Marvel Has Painted Itself Into a Corner With the Scarlet Witch’s Story Arc
Elizabeth Olsen announced at SXSW that she thinks Wanda Maximoff, a.k.a. the Scarlet Witch, is returning to the Marvel Cinematic Universe in the upcoming Disney+ series Agatha: Coven of Chaos. It’s the news that Wanda fans have been waiting for ever since she was killed off at the end of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, and we’re over the moon at the thought of getting Wanda back.
But how can Marvel bring her back in a way that feels satisfying, and not a cheap reset of her character? Where does Wanda go from here? There are two main paths Marvel could take, but both of them present problems.
Scenario #1: Wanda comes back as a variant
In Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, we meet a variant of Wanda on Earth-838. This Wanda lives as a suburban mom with her sons Billy and Tommy, just like “our” Wanda tried to do in the false reality she created in WandaVision.
Unlike our Wanda, this variant is innocent—at least, as far as audiences can tell. If this variant, or another from a different reality, managed to travel to Earth-616 (the prime Marvel universe), then she could effectively take the other Wanda’s place. She could join the Avengers. She could meet White Vision.
However, that would make our Wanda’s death feel pretty cheap. The new variant wouldn’t be the character whose story we’ve been following since 2014, when we first met her in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. All the character development we experienced alongside Wanda would be erased, even if the new variant shared some of her experiences.
Plus, as fans have pointed out, a move like that would set a troubling precedent for future Marvel films: anyone who dies can simply be replaced by a variant. Characters would become disposable, and death would be a meaningless plot device—which is already a long-running problem in comics.
Scenario #2: Wanda survived the collapse of Mount Wundagore
At the end of Doctor Strange 2, Wanda realizes that what she’s done is wrong, and she brings down Mount Wundagore on top of herself so that she can destroy the Darkhold in every universe. (How does all that work, exactly? Eh, it’s magic, we don’t need to understand.) As the mountain collapses, we see the same flash of magic that signaled Hela’s death in Thor: Ragnarok. That particular visual effect seems to be Marvel shorthand for “this magic-wielding character just died.”
But who knows for sure? Maybe Wanda crawled out of the rubble some time later. If that’s the case, then sure, I’ll suspend my disbelief. Or maybe another character brings her back from the dead. Why not?
The problem with that, though, is that Wanda’s character arcs in WandaVision and Doctor Strange 2 are almost identical. In WandaVision, she’s driven by grief to hurt a lot of people and do some unforgivable things, but then she redeems herself at the end. In Doctor Strange 2 … well, she’s driven by grief to hurt a lot of people and do some unforgivable things, but then she redeems herself at the end. They’re two very different stories, yes, but they have the same major beats.
If Wanda survived the collapse of Wundagore, what can she do next that won’t feel repetitive? How can Marvel explore the next steps of her story in a way that feels believable, but doesn’t give audiences déjà vu?
If Wanda is indeed returning in Agatha: Coven of Chaos, then her evolving relationship with Agatha Harkness might prove fertile ground for some new and interesting developments. Here’s hoping! I’m glad we’re getting our girl back, but Marvel had better do her justice.
(featured image: Marvel Entertainment)
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