WandaVision kicks off a whole new era for the MCU, one marked by changes not only to the line-up of characters and properties but also in a more fundamentally structural way. But the inaugural Disney+ MCU show is deeply rooted in the established timeline of the MCU. While the story of some of the original Avengers is now over, Phase 4 will continue the story of the Infinity Saga in various different ways and WandaVision is as much a product of its past as it is a step out into brave new territories.
Set in a mysterious sitcom-referencing world, WandaVision brings Paul Bettany’s Vision back to life in an idealized reality with Scarlet Witch at its center. And though it allows Wanda to live out the dreams robbed of her by Infinity War and Vis’ death, the true dangers of its reality and the cost to the “real” world are yet to be properly weighed up. The unraveling truth of WandaVision‘s world, seemingly attacked by new organization S.W.O.R.D. are key to this show and crucially, they also set up a wider arc leading into a Multiverse trilogy that also includes Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness and the as-yet-unnamed MCU Spider-Man 3. This is no mere magic trick.
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While it may seem that not every individual MCU movie impacts WandaVision directly, the franchise is often better considered as a narrative tapestry. Even the furthest outliers are tied to each other through the same ideas, with thematic arcs that bring cosmic, magic, and Earth-bound MCU stories together. Obviously, some of Marvel’s biggest releases are also linked to WandaVision as more overt stepping stones in Scarlet Witch’s story. Here’s every way the MCU has led to Disney+’s first MCU TV show offering.
Phase One & The Avengers
While they didn’t play an active part, Wanda and Pietro Maximoff‘s stories ran in parallel to Phase One, kicking off with the involvement of Stark Industries in the civil war in Sokovia. Ultimately, Stark’s active part in the death of the twins’ parents was minimal (because he was a terrible person who didn’t really care for the reach of his company’s weapons), but he was still partly accountable. And more importantly, it was the Maximoffs’ story that first introduced the idea of accountability in the MCU, even before it was really a superhero issue (along with Iron Man 2‘s Whiplash backstory, of course). So while Phase One may have looked like the promised land for burgeoning heroes before regulations and catastrophes that killed their members, it was that reckless spirit, built – just like the MCU – on Tony Stark’s shoulders that actually led to the first trauma that led to the twins’ powers.
The Avengers is even more explicitly linked to WandaVision, if S.H.I.E.L.D. replacement S.W.O.R.D. is playing the role that’s long been suggested. The pre-release marketing revealed that the W in the new acronym stands for Weapons rather than World, changing the apparent meaning. Theorists have posited that the Sentient Weapons being Observed and Responded to are superpowered individuals who pose a threat to the Earth, explaining their presence in the Disney+ show. This idea of the Earth needing protection from such threats was initially introduced as Nick Fury’s secret S.H.I.E.L.D. plan in The Avengers in the wake of the Destroyer attack in New Mexico in Thor.
Avengers: Age Of Ultron
Having been introduced in The Winter Soldier‘s post-credits, the twins really came into their own in Avengers: Age Of Ultron, which also saw the debut of Vision. Needless to say, the sequel is a key founding stone to their story as it brought them together, tying their experiences as “creations” together too, while also exploring Wanda’s backstory and then increasing her trauma by killing off her brother. Even more importantly, Age Of Ultron also showed the first hints of Wanda being able to warp reality through the Mind Stone’s powers. Obviously, it’s presented here as a mind-warping technique, but in WandaVision it has evolved into something else and something more worrying.
Captain America: Civil War (And Superhero Monitoring)
The idea of superhero monitoring in the MCU was not introduced in Civil War. It actually arrived in Captain America’s first sequel, The Winter Soldier, which introduced Hydra/S.H.I.E.L.D.’s nefarious plot to identify potential targets to neutralize as part of their lavish Triskelion plot. That obviously sits with S.W.O.R.D.’s apparent agenda (though it may not be that simple) in WandaVision.
And, of course, after the death of Quicksilver opened the second of Wanda’s traumatic wounds, her part in the opening disaster of Civil War that further inspired the Sokovia Accords led to more emotional volatility. Wanda was, crucially, also imprisoned for her crimes or at least for the threat she potentially posed, which will absolutely be playing at the back of her conscious mind as she struggles to get to grips with her new “reality”. WandaVision is potentially a balancing act for Wanda and those trying to break through to her, to avoid weaponizing her as an even greater threat, and finding a solution that doesn’t make her think she’s in danger of that captivity or of losing Vision before coming to terms with it will be key.
While the explicit narrative links to Doctor Strange‘s magical world will become more obvious as WandaVision unfolds, it’s important to think of Benedict Cumberbatch’s MCU debut as a morality tale, told by Karl Mordo, ironically. Given that he advocated not messing with the natural order – which turned him against Strange and the Sorcerors – and WandaVision seems to be hinting that Scarlet Witch unwittingly breaking those restrictions threatens the real world beyond her “fantasy”, Mordo’s message is worth remembering. Otherwise, thematically, Doctor Strange also mirrors WandaVision in that it is a story about a magical character learning to control his powers, which Wanda still struggles with. That’s why their relationship will be so important into Phase 4.
Infinity War & Endgame
If Captain America: Civil War was the beginning of Scarlet Witch truly beginning to unravel thanks to the tragic events in Africa, Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame were the dramatic tightening of that spiral. Crucially for Wanda, in the wake of the Avengers being split apart, she actually got to experience something like normalcy with Vision in stolen moments like their forbidden trip to Edinburgh. That was ultimately interrupted by the arrival of Thanos’ Black Order but it was added for a very precise reason, to give Wanda that glimpse of her perfect life in order to make the end of Infinity War all the more traumatic. WandaVision will no doubt explore exactly what the cost of Wanda having to kill Vision for the sake of the world was in a way that Endgame had no space to. On top of that, Scarlet Witch actually being killed herself and brought back to life can’t have been without its emotional toll, no matter how cooly the returning heroes played it. That everyone else (other than Black Widow and Tony Stark) seemingly got their happy endings drives a huge narrative wedge between Wanda and her fellow heroes too.
Thor, Ant-Man & The Wasp & Captain Marvel
In terms of narrative, this trio are important, but in the most tangible terms, three of WandaVision‘s most prominent supporting characters come from these MCU precursors. Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings) first appeared in Thor (and returned for the sequel) playing an intern to Jane Foster: presumably, she will now have graduated from her political science major and taken up a job in S.W.O.R.D. Whatever her role, she’s now working alongside FBI agent Jimmy Woo (Randall Park), who first appeared in Ant-Man & The Wasp as Scott Lang’s parole officer. The third figure, Monica Rambeau (now played as an adult by Teyonnah Parris) debuted in Captain Marvel and is now a S.W.O.R.D. agent who seemingly ends up trapped in Wanda’s fake world. Clearly, each of their interactions with superheroes led them to the same endgoal.
MCU Superhero Trauma & The Fallout
As already hinted strongly, Wanda’s story in the MCU is one marked by deep trauma. She, like many heroes, is the product of trauma, but her origin story has never ended in those terms. She has been repeatedly put through the wringer, with pieces stripped away from her even as some of her team-mates worried that she would be the death of them. WandaVision is, thus, the end of a long story of that trauma that also sits alongside linked stories in other MCU movies exploring what impact trauma has. Iron Man 3 started it most overtly, with Endgame‘s “Fat Thor” arc following most obviously, while Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol 2 set up Rocket Raccoon’s past and its predecessor explored Drax’s, Star-Lord’s and both Gamora and Nebula’s. And of course, most recently, Spider-Man: Far From Home directly dealt with the legacy of Endgame‘s trauma, though in a far more background manner to WandaVision‘s scope.
Personal Growth & The Revelation Of The Self In The MCU
Most superhero origin stories include some sort of revelation (hence why so many superheroes like to say “I am…” along with their made-up names), and it’s been a major narrative staple for the MCU. The heroes have all been tested, whether that’s Thor’s quest to find his true worthiness (and eventually abandon his apparent destiny), Captain America’s wrestling with his patriotic duty, the Guardians of the Galaxy learning their place as a family, Captain Marvel uncovering the truth of her past, Black Panther‘s T’Challa weighing up what a true leader is or Spider-Man’s entire arc in every one of his appearances. Duel identities offer the unique story-telling opportunity for characters to wrestle with the inherent duality of existence in a completely open way, but in WandaVision, Scarlet Witch will face this question more profoundly than any of her MCU forebears. Is she someone else’s weapon, an Avenger, an outsider, part of a family, a loving wife and mother in her fake reality or is she the doom of all existence as the cost of her own happiness? The fact that the Disney+ leaps through different sitcoms as Wanda seeks to find her own truth is not accidental and it’s that long-running MCU theme that’s at the heart of WandaVision most profoundly.
The Cost Of Superheroism
Alongside the issues of superhero accountability, the MCU also has a line in what the cost of being a superhero is, not in terms of fallout, but in terms of the transaction itself. That much started with Captain America: The First Avenger, though it also bubbled away in Iron Man, Iron Man 2, and The Incredible Hulk, in which fans saw superheroes being asked to give up something of themselves in order to do their duty. In each case, that was tied to romance and living the ideal life (which Cap eventually got to realize after Endgame), and the same sort of relationship or life sacrifice – the first true sacrifice of almost every MCU hero – runs throughout The Winter Soldier, Ant-Man 1 and 2, Thor, Guardians of the Galaxy and also Age Of Ultron. WandaVision will feel that cost most explicitly as it will show exactly what Wanda believes she could have had if only for the way her life turned out if Vision’s death was not real. And though the sitcom set-up will soften the blow, the ending looks set to be more traumatic again for the volatile, tragic hero.
- Black Widow (2021)Release date: May 07, 2021
- Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021)Release date: Jul 09, 2021
- Eternals (2021)Release date: Nov 05, 2021
- Spider-Man: Homecoming 3 (2021)Release date: Dec 17, 2021
- Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022)Release date: Mar 25, 2022
- Thor: Love and Thunder (2022)Release date: May 06, 2022
- Black Panther 2 (2022)Release date: Jul 08, 2022
- Captain Marvel 2 (2022)Release date: Nov 11, 2022
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