In the final moments of WandaVision’s most recent episode, the name that’s been on everyone’s mind ever since Wanda Maximoff first showed up in Captain America: The Winter Soldier’s post-credits sequence was spoken.
Wanda’s come a long way from levitating blocks at a Hydra facility and putting nightmares into people’s minds. The reveal of her “true” identity in “Previously On” weaves all of her growth — both the scale of her powers and her emotional depth — together into a striking new title pulled directly from Marvel’s comics. Though WandaVision’s already utilised a lot of the Scarlet Witch’s deep comics lore in the MCU, the direction the show seems to be guiding its titular heroine in shares some interesting parallels with the discoveries she makes in James Robinson’s Scarlet Witch series from 2016.
WandaVision’s first season transformed Marvel’s Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen). She’s been a newlywed, a mother, and something far more fascinating and complex than all of her other new identities combined. It’s all been in service of its larger overarching story about the Avengers’ least understood hero who will presumably come...Read more
Having come back to her senses following the catastrophic events of M-Day and become infamous for de-powering (and in some cases grievously wounding) countless mutants, Wanda Maximoff returns to the world in Scarlet Witch and sets out on interconnecting journeys of atonement and self-discovery. With her status as a destroyer at an all-time high and the world preoccupied with Civil War II, there were few people from Wanda’s previous life as an Avenger who were willing to stand in her corner — save for the ghost of one Agatha Harkness, who was quite dead at the time, but not particularly perturbed about it.
Though Wanda and Agatha’s history of battling mystical forces together and grappling with Wanda’s tenuous grip on reality leaves their relationship complicated and sometimes on the more combative end of the spectrum, there is a genuine love between the two of them, and a reason for them to become allies once again. When magic users across the world begin sensing that something’s amiss with the very source of magic itself, the pair set out on a globetrotting adventure that takes them to various countries to investigate different supernatural occurrences.
While Wanda and Agatha are easily able to get to the bottom of magically-twisted crimes involving a minotaur, an ancient plague-hex killing Ireland, and a heartbroken ghost, healing the disease that’s harming magic requires them to wander off the beaten path and walk along the Witches’ Road, a dimension outside of the comics’ prime reality that’s only accessible to mystics like Wanda. Checkered though Wanda’s history was back then, she was still an accomplished witch in her own right, which is part of why her owning up to being somewhat apprehensive about the road when she first sets foot on it in Scarlet Witch #4 was interesting.
Both Wanda and Agatha understand that the energies flowing around and the beings who dwell in that space represent a very real and present danger to them, but what Wanda isn’t prepared for is what the road teaches her about her identity. The two encounter a stranger whose face Wanda immediately recognises even though she never met the woman in her life. Whether it’s because of their genetic connection or their shared magical affinities is unclear, but Wanda knows her mother’s (Natalya Maximoff) face when she sees it, and she’s amazed when the woman introduces herself as the Scarlet Witch.
Wanda and Natalya’s meeting doesn’t exactly involve what one might consider time travel, but Agatha warns her former protege that some of the same rules about revealing too much information about one’s self to one’s parents in supernatural situations still apply. Wanda’s especially careful to avoid revealing her relationship to Natalya as the woman joins her daughter and Agatha briefly on their winding adventure along the Witches’ Road. But simply being in Natalya’s presence is revelatory for Wanda, both because of how it gives her a chance to see her in action, and because of how the power Natalya wields and her chosen title situates Wanda within the Scarlet Witch and the Maximoff family’s legacy.
In WandaVision’s “Previously On,” Agatha magicks her way into Wanda’s mind in hopes of discovering the secrets of how the Sokovian refugee was somehow able to pull off the massive feats of magic that rewrote Westview’s reality. One of the first traumatic memories Wanda recalls pulls her back to the night in Sokovia when she and Pietro first lost their parents, Olek (Daniyar) and Iryna (Iryna Maximoff). The story establishes that Wanda’s deep love for the American sitcoms she and Pietro watched with her family played a key role in one of the earliest manifestations of her burgeoning magical powers, which she instinctively used to keep a second bomb from exploding and killing her and her brother after the first demolished their home.
With the Scarlet Witch and Vision’s romantic history in Marvel’s comics being the enthralling, convoluted mess that it is, there was a wealth of source material for WandaVision’s creative team to draw from while conceiving the story for Disney+. Because there’s been relatively little of the Scarlet Witch or Vision in...Read more
This revelation proves not to be enough for Agatha’s theory about Wanda, and she pushes her deeper and deeper into her psyche until Wanda recalls the moment that she broke down in a fit of rage and grief in Westview after realising it was the town Vision intended for the two of them to settle down in. Wanda’s sudden creation of her house and the widespread warping of Westview confirms Agatha’s suspicion of Wanda being the Scarlet Witch, a being capable of performing a kind of “chaos magic” that’s yet to be properly defined in the MCU beyond being a source of pure creation.
What little WandaVision’s revealed about what the Scarlet Witch is and how the MCU’s chaos magic works has suggested that Wanda’s a kind of prophesied chosen one. Not to mention that her particular brand of magic is distinct from other users like Agatha, Doctor Strange, Loki, and more ancillary characters like Runaways’ Nico Minoru and Morgan le Fay.
In the comics, chaos magic became the accepted catchall for Wanda’s ever-expanding powerset that evolved from relatively simply probability manipulation to massive feats of magic and reality altering. In Brian Michael Bendis’ Avengers: Disassembled, the “chaos” of Wanda’s magic is quite literal as her resurfaced memories of her false children cause her powers to snap, leading to the accidental deaths of a number of Avengers, including Vision. Certain elements of Disassembled, like Wanda retreating to her home with her children as the world presses in from the outside, have been very present throughout WandaVision’s latter episodes as Westview’s sitcom trappings have begun to falter.
While it would certainly be interesting if Doctor Strange and Captain America were to show up in WandaVision’s finale to knock on the Hex with a polite ask that the witches cut it out, it seems much more likely that the series is poised to do something a bit more complex in its final chapter that casts its heroes and villains in a clearer light.
In Robinson’s series, Wanda’s search for more answers about her mother’s life as the Scarlet Witch before her becomes an important element of her larger goal of healing magic. As Wanda traces her mother’s footsteps back to Serbian orphanage where she and Pietro first came into the villainous High Evolutionary’s possession, she begins to learn more about just what kinds of forces Natalya waged war against in her prime, and how hard she fought to keep her children safe from harm. Robinson also attempts to reconcile the character’s roots in anti-Roma stereotypes and the difficult realities that many people within the Roma diaspora have suffered because of their historic persecution.
Wanda learns that, in addition to being her and Pietro’s mother, Natalya was a renowned hero of her era who battled various demons and villainous witches who wreaked havoc all throughout Eastern Europe. Wanda’s origins as an X-Men villain — and Magneto’s daughter, to boot — is one of the reasons that many of Marvel’s comics have been able to play with the dark side of her antiheroic status to varying degrees of success. Scarlet Witch’s take on Natalya transforms Wanda’s heroic turn into something more than her choice to rebel against her abusive adoptive father.
Wanda existing as a legendary Nexus being with a larger, multiversal significance is the main reason that villains like the High Evolutionary and Kang the Conqueror have set their sights on her over the years. Becoming the Scarlet Witch, though, was Wanda’s following in her family’s tradition of using their natural-born gifts to push back against evil and support their community. Wanda comes to understand this in the comics as her mother’s ghosts eventually leads to her reuniting with what Wanda considers to be her last living relatives.
WandaVision is in a position to do something in a similar, but distinct vein in the MCU. Marvel clearly intends for the Scarlet Witch to become a name brand power player true to Wanda’s promise to Thanos in Avengers: Endgame. In place of the character’s canonical Roma significance, the Disney+ series is choosing to lead with a version of her who embodies the raw power that can come out of working through and healing from grief. If WandaVision sticks the landing, its take on the Scarlet Witch could end up being a poignant take on the character who becomes her most moving depiction so far.
WandaVision’s finale debuts this Friday on Disney+.