[Editor’s Note: The following review contains spoilers for “WandaVision” Episode 9, the series finale, “The Series Finale.”]
Though stacked with plenty of loaded lines and piercing looks (most courtesy of Kathryn Hahn), there are two bedrock-shaking emotional moments in the “WandaVision” finale. The first is the inevitable ending. MCU fans likely knew from the start, and the rest of us caught up soon enough, that Vision (Paul Bettany) wasn’t going to walk out of Westview. His previous death(s) could not be ignored, and his resurrection couldn’t be made permanent with magic or even by the android’s endearing attempts to understand his true identity. (For a moment, when Good Vision and White Vision were caught in a logic-off, it did feel like they might somehow merge into a real, updated version and fly home to their happy family.)
Still, showrunner and episode writer Jac Schaeffer deserves credit for executing that farewell with grace and power. Though no parting words between Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision could compare to the all-timer from Episode 8, they didn’t need to; that moment was the true climax of the series, and their shared final sentence provided enough belief in their bond without promising an idyllic reunion. “We have said goodbye before,” Vision says, as her shrinking Hex closes in on them, “so it stands to reason–” “–we’ll say hello again,” Wanda replies, completing the sentiment.
As Vision disappears along with the rest of Wanda’s magically manufactured home, the look on Olsen’s face isn’t one of anguish but love. The shot of Wanda standing in a lot of empty land serves as the necessary bookend to the last time she was living in reality, to the breakdown that started all this. But as Wanda’s face falls, she accepts what she’s lost and walks back through town. There, she again sees the Westview residents who she’s held hostage for days and weeks on end. Their stares don’t echo admiration, appreciation, or even relief. They’re angry, and they should be.
“They’ll never know what you sacrificed for them,” Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris) says to Wanda. “It won’t change how they see me,” she replies.
Should it? Wanda has inflicted severe trauma on these people. Earlier, when Agatha (Kathryn Hahn) “cut the strings” so these citizens could speak freely, Dottie (Emma Caulfield Ford), whose real name is Sarah, pleads with the superhero to “let [her daughter] out of her room.” Another resident says, “Your grief is poisoning us.” Vision’s former colleague Norm (Asif Ali) tells Wanda, “When you let us sleep, we have your nightmares.”
This scene marks the other —possibly more lasting — moment from the finale. Taking away a person’s autonomy, their free will, their identity — that is a rough act to wrestle with, even as an accident. Soon after, Agatha tells Wanda, “Heroes don’t torture people,” to which Wanda counters, “The difference between you and me is that you did this on purpose.” Except… what did Agatha do, exactly? In the flashback to 1693, it was implied she used her dark magic for illicit means, but here in the present, she was merely hiding in Westview, trying to understand Wanda’s powers, and then attempting to steal them. Should a witch in Agatha’s position really have done anything different? Wanda was torturing these people. Someone had to stop her, and for the longest time, no one else could get inside the hex. Agatha may have done some bad things once she stole Wanda’s powers, but setting aside her wicked ensemble and evil laugh (which, my God, Hahn does so well), all she’d really done was kidnap Wanda’s imaginary children and killed her dog.
Now, clearly, Agatha had to be stopped, since she couldn’t be trusted. And S.W.O.R.D. Director Hayward (Josh Stamberg) was arguably an even worse dude, though some suit with a gun could never be a formidable villain for Wanda. But therein lies the unsettling paradox in “WandaVision.” Wanda was both the hero and the villain. She was to blame for everything, and she was the one who saved the day. Schaeffer and her writing team did an admirable job coming up with stand-ins for her to battle, and Hahn made for a flat-out marvelous opposing force, but the show struggled to resolve Wanda’s actions. If her punishment was her sacrifice, having that extra time with Vision and her kids was also a reward. Mentally, she’s walking out of Westview better off than she was when she entered, but everyone else in that town is going to be psychologically scarred forever. Can you imagine going to bed at night after those nightmares? Can you imagine going back to your regular life after, in the blink of an eye, you were robbed of it? Why couldn’t that happen again, when the person responsible is still out there?
Courtesy of Disney+
Eventually, the MCU will address some of these questions, at least when it comes to Wanda’s culpability. But that’s what makes assessing “WandaVision” so difficult; it’s not really a limited series, but one part of the MCU’s larger whole. It’s a chapter in a never-ending novel, not a complete story centered around its main character. Anyone complaining that it took too long for Wanda to confront her grief was told to go back and watch the preceding movies, which would help attach the emotional tether left slack for so long in the show. Similarly, anyone frustrated by this resolution could be told to just wait, Wanda’s story is ongoing and they’ll pick up those pieces down the line.
The MCU always has been episodic. That construction has been its not-so-secret strength when stitching its movie universe together. “WandaVision” broke up its episode into nine parts, but it’s still just one part of a bigger story. In Episode 8, Wanda’s connection to TV sitcoms showed why she created one for herself; it revealed the temptation to escape from reality into a safe world where everything would always turn out OK. But it also showed why you can’t stay in that reality forever; why you have to live your life while you can, accepting the good with the bad while fighting for as much good as you can control. Episode 9 simply executes those lessons, as Wanda makes peace with reality and sets herself on a path for the future. That’s TV. It’s ongoing, and whether that story keeps going in future films or more series, so be it.
Still, a sticking point has to be that “WandaVision” focused on mental health, but only as far as it benefits the hero. Wanda took over Westview and created her sitcom life as a reaction to her unbearable sadness. By living out the life she was denied (and being awakened to her false reality), she found a path forward. “What is grief, if not love persevering?” Wanda perseveres, but what about the aggrieved people left in her wake? Where do they go from here? “WandaVision” gives its hero a fitting journey, but by framing Wanda’s actions as a “sacrifice,” it also lets its villain off the hook.
“WandaVision” is available to stream in its entirety on Disney+.
- Forgive me for not dissecting the big action scenes in “The Series Finale,” but they pale in comparison to the episode’s other elements. Vision vs. Vision is… fine. The aforementioned verbal brain-bender that served as the deciding blow is a fitting cute closer that highlights Bettany’s elocution skills. But it was clear that both boss battles didn’t have much to do other than toss meaningless objects at each other, whether that was a car or CGI spells. Wanda and Agatha only feels more substantial because hot damn, Olsen and Hahn are good. Thank goodness they tease Agatha’s return; these two need to keep working together.
- I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Give Randall Park more to do. I don’t care what, and Jimmy actually got a decent chunk of story in the finale (“Flourish!”), especially compared to Kat Dennings’ Darcy, who had to settle for ramming her clown car into Hayward. OK, maybe give them both more to do — and I don’t just mean Marvel. All of Hollywood, hire these two.
- Ralph Bohner, aka Fake Quicksilver, also gets an anticlimactic ending. As many MCU enthusiasts predicted, Evan Peters’ guest role is just a fake-out, the X-Men have not been introduced, and Marvel will have to figure out another way to bridge their worlds together.
- In better if equally expected news: Monica Rambeau is going to space! Teyonah Parris definitely deserves her big screen moment and, per the mid-credits scene, it appears to be coming in “Captain Marvel 2.” Good, good, more to look forward to.
- As for the post-credits scenes — yes, there are two scenes after the initial cut to credits — an astral projection of Wanda is shown reading the Darkhold, aka the “Book of the Damned.” Earlier in the episode, Agatha told Wanda that her powers were even greater than The Sorcerer Supreme, who just so happens to be Doctor Strange, who just so happens to be starring in an upcoming MCU movie. Obviously, this is not a coincidence, and Wanda will factor into “The Multiverse of Madness” in one way or another… most likely tied to her children, whose voices can be heard calling out to her before the final cut to black.
Courtesy of Disney+