clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

WandaVision’s twist on Wanda Maximoff’s Scarlet Witch origin story, explained

How WandaVision episode 8 sets up the show’s finale, and the MCU’s future.

WandaVision episode 8.
Alex Abad-Santos is a senior correspondent who explains what society obsesses over, from Marvel and movies to fitness and skin care. He came to Vox in 2014. Prior to that, he worked at the Atlantic.

Spoilers follow for WandaVision episode eight, “Previously On.”

The sitcom is over now.

For the first time in WandaVision’s young history, the show’s latest episode didn’t feature our favorite telekinetic Avenger reenacting timeless television shows like The Dick Van Dyke Show, Bewitched, The Brady Bunch, or Modern Family. Instead, episode eight, “Previously On,” spelled out how Wanda, Vision, Agatha, and the rest of Westview’s residents ended up in their current predicament.

It turns out that Agatha is an ancient witch who was drawn to Westview because of Wanda’s massive power display in creating the place. Throughout WandaVision’s previous seven episodes, it had looked to viewers — and to S.W.O.R.D. — like Wanda was just mind-controlling everyone and giving them new clothes. But to Agatha’s keen eye, Wanda was actually doing magic on a grand scale.

Agatha takes Wanda through a journey of Wanda’s memories, trying to figure out where her powers came from. The very traumatic therapy session yields a couple of revelations about Wanda’s past, but also her sitcom connection — Wanda grew up watching sitcoms as a way to escape from the trauma of war and grief; when faced with the ultimate grief, she literally put herself and Vision into a sitcom to escape.

The revelations and twists in this episode are maybe a little less flashy than what WandaVision has given us in the past. Instead of hurtling us forward, “Previously On” provided much more information about Wanda and developed her as a character more than Marvel’s movies ever have. And in doing so, it laid the foundation for Wanda — or, as Agnes calls her, the Scarlet Witch — to embark on future big-screen endeavors.

Here’s a little more detail into what we now know about Wanda, how it connects to Marvel’s comics, episode eight’s mid-credits scene, and what all of this means as WandaVision’s nine-episode season begins to wrap up.

Wanda’s powers are actually magical and existed before the Infinity Stone experiments

All season long, the question underscoring WandaVision has been: Who’s behind all of this? The broadcast, the sitcom hijinks, the costumes, the energy field, Vision’s resurrection — who or what was capable of doing all that? And further, could it really be Wanda Maximoff?

The answer, according to the penultimate episode, is unequivocal: Yes, it’s absolutely Wanda.

How Vision was able to purchase the deed for property in Westview, I’m not entirely sure — nor am I an expert in synthezoid real estate transactions. But spurred by trauma and grief, Wanda created an entire world for her and Vision in Westview, completely changing the reality around her on an atomic scale while also mind-wiping its citizens.

The explanation behind Wanda’s sudden power surge, which had a little help from one Agatha Harkness, is that everyone, including Wanda, has been thinking of Wanda’s powers in a skewed way.

Being a witch herself, Agatha recognizes Wanda’s powers as a series of spells or magic rather than telekinesis and telepathy gifted to her by an Infinity Stone (as was first mentioned in the post-credits scene of Captain America: Winter Soldier; her powers were then referenced again in Avengers: Age of Ultron). The Infinity Stone simply amped up Wanda’s latent magical abilities. The mind control and energy-blasting that Wanda’s been doing in Marvel’s movies are, it turns out, just the tip of the iceberg — a small taste of how Wanda’s magic has manifested itself.

This new origin story aligns itself with Marvel’s comics and Wanda’s powers there.

Thanks to multiple retcons, Wanda’s powers in the comic are a convoluted and complicated mix of what’s called “chaos magic” (which Agatha says at the end of the episode) and reality warping. In a world full of order, math, science, and technology, Wanda’s powers are an anomaly that bucks those concepts. According to Marvel, she can use magic to rewrite reality if she so desires. Marvel explains:

Due to exposure to mystic energies and forces at an early age, Wanda may reshape reality to various extremes. Known as a “hex” in her formative years as an Avenger, the Scarlet Witch believed she used the ability to affect probabilities for a positive benefit to herself, though at times to imprecise outcomes. Later, she mastered the ability and began to understand it as a literal altering of reality.

WandaVision has been hinting at this since the very beginning. In the show’s first episode, Wanda burns a chicken she’s cooking and then tries to undo the damage — but turns the chicken into a basket of eggs. That episode also features the wife of Vision’s boss muttering the word “chaos” — an Easter egg referencing Wanda’s comic book powers.

Episode two featured more of Wanda dabbling in magic, at a convenient neighborhood magic show. It also seems she is able to affect reality: When the beekeeper-looking figure emerges from the sewer, Wanda “rewinds” him out of the picture. She also made herself pregnant.

In episode five, Darcy, Monica, and Agent Woo realized that Wanda is manipulating matter. The three note that Monica went through the Westview energy field wearing a Kevlar vest, but when she was zapped out of Westview, it appeared that Wanda had changed the vest into a period-appropriate costume. She seemed to have done the same thing with a S.W.O.R.D. drone, which became a toy helicopter. In episodes six and seven, we learn that Monica’s cells were rewritten when she passed through the energy field and she now displays electricity- or light-based superpowers.

While Agatha and Wanda are seemingly headed for a duel in the season finale, the revelation of Wanda’s magic-based powers also tie into the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Wanda is reportedly a big figure in the upcoming 2022 Marvel sequel, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. It makes a lot of sense, then, that, assuming Wanda gets through this ordeal in Westview, she’ll seek out the most powerful magic-user in the MCU. Or perhaps it’s the other way around and the most powerful magic-user in the MCU will seek out Wanda, someone who may be even more powerful than he is.

It’s been Agatha Harkness all along. But what does she want with the “Scarlet Witch”?

Kathryn Hahn as Agatha Harkness in WandaVision episode eight.

Episode eight also gives us a bit of Agatha’s backstory, which goes all the way back to 1693 Salem. Apparently, Agatha is a very old witch whose coven attacked her because she was dabbling in magic that was too powerful. During their attack, she turned the tables and seemingly absorbed all their powers and sucked the life out of them.

She became interested in Wanda and Westview, she tells Wanda, because she sensed the magic Wanda was emitting. She not only wants to know how Wanda is capable of achieving the magic, she also wants it for herself. Ostensibly, it seems as though Agatha will try to siphon Wanda’s powers like she did with those of the witches back in 1693.

At the episode’s cliffhanger, Agatha says something very peculiar. She calls Wanda the “Scarlet Witch” — a name that seems to mean a lot to Agatha and the audience and not so much to Wanda.

Scarlet Witch is Wanda’s comic book code name or alias, but not a name that we’ve heard in Marvel’s movies. In the MCU, she’s only ever gone by Wanda. Similarly, her brother Pietro has only ever gone by Pietro, though he’s known in the comics as Quicksilver.

But Agatha isn’t saying it in a “code name” superhero kind of way. Instead, when Agatha says Wanda is the Scarlet Witch, it sounds like some kind of mystical being that Agatha has read about, or some kind of magical prophecy. And now that she’s met Wanda and knows that she’s capable of warping reality and manipulating matter, Agatha’s put two and two together.

Agatha’s menacing portrayal on WandaVision is a slight deviation from the comics, where she is actually one of Wanda’s mentors who aligns herself with heroes like the Avengers and the Fantastic Four. She plays a big role in helping Wanda realize her powers. She figures prominently in a story about Wanda’s children, and the resurrection of at least one dead Avenger. While she often teaches through tough love, and while she is often antagonistic in the comics, Agatha is not as outright evil or power-hungry there as she is in her WandaVision portrayal.

Being a fan of Kathryn Hahn, I’m selfishly hoping that Agatha and Wanda will figure out a way to talk this all out and become begrudging pals — or allies like they are in the comics. But it sure does seem like Agatha is determined to take Wanda’s chaos magic, which suggests things won’t end well.

WandaVision’s penultimate episode’s mid-credits scene sets up its season finale

While the magical duel is getting underway in Westview, there’s still the pesky matter of S.W.O.R.D. director Tyler Hayward going about his villainous business outside of the anomaly. He’s been wanting to bomb Westview and eliminate Wanda for a few episodes now. He’s also been trying, and failing, to resurrect Vision on his own.

Episode eight’s mid-credits scene gives us a glimpse of Hayward, just beyond the hex, setting up a last-ditch effort. He and his team have brought Vision’s body along (the version of Vision in Westview that was created by Wanda’s power surge and grief), and they attempt to resurrect it using residue power from Wanda herself, which was left in the drone he tried to kill Wanda with in episode five.

“We took this thing apart and put it back together again a million times,” he tells his team, explaining they’ve tried every kind of power supply. “All we needed was a little energy directly from the source.”

Hayward tells his team to push the button and the residue power charges up Vision’s corpse. This “Vision” comes to life, then blinks, before the scene cuts to black.

Hayward, being kind of a jerk, will probably use his zombie Vision to attack Wanda and set up the finale: Wanda and Agatha duke it out while Hayward tries to eliminate all of Westview with his new toy. Maybe — and this is me again being a Hahn apologist — such a scenario could lead to Agatha and Wanda forming a truce to save themselves and the people of Westview? Or perhaps it could lead to Wanda’s version of Vision reuniting with his body? Maybe Monica, Darcy, and Agent Woo (whom we haven’t heard from in a while) have more tricks up their sleeve?

Whatever happens, I selfishly hope this all ends with Hahn’s Agatha getting her own spinoff show, but we’ll all find out the answers in next week’s season finale.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for Vox Recommends

Get curated picks of the best Vox journalism to read, watch, and listen to every week, from our editors.