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The WandaVision season 1 finale, episode 1.09 “The Series Finale”, is a deeply satisfying conclusion to the operative theme of the story and it shows the viewer that not all good things must end. Rather, they must transform.
For the past eight episodes, we have watched Wanda Maximoff succumb to her grief, deny her trauma, fight against anyone who questioned her newly engineered reality and, ultimately, confront her sorrow in an unexpected and poignant fashion. Today is about catharsis. Well, of a sort.
Wanda’s story, up to and even through this episode, is a perfect amalgam of theme and plot. The events of the plot have brought Wanda on the journey to emotional catharsis she needs to move forward.
In other words, Wanda begins the season one way – grief stricken, terrified of being alone, and an unaware of who she truly is. By the end, however, Wanda’s every characteristic that once defined her evolves into the opposite in almost every manner. Upon the conclusion of “The Series Finale” we bare witness to a new version of Wanda – one who doesn’t need anyone to tell her who she is, what she can and cannot do, and one who can confidently choose reality over her creation.
Literally closing the door on her sleeping boys, and letting her Vision of sadness, hope, and love slip through her fingers into the aeather is a definitive exclamation point to an emotional catharsis for Wanda. Considering the MCU DNA of a flagship show like this, it’s also a surprising and relatively muted ending for a show which stayed singularly focused on crafting it’s characters out of it’s operative theme.
First, though, let’s understand “theme”. In Into The Woods: A Five Act Journey Into Story, John Yorke defines “theme” as:
“A theory is posited, an argument explored, and a conclusion reached. That, in a nutshell, is what theme is. Subject matter…is a static given. Theme on the other hand, is an active exploration of an idea, it’s a premise to be explored, it’s a question.”
Our subject matter is Wanda, and all the characters surrounding her. But our theme, or question, well that’s a tad more complex.
By the end of “The Series Finale”, we see Wanda reconcile her grief, with her choices which leads to an emotional catharsis of leaving Westview. At the same time, however, she admits she doesn’t understand her power but she will unearth more about it soon. It’s now a matter of grief, and identity.
As such, my contention is that our operative theme is: how does one overcome grief when one doesn’t even know who they are anymore?
The whiz bang MCU action may have taken up most of the finale’s runtime and it was certainly well executed and exciting if that’s what you’re here to watch. I suspect what really mattered to Jac Schaeffer though, and whoever is reading this article, are the quieter moments that actually define the characters we were watching. One ounce of bittersweet goodbyes to children laying down in bed who are completely unaware of their impending erasure, or turning a lamp on to simply witness the physical embodiment of one’s love are far more definitive than a full hour of Rock ’em Sock ’em robots.
Speaking of Rock ’em Sock ’em robots, we get some Vision on Vision crime. Did the “White Vision” tease pay off? That’s debatable. Sure, there was some good aerial combat, phasing in and out, and general destruction of a perfectly innocent library. The inclusion of White Vision, however, didn’t significantly alter the plot for Wanda, or even for faux-Vision (Fision?). It was as if the writers did not know how to handle Fision (because if he joined Wanda in the fight against Agatha, then Agatha would have been smoked within a minute) so they let White Vision and Fision duke it out for half the episode in a fight that was totally unrelated to anything else happening in the show.
By the way, this nebulous treatment of Fision’s plot is not just a cynical observation based on his fight with White Vision. Oh no, the show is straight up screaming it in your face. When Fision does try to help Wanda, she inexplicably holds him back because of….reasons. Then Fision lands back on the ground with nothing to do other than look up at the fight and tell his children that everything is going to be ok. The plot needed Fision to be grounded once his fight with White Vision was over — so he was grounded.
All is not lost, though, as it relates to Fision because we witness some college freshman level philosophy debate about The Ship Of Theseus in mid fight between he and White Vision. For clarification, the Ship Of Theseus conundrum has been a widely debated theory among dime-store professors and stoner college kids staring at their Led Zeppelin “Stairway To Heaven” glow-in-the-dark lyrics poster for time immemorial. The theory behind the thought experiment is this:
It is supposed that the famous ship sailed by the hero Theseus in a great battle was kept in a harbor as a museum piece, and as the years went by some of the wooden parts began to rot and were replaced by new ones; then, after a century or so, every part had been replaced. The question then is whether the “restored” ship is still the same object as the original.
If it is, then suppose the removed pieces were stored in a warehouse, and after the century, technology was developed that cured their rot and enabled them to be reassembled into a ship. Is this “reconstructed” ship the original ship? If it is, then what about the restored ship in the harbor still being the original ship as well?
In essence, both are the Ship Of Theseus, and, neither are the Ship Of Theseus.
Obviously you can see how this applies to both White Vision and Fision – one having the physical body of Vision and the other retaining the psychology behind Vision. Both are Vision. Yet, neither are Vision.
That is until Fision unlocks White Vision’s memories, and without missing a beat, White Vision declares that he is Vision while jetting off never to be seen again. So, will White Vision come back into the story at a later time? You can guaran-frakking-tee it.
As for this singular episode of television, however, did the inclusion of White Vision do anything other than give us a ten cent philosophy lesson? Well, no. But, at the same time, yes. Like the Ship Of Theseus, or any Kardashian marriage, it’s complicated.
The Ship Of Theseus may directly relate to our Vision debate, but it also serves as a mirror for Wanda’s ultimate fate.
Strictly adhering to her operative theme, Jac Shaeffer forces Wanda to undergo an emotional transformation in letting go of her trauma, and the sitcom life she willingly set in motion while residing within Westview. Additionally, Schaeffer pushes Wanda to face a physical/metaphysical transformation in accepting the mantle of The Scarlet Witch. At the end of the second credits scene, we witness Wanda in a solitary cabin somewhere it the mountainous woods after she has left Westview. But there is also a “second” Wanda flipping through “The Darkhold” – otherwise known as the badass “book of the damned” set of spells — which was once housed in Agatha’s basement.
Now, are there literally two Wandas? No. There’s the physical entity of Wanda we see sipping coffee on the steps, and there is the Wanda (dressed in full Scarlet Witch attire) that exists on an astral plane floating in the air while flipping through the Darkhold. They are the same person doing two things at once. (Think Doctor Strange and his ability to separate himself through all different planes of existence.)
This separation of the Wandas at the end of the episode is a very straightforward way of dissecting her version of The Ship Of Theseus conundrum – which is the real Wanda? Is it the coffee sipping Wanda, or is the astral plane Scarlet Witch Wanda? The debate, however, dives much deeper than the final stinger. As we have already noted, Wanda started our show — heck, even our episode — one way, and ended the episode in a completely different way.
Through the season long events of our plot, Wanda has been tested and her core beliefs questioned right down to her lowest point yet – when she is physically wasted away in mid air while fighting Agatha. As she notes, Agatha takes away the powers of those who are undeserving. When all hope is seemingly lost, Wanda regains her power via some plot induced runes and physically alters Agatha for what could be eternity.
By the way, the irony of Agatha (who so desperately wanted her mother to accept Agatha’s true form) being transformed into a “nosy neighbor” is not lost on me or the theme. From this point forward, Agatha will find acceptance but only in a form she truly despises. Furthermore, given what we know about Wanda’s transformation of the townspeople of Westview, it’s more than likely that Agatha will be aware of Wanda’s control over her but will not have the agency to fight it. How deliciously spectacular of a punishment for Agatha – a witch who clashed with Wanda over knowledge and power, will have the knowledge but no power to do anything about it. Yum.
In spite of all the computer enhanced wizardry on display during the Agatha/ Wanda aerial battle, the fight for Wanda’s soul does raise a serious question: which version of Wanda is the real Wanda?
Is it the person with a once rotten core but who is now healed when she can lovingly embrace her children and Fision at episode’s end? Or is it The Scarlet Witch – someone who took on a literal and figurative transformation in her being. New
wooden planks outfit/powers and all?
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To further build on this question, now that Wanda has reached an emotional catharsis by the end of the finale, can Wanda even be Wanda without her grief? If not, who is she now? Most importantly, who WILL she BE going forward?
Is Wanda deserving of these new Scarlet Witch powers? Is she deserving of knowledge within The Darkhold? Will that transform Wanda, and will her actions fulfill the prophecy of The Scarlet Witch destroying the world as it was laid out by Agatha? These are important character questions for our Wanda, and now we can start to see why she is going to be co-starring in Dr. Strange: The Multiverse of Madness.
Perhaps Wanda does fulfill her destiny of becoming the destroyer of the world in the next film and transform into the villain that Monica suggested she would become back in episode 1.07? Now that she’s messing with the Darkhold, and her powers supersede that of the Sorcerer Supreme, I’m pretty sure the Sorcerer Supreme, Stephen Strange, will have something to say about Wanda altering the natural order of magic. But that’s for another story and another article.
What’s most impressive about this finale is it seems to build on some dialogue shared between Vision and Ultron in Avengers: Age Of Ultron. In one of the final scenes, Vision confronts Ultron and, despite the bombastic nature of everything happening around them, a fairly philosophical conversation once again receives the top billing treatment.
Whether or not humanity is doomed because of Wanda or something or someone else is irrelevant. Humanity is doomed nonetheless. But as Vision suggests, “a thing isn’t beautiful because it lasts.” Wanda cannot remain as she was, or as she is. She must evolve. She must move past Agatha, her kids, and, yes, even Fision – the embodiment of her pain, suffering, love, loss, and hope.
After she releases the town from Wanda’s grip, and the townsfolk share their pain they’ve been suffering from because of Wanda’s nightmares, Agatha suggests to Wanda that “power isn’t your problem.” Rather, Agatha continues, “it’s knowledge. Give me your power and I’ll correct the flaws in your original spell. No one will ever have to feel this pain again.” Wanda does seem to capitulate to Agatha’s suggestion, but her perception changes. Wanda’s journey through this story has taught her something far more important: Westview, and the life she’s forged within it’s cosmic bubble walls, is fake. Yes, even her children and Fision.
Wanda’s feelings, while very real, are being hidden. Shunning that pain and denying that knowledge is ultimate wall holding Wanda back. The choice between her family, and the thousands(?) of people in Westview is a decision she knows she has to make right. As such, Wanda no longer has any reason to be afraid of her feelings, her trauma, and – most of all – Agatha.
Writing in a literal wall of transformation to bear down on Wanda and her family, after she has made her choice, is a perfect writing tool – as it puts an emotional ticking clock on our characters we have now grown attached to over the past nine episodes. Even though she knows she must “make it right”, Wanda turns off the lamp in her family room after saying goodbye to her children. Her last defense mechanism kicks in, as she cannot bare witness to losing the love of her life once more. But as he helped Wanda through her grief in her flashback, Vision once again helps Wanda with her courage to let go.
Staring down the oncoming emotional ticking clock of the Hex barrel toward them, Vision plainly ratifies our operative theme when he turns to Wanda and says, “I know we can’t stay like this, but before we go, I feel I must : What am I?” Wanda’s reply is measured and bittersweet, “you arethe piece of the Mind Stone that lives in me…a body of wires and blood and bone that I created,” and “my sadness and my hope. But mostly, you’re my love.” As they embrace, Vision looks to comfort Wanda one final time. “I have been a voice with no body, a body but not human, and now, a memory made real. Who knows what I might be next?” (see the theme of transformation starting to kick in here?) Vision continues that they’ve “said good-bye before, so it stands to reason …” while Wanda finishes the sentence: “We’ll say hello again.” And while Wanda’s world finally starts to disintegrate, Vision, too, starts to disappear in her arms. “So long, darling,” are his last words before the whole illusion comes to an end. The scene transitions hard from a night setting to an immediate mid-day setting (see the imagery for the dawn of a new day?)
This is where Vision’s words from Ultron start to ring a little more true to me — recognition of the beauty in Westview and the inevitable collapse of that beauty, albeit forced by Agatha, is ultimately Wanda’s true catharsis by the end of this story. After enduring the final test of judgement and scornful looks from the residents of Westview, Wanda knows she has made everything right and flies off into the distance adorning her new Scarlet Witch identity. As of this moment, chaos and order are not opposites. They are the same for Wanda, and she’s tried to control everything in between to disastrous results. She’s changed, and she’s evolved into something more. Is it for the better? Perhaps. Perhaps not.
Then again, a thing isn’t beautiful because it lasts.
APROPOS OF NOTHING FOR EPISODE 1.09 OF WANDAVISION
- You’ll notice I didn’t even touch any of the S.W.O.R.D stuff in this episode. Honestly, because it was trash. Woo somehow has a safety pin that appears out of nowhere which allows him to unlock his handcuffs? Then, despite the fact there are 3 gaurds watching his every move from behind, Woo somehow snatches a cellphone right in front of Hayward and no one says, “hey, where the hell did my phone go?” Lazy writing.
- Hayward is the real bad guy from S.W.O.R.D. Whoopty do. The Hex breaks down and this is his big moment to do something, and all he does is just drive in and get owned by Wanda’s kids? Lazy writing.
- Dr. Darcy has a mini-cameo when she appears out of thin air to crash into Hayward. Then she just…disappears. Lazy writing.
- Monica’s powers don’t mean a whole ton to the plot either – except as a vehicle to show she can absorb bullets and help prove Hayward to be the bad guy. Lazy writing.
- A fun bit of subversion from the writers in making Fietro nothing more than an actor who lived in Westview who was given Pietro’s powers, or the illusion of Pietro’s powers, by Agatha.
- “Boys, go handle the military – Mommy will be right back.” This is ridiculous and awesome in every way at the same exact time.
- You know, a family is forever. We could never truly leave each other, even if we tried. You know that, right?” Wanda says before she shuts the door on her life. But follows it up with, “Boys? Thanks for choosing me to be your mom.” Perhaps this is why Wanda can hear their voices call to her in the credits scene. (Is this the beginning of the Multiverse?)Hmmm….
- The cop who beckoned Monica in the mid credits scene is a Skrull! You know – the shapeshifters who were in Captain Marvel? Oh, and the people who posed as Nick Fury in Spiderman: Far From Home. The Skrull suggests that Monica is going back to space in order to chat with an old friend – this is either Nick Fury (who was last seen on a Skrull ship in Far From Home, or Talos – who is also on the same ship.
- The little hand wavy nightmare inducing movement Wanda performs on Agatha is a call back to her powers in Age Of Ultron. She forced all the Avengers to face their deepest fears, and she does the same to Agatha.
- Fision sheds a single tear right before he disappears with the Hex. A final acknowledgement of his humanity as given to him by Wanda.
- The movie playing at the theater in the “un- hexed” version of Westview is called Tannhauser Gate, which is an incredible reference to Roy Batt’s fate at the end of Blade Runner.
- After Wanda smashes a car into Agatha, all we see are black boots underneath the damaged car. Another great movie reference – but in this case its for the Wicked Witches fate in The Wizard of Oz.
- “Goodnight, chaps.” I will make it a goal to say this to my kids every night before bed. It’ll never happen – but my head canon says it will.
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