Recap & Review: ‘WandaVision’ Series Finale, in which our heroes stories are resolved. Mostly.

This week WandaVision comes to a close with a nearly hour-long episode, fittingly titled “The Series Finale”. This episode will bring the story to a close (mostly, this is Marvel we’re talking about), but is it successful? There’s only one way to find out.

Heads up, I wrote the recap a little differently this week, with a section dedicated to each character. It was definitely easier to write, and I hope it’s easier to read.

WandaVision

Seriously. Spoilers galore are coming. You’ve been warned.

Wanda

Picking up right where last week left off, Agatha and Wanda are in a standoff, with Agatha holding he kids in magical nooses. Wanda threatens a fight, and Agatha replies that’s exactly what she wants. Wanda blasts Agatha and Agatha absorbs the power.

White Vision shows up and, after what seems like a moment of recognition, attacks Wanda. Westview Vision saves her, and they decide to fight for this home they have created.

After reading a passage from the Darkhold (the magical book last seen in Agatha’s basement) explaining that the Scarlet witch is a powerful witch fated to destroy the world, Agatha confronts Wanda with the people of Westview. Freed from Wanda’s control by Agatha, they confess they are being poisoned by her grief and tortured by her nightmares. Wanda opens the hex and lets them all escape, but in doing so, realizes that her family is tied to the hex and cannot exist without it, and closes the hex again.

Hayward and S.W.O.R.D. show up, having used the opening in the hex, and the kids freeze them in place. The kids deal with the S.W.O.R.D. agents, Westview Vision fights White Vision, and Wanda fights Agatha.

Wanda uses her magic to create a dream space of Agatha’s 1693 trial. Wanda resurrects the witches that Agatha drained, but they attack Wanda, recognizing her as the Scarlet Witch, destined to destroy the world. They blast their way back to reality and have a giant CGI fight in the sky, with Wanda telling Agatha to take all her power. Wanda blasts Agatha over and over again but misses every few shots as well until it’s revealed she has cast runes on the walls of the hex –a trick she learned in Agatha’s basement– which prevents Agatha from using her magic. Wanda asserts herself, drains all of Agatha’s power, and becomes fully realized as the Scarlet Witch, complete with a modern version of her comic book outfit.

Wanda then magics Agatha back into Agnes, the nosy neighbour, and leaves her to live a life in Westview. The family comes back together and heads home. Wanda, now in control of her power and her grief, collapses the hex. She says a final goodby to the boys and Westview Vision. After they are gone, she says goodbye to Monica and flies away to parts unknown.

In a post-credits scene, Wanda is seen living in a remote cabin. She is seen sitting on the steps, and as she heads in to make tea, it is revealed that she is also astrally projecting and reading the Darkhold. She hears voices crying out for help, and the scene cuts to black.

Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff / WandaVision

Monica Rambeau

Fake Pietro is holding Monica in his man cave. Using her power to see energy fields, she realizes that the necklace he is wearing is how Agatha is controlling him. She manages to strip him of it, and he returns to his original personality, Ralph Bohner, who appears to be the slacker next door and not much else.

She races to the town square where Wanda and her family are facing off against Agatha, White Vision, and Haywards S.W.O.R.D. team. The boys have relieved the S.W.O.R.D. team of their weapons, but Hayward steps out of an armoured truck and attempts to shoot them. Monica steps in the way, and her body becomes pure energy, stopping the bullets.

Hayward tries to escape, but Darcy appears in the ice cream truck and rams the armoured truck he is driving.

After the hex collapses, Monica tells Wanda that the people of Westview will never know what she sacrificed. Wanda replies that it doesn’t matter; it wouldn’t change how they see her. With that, Wanda heads off to parts unknown.

In a mid-credits scene, Monica is told to head into the local theatre to meet with a S.W.O.R.D. commander, but it turns out that the S.W.O.R.D. agent leading her there is a Skrull who says that “and old friend of your mother sent me” and invites Monica to join them in space.

Vision

After an extended CGI fight between White Vision and Westview Vision, they come to a standstill. White Vision says that his programming directive is to destroy the Vision, but Westview Vision points out that he is not the actual Vision.

Hovering in the air the speak of the “Ship of Theseus” thought experiment: The Ship of Theseus sits in a museum. As the planks decay, they are replaced. When no original planks remain, is that still the ship of Theseus? And if the replaced planks are reformed into a ship, is that also the ship of Theseus?

Realizing that they are both, and neither, original Vision, Westview Vision posits that perhaps it is the wear and tear that makes it the ship. White Vision retains the original Vision’s memories, but they are blocked from him. Westview Vision unlocks those memories; White Vision states that he is Vision and flies away. Westview Vision rejoins his family outside just as Wanda is about to face Agatha in their final battle.

Jimmy Woo

Jimmy doesn’t actually have a lot to do in this episode. After being captured by S.W.O.R.D., Hayward explains his evil plan and tries to bring Jimmy on board, but Jimmy says that he has called his friends at the FBI and they will arrive within the hour. After being left alone, Jimmy uses a safety pin to get out of his handcuffs (“flourish!”) and use the phone he surreptitiously stole to call his friends at the FBI and ask them to arrive within the hour.

In the end, he is on hand to direct the FBI cleanup of the scene, arresting the S.W.O.R.D. agents, and helping the people of Westview.

Paul Bettany as Vision and Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff / WandaVision

Review

There is a lot to talk about with this episode but let me start by saying that I am glad there was no big cameo. I thought for sure that Benedict Cumberbatch would show up as Doctor Strange and would end up Wanda’s teacher, but it’s refreshing they didn’t do that even if they did end with almost literally the same ending as The Incredible Hulk.

We’re used to Marvel using their properties to set up other things, and this show was clearly guilty of that, but it felt a bit weird to me in the end in that all the connective tissue from this series seems intent on setting up Monica Rambeau for her place in Captain Marvel 2 more than anything else, and aside from that Marvel seemed content to use tried and true methods to get everyone talking about what is coming next, but then blow up all the theories that the fans have come up with. The bunny is Ralph, who is also Mephisto? Lol nope. White Vision is Ultron? Lol nope. Hayward is Ultron? Lol nope. Mutants joining the MCU? Lol nope.

I also liked that after the hex collapses, the people of Westview still look at Wanda with disdain and fear rather than understanding. Many superhero stories take the easy way out and have people forgive bad acts right away; this series seems to have chosen not to do that. I also love that the resolution for Vision is an intellectual one rather than a straight-up fight, which is far more fitting for his character.

The character I ended up most disappointed with was Agatha Harkness, not because of Kathryn Hahn’s performance but because I feel like she didn’t get any real development. Much like we got a walkthrough of Wanda’s past in episode 8, I feel like an actual exploration of her backstory and motivations should have happened. As a result of not doing so, she became a pretty boring villain, and even her powers were ill-defined. Marvel has done enough of these things now that there are definitely elements they can leave up to us to fill in the blanks, but characterization isn’t one of them.

Also, total side note, but does anyone else find it a little annoying that with all the potential that being witches and wielding actual magic (and in the case of Wanda, the ability to create anything at all), the big final fight between Wanda and Agatha was reduced to throwing coloured CGI at each other?

Wanda’s final goodbye to her family and her choice to stop hiding from her grief was well executed as well. Olsen and Bettany are both good actors, and they are the reason the show is, I think, a success overall. Strong performances can forgive many things, and WandaVision really only had one other big thing that needed forgiveness.

Kathryn Hahn as Agatha Harkness / WandaVision

There are a lot of things I could talk about here in terms of where things are going and what is a reference to what, but here’s the thing: especially in the latter half of the series, this was –I think– the problem with the series. Each episode seemed focussed on making us talk each week, to the detriment of the viewing experience. A well-executed story like this will contain lots of easter eggs so that people familiar with the source material will feel rewarded. WandaVision –more than some of the other entries in the MCU– seems designed specifically keyed to this demographic. I think that in the end, not only did the storytelling suffer (seriously, we needed Agatha backstory), but we, the audience (and I do mean we, I am definitely guilty of this too), ended up focussing on the references and easter eggs more than on the story that was being told.

There is a tendency among nerds to look at every story as a puzzle to be unlocked rather than something to be felt or learned from. There’s an old saying that if the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem starts to look like a nail. It has felt for a while like we nerds only tool is recognizing references, so we look for those first and sometimes miss the point. Look, this isn’t a perfect metaphor, but I feel like we all need to remember to sit back and enjoy the story first, is all I am saying.

Ultimately I think WandaVision was a success. I don’t think it was perfect, but I think that there was way more good than bad in it, and I enjoyed the story. Wanda and Vision are both interesting characters, and I am glad that we got a chance to see them as the main characters rather than in supporting roles for a change. I will say that overall I definitely preferred the earlier episodes, in which we were dropped into a world with little explanation and trusted to figure out what was going on. The more was explained, the more marvel standard it got, the weaker it got. Again, not that it was bad, just that it wasn’t as unique as it thought itself to be. What made the Marvel movies so great in the first place was always that they seemed interested in telling good stories, and making good movies, first. Whenever they stray from that, they suffer at least a little.

WandaVision Coverage:

  1. Review of episodes 1-3: ‘WandaVision’ is delightfully weird and intriguing
  2. Recap: Episode One: “Filmed Before a Live Studio Audience”
  3. Recap: Episode Two: “Don’t Touch That Dial”
  4. Recap: Episode Three: “Now in Color”
  5. Recap: Episode Four: “We Interrupt This Program”
  6. Recap: Episode Five: “On A Very Special Episode…”
  7. Recap: Episode Six: “All-New Halloween Spooktacular!”
  8. Recap: Episode Seven: “Breaking the Fourth Wall”
  9. Recap: Episode Eight: “Previously On”
  10. Recap: Episode Nine: “The Series Finale”

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