‘WandaVision’ finally calls Wanda ‘the Scarlet Witch.’ Here’s why that matters
This story contains spoilers for “WandaVision” Episode 8.
“WandaVision” itself has poked fun at the fact that within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Wanda Maximoff has always been known just as Wanda Maximoff. But that’s finally changed.
In the eighth episode of the Disney+ original series, called “Previously On,” Agatha Harkness (Kathryn Hahn) takes Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) and the audience on a trip down memory lane, visiting the traumatic moments in the superhero’s life that led to the creation of the show’s sitcom suburbs.
This new information about Wanda’s past also helps Agatha figure out the truth behind Wanda’s powers, after which she calls her by the name long affiliated with her Marvel comic book counterpart — the Scarlet Witch.
“I know what you are,” says Agatha. “You have no idea how dangerous you are. You’re supposed to be a myth. A being capable of spontaneous creation … This is Chaos Magic, Wanda. That makes you the Scarlet Witch.”
In Marvel’s “WandaVision,” nothing is as it seems. So we prepared an episode-by-episode guide to the Disney+ series for you to keep handy as you watch.
Who is ‘the Scarlet Witch’?
Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, Wanda made her comic book debut in an issue of “X-Men” in the 1960s. Along with her brother Pietro, a.k.a. Quicksilver, the Scarlet Witch was a part of the villainous Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. But the siblings eventually switched sides and joined the Avengers.
When Wanda and Pietro made their Marvel Cinematic Universe debut, the tangle of screen rights meant characters affiliated with “X-Men” and those affiliated with “Avengers” were owned by two separate studios. So the Wanda and Pietro of Marvel Studios were not mutants — as in, their powers had different origins — and they didn’t use their superhero codenames from the comic books.
But in the comics, Wanda has been known as the Scarlet Witch for decades. In fact, in a recent “Scarlet Witch” series, Wanda mentions that the moment she knew she had powers, she knew she was the Scarlet Witch.
In this 15-issue “Scarlet Witch” series (2015-17), Wanda learns the truth about her heritage: Her birth mother was also called the Scarlet Witch.
It’s not uncommon for comic book characters to have their back stories reimagined — or retconned — to fit developments in newer storylines. And Wanda/Scarlet Witch’s history has been recast a number of times over the decades.
It wasn’t until years after they were introduced that Wanda and Pietro learned they are the children of Magneto, a powerful mutant who is generally the enemy of the X-Men. After believing this story for years, it is then revealed that Wanda and Pietro actually aren’t mutants at all: They were kidnapped as babies and genetically engineered to have powers by a being known as the High Evolutionary (basically a superhuman mad scientist).
It turns out that wasn’t the full story either. Wanda eventually learns her powers are hereditary, with her mother — and her mother before her — also being called the Scarlet Witch. (Though Wanda and Pietro were still kidnapped by the High Evolutionary as babies).
Agatha’s words to Wanda in “WandaVision” also indicate that “the Scarlet Witch” is a title tied to Wanda’s powers.
In the latest episode of the Disney+ series, Agnes (Kathryn Hahn) tells Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) her big secret. Here’s the comic book backstory behind it all.
What is Chaos Magic?
Like Wanda’s comic book back story, her powers have not always been clearly defined.
Initially, Wanda’s mutant “hex” powers were understood to control probabilities and outcomes. It‘s not until later in the comics that she comes under the tutelage of Agatha to be properly trained in magic.
In “Scarlet Witch” No. 1 (2015), Wanda describes her powers as the ability “to break the laws of physics and scientific absolutes,” including levitation, transformation and teleportation.
“I’ve often heard the spells I cast referred to as Chaos Magic… but in actual fact they’re far from ‘chaotic,’” she says. The rules have often been a bit loose, but Chaos Magic is what gives her the ability to completely change reality.
As mentioned above, the origins of Wanda’s magic have also changed over the years. One version of the story has a demon/God of Chaos known as Chthon as the source of Chaos Magic. In another story, Wanda takes on Chaos itself to help save the Goddess of all Witches.
As Agatha mentions, the key thing to remember is that Chaos Magic is very rare and very powerful.
What does this mean?
For one thing, this “WandaVision” reveal retcons the root of Wanda’s powers. It was previously believed that the Wanda and Pietro of the MCU gained powers through Hydra’s experiments involving the Mind Stone, as revisited in the episode.
Although magic was already a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe with Doctor Strange, having Wanda’s powers explicitly called Chaos Magic opens the door for even more magical beings, including demons and other dark gods, to appear in the franchise.
It also means Wanda really is one of the most powerful people in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
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What about that post-credits scene?
In Episode 8’s post-credits scene, we see S.W.O.R.D. director Hayward bringing Vision’s body back online. This Vision, having been disassembled and reassembled by S.W.O.R.D., is all white.
In the comics, the Vision has also appeared in this all-white form, and under similar circumstances. A 1980s “Avengers” storyline saw him take over all the computers on Earth, and although his friends stopped him before he did anything more drastic, his actions put him on every government’s radar — and led to his kidnapping and disassembly by government agents frightened by the extent of his powers.
Wanda and the West Coast Avengers were able to rescue the Vision and put him back together. And although his body was reassembled, his skin was damaged and lost its original hue. But even more significant, Vision was revived without his emotions. Meaning he could remember being married to Wanda, but he couldn’t actually feel love anymore.
In the comics, this was among the string of tragedies that culminated in Wanda losing her twins (because they were never real) and having her memories altered by Agatha.
With one episode remaining, it seems “WandaVision” is primed for a tragic showdown.
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