Editor’s note: The below article contains major spoilers for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness not only marks the return of Benedict Cumberbatch as the titular Doctor Strange, but also the return of Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff, fresh off her Emmy-nominated performance in the limited series, WandaVision. Since her introduction in Avengers: Age of Ultron, fans have been waiting for the day that Wanda Maximoff becomes the Scarlet Witch, and after six appearances in the MCU, their wish came true. Unfortunately, by finally getting Scarlet Witch in her full glory in Multiverse of Madnesswe lose the Wanda Maximoff we’ve come to know and love without the chance of bringing her back.
One of the strengths of Phase 4 is how characters who have been around for years get a chance to be explored and deepened through storylines outside of the Avengers movies. From her first introduction in Age of Ultronaudiences had very little time to get to know Wanda Maximoff until WandaVision. Over the course of nine episodes, Wanda is fleshed out – we get to see the woman behind the magic, including her full backstory. She’s more than an Avenger, she longs to be a wife and mother. She was a daughter and a sister who lost the only family she’s ever known. Every attempt to build a new family has been viciously taken from her. In addition to this, it’s revealed that her own powers from the Mind Stone only amplified the magic that’s been in her all along. It’s not until Agatha Harkness (Kathryn Hahn) realizes that Wanda has chaos magic, which makes her the Scarlet Witch; Wanda does not claim this as her identity until her final battle with Agatha.
What made audiences care about Wanda Maximoff in WandaVision is her journey through the stages of grief. From her pain of not getting to share the life that Vision (Paul Bettany) planned for them, she transforms Westview, New Jersey into her sitcom fantasy with him and their twin sons, Billy (Julian Hilliard) and Tommy (Jett Klyne). With all of her attempts to hold onto this life, reality keeps coming in. In Episode 9 “The Series Finale,” Wanda faces her direct consequences on the townspeople when they begin to surround her and beg her to let them leave, when they’re allowed to sleep they see. her nightmares. Wanda sees how trying to have her perfect sitcom life with her sons is not possible. At the cost of Vision and her sons, she willingly brings down the Hex. After accepting this fate, Wanda retreats and isolates herself. Wanda Maximoff is more complex than the Scarlet Witch will have you believe.
When WandaVision concludes, Wanda is in the acceptance stage of her grief, but as Scarlet Witch in Multiverse of Madness, her wrath is back in full force. Wanda spent her time in isolation studying the Darkhold she took from Agatha; in the post-credit scene in WandaVision, she hears her sons calling out to her from the multiverse. Wanda loves her sons, and once she heard her sons crying out for her, it was only a matter of time before she would reach across the multiverse to reunite with them.
By the time Strange finds Wanda in her apple orchard, she has fully embraced the Darkhold, exceeding her powers from the last time audiences have seen her. She plays coy when Strange asks her about her knowledge of the multiverse and what it could hold. Once she lets her lie slip by suggesting that America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez) should hide out with her, Wanda reveals herself as the Scarlet Witch and remains with this identity for the majority of the movie.
Scarlet Witch has only one goal – reunite with her children by any means necessary, even at the cost of another child’s life. She does not care that she has to rip her children from a variant of herself; whatever it takes to end her grief that’s bubbled back up. As Scarlet Witch, she attacks Kamar-Taj, she invades a different Wanda in another universe, and she kills every member of the Illuminati through dream-walking. The empathy the audience once felt for her during WandaVision chips away with every attack and kill. Her tunnel vision turns her into the monster Director Hayward (Josh Stamberg) said she was. To borrow a line from another superhero movie, Wanda lives long enough to see herself become the villain.
In the comics, Wanda Maximoff has jumped back and forth from villain to hero multiple times. She’s gone from being with the Avengers to having the Avengers and the X-Men against her. There are decades of storytelling, deepening the Scarlet Witch character in order to earn the big House of M moments. By attempting to do aspects of the House of M storyline after featuring Wanda twice in Phase 4 makes the payoff of this iconic character arc feel unearned. Even prior to Phase 4, time has not been on Wanda’s side, receiving less than an hour of screen time in the Infinity Saga. Instead of flipping the switch on the Scarlet Witch in full-blown villainy immediately, the progression of this arc could’ve been drawn out more over the course of a few more appearances.
Take the progression of Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) from Iron Man to Captain America: Civil War. Initially, Tony was a weapons manufacturer, providing equipment as a contractor to the US military yet outside government supervision. Over three solo movies and two Avengers movies, Iron Man is confronted with the consequences of his actions. Remember, his missiles turned Wanda and Pietro (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) into orphans, he created Ultron (James Spader), and his pride led to the destruction of Sokovia’s capital. By the time he is seen again in Civil War, he’s worn down by his guilt; so when he’s the one advocating for government oversight, the decision feels earned based on time spent with Tony and what we’ve seen him go through up until that point.
Based on what the MCU has presented us thus far, Wanda Maximoff was not the villain of WandaVisionnor has she been considered a villain since joining the Avengers during the Battle of Sokovia in Age of Ultron. For every time she’s fallen into her darker tendencies, Wanda has always come back from the brink remorseful for the hurt she’s caused. Wanda owns up to her mistakes in WandaVision, so it comes as a surprise that as the Scarlet Witch, she goes so far down this path of wanting to take her sons from an alternate universe where she can be reunited. More than that, she’s so focused on Billy and Tommy that Vision is left in the dust; In fact, Vision is hardly mentioned in the nearly two-hour and six-minute runtime. For someone who lost the love of her life, would not her search across the multiverse also include her synthezoid husband?
The argument could be made that it’s the Darkhold that’s corrupted Wanda’s mind so that Scarlet Witch is steering the ship; this would mean the Darkhold is the real villain. As a matter of fact, when 838-Professor X (Patrick Stewart) enters the mind of the Wanda she’s controlling, the 838-Wanda is trapped and grasping for him to let her out. Yet when Scarlet Witch is about to finally take a different version of her children, Billy and Tommy tremble and hide from her, opening her eyes to herself as the monster she’s become. This shows that she had more control over her powers than just the influence of the Darkhold. It took seeing the people she loves most afraid of her to snap her out of her tunnel vision and realize the damage she caused.
Wanda Maximoff would be the first one to tell you she’s made terrible mistakes. Otherwise, she would not have felt remorse for accidentally destroying a building in Lagos in Civil Warnor would she have apologized to Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris) at the end of the WandaVision series. Unfortunately by the time Wanda Maximoff is back, it’s at the end of the movie; her act of redemption through sacrifice feels rushed and, frankly, cheap.
Wanda Maximoff is the only Avenger who does not get to come back from being the worst version of herself. Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) kills hundreds of people as Ronan yet gets to be home for Christmas with his family in the Hawkeye series. Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) seeks forgiveness from those he’s wronged at the end of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier series. For all her attempts of making her own happiness, what makes Wanda Maximoff a great character is that she pulls herself back from the brink, even making sacrifices none of her fellow Avengers have to. However, in Multiverse of Madness she does not get that same chance.
The most powerful Avenger does not get a chance to make her heroic return. Instead, her act of heroism is sacrificing herself so that the Darkhold is destroyed. Doctor Strange is the only one who gets to move forward. Doctor Strange accepts that he and Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams) can not be together so he has to move on; Wanda accepts that she can not kidnap her kids from herself, and she sacrifices herself to destroy the Darkhold. Wanda does not get the chance to move forward like she did at the end of WandaVision.
Even in the original Phase 4 slate, WandaVision takes place before Doctor Strange 2, meaning it would’ve still been the plan for Wanda to grieve Vision’s death in Westview before facing off against Doctor Strange as Scarlet Witch. Audiences have been set up to care for Wanda only to lose her to the darkest version of herself. In doing so, all of her development from WandaVision feels tossed out the window in service of the Doctor Strange narrative.
After the events of Doctor Strange 2, who’s going to miss Wanda Maximoff now that she’s gone? She saved the universe and has no one left. At the end of the movie, no one, including Doctor Strange, is seen acknowledging her death. Even Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) has her death in Avengers: Endgame recognized when her sister, Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh) visits her grave in the post-credits scene of Black Widow. Because Scarlet Witch consumes Wanda for most of the runtime as the villain in Multiverse of Madness, it would seem in death all of her heroics have been put aside. After all, no one mourns the wicked, leaving Wanda without the chance to be remembered as the most powerful Avenger.
Read more about Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness:
Did (Spoiler) Really Die in ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’?
Elizabeth Olsen Explains Why Wanda Doesn’t Search For Vision in ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ [Exclusive]
When Will ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse Of Madness’ be Available on Disney +?
‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’: All the Easter Eggs You Might Have Missed
What Happens in ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’? 11 Questions Answered
‘Doctor Strange 2’ Post-Credits Scenes Explained: Could There Be More Multiverse Madness?
Who Is That HUGE New Character in ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ Post-Credits Scene?
Who Are The Illuminati in ‘Doctor Strange 2’?
‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ Is Great Fun, but Are We Sure Marvel Has a Plan? | Spoiler Review
‘Doctor Strange 2’ Villains Explained: Who (or What) is the Sequel’s Villain?
‘Doctor Strange 2’ Ending Explained: Is There a Method to the Madness?