Kevin: Happy WandaVision Finale Day, Melissa, to you and all who celebrate! Truth be told, I’d never thought I’d find religion this late in life, let alone this late in the Marvel run.
Melissa: Hallelujah! Welcome to our coven, Kevin.
Kevin: We’ve chatted a lot about how in love I am with this show, a spiritual awakening that’s been most unexpected considering I’ve come to revile most of the Marvel output of late. On my least cranky day, I at least still find the scale and the interconnectedness of the Marvel Cinematic Universe to be increasingly exhausting and alienating. But what am I doing being negative when today is a day of celebration! That finale! Such fun, such emotion, such corniness, such action, such heart. I’m so excited to talk to you about this because I think we come from two different spheres. You are The Daily Beast’s in-house Marvel guru. I am… the opposite of that. But we both happen to love this show. I thought maybe you could help demystify a little about the tangled Marvel-y plot twists that happened.
Melissa: “Marvel guru” is overly generous, but I am completely obsessed with this show. I stayed up to watch the finale at three in the morning. I keep yelping “Wanda!” in excitement at random intervals.
Kevin: I could scream “Kathyrn Hahn!!!” a few hundred times, and that would be the extent of my contribution to the plot description. So let’s get to the bottom of why this crazy Marvel experiment worked so well (and why, on my end at least, I found the finale… only OK.) To start: What the hell just happened? I kid. I’ll be more specific: Exactly, what the hell just happened? I guess let’s launch with the biggest reveal. (I am leading you on because, if I’m honest, I’m not entirely sure I get what the big reveal is…)
Melissa: There were quite a few! From Fietro’s real identity (not the Quicksilver from Fox’s X-Men films, after all, just some guy called Ralph Bohner) to a bullet-defying demonstration of the newly superpowered Monica Rambeau’s abilities to—and this one was frankly the most important to me—the debut of Wanda Maximoff’s Scarlet Witch costume.
Kevin: Yes! That’s why this is one of my favorite Marvel projects in a long time. I have no connection to Wanda’s Scarlet Witch costume, just like in past episodes I didn’t quite know why it was a big deal when Evan Peters showed up as Fietro or when Agnes revealed herself to be Agatha Harkness (all along!). But I did know it was a BIG DEAL. The same thing happened when Wanda’s plain clothes transformed into the Scarlet Witch costume. The specifics of what was going on meant kind of nothing to me. But they did such a great job of flagging the drama of it that it thrilled me nonetheless, even without having that deep Marvel connection. I gay-gasped, which hasn’t happened to me while watching a Marvel thing since Chris Evans was shirtless that one time.
Melissa: The costume, much like Chris Evans’ torso, is perfect. It looks witchy and faintly goth and it’s got the pointy red headpiece and the flared skirt and even a hood (practical!) and I could hijack the rest of this conversation to gush exclusively about it.
Kevin: I won’t be mad if you do!
Melissa: But in terms of universe-altering, classic MCU-style “reveals,” the biggest was buried in the final seconds of the second post-credits scene. Wanda, in enviable leisurewear, prepares a cup of tea in a remote lakeside cabin after undoing the Hex and bidding a wrenching farewell to her husband and kids. While she fiddles with the stovetop, we see what looks like an astral projection of Wanda as the Scarlet Witch leafing through the Darkhold—the moldy-looking dark magic book Agatha introduced. In some of the comics, Wanda’s chaos magic originates from an evil Elder God called Chthon, which I have no idea how to pronounce. He’s a bad dude who imbued her with some of his own magic shortly after she was born, with the intention of taking over her body one day. It would explain how Wanda was able to cast a probability hex as a kid in Sokovia, pre-Mind Stone.
Am I losing you?
Kevin: Uhh… yes. Haha. I was with you for the “enviable leisurewear” part, because god, yes. Has a superhero ever looked so cozy? And I appreciated that post-credits scene because of what it revealed about the character’s trajectory of grief, trauma, and healing. That has wound up being such a surprisingly moving throughline of this show for me. But now I’m the one digressing.
Melissa: OK, long story short, Chthon created the Darkhold as a kind of foothold back to Earth should he wish to return. Agatha mentioned there’s a whole chapter in there dedicated to the Scarlet Witch. If Wanda, now established as one of the most powerful beings in the MCU, is messing with dark magic to learn more about her new role and possibly manipulate the multiverse (maybe to save her kids, whose voices we hear echo ominously?), it’s bad news for everyone—Agatha informs us the Scarlet Witch is “destined to destroy the world,” after all. And it probably signals that Chthon’s entry is imminent, likely to coincide with Wanda’s appearance in next year’s Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness. That title probably hints that Wanda’s dark magic studies will have far-reaching implications not just in her own reality, but throughout the multiverse. I’m sorry I’m like this.
Kevin: See you just used my trigger word. “Multiverse” is generally where my eyes start to glaze over when it comes to Marvel stuff. But I concede that I have no choice but to embrace the multiverse if I’m going to continue watching Wanda’s journey, so please continue.
Melissa: This is a weird bit of evidence to back up the Chthon theory, but a fun Easter Egg I haven’t seen other outlets highlight yet all but confirms it: The billboard behind Agatha during her big fight with Wanda in the Westview town square advertises a cleaner called “Squeaky Shine.” The tagline: “All natural formula using the power of Mother Earth.” Gasp! Mother Earth is a reference to Chthon’s sister, who “infused her essence into all living things,” as you’ll see in the oft-referenced comics panel below:
Meanwhile, here’s Agatha:
Kevin: I SAID YOU WERE THE MARVEL GURU! Own it. That’s such a good catch, and I am so excited for the people who have any idea what in the world you are talking about to be so excited about it.
Melissa: OK, moving on: I’m curious to hear more of your thoughts about these admittedly more conventional last two episodes of WandaVision. They ended up playing a bit like the Big Bad-stomping third act in any given Marvel movie.
Kevin: I mean, you just nailed what I obviously didn’t love about it. God, there was so much flying around. Like, enough already! Come back to the ground! Those Marvel third acts tend to be excruciating to me. I’m not anti-fight sequence. But these sequences always tend to be interminable, to the point that they become flat when they’re supposed to be exciting.
Melissa: They are absolutely, routinely the dullest parts of these otherwise super-fun movies. A recent low point, I think, was Spider-Man: Far From Home: Just Peter Parker whizzing around a bridge with a bunch of drones for what felt like 45 minutes.
Kevin: And the thing that seemed to plague WandaVision’s final battle is, as much as I can’t believe I get to watch Kathryn Hahn absolutely own every aspect of embodying a Marvel villain, the kind of fighting she and Wanda were doing, specifically, is really hard to make visually interesting, or even that scary. I already hate how much Marvel fight sequences tend to resemble cartoons, and it doesn’t help matters when the weapons are bright-colored energy beams. Any time the series detoured to the Salem Witch Trials stuff, however, I was horrified.
Melissa: That sequence contrasted so starkly with the repetitiveness of the red vs. purple wiggly-woos. Illustrating that kind of psychological battle through a memory manipulated into a nightmare was so effective. I do wish the finale had taken more of advantage of these characters' surreal abilities like that.
Kevin: There’s so much rich, terrifying, fascinating stuff in that realm to stun viewers with instead of just having people fly around like usual. And when Agnes says, “Same story, different century. There’ll always be torches and pitchforks for ladies like us, Wanda.” What a line! I applauded. The two Visions fighting each other, however, that I did enjoy. That was hot.
Melissa: GIRL. It was somehow the funniest thing this show ever did (who predicted the Ship of Theseus paradox playing a pivotal role in the finale?), weirdly the hottest, and just perfectly suited to the character, a true philosopher and a poet. Definitely one of the more creatively staged face-offs in an episode that otherwise relied too much on generic CG-fueled throwdowns.
Kevin: I missed the style of the earlier episodes. The tour through sitcom history through a Marvel prism was so audacious, and the changing visual aesthetic each week was so welcome in a cinematic universe that seems to have mandated the same neutered, desaturated palate across all its projects—including these last two episodes of WandaVision. Having the sitcom gimmick reflect how not just Wanda, but all of us, have learned to process grief and retreat to our coping mechanisms was brilliant to me. Getting to watch Kathryn Hahn’s performance unfold along that same arc, climaxing with that “It Was Agatha All Along” twist was a treat in a way I haven’t enjoyed in television before. (I told you I’d just end up screaming “Kathryn Hahn!” 100 times.)
Melissa: Understandable. I’m really glad we’ll definitely be seeing more of her in MCU, by the way. She'll almost certainly emerge from Westview sometime soon, maybe to mentor Wanda in magic. I’m also excited for what’s next for Monica Rambeau, now that she’s free of S.W.O.R.D. and Wanda’s reign of terror. In the episode’s first post-credits scene, a Skrull (shapeshifting aliens introduced in Captain Marvel) reveals herself and relays a message about an old friend of her mother’s who’d like to meet her. The Skrull points to the sky, which means… space! Where none other than Nick Fury was last seen sipping coconut juice on a Skrull ship. Exciting! Pity about the aerospace engineer, though.
Kevin: And then there’s that grief. Now that we’ve seen the finale, I’m loath to revisit the irritating discourse about the line of dialogue from last week that has gotten the internet so worked up. But I do think the finale lends context to it.
Melissa: I completely missed that. What happened?
Kevin: The implausibly controversial line in question comes when Vision is comforting Wanda after the death of Pietro. “What is grief, if not love persevering?” Someone tweeted something hyperbolic about how it’s the best dialogue she’s ever heard, the internet mocked her, armchair psychologists (Twitter trolls) started debating whether that’s an accurate description of grief in the first place, and everything is awful.
Melissa: What? What????
Kevin: Discourse aside, I loved that line. I found it quite beautiful, in a corny way—which, let’s be honest with ourselves, can often be the most powerful and affecting way. In this finale, we see Wanda have to give up her family again, forcing her to deal with the finality of loss. Was the goodbye scene between her and her Vision creation sappy? Totally. Did it get me to shed a tear? Absolutely.
Melissa: I had to try so hard not to cry.
Kevin: I mean, “We’ve said goodbye before, so it stands to reason we’ll say hello again.” What a cheesy, great line, one that made me choke up again while I typed it. Because, to be honest, this is the shit I love with this genre. I love when it uses the bigness of everything that superhero worlds have to offer and takes advantage of that to magnify complex feelings, so that maybe we can understand the nuances of them better when they’re made just as big—or, in some cases, cheesy. I think I’m rambling. Anyway… Kathryn Hahn!
Melissa: Yes! Feelings! Superhero stories are like soap operas—they should have big emotions, diehard relationships, both romantic and platonic, and yes, only a loose relationship with the finality of death. But the feelings, to me, is the real appeal of the Marvel Cinematic Universe thus far. It has created so many characters and relationships so charming and vulnerable, you can’t help but get invested. (I was surprised by how attached I’d become to Tommy and Billy by the end of WandaVision, for instance.)
Kevin: I’m normally so allergic to precocious child-actor casting, but not in this case. I love them! I already miss them!
Melissa: Then it takes those characters to unexpected places. Iron Man grapples with PTSD after saving the world in The Avengers. Thor learns to live with his own emotional devastation after losing his family and home world in Ragnarok. And now Wanda gets a chance to process her own grief. What they’ve done with the character in this show is remarkable. That they’ve done it through the lens of comfort television, examining its limits as an escape from real-world trauma—and airing in the middle of a pandemic no less—blew me away.