WandaVision: Who’s Who, What’s What, and What’s Next?

Edited by Olivia Spahn-Vieira  

After an (unexpected) 18-month hiatus, Marvel Studios is back — and it's better than ever.

WandaVision may just be the first glimpse into the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but it’s a confirmation of the greatness that lies ahead: from the sets to the dialogue, the campiness and the creepiness, and the threads of mystery interwoven throughout, it’s incredibly gripping — not to mention, absolutely brilliant.

Yet before I dive into its specifics, let's begin by examining its background. How did we arrive here — big-screen heroes on our TVs, adventures playing out in a serialized format? Why is Wanda in a sitcom — and how is Vision alive?

To understand all of this, let’s take a trip back to where it all began — a simpler time, when enthusiasm for Avengers: Endgame was still fresh in the air, Spider-Man: Far From Home was picking up speed at the box office — and, of course, we could still actually go to theaters. In San Diego, the annual Comic Convention was just about to hit its peak: it was time for the most-anticipated panel of the week.

San Diego Comic Con (SDCC). Hall H. Saturday July 20th, 2019. 5:15PM PST.

The crowd was buzzing with anticipation — excited, to get closure on the Infinity Saga, and to catch a glimpse of the yet-unrevealed Phase 4 slate that lay ahead. The decade-long first chapter of the MCU had concluded (with a bang, no less!); now, it was time to take chances, to make changes. To capitalize on the franchise’s international success, and to catapult the MCU in an all-new direction.

From the moment Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige strode onto the stage, he was met by thunderous applause — a sound that only amplified as he announced the Phase 4 flicks.

Some of the upcoming films were expected: Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow would finally receive a starring role in her own solo film; the Thor, Guardians of the Galaxy and Doctor Strange franchises would all receive an additional installment; and a slew of new heroes would be introduced to the big screen: martial artist Shang-Chi, and the ensemble cast of the Eternals.

Other announcements were a little more surprising: several longstanding characters would be departing the silver screen in favour of Disney+. Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes would headline a buddy-cop-type adventure in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier; long-time fan-favourite Loki would be returning in the aptly-titled Loki

Yet one title stuck out from all the crowd. Between its experimental concept, its intriguing synopsis, and where, exactly, we’d last left its two title characters… well, to quote its (many) trailers, we just [didn’t] know what to expect.

We didn’t know it at the time, but WandaVision, following the lives of Scarlet Witch and our favourite friendly android, would soon become the first foray into the ambitious Phase 4 — and the key to much that would lie ahead.

WandaVision is, by far, the most ambitious and mind-blowing project Marvel Studios has ever undertaken. A full-on superhero-action story packaged within a sitcom, featuring one of the most powerful Avengers in superhero history and a character who, well, didn’t survive the conflict last time he was on-screen… it was bound to create a (notable) buzz of curiosity.

Before exploring the intricacies of the series, let’s familiarize ourselves with WandaVision's major players: the superheroes and sidekicks we’ve grown up with all these years, and the newest members to the MCU family.

(NOTE: At the time of writing this, only the first four episodes of WandaVision have aired; as such, the following details, theories and analyses will be solely based off of plot points from said first four episodes. Any predictions will be just that: speculation).

(Also, caution: WandaVision spoilers ahead!!!!!).

They sure are an *unusual* couple, living in a fairly *unusual* town...

The Main Character: Wanda Maximoff, AKA the “Scarlet Witch”

Born in the (fictional) European country of Sokovia, Wanda grew up with her parents and twin brother, Pietro. Their picture-perfect life was shattered after an unfortunate, Stark-related accident; heartbroken and desolate, the twins enrolled themselves in Strucker’s mind stone experiment, in which they were exposed to the Infinity Stone’s radiation and subsequently developed powers. Wanda received the ability to perform telekinesis, control minds, and manipulate reality; Pietro, on the other hand, acquired super-speed. The two of them initially sided with Ultron in his quest to take down Stark, though later defected to the heroes’ side to help defeat the robot. Unfortunately, Pietro didn’t survive the battle, tearing Wanda’s last shred of family away from her.

Nonetheless, following this incident, she became an official Avenger, assisting with the heroes’ quests, mastering her powers. Along the line, she became romantically involved with Vision — though that, too, came to an abrupt end. Before she had time to grieve, she was snapped away by Thanos, becoming a victim of the now-infamous “Blip.”

We haven’t seen much of her since, save for a brief moment in Avengers: Endgame where she faces off against Thanos, hands alight with power, eyes ablaze with wrath. “You took everything from me,” she hissed, before unleashing her rage against the Titan. That was her last starring scene; her life hasn’t been depicted on-screen since.

The Love Interest: Vision

Originally intended to be an “upgraded body” for Ultron, this part-Vibranium, part-organic character was recruited by the heroes and brought to life with a combination of Tony’s AI (J.A.R.V.I.S.) and the mind stone. 

For a fleeting moment, all was well. He fought alongside the Avengers, even proving himself worthy enough to left Thor’s hammer. He forged a relationship with Wanda, and spent two years with her in peace. 

Yet... all good things often come to an end.

In Avengers: Infinity War, Thanos ripped the mind stone from his skull, de-powering the android. This raises a major WandaVision-centric question: how could he appear in the series? How could he possibly make a return?

The Astrophysicist: Dr. Darcy Lewis

A former political science major and intern of Thor’s Jane Foster, Darcy is back with her signature wit, quips and style. In the ten years since her last appearance, Darcy has gone back to school, completing a PhD in astrophysics. She’s ready to take on the world — or, at least, the eerie town of Westview.

The FBI Agent: Jimmy Woo

Ant-Man and the Wasp’s stand-out FBI agent is back! After stealing the scene as the somewhat-bumbling, yet perfectly-comedic deuteragonist, he’s returned to solve the Westview case — and perhaps demonstrate his newfound close-up magic skills in the process.

The Agent of S.W.O.R.D.: Monica Rambeau (AKA “Geraldine”)

The daughter of Maria Rambeau, best friend of Carol Danvers, Monica first graced our screens as a young adolescent in 2019’s Captain Marvel. Now, however, she’s all grown up: an agent of S.W.O.R.D., potential partner to Jimmy and Darcy, and key player in the events of the series.

Monica’s a character with a rich comic history, appearing under the alias of Photon, Pulsar and Spectrum. Though she hasn’t demonstrated any supernatural powers as of yet, don’t be too surprised if she does so down the line — after all, she has been confirmed to join Carol and Kamala Khan in 2022’s Captain Marvel 2 (which, coincidentally, will be written by a member of the WandaVision writers’ room — more on that in a bit!).

The Ally, the Neighbour, the Witch, the Friend: Agnes

Finally, there’s Agnes. Ah, Agnes. Who is she? Well… we have absolutely NO idea. Described as the “nosy neighbour” in promotional material, she’s been a regular occurrence throughout each of the first four episodes — though as of yet, her character’s background hasn’t been explored.

So far, we know that she’s wise-cracking, always ready to lend a hand (or a pineapple!) — and she knows something about Westview that she’s not letting on, as evidenced by her conversation with Herb in Episode 3. She’s surrounded by an air of mystery: her name-dropped husband Ralph hasn’t shown up once, her smile’s just a *bit* too forced, and thus far, she’s the only character on S.W.O.R.D.’s “evidence wall” without a real-world counterpart. 

Is she Agatha Harkness, Wanda’s sometimes-friend, sometimes-foe (and fellow witch!) from the comics? Is she Mephisto, the devil-like character highly rumoured to appear at some point in the series? Or is she simply a sitcom persona, created solely for comic relief? We’ll have to keep tuning in to find out…

So... what in the name of Mephisto is going on???

Uh… yeah. See, that’s a complicated question. 

I can tell you what’s occurred so far. I can tell you what’s expected to happen next. But anything more concrete than that is uncharted territory.

Episode 1 (“Filmed Before a Live Studio Audience”) begins in full-fledged ’50s sitcom-land. Full of marriage antics, over-the-top expressions and the high-stakes plot of… having Vision’s boss over for dinner? — it integrates viewers into the (not-so-)technicolour town in which our heroes have recently settled. They’re still Avengers, by and large — Vision cracks puns about his android biology (“You’re like a walking computer!” // “WHAT? I’m most certainly not!”); Wanda employs her telekinetic powers to wash the dishes and make a meal. 

It couldn’t be more of a departure from the fast-paced, villain-heavy, the-world’s-about-to-be-destroyed! scenarios of Marvel past — yet with a faint undercurrent of mystery, a looming thought that nothing may be as it seems, Olsen, Bettany and showrunner Schaeffer cast a stunning spell. 

The first cracks began to show near the end of the pilot episode. Vision’s boss chokes on a piece of food; time appears to stop, the boss’s wife trapped in a temporal loop as her eyes transition from mirthful to pleading. Suddenly, Wanda breaks character: her over-exaggerated, sitcom-style movements give way to a more modern set of subtleties, voice losing its lilt as she stares directly at her android husband.

“Vision,” she orders, all humour gone from her words. “Help him.”

The aspect ratio of the shot falters, expanding from the square-shaped border (reminiscent of televisions past) to the present-day, wide-screen 16:9. Vision bursts into action, as if puppeteered by Wanda’s command. 

And then—

As quickly as it starts, it is over. Wanda and Vision snap back to their seats, comedically-wide smiles on their faces, eyes sparkling with warmth. The aspect ratio shifts back to sitcom-style, and Christophe Beck’s jaunty score resumes. It’s as if nothing ever happened — a flaw in the plan, a glitch in the matrix.

But for us viewers, it was enough to make us wonder: what on Earth was going on?

Cut to this past Friday’s episode, “We Interrupt this Message”: a departure from the sitcom setting, a return to the “real” world. Finally, it seemed as though we’d be getting some answers. Woo and Monica appeared; Darcy brought her astrophysical talents to S.W.O.R.D. The beekeeper’s identity was revealed, as was the source of the red-and-yellow helicopter toy — yet on-screen, the agents seemed to be just as clueless about the source of the sitcom as us viewers. Woo, with his “theory whiteboard,” was asking the big questions: Why sitcoms? [Does the sitcom world take place in the] Same time and space [as the real world]? And, most importantly, Is Vision alive???

The episode’s explanations regarding the beekeeper and the helicopter seemed to suggest that Westview is not just a product of Wanda’s imagination; it isn’t all inside her mind, nor does it appear to be an illusion. It is a real town, in which real people — and real objects — can enter.

But how did it arise? Is it a deception, orchestrated by Agnes, Dottie, Mephisto, or some other unknown foe? Or was it created by Wanda, a temporary utopia: a place where she could live her days in peace, create a life with her (fallen) husband, a place where smiles and humour run abound?

The ending of Episode 4 seems to imply the latter — I mean, Monica literally closes the final scene by muttering, wide-eyed, “it’s Wanda. It’s all Wanda.”

Yet if we know anything about Marvel, it’s that they’re masters at misdirection. I’d be very surprised if that was the true reveal, if this central mystery were wrapped up with five full-length episodes still to be released. 

There are several fan theories circulating the internet — though only a small handful of people are truly in the loop.

This includes the cast members: Elizabeth Olsen (“Wanda”), Paul Bettany (“Vision”), Kathryn Hahn (“Agnes”), Teyonah Parris (“Monica”).

The director, Matt Shakman. 

And, of course, the writers, comprised almost entirely of female and under-represented talent -- a star-studded team, including (but not limited to) Gretchen Enders, Laura Donney, Megan McDonnell, and showrunner/creator Jac Schaeffer.

In fact, more than half the executives and crew on the series are women — a first for Marvel Studios. Schaeffer intentionally negotiated for this: “It’s important,” she noted, that “women and people of colour and people of all backgrounds and perspectives” have a voice in the writers’ room. The show is, after all, a sitcom featuring a female lead (Wanda) and a supporting cast of several strong women (Agnes, Monica, Darcy…) — not to mention, according to Schaeffer, “stories are [simply] better, the more perspectives you have.”

She couldn’t be more right.

Enders’ sharp wit and comedic eye shone through Episode 2, perfectly counter-balancing the magical act of “Glamour and Illusion” with the underlying mystery. Most impressive, however, were the easter eggs she skillfully sprinkled throughout: tiny clues towards the series’s looming nature, subtle cues to spark viewer debates — after all, as Enders wrote within her script, the devil’s in the details,” don’t you think?

McDonnell, on the other hand, burst onto the scene with artistic excellence: the stork scene in Episode 3 was a work of pure genius, and the clever moment when Wanda’s water broke? Magnificent. The cut from “my stomach’s feeling fluttery” to the butterfly mobile… Vision’s dad jokes… the entire ending scene of Episode 3 (!!)… every word she wrote, every detail included, was masterfully done.

(Side note: McDonnell will also be the screenwriter of Captain Marvel 2, which will reunite Monica — a character she wrote so brilliantly in Episodes 3 and 4! — with Carol Danvers and Kamala Khan. Clearly, Marvel Studios must love her work as much as I do — she’s a truly gifted writer, and I can’t wait to see her work on the upcoming film)!

Donney’s episode hasn’t aired yet, but if her Twitter posts are any indication, she’ll absolutely nail the comedic aspects of the script — and the underlying mystery, the quintessential action, the overarching Marvel drama.

Finally, there’s the star of the show. Jac Schaeffer: Screenwriter, director, producer, showrunner extraordinaire. Writer of the first episode of WandaVision. The mind behind the series, the leader of the pack. 

On January 15th, marvel.com referred to Schaeffer as “a force” — and, honestly, that’s a pretty accurate representation of this remarkably talented, driven and trailblazing role model. Her scripts are witty and sharp, capturing the essence of both the characters and the setting with perfect authenticity. She knows how to balance humour with compassion, drama with intrigue; how to hook readers in, yet also leave them hanging: begging, pleading, desperate to know what’s going to happen next. I’ve been so impressed by her work on WandaVision; Marvel couldn’t have selected a better woman for the role. She’s led a team of visionary writers to victory, something clearly exemplified in WandaVision's critical success — and, according to recent interviews, it’s only going to get more exciting from here.

I’ve never seen a mainstream writers’ room as full of female talent as WandaVision’s: it truly is an inspiration, to female writers, filmmakers and moviegoers everywhere. These women are trailblazers, sharing their creative excellence with the world — and producing what can only be described as a “masterpiece” in the process.

Dear readers, I hope you’re loving WandaVision as much as I am. I hope you’re appreciating the minds behind the magic. I hope you’re thinking and theorizing, traversing through the rabbit hole of the Marvel Studios Reddit to read up upon what’s next. 

There’s no doubt about it: the great Marvel Studios has returned.

And if this is the direction they’re going to be taking in Phase 4 — unique, experimental, never-been-done before; diverse, both in front of and behind the camera — then I couldn’t be more excited.

Marvel, Schaeffer, WandaVision: bring it on.