Wanda’s Journey in ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ Certainly Is a Wild One
Gotta talk about my girl.
The time has come, and I have a lot of feelings about Wanda Maximoff’s arc in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Elizabeth Olsen acted her ass off in this movie and did an incredible job with the arc that she was given, and the reason I don’t fully hate it is because of how Lizzie Olsen approaches the character. That being said, there were problems I had with the movie’s treatment of Wanda, and it’s not fully because of the movie itself but because of the perception of this character that it reinforced.
This is a long journey of me unpacking what I did and didn’t like about her arc in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
**Spoilers for Wanda’s arc in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness lie ahead**
Well, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness did what I feared it would. They turned Wanda into a villain of sorts and a mockery of one, at that. Her entire arc was about getting her sons back, and she didn’t care who she killed in the process—and her being “reasonable” was sending a demon to collect a fourteen-year-old America Chavez to steal her powers.
So all around, not great for the character and for those of us who love her. She basically got the Jean Grey treatment in that she was possessed by something, and everyone’s solution was to fight her instead of figuring out how to help her. “I’m not a monster, I’m a mother” has stuck in my head since seeing Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, and not in a good way. I am unapologetically a Wanda Maximoff fan. She’s a character that brings me such comfort and one that I’ve looked too a lot recently as I process my own grief.
So I didn’t exactly love that she’s the villain of Multiverse of Madness, and I really didn’t love that her character arc is, essentially, boiled down to “women who lose their children are crazy, huh?”
The problem with Wanda’s arc
The entire run of WandaVision was about Wanda’s grief and not realizing that she was hurting people. She accepted that she messed up and she left Westview saying to Monica that she didn’t expect the town to forgive her but that she knew what she did was wrong.
In Multiverse of Madness, Strange even says to her that she set everything right and that’s what matters. It’s there in the movie that they’re aware that Wanda isn’t a fully-fledged villain, and yet, for some reason, they sure as hell try to make her one. Now, it’s also established in this movie that she is possessed by the Darkhold, so some of her actions are not fully her own.
The same thing happened to Earth-838 Stephen Strange, and he died because of it, so when Wanda ultimately “sacrifices” herself to destroy the Darkhold, the implication is that she knows what she did was wrong and is trying to “set it right.” One, I don’t think Wanda is gone (at least not Earth-616 Wanda, anyway), and two, I think it’s really poor storytelling that your most powerful character has to essentially kill herself off because you turned her fully evil.
There are plenty of ways Wanda could have gotten back to her boys without going full villain, and there are still ways we see Billy and Tommy on Earth-616 so that we can have a Young Avengers era. But the fact that this movie completely boiled Wanda’s story down to “I’m so sad about my sons and I’m willing to destroy another child to get to them” is certainly … a choice.
You break the rules and become a hero
In the trailer, we see Wanda say to Stephen Strange, “You break the rules and become a hero. I do it and become the enemy. That doesn’t seem fair,” and while she is possessed in this moment by the Darkhold, her statement holds some truth. Granted, it’s not great that her “enemy” status is trying to kill a 14-year-old. (By not great I mean that’s horrific.)
But she’s right in the sense that Stephen Strange has constantly done things that have gotten people killed, taken people out of their own universes to be thrown into Earth-616, and still, he’s a hero when she’s instantly a villain. And I think that Strange knows that, too.
That’s why he said to her from the jump that she will always set things right and that’s what makes her a hero. They both know that what she’s doing isn’t going to be successful and that she’ll still do the right thing, and she inevitably does. This movie also made me respect Strange in a way I never did before because he sees how much he’s failed in other universes and knows that he has the ability to fail in Earth-616, too, but he’s willing to try to be a leader that people need, and that extends to telling Wanda that she’s not a villain multiple times in this movie.
Wanda and America
I hated that their entire storyline was Wanda wanting to kill America Chavez because she had a power that could bring her to her boys, and the only reason she wanted her dead was because Wanda had some absolutely baffling idea that if they got sick, she could then just pop into another universe and get a cure for it.
And no one thought to just simply talk to Wanda, either. Stephen spoke at her, which wasn’t helpful, and Wong even knew it wouldn’t be helpful, and it wasn’t until America realized she was their only hope that she finally figured out who could save Wanda (and by extension her): Wanda. I didn’t hate this part; I liked that the Wanda from Earth-838 was compassionate and understanding and knew the pain that Earth-616 was going through. I liked that she was willing to embrace herself and say that she didn’t need to worry about Billy and Tommy and that they will be loved.
Wanda is a badass, though
Did I love watching Wanda absolutely destroy the Illuminati in Earth-838? Yes. Absolutely. Her turning Mr. Fantastic into noodles is going to live in my head for the rest of my days, and I loved how gruesome it was. It’s just the why of it all I don’t like.
If she was just possessed by the Darkhold because Agatha didn’t warn her of its power? Fine, cool, I love it. But we didn’t even learn about the power the Darkhold had until we got to Earth-838, when Charles Xavier explained what happened to their Stephen Strange. So for the majority of the movie, we were just left wondering why she suddenly went all in on her kids when that wasn’t how WandaVision ended. But I loved that she was easily taking everyone out, and the only reason she stopped was because America realized what Wanda needed, and it wasn’t a bunch of people fighting her.
I don’t think this is the end for Wanda Maximoff in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And if it is, then I am extremely angry. But where I’m finding peace within myself is that there are so many other stories they can tell with her, and having her basically kill herself for the Darkhold would take away so many opportunities for the MCU at large.
Wanda has always been complicated. Clearly, having the Darkhold’s power over her was a mistake and one that she recognized and “set right.” But it still hurts to know that this story can be summarized by just saying that she was a mother who lost her kids and went crazy because of it. That’s what they did to her, and it felt like Michael Waldron and Sam Raimi didn’t really take WandaVision into consideration when crafting this (especially with how the show ended).
I hope that there’s a future where Wanda comes back and continues to be that Loki-esque character I love so much. But I also don’t relish in the fact that people will call her a villain in the same breath that they’ll love characters like Loki, either.
Wanda’s complicated, and this movie just made it a lot harder to talk about her without someone shutting down your feelings about her, and I just want her to have a better arc in other Marvel projects. I didn’t hate Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, but I did wish multiple times that it was any other character going through this villain arc, even if she did still do the heroic thing in the end.
(featured image: Marvel Entertainment)
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