.
- Wanda being confronted by the reality of what she has been doing to the people of Westview
- taking ownership of The Scarlet Witch identity and what that means for her
- using what she learned from Agatha against her
- Wanda’s acceptance that she needs to acknowledge loss in order to begin healing
- the moving goodbyes with her children and Vision
- Vision and White Vision carrying out a thought experiment
- the efficiency of them reaching their collective conclusion
- White Vision leaving to figure out who or what he is
- Agatha losing all nuance and becoming little more than a scenery chewing villain
- the vague Scarlet Witch prophecy
- failing to interrogate the morality of Wanda’s decisions and actions
- no real punishment for what Wanda did
- forgetting about the established abusive relationship Vision was trapped in
- secondary characters being all but forgotten
- Monica’s conversation with Wanda amounting to the exact opposite of what was established
What did you think? Select your rating in the “User Review” box below
User Review( votes)
Despite the weaknesses in the finale, the bulk of WandaVision remains fascinating and incredibly powerful. Taking a character on the fringes of the MCU like Wanda and building a show around her failure to process grief was an experiment that mostly worked even if they were unable to stick the landing.
Wanda is a character that interested me in the comics because of her backstory, various difficulties and the variety of powers she has. Elizabeth Olsen has always been great in the role but had limited time to do much with it in the films that feature Wanda. That’s down to those films having focus elsewhere with very little opportunity to give her a meaningful arc to follow. WandaVision provided that opportunity in spades and took full advantage of it. Drawing on the loss she experienced in her various previous experiences and constructing a narrative around that with everything tying back to her emotional state in some way was brilliantly handled and provided really entertaining television at the same time. The sitcom setup definitely won’t please everyone and there were times I found it tedious but there was always the larger narrative to maintain the moment. The more answers that were given and the deeper the exploration into Wanda’s fragile emotional state the better it got.
The character is going to appear in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness though her role is unclear at this point as the finale ends on a deliberately ambiguous note. Many have assumed that she will take on the role of the villain but I doubt it’ll be as simple as that as this show did a lot of work to position her as a good person who made questionable choices because of what she was dealing with. She may end up being antagonistic with Doctor Strange having to stop her in some way but I doubt it’s as simple as her turning to the dark side because that would be inconsistent with what has been done here.
Vision was used really well as a construct created by Wanda to help her forget about her grief. Ultimately the issues attached to that weren’t taken to a natural conclusion but Paul Bettany was routinely excellent in his portrayal and the chemistry he shares with Elizabeth Olsen was always very strong. The White Vision out there in the MCU somewhere allows Paul Bettany to continue in this role and that’s definitely a good thing. Once again using a TV show to flesh out a character with minor appearances before now was an opportunity that was taken full advantage of.
This show delivered some very powerful content, was consistently entertaining and made for a more than worthy addition to the excellent Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s regrettable that the ending was so messy.
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