Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness ruined Scarlet Witch’s WandaVision character arc. Back in 2015, Elizabeth Olsen discussed a Scarlet Witch character arc she found particularly interesting. “My favorite is House of M,“ Olsen explained, “but that would never happen. I mean, if she could have two fake babies, and everyone tell her that they don’t really exist, and then her just go nuts, that would be unbelievable.” Ironically, Olsen’s description of House of M is essentially a plot summary of Scarlet Witch’s MCU Phase 4 arc.
This is Scarlet Witch’s most famous comic book story, but ironically people who aren’t familiar with the comics may not realize how problematic it was for the character. Scarlet Witch’s heel-turn began in an arc called “Avengers Disassembled,” and in truth she was nothing more than a plot device for writer Brian Bendis to wipe out the Avengers so he could relaunch them. House of M evolved out of this, and Marvel editorial again used Wanda Maximoff as a plot device; the event ended with a spell in which she depowered 98 percent of the world’s mutants, because editors believe there were too many mutant characters. Unfortunately, these events so tarnished Scarlet Witch that it took Marvel several years to figure out how to make her a hero again. They came up with the idea of her having been secretly under demonic influence, removing responsibility for her actions – but unwittingly removing all sense of agency for her as well. It wasn’t accepted by comic book readers, and it’s telling that writers were still trying to figure out how to redeem the Scarlet Witch in the X-Men’s 2021 “Hellfire Gala” story. Scarlet Witch has never escaped the shadow of House of M.
All this means Marvel should really have been careful and cautious when adapting House of M. The MCU’s Scarlet Witch story had the potential to damage the character, and it needed to be handled with care. The pressure became much more notable due to the popularity of WandaVision, which proved compelling because of Scarlet Witch’s creatively-handled arc. Unfortunately Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness sees Marvel failing to avoid the same character pitfalls of the comics.
Doctor Strange 2 Makes The Events Of WandaVision Meaningless
The key to Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is the Darkhold, a book of forbidden magic Scarlet Witch retrieved from fellow witch Agatha Harkness in WandaVision. Based on the inscriptions of the first demon Chthon, the Darkhold has a corruptive influence on anyone who reads it – and Scarlet Witch was unwise enough to learn magic from the Darkhold. She gazed into the abyss of dark magic, and the abyss gazed back, twisting and corrupting her, reducing her to the emotions of grief and loss. Everything Scarlet Witch did in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness – all the demons she sent through the multiverse, all the death and destruction – flowed from her desperate desire to regain the family she had lost.
The tragedy, however, is that this renders WandaVision‘s entire story meaningless. There is a sense in which grief itself was the real enemy in WandaVision, as Scarlet Witch struggled to deal with all she had lost; not just Vision, but also the future she could have shared with him had he lived. Scarlet Witch’s Chaos Magic initially trapped her in a fantasy world in which she could have the family she wanted, but in the end she was confronted with reality, and allowed the Hex to dissipate – losing the family she had unwittingly created with her own witchcraft. Unfortunately this entire character arc is undone, simply because Wanda Maximoff also obtained the Darkhold and was foolish enough to open its pages. The darkness of this magic moved her to an emotional place close to the one she occupied when her magic first flared out of control in WandaVision, as though everything that happened at Westview had been forgotten.
Doctor Strange 2 Reduces Scarlet Witch To Motherhood
Making matters worse, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness reduced Wanda Maximoff to a single desire: motherhood. Scarlet Witch’s fantasy world included two twins she had conjured into existence, and she bade them an emotional farewell as she allowed the Hex to dissipate at the end of WandaVision. But the Doctor Strange sequel turned this idea on its head, revealing the MCU’s prime timeline (Earth-616) was the only one in which Wanda was not a mother; she had simply created the children she had in every other timeline. An envious Scarlet Witch resolved to claim the children from another Earth – and she needed America Chavez’s powers to accomplish this.
Unfortunately, one major thing was missing in this story: Vision, Scarlet Witch’s greatest love. It was Wanda’s love for Vision that led her to create the Hex over Westview in WandaVision, and a portion of him lived on in her. Yet, for all that’s the case, as Scarlet Witch surveyed the multiverse she never once looked for Vision. This actually appears to have been a rather strange oversight on Marvel’s part, because even on Earth-838 – an idyllic reality in Wanda’s view, given that timeline’s Scarlet Witch lives happily with her children – there wasn’t even a mention of Vision. It’s as though the love for Vision, and the grief and loss tied to it, have been forgotten. It’s a disappointing narrative given the relationship between the two was the real emotional core in WandaVision, and viewers were heavily invested in it.
Doctor Strange 2 Robs Scarlet Witch Of All Agency
If grief was the real enemy in WandaVision, the magic of the Darkhold was the real villain in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Wanda was corrupted after she read it, like the Doctor Stranges of two universes, and in the end its spell was only broken when Scarlet Witch saw her children were terrified of her. The film’s true victory came when Wanda destroyed Mount Wundagore, and in doing so unleashed a spell that destroyed every copy of the Darkhold in the multiverse.
In character terms this is frankly the worst possible way Marvel could have resolved Wanda’s destructive heel-turn. The approach may be a similar one to the comics, where Scarlet Witch’s villainy was explained away as a case of demon possession, but even there it proved unsatisfactory; Scarlet Witch did simply too much damage, killed too many people, and readers were unable to believe she was nothing more than a victim. The same is likely true in the MCU as well. This idea is especially problematic because it completely robs Scarlet Witch of any sense of agency. She has almost no self-control; she is not responsible for her actions, she is nothing more than a force of destruction unleashed across the multiverse by the Darkhold. It’s a particularly disappointing arc for so powerful, celebrated and influential a female superhero.
Can Marvel Redeem Scarlet Witch?
It’s unclear whether Marvel intends to try to redeem Scarlet Witch, or instead will allow her apparent death in Doctor Strange 2 to stand. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness‘ ending saw her bring down Chthon’s ancient citadel on Mount Wundagore, seeming to sacrifice her life, with a flare of scarlet energy that seemed to indicate she had died and her power had been released. It is possible she has survived, and the flare was actually some sort of teleport, but that doesn’t feel as though it was the intent. Instead, the story of Scarlet Witch remains one of trauma and tragedy, culminating in a horrific heel-turn after she fell under the sway of a dangerous book of magic.
This does not, however, mean Wanda Maximoff’s story is over. The multiverse means there are other variants of Wanda out there, women who have never read the Darkhold and never claimed the power of the Scarlet Witch. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness‘ post-credits scene revealed Strange has unwittingly caused an incursion; these are created when a being from one universe has too much of a “footprint” in another, and it’s therefore likely this incursion is between Earth-616 and Earth-838. If that is indeed the case, then characters from Earth-838 could transition through into the mainstream MCU universe, including that timeline’s Scarlet Witch. This would essentially allow Marvel to reboot Scarlet Witch, to begin again – perhaps with a variant of Wanda Maximoff whose brother is still alive, and who is even the daughter of Magneto, given mutants exist in that timeline. Unfortunately, while this would no doubt delight many viewers who simply want Scarlet Witch to be more comic-book-accurate, it would also be another blow to the original version and to WandaVision. This would be a Wanda without all the trauma, without all the suffering and pain, and with no need for a redemption arc. WandaVision in particular would truly become irrelevant, simply because the character it developed so well had been replaced with a new one after Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Hopefully, Marvel will avoid this idea too going forward.