SPOILER WARNING: The events of the WandaVision finale are discussed below.
WandaVision has come to an end, concluding Marvel Studios’ notably creative, trippy, and emotional first foray into television. Fandom spoke to two of the show’s guiding forces, showrunner Jac Schaeffer and director Matt Shakman, about some of the key revelations and moments we were left with and what it might imply about the future.
I should note that I spoke to Schaeffer and Shakman separately, which sometimes was amusing given Schaeffer was a bit more secretive than Shakman about the meaning or possible answers to some components of the series.
Read on to see what they had to say about Wanda’s grief, her guilt (or possible lack thereof), Vision’s state of mind, and the Ralph Bohner of it all.
WandaVision ends with a poignant goodbye between Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany), as she finally allows herself to let both Vision and the children she created within the Hex go. Discussing filming that moment, Shakman remarked, “It’s a beautifully written scene by Jac Schaeffer and beautifully acted by them. We worked really hard in what the visuals would be through storyboarding for a long time. We were trying to figure out what the deconstruction of the Hex would look like and how we wanted the image of Vision to be as he was pulled away into the ether – it was meant to be a reverse image from when we see him get created in the penultimate episode. It was something we shot pretty early on in production and it was a tough day because it was such an emotional scene but they’re brilliant in it.”
Shakman added, with a laugh, “I think this was also the day that, when we were doing press early on, Lizzie talked about someone having a lot of snot [while filming] that day. I think this was the scene where there was a lot of mystery snot and neither of them would own up to who’s snot it was but it’s a beautiful scene. ‘Even an android can cry,’ and it includes one of my favorite exchanges between those characters. Vision has a lot of really brilliant things to say. He’s one of the greatest philosophers about humanity, despite not being human, in the Marvel Universe and I think that his final monologue about how he started as a voice with no body and now is a memory made real is a beautiful piece of writing.”
Regarding WandaVision’s overall focus on Wanda’s grief and her need to process it, Schaeffer remarked, “That was kind of the agenda of the show, when Kevin Feige and Mary Livanos started putting it together even before I arrived, was that it was meant to be an exploration of her grief and of her trauma and that was sort of the root of the events of the show. One of the incredible writers on the show, Laura Donney, who wrote episode 8, she says that grief or trauma doesn’t define you, it shapes you and I think that’s a really lovely sentiment that is true of this show – that we needed to go back to go forward, which is what Agatha says. That really is the answer to the large mystery of the show, is everything that happened in Wanda’s past leading up to this moment.”
THE PROFOUND SYNTHEZOID
As Shakman noted, since his introduction in Avengers: Age of Ultron, Vision has been knowing for making particularly profound, lovely statements about humanity. When it came to making sure that carried through into WandaVision, Schaeffer said, “It was a bit nerve-racking. That sort of thoughtful, intellectual, poetic way of speaking, that is not my normal voice, and luckily there are people on the writing staff that can sort of speak Vision. It felt like a big responsibility and Paul was very communicative about the places where he felt like it needed to be sort of ‘Visionized’ in that way, especially in the last two episodes. I felt surrounded by talented thoughtful people who could, as a unit, make it happen.”
Shakman said making sure that Vision got those moments was, “A huge opportunity and something that we took very seriously those few moments where that philosopher really comes out. Paul was really helpful in that too, he values those moments and wanted to make sure that we landed them so we workshopped those lines quite a bit getting to the final version, which I think are really beautiful.”
By the end of the show, the Westview version of Vision Wanda created is destroyed with her Hex, but the other Vision — the ghostly white version brought back by S.W.O.R.D. in the original Vision’s body — flies off after having the memories of his previous life restored. So what is his state of mind?
Replied Shakman, “It’s an interesting question. He’s a new boy, right? He now has the memories of Vision but he lacks the Mind Stone. He is a new version of Vision, he’s something that we haven’t seen before. It’s the body that was there before repaired with the memories of what had been there before, but he’s a whole new creation. He’s a little bit like Jason Bourne, trying to figure out who he is and where would he go from here.”
FROM GRIEF TO GUILT?
At the end of WandaVision, Wanda is finally able to process her grief and let Vision and the kids go, which also involves freeing the people of Westview from the thrall she held them under. Before she leaves town, she tells Monica that even if everyone knew her own sacrifices, she understands why they wouldn’t be able to forgive her. But is Wanda now carrying guilt with her over what she made these people go through?
The WandaVision creators had different thoughts on the matter, with Shakman saying, “I’m sure that she feels very bad about what she’s done to the people of Westview. We see that in the course of the finale, when presented with the clear facts about how they’re feeling and what she’s put them through, she’s surprised by it, she’s horrified by her own actions. There’s no good guys and bad guys in the real world and I don’t think there should be good guys and bad guys in the superhero world either. It’s just a spectrum right? And Wanda to those townspeople is the villain, but to Monica, who understands what she’s gone through and who has lost so much herself, they connect on a different level and she can understand it. She doesn’t necessarily forgive her for what she did either but she understands it. We hope we’re not letting Wanda off the hook. I don’t think Wanda’s letting herself off the hook there at the end, but she also has come to accept that she has to say goodbye to the people that she’s lost and she’s come to the conclusion that she needs to let these people go and then she’s off to figure out what her future would be.”
Schaeffer interestingly had a more potentially ominous interpretation of Wanda in those final moments, remarking, “It would just be my assessment, and I would be so curious to hear what Lizzie has to say, but I don’t think she carries a lot of guilt. I think one of the things that she gained and earned from the events of this series is that she stepped entirely into her power and I think that she has a lot of confidence and I think she embodies it so fully to a point that I don’t think she’s thinking too much about the residents of Westview, which I don’t think is great. I think it’s a little bit of a concern.”
In the finale, we learn that the Pietro who appeared in the show, played by Evan Peters, is really Westview citizen Ralph Bohner, who had been under Agatha’s mind control, however, we’re not told how he got his superspeed abilities. When it came to the answer, Schaeffer said, “I’m gonna plead the fifth on that,” adding, “I do have a firm answer in my head but you never know if its gonna line up with stories in the future so you have to be careful with what you say because you don’t wanna put future creators in a bind either. It’s me being protective of the future storytellers.
Shakman meanwhile thought it was simply Agatha who allowed him to do it, saying, “Well, he is empowered with a lot of abilities through Agatha, and Agatha has made him into a version of Pietro to convince Wanda so the powers that he has — superspeed, his power with Monica in the attic — these are things that are given to him through the spells from Agatha. He’s bewitched and when his puka shell necklace is pulled off, the real Ralph is revealed, who is very, very different.”
Originally, we would have seen more of the true Ralph after Monica removes the necklace, as Shakman has recently revealed that Ralph would have been working with Monica, Darcy, Billy and Tommy to try and steal the Darkhold from Agatha, in sequence that was cut. Shakman told Fandom, “We had a few other little bits with Ralph, but in a finale you really have to force yourself to focus on what are the key stories that you’re trying to tell and it was a very, very busy chessboard. Ultimately, it was a story of the two Visions, and the story of Agatha and Wanda, but most of all it’s the story of Wanda’s journey, so we wanted to make sure we didn’t distract from that. We have a lot of concurrent story telling going on and to leave the town square and go somewhere else for a very long se piece so they come back to Wanda still in the middle of all the townspeople wasn’t really working for us. We wanted to sort of double down on the key stories.”
The Ralph reveal was one of the more debated aspects of the finale, as many viewers expected Peters’ casting to have a more direct link to his role as Peter Maximoff/Quicksilver in the X-Men movies, which his casting obviously was meant to evoke.
Schaeffer said that while making WandaVision, they hadn’t realized just how far the implications and expectations might go, recalling, “At the time we were like, ‘This is amazing, he is amazing!’ He is an incredible talent, he was terrific and a joy to work with, so it was all sunshine and rainbows in the writing of, in the casting of, in the making of. Then when the episode dropped it was incredibly euphoric. But it did seem to sort of run away in that people started thinking, ‘If they’re giving us Evan Peters now they’re gonna give us Michael Fassbender later.’”
When it came to WandaVision fan theories, Shakman said, “Well, the aerospace engineer was a lot of [fans] running with something that we certainly didn’t intend. That was not an easter egg that we put in and that’s fine. People’s imaginations are wonderful and if it led them to Reed Richards, I’m sorry if Reed Richards wasn’t there at the rover in the next episode. But Evan is definitely something that was obviously a very conscious decision, so it’s very different, it’s a key narrative moment as opposed to just an easter egg or something that might inspire a theory.”
Shakman elaborated, “The idea there is that, of course, he is an instrument of Agatha Harkness, he’s not the real Pietro, and grief allows you to do some pretty strange things and to accept some things. Wanda’s desire to be back with Pietro is so great that she’s willing to accept something that she knows in her core is not right and she’s processing that in the next episode or two. We got to work with an actor who I think is phenomenal and who fits in to the rest of this ensemble beautifully in Evan Peters, who is just extraordinary. He’s so funny and so good dramatically and capable of doing everything in between, much like everyone else in this ensemble. They’re all extraordinarily talented and so frazzled with different tones, so it was great casting in general for that, and then on top of it we were able to explore more of this sort of meta-sitcom idea of recasting, the two different Darrens, [on Bewitched] etc., etc., on shows that we’ve loved for years. So it worked on so many different levels and if folks were disappointed that it wasn’t the multiverse or X-Men, you know, Marvel’s got your back, just wait.”
Shakman, who not only guest starred on Growing Pains during his child actor days but was one of the stars of that show’s spinoff, Just the Ten of Us, smiled over the reference, noting, “Even though I was in Growing Pains, it was not my idea, it was Jac’s.”
A WORD FROM OUR SPONSOR
An ongoing aspect of WandaVision were the commercials that appeared in each of the sitcom-centric episodes, done in the style of the respective era being covered. Schaeffer said coming up with the commercials “Was so fun. We watched so much ridiculous stuff in the writer’s room. The episodes were assigned to the different writers and then inside of that they had to write a commercial to go along with it and also a theme song we would write before the Lopez’ [WandaVision songwriters Kristen Anderson-Lopez & Robert Lopez] came on with the final songs and literally gave us solid gold, so it was a lot of fun doing the commercial piece of it.”
Schaeffer explained that they had a couple of goals with the commercials. “It must speak about her subconscious and her history. So thereby, it’s like a walking, talking easter egg because of Lagos and Hydra Soak and all that, and that’s all tied to her trauma. And then also there was the opportunity to reflect the era but in doing so to sort of sneakily shine a light on the sexism of the era, because in the history of advertising, 90% of it is targeted to women but it’s also telling women that they’re doing a bad job. So it was a really fun backdoor way of getting a little bit of feminist messaging in to the show.”
The same man and woman (played by Ithamar Enriquez and Victoria Blade) appear over and over again in the commercials but we never see them outside of that setting. This was another place where Schaeffer preferred not to elaborate for now, while Shakman, for his part, said he felt they were simply other townspeople of Westview who Wanda had put into that specific role.
SITCOM NO MORE
The beloved “Agatha All Along” song at the end of the show’s seventh episode ended up being the final big sitcom sequence for WandaVision, as the show shifts away from the artificial realities Wanda has created in the final two episodes.
Asked if there was ever a thought to have any more overt sitcom sequences somehow included in the final episodes, Schaeffer said, “No, we didn’t really consider that. It was pretty early on that we committed to that, that at the end of episode 7 the sitcom overlay would completely be broken and fall away from the show. In Agatha’s basement, there were some ideas of Agatha bewitching the space to look like the various sets, to sort of go back to that, which ended up being part of the goodbye [between Wanda and Vision]; that swirling shot of the goodbye, where we see pieces of all the sets, that notion ended up living there.”
“It was inevitable,” Shakman said, of leaving the sitcom scenarios behind. “The show was moving more and more towards a real world confrontation and a confrontation for Wanda with the trauma that she had been suppressing, having to come to terms with her loss, to accept it. So yes, Agatha basically comes in and disrupts the sitcom, takes it over, gets herself her own theme song and then the next episode is a trip to the past and the finale of course is a battle for the future. Wanda’s reality is still in that 2010’s sitcom reality that we saw in episode 7 and everyone is still dressed that way but we lost the pretense of the sitcom.”
WANDA & VISION: MARVEL MVPS
With WandaVision complete, many fans are noting how much this series elevated Wanda and Vision — who previously had smaller supporting roles in the films — to now be among their very favorite MCU characters. Said Schaeffer, of this response, “It’s wonderful to hear. It is incredibly gratifying. You know, I think it’s a product of time spent. We got to settle in with them and be with them in circumstances that aren’t fraught. We get to watch them wash dishes and have a domestic argument in their living room and try to rock their babies to sleep. Humanizing them in that way, I’m so happy to see that that was successful and people feel connected to them.”
Said Shakman, “They’re amazing characters and Paul and Lizzie are amazing actors. The fact that we felt so much for them with such limited screen time in the movies that had come before is just a testament to their chemistry together and to the filmmakers who had managed to carve out a wonderful relationship with very little screen time, so to be able to go deep on those characters and to develop them further was a joy.”
BEEKEEPER, WHERE ART THOU?
In WandaVision’s second episode, a man in a beekeeper suit, who we later learn is S.W.O.R.D. agent Franklin, emerges from the sewers and Wanda, not willing to have reality intervene on her artificial world, simply rewinds the last few moments so he is never seen by Vision. So where did Franklin go?
Replied Schaeffer, “You’re the only person who’s asked this question! I so appreciate that question. There’s nothing I can say about that, but I loved that you asked it, so thank you.”
Said Shakman, “The beekeeper, he was a S.W.O.R.D agent, so he’s probably cruising around Westview in his hazmat suit looking for his S.W.O.R.D agent friends and he’ll have a healthy debrief, maybe a medical checkup, and we’ll see what happens.”