The WandaVision Series Finale

And, so, the first (and, presumably, only) season of WandaVision came to a conclusion with Episode 9, “The Series Finale.”  Before I get into the spoiler-y bits, let me recap the key finale expectations I had after last week’s episode.  They were as follows:

1. A segue into Multiverse of Madness, possibly with a Dr. Strange cameo (or at least a reference).
2. A definitive answer about why Quicksilver looks like that.
3. A definitive answer as to Vision’s fate.
4. The destruction of the Hex and the restoration of Westview.
5. A non-definitive answer as to Wanda’s good / bad alignment, possibly including her killing Hayward.
6. Agatha, a natural tweener, winds up on the side of “good” by the end of the episode in an effort to contain Wanda.
7. REED RICHARDS (or, in a swerve, Victor Von Doom)
8. A fully-powered Monica / Spectrum.
9. An hour-long episode, or close to it.

How’d we do?  Well, if you’ve watched the episode already, you know.

But, for those who didn’t and don’t . . .

*SPOILERS AHEAD*

We got most of it, but most definitely not all.  We did get a reference to Dr. Strange (“The Scarlet Witch is even more powerful than the Sorcerer Supreme”).  We did get a definitive answer as to Vision’s fate, with the Hex Vision fading away, but not before putting the “real” Vision on the path to full restoration, and not before we discover that Hex Vision is “the part of the Mind Stone that lives in [Wanda],” coupled with her sadness, hope and love.  He is not, as the fanboy in me hoped, a different Vision, pulled in from another part of the multiverse.

We did get a Ship of Theseus metaphor, though, so all was not lost.

As I expected, we also saw the full restoration of Westview to its pre-Hex status quo, complete with Wanda’s home being reduced to a foundation on an empty lot.  Notably, everyone in town does retain their memories of what happened—and understandably hate and resent Wanda for it.

Wanda and Agatha’s alignment is presented as far less ambiguous than I had guessed it would be, but, then again, this is the MCU.  Shades of gray isn’t its strong suit.  Still, you can make a case that Agatha is trying to prevent Wanda from destroying the world, albeit by lining her magical “pockets” at the same time.  And Wanda has spent the whole series holding a town hostage and manipulating hundreds(?) of people for her personal benefit.

For her part, Wanda also seems intent on delving into the “Darkhold,” the same sinister source of magical knowledge that Agatha has used for centuries.  Thus, while Wanda is clearly the “good guy,” and Agatha is the “bad guy,” the question of whether Wanda will ultimately use her powers for ill is still far from settled, making it pretty likely that she will be solidly evil (or an instrument of evil) once we get to Multiverse of Madness.

Surprisingly, the final battle between Agatha and Wanda reminded me a lot of the showdown between the real Captain Marvel (a/k/a Captain Sparklefingers) and Dr. Sivana in 2019’s Shazam!  Rare is it that I find an MCU property resembling something from the DCU, but the “just give me your power to add to my own and I’ll leave you alone” motif was pretty strong.  Oh, and the Agatha / Wanda clash obviously evoked one other movie as well.

Back to WandaVision, we didn’t get Reed Richards, or anything close to it, unless I totally whiffed on a reference.  On the other hand, we got a fully-powered Monica, as I anticipated.  She even gets called up to see (presumably) Nick Fury and/or Carol Danvers in the first post-credits sequence, undoubtedly setting the stage for Captain Marvel 2 down the road.

Finally, the episode wasn’t an hour long.  Even with two post-credits sequences, it was about the same length as the previous episode, and didn’t seem at all out-of-place in that regard.

You’ll notice I skipped one.  It was this:

A definitive answer about why Quicksilver looks like that.

I’m a pretty forgiving fan.  I’m an MCU mark.  I freely admit that.  But having Evan Peters turn out to be some random Westview resident named Ralph Boehner is a disappointment bordering on being insulting to the fanbase.

And, yes, the mark in me is thinking, “but maybe there’s something else going on, here, that we won’t know until all is revealed in the next six movies that I’ll gladly pay $20 to see in a theater or at home, then buy again when they come out on disc!!!”  However, the rest of me is thinking, “I think they just dramatically raised everyone’s expectations for the sake of what turned out to be a ‘boner’ joke.”

Even putting aside questions such as “How can this guy have Pietro’s powers?  Can Agatha just turn anybody into a superhuman?,” there’s the issue of storytelling.

The MCU is meticulous in its attention to detail.  Seemingly throwaway lines (“Shake, don’t pull.”) are often little bonuses for sharp-eyed viewers—bonuses that add layers of detail that not everyone will get.  And Marvel is great at that.

That’s why I have a hard time believing that the decision to cast Evan Peters was merely a tongue-in-cheek meta joke.  If that turns out to be the case, that is a rare misstep by Marvel, and something that really diminishes the overall potential of what WandaVision could have been.  Again, I’m open to the possibility that there’s more to be revealed, but it sure didn’t seem that way from this show.

If you’ll forgive the digression, it actually reminds me of something that the classic television series Magnum, PI did back in the 1980s.  The early seasons of the show featured an occasional character called “Mac,” a Navy lieutenant named McReynolds who had known Magnum during his Naval Intelligence days.  Magnum constantly pestered him for “favors,” often secured through a pastry-related bribe.

By 1982, the actor who played Mac, Jeff MacKay, had earned an offer to play a key supporting role on another TV show, called Tales of the Gold Monkey.  The Magnum writers gave Mac a spectacular send-off, killing him in dramatic fashion in one of the series’ best-ever episodes, “Did You See the Sunrise?”

When Tales of the Gold Monkey got cancelled after one season, the writers wanted to bring the beloved Jeff MacKay back.  But there was the little matter of his being blown up in a car bomb two years earlier.

The solution?  They brought him back to play a different character.

Now, this wasn’t like what you might have seen in another show from decades ago, where a role got recast, or an actor was brought back in a different role, and the other characters never referenced the person’s strange appearance.   Quite the contrary.

Here, the show leaned into it.  Hard.  The entire first episode after MacKay’s return (entitled “Mac’s Back”) revolves around the fact that all of Magnum’s friends think he is experiencing a mental-health breakdown.  He keeps telling them that he’s seen Mac, whom they all know is dead, and they basically have an intervention for him (before we even knew the name for that) to try to get him some help.

Well, as it turns out, he’s not crazy, and there really is a guy who looks exactly like Mac.  In a fun twist, this new character, Jim Bonnick, flips the previous Mac / Magnum dynamic on its head, taking advantage of Magnum on a regular basis.

I can say without shame or irony that Magnum is one of my favorite TV shows of all time.  As with the MCU, then, I’m likely more forgiving than I should be.

But bringing Mac back was ridiculous!

Even in the 1980s, it was ridiculous.  Magnum avoided jumping the proverbial shark by specifically acknowledging the absurdity of it and doing something clever on the writing side.  Even more confusingly, the actual Mac returns (as a ghost!) when Magnum has a near-death experience at the end of the seventh season season.

Here, though, the tone of WandaVision is much, much different (and less consistent) than Magnum’s, which makes pulling this type of move a tougher sell.  And there’s also all of the real-world implications to consider by casting Evan Peters, as fans know about the Fox / MCU relationship.

What I’m saying is, if this truly is the payoff (and I’m not entirely convinced of that), then this is a rare blunder by Marvel.  Actually, it’s more than that.  It’s counterproductive trolling.

I say “counterproductive,” because fans are eagerly awaiting how Kevin Feige and company will incorporate the former Fox properties into the MCU.  By pulling a bait-and-switch with Pietro, they’ve dampened some of that anticipation and made fans just a bit more jaded.  More than that, there’s an internal logic breakdown that is also unusual for the normally very tight MCU.

Speaking of internal logic breakdowns, another issue I had with the finale was that the writers had gone to painstaking lengths to illustrate that, whether man or machine, entering the Hex from the outside world changes matter.  Yet, White Vision was somehow able to appear inside the Hex with no apparent changes, despite the fact that every machine we’ve seen pass through the barrier has either been completely transformed or destroyed.

We can perhaps infer that he somehow flew over the barrier.  But that seemed to be impossible for other airborne machines that SWORD had at its disposal, and there’s never an explanation provided.

Likewise, Hayward’s fate felt rushed and somewhat illogical.  Why is he under arrest, exactly?  Yes, he was doing things designed to make the audience hate him, but that doesn’t make any of it “illegal.”  Quite the contrary, it appears he was acting under color of law and authority the entire time.

It seems like the writers suddenly switched from the “evil government agency” to “rogue government agent” archetype.  There’s a difference.  A pretty important one.  And Darcy somehow conveniently appearing as a deus ex machina underscored the rushed nature of the resolution of this plot point.

Was the finale disappointing?  Yes.  A little.  No, not because Professor X or Mephisto didn’t show up.  I would never require the MCU to bend to my own ill-conceived mental fan fiction.  But what was a bit disappointing was the failure to adhere to some of the internal logic and storytelling that the first several episodes established.

Granted, there’s plenty more canvas for Marvel to paint, and some of these issues may get cleaned up.  But, for now, WandaVision was an overwhelmingly positive, if flawed experience that was at its weakest when focusing on powers and battles and stunt casting and, perhaps unexpectedly, at its absolute best when telling a heartfelt love story about loss and grief.

The second post-credits scene gave us a last look at where the story may go next.  Wanda is becoming even more dangerous by adding immense knowledge to her immense power, but her children (somehow) still call out to her.  Or, so we are led to believe.

It’s a multiverse?  It’s madness?  It’s both?  We’ll see.

Oh, and is it just me—or did Wanda’s current location look a lot like Alkali Lake?

Bottom line: a good show that probably unnecessarily set self-defeating expectations.

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