WandaVision: 1.09 The Series Finale
So the first proper Marvel Cinematic Universe TV show comes to an end. It's rightly become on of the most hotly talked about series in years and has played with television tropes and subverted expectations at every turn. Does its season finale live up to the hype however? For the most part yes it does, it delivers exactly what you'd expect from a high budget Marvel superhero extravaganza. On the other hand it delivers exactly what you'd expect from a high budget Marvel superhero extravaganza. Now while not necessarily a bad thing, the action is exciting and superbly staged, I do think Marvel have missed a trick and an opportunity to do something a bit different. WandaVision bows out as a really good show when it had the chance to become a truly great one.
The Series Finale opens at virtually the same point the last episode left off, as Wanda and Agatha take to the streets to decide the fate of Westview. What follows is a fairly straightforward climax to a show that has been anything but that. Essentially we get a Wanda/Agatha showdown running in tandem with Vision going one on one with his white doppelganger self. Interesting issues are thrown up when it is quickly established that Agatha's main power is the ability to absorb and drain the power from other witches. Every time Wanda hurls a magic spell at Agatha she is literally making her opponent stronger and weakening herself.
Making things worse is the fact that Agatha and White Vision aren't the only problems. Director Tyler and his S.W.O.R.D. agents are coming to take on Wanda themselves; plus there's the little matter of Fake Pietro who still has Monica Rambeau trapped. Just as things can't seem to get any worse, Agatha removes Wanda's control of her "meat puppets" and the townsfolk of Westview are really not too pleased at having been Wanda's playthings.
It is with these moments of situations being darkest before the dawn, that superhero stories thrive and Marvel have made them into an art. You have to bring your heroes to their lowest point in order to have them ascend to their greatest heights. For WandaVision, these moments come when the good people of Westview plead with Wanda to release them from the nightmare lives they have been living. It is revealed that they all share Wanda's nightmares when they sleep and they just want relief. In a particularly dark moment, they plead that if she won't release them then, can she please just kill them and be done with it. Chilling stuff indeed, especially when Wanda is the supposed hero of the story.
Finally seeing all the problems and suffering she has caused Wanda decides to lift the Hex and put things back to normal. Unfortunately, this has the same effect of when Vision tried to leave the Hex earlier in the series. Vision and the twins are part of Wanda's construct and immediately start to come apart in a sort of digital version of Thanos' blip. Instead of dust, there are streams of pixels as Wanda's loved ones start to dematerialise. At seeing this Wanda makes the choice to put the Hex back in place. Agatha then offers her a Faustian bargain; relinquish all her power and she can carry on living in a peaceful unaware existence in Westview with her family. It all makes for some suspenseful moments, when you are not sure what Wanda will choose.
One of the most interesting aspects to come out of the WandaVision finale, is the ambiguity of the Scarlet Witch's character. Whilst ostensibly a hero, Wanda is anything but black and white. Captain America may be a dyed in the wool clean cut good guy but the Scarlet Witch is a much more complicated character. After accepting her fate and donning the mantle she was always destined to wear, Wanda is left as someone that has as much potential to become a villain as she has of fighting the good fight. Agatha warns her on several occasions that she has no idea of what she has unleashed and at one point assures her that she is prophesised to bring about the end of the world.
It's very much like in Hellboy, where the hero is also potentially the destroyer and it brings a complexity to the character. It will be interesting to see how this storyline develops in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. It was a nice touch to hear Agatha tell Wanda that with her new powers she is stronger than the Sorcerer Supreme himself. Again, Wanda's appearance in the Doctor Strange sequel could now be open to her being the villain of the piece, at least to start with. Alas, we must wait a whole year to discover the answer.
There was a change of pace for the conclusion to the Vision versus White Vision throw down. After the usual CGI filled antics in the skies above Westview, events took on a much more cerebral tone. After realising they were both evenly matched physically, Vision took a change of tact and questioned White Vision on his mission. "To destroy Vision" is his reply which swiftly led into a discussion regarding the ship of Thesus, a philosophical debate that asks whether an object that has had all its component parts replaced is still the same object. This allows White Vision to reconcile his mission objectives and leave for parts unknown to contemplate his existence. In this, Marvel did successfully avoid a conclusion which was just a huge android slugfest, although technically we did get that too.
The main disappointment I have with The Series Finale is that it was so straightforward and abandoned any of the earlier TV trickery that had really become the show's main identity. The penultimate episode had also dropped all the meta TV references and I think the show's creators missed a trick in not having them be a part of the conclusion. Surely, Wanda could have used some sort of illusions, featuring different genres of TV in her efforts to fight Agatha. It was such a strong conceit that was used so well in the early episodes, it just seems a shame that they couldn't have incorporated them somehow into the finale.
My other slight quibble is to the short shrift most of the supporting cast got. Jimmy Woo is more or less left as a spectator to events and Darcy comes off even worse. She gets literally two seconds of screen time; albeit she does get to thwart Director Hayward's escape. It reminded me of Argyle stopping the terrorists at the end of Die Hard, only if Argyle hadn't been seen or heard of since his opening scene. It's as though someone only remembered they hadn't filmed a resolution for Darcy just as Kat Dennings was running out the studio door. Hopefully she'll return in a future Marvel production.
Monica Rambeau faired a bit better and is obviously destined for bigger things in the MCU. After escaping from Fake Pietro in a move that is likely to infuriate fanboys everywhere (turns out it wasn't a Multiverse set up but just an elaborate boner joke) Monica helps defend the twins from Director Hayward using her newly gained superpowers. In one of the two end credit scenes, we see the return of the shapeshifting skulls, Captain Marvel is name dropped and Nick Fury issues an invitation to join him up in space. It would seem that Captain Marvel 2 is the most likely place we'll be seeing Monica again.
One of the main themes running through the show has been grief, mainly how Wanda has dealt, or not dealt, with the death of Vision and more tangentially, her brother Pietro. After realising that enslaving a whole town in order to live out an elaborate fantasy where she can be happy is not the answer, Wanda finally seems to be at peace. You've got to give it to Marvel, they know how to wring the emotion out of a scenario, even amongst all the superhero fights. The inevitability of what is going to happen to Wanda's family when she lifts the Hex and restores Westview to its former state doesn't make it any easier to accept and you feel every poignant moment of her goodbyes to her twins and ultimately to Vision. Of course these are comic book characters we are dealing with and the final end credit scene leaves us with the distinct impression that no one is truly gone forever where Marvel is involved. The forthcoming Loki show is a case in point.
Perhaps it was fate that led to The Falcon and Winter Soldier being delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic and WandaVision stepping in to take its place. It's entirely fitting that a show so deeply rooted in the history of television should be the first small screen outing for Marvel. It has been a huge success and largely avoided the traditional superhero trappings, especially in its opening episodes that polarised some viewers. Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany have absolutely excelled in their roles and delivered performances ranging from broad comedy to some of completely heart-breaking emotion.
Up to now, their characters have had slightly lesser roles in the MCU. But after WandaVision, they have proved they are just as worthy of the spotlight as all the others. With the multitude of Marvel TV shows and movies coming our way, we won't have long to wait to see what happens next.
Please stand by.