“WandaVision” (2021) Part II: What Does it Mean for the MCU?

(L -> R) Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange, Elizabeth Olsen as Scarlet Witch, and a panel of Chthon from Marvel Comics / Marvel

Now that we have reached the end of WandaVision (2021), and I have already shared my thoughts on the self-contained impact of the nine episodes in Part I, it seems fair game to indulge my nerdier side and give in to large-scale projections about where the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) might end up going. While Marvel’s slate of upcoming projects provides some insight into what the first post-Infinity-Gauntlet-phase of the MCU could mean for long-term storytelling aims, WandaVision has left us with the first meaningful proof-of-concept breadcrumbs to obsess over. Therefore, combining those inklings with what I know of the Marvel comics runs, I offer up a series of possibly baseless conjectures about what we might see next. Proceed at your own risk. 

The Scarlet Witch Has Arrived, and She’s Here to Stay

A still of Wanda as she fully becomes the Scarlet Witch from the season finale of “WandaVision” / Marvel

Though Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) has been a part of the MCU since Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015), it was not until the penultimate episode of WandaVision that she was referred to as “the Scarlet Witch,” and only in the finale did she fully transform (pictured above) into the role she has carried in the comics for so long. Just as in the comics, the MCU version of Wanda/Scarlet Witch has modulated between hero, anti-hero, and villain over the course of her run. She, as a full-on antagonist in Age of Ultron, then joined the Avengers in the aftermath of that film, and in WandaVision trod the line between villain and hero as we empathized with her, but struggled to accept her approach to grieving, which included enslaving all the inhabitants of a small town under her magical mind control. 

Nonetheless, the finale sees her relinquish control of Westview, and take up residence in a secluded cabin for what seems more or less like a self-imposed exile where she can learn to control her powers. Such a decision follows up on Agatha Harkness’s (Kathryn Hahn) assertion that “the Scarlet Witch is not born, she is forged.” Pair that with the light ret-con revealing that Wanda possessed magic before the Mind Stone amplified those powers by granting her control of Chaos Magic, and we’re set up for Wanda to continue her evolution into a massively consequential figure in the next phases of the MCU

Chaos Magic and The Darkhold 

A still of Wanda reading the Darkhold from the finale of “WandaVision” / Marvel

It is because of a scene in the aforementioned cabin during the after-credits of the finale that I feel so certain of Wanda’s importance for the future of the MCU. This stems from her use of the Darkhold and how the circumstances of her reading it tie her to magic we had previously only seen Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) employ on-screen. To understand the significance of this, I need to first delve into two things: Chaos Magic and the Darkhold. 

Chaos Magic is a term that comes straight from Marvel comics lore. Summarizing it, Chaos Magic is a power that allows the wielder to take full control of the fabric of reality. So exactly what Wanda did in Westview during WandaVision, but with the capacity to do so on a universal scale to re-shape entire worlds. The precedent for the extent of that power can be found in the landmark 2005 comics run entitled “House of M.” In the pages of that run, Wanda re-wrote the entirety of Earth’s reality so that it is an alternate world where her previously deceased children are still alive, and everything is at peace. Without getting into the complicated specifics of that storyline, the major takeaway is that when Wanda awakens the full potential of her Chaos Magic, she effectively emerges as one of the most powerful beings in the universe. Enter the Darkhold

Introduced to the MCU through Agatha [though it did exist in the now unofficially de-canonized Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (2013-2020) TV series], the Darkhold is more or less the Marvel comics version of something like the Egyptian Book of the Dead or comparable real-life texts: a work that contains a guide through dark magic so that those in possession of it can hone their dark magical powers. The content of the book is linked to the dark sorcerer Chthon (more on him in just a little bit) who mastered dark magic in an ancient time and wrote down his mystical approach so that others could discover it and possibly help him escape a magical prison other sorcerers trapped him in. No matter how you look at it, the Darkhold is an object of incredible power and even greater potential for harm. 

Therefore, seeing Wanda in her cabin reading through the Darkhold while astral projecting in one room, a form of magic Doctor Strange uses to separate his spirit from his body, and making tea in the other suggests that Wanda is committing herself to the teachings of the book and that she has already unlocked a degree of power beyond what even Strange could access. On its own, this would be concerning but could simply mean that Wanda wants to make sure nothing like Westview happens again. Yet, paired with Agatha’s ominous warning that Wanda “doesn’t understand what [she’s] unlocked” makes me imagine that we are being set up to see an arc where Wanda struggles between light and dark as she pursues control of her powers as the Scarlet Witch. This is only solidified when, in the closing moments of the post-credits scene, we hear the disembodied voices of her children, whom we were led to believe were nothing more than constructions of her grief, calling out for her to “save them.” These lines suggest that Wanda’s study of the Darkhold will likely lead her to try and resurrect her children into her reality, tapping into a dangerous level of dark magic that indicates what her next major MCU role could mean for her and the broader narrative. 

Chthon and Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness (2022) 

A still of Wanda’s secluded cabin in the finale of “WandaVision” / Marvel

Marvel has already confirmed that Wanda will be a main character in the upcoming Doctor Strange sequel Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness (2022). The title of that film alone indicates that the project will likely bring the Marvel multiverse into full effect. For the uninitiated, think of Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse (2018) where multiple worlds with different versions of heroes exist across a spectrum of universes called the multiverse. Doctor Strange (2016) already set the idea up when Strange dove into the dark realm of Dormammu, but the MCU has yet to unleash a full-fledged multiversal story, something that is a titular part of all Marvel comics storytelling. While there are any number of ways that Wanda could factor into this, my best guess is that as a result of her pursuit to resurrect her children, she will unwittingly release a darker force onto the world, which she and Strange will then have to do battle with: Chthon. 

In the comics, Wanda is born in the bowels of a place called Wundagore Mountain, the same mountain in which Chthon remains locked away. At her birth, Chthon is able to sense great potential in the baby, and so marks her with his power in the hopes that someday he will be able to break into her psyche and control her if she comes in contact with the Darkhold. Now that the Darkhold and Wanda’s study of it is MCU canon, it stands to reason that Chthon will come next, and as a muti-dimensional (in the multiverse sense) magical being, it also tracks that he could operate as the “Big Bad” for Multiverse of Madness. Strengthening this theory, even more, is the fact that Wanda’s cabin in the post-credits of WandaVision is located at the base of a mountain that bears more than a passing resemblance to Wundagore Mountain as depicted in the comics. It could be that Wanda’s has settlement at a mountain is a red herring for the Chthon connection, but the broader story signs suggest to me that this particular easter egg is likely to pay off. 

Multiverse of Madness is not set to release until March 22, 2022, so it will be quite a while before we get any sense of what that movie has in store for Wanda and Doctor Strange, but even if the Chthon and Darkhold plot does not unfurl as I expect, the very existence of that film points to an inevitable fact…. 

A More Magical MCU

A panel from a comic arc where Scarlet Witch and Doctor Strange face off / Marvel Comics

Regardless of the exact path forward for Wanda and her role in Multiverse of Madness, the events of WandaVision make one reality exceptionally clear: magic has arrived in full-force to the MCU. Prior to WandaVision, Doctor Strange was the only explicitly magical figure in the MCU because Wanda’s powers were originally tied to her exposure to the Mind Stone. The WandaVision retcon that the stone merely amplified pre-existing powers establishes Wanda as a distinctly magical figure. Taken in turn with Agatha’s introduction and the reveal that the MCU canon will now recognize non-Chaos Magic witches as a part of the universe, they signal that the previous approach to focusing on science fiction elements and the steampunk vision Asgard will now co-exist with sorcerers, witches, and wizards. Simply put, Marvel has decided to lean into a part of its comics lore that it previously hedged on incorporating in the MCU endeavor. 

Whether their decision to do so was emboldened by the success of large-scale fantasy like Game of Thrones (2011-2019) or was always a part of the planning for this phase, I wager that the next string of MCU products will only deepen ties to magical and multi-dimensional beings. This opens the possibility of a whole new array of Marvel heroes and villains to make their way on screen through connections to Chaos Magic, witchcraft, and maybe even magical corners we have yet to see. Personally, I love the idea of Marvel moving in this direction. On a base level, more magic means more opportunity to be weird. WandaVision expanded on the quirks and supernatural leanings of Doctor Strange and Thor: Ragnarok (2017), and I can only hope that future projects will continue on that path. The more mind-bending and multiversal storytelling there is, the higher the probability that writers and directors get to delve into genre-pushing decisions for the MCU. I don’t expect Kevin Feige to try and hire David Lynch to make a Marvel movie any time soon, but I would happily settle for someone doing a Lynch homage in the MCU that was just palatable enough for the corporate overload to greenlight it. 

If you missed it, follow this link to read Part I of Devin’s WandaVision coverage where he considers the show on its own terms.

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