Wanda Maximoff, the Scarlet Witch, is one of the best villains in the entire MCU and one of the absolute highlights of Doctor Strange 2 thanks to her motivation – a desire for a happy ending.
When Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) was introduced in Avengers: Age of Ultron she had a silly, unconvincing Eastern European accent, and a tragic past explained vaguely through her relationship with her brother, the short-lived Pietro Maximoff (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), and it was… serviceable. While none of it was amazing it did serve as a foundation for one of the best arcs in the MCU that being Wanda’s desire for a happy ending and the reality around her that prevents it.
You don’t get to explore much of Wanda’s character in her earlier appearances thanks to most of the screen time going to the likes of Captain America and Iron Man, but we saw little snippets of her throughout the MCU and slowly, over time, they had built a real character.
By the time we got to WandaVision, what we knew about Wanda was her tragic childhood (which here is expanded upon), she lost her brother, she found love with Vision, she lost Vision, she even lost her accent, and now after the events of Avengers: Endgame what does she have left? In WandaVision we learn what she wants and that’s a happy ending. She wants a man in her life, she wants children, and she wants her brother, all of which we see in WandaVision.
Her love of old sitcoms (which makes up the premise of WandaVision) is a coping mechanism against the cruelty of her life. Much like many of us who have ever turned to something like Friends or The Office to get away from the world for a while. But for Wanda, this has resulted in a desperate desire for a happy ending which for her is achieving a semblance of the family that she was deprived of as a child. This happy ending is teased in Infinity War with Vision, which she herself had to kill for the greater good. She literally creates her dream in WandaVision that then turns into a nightmare. Every attempt she makes for a happy ending is ripped away from her by the world.
Doctor Strange 2
Enter Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. We have a broken Wanda whose consistent loss throughout her life has been drip fed to the audience over the course of years. It delivers an emotional gut punch when she finally can’t take anymore. It’s a unique way for a film to tell a story as it’s more akin to how television depicts character arcs over longer periods of time. This is one of the best parts of the MCU format.
The Scarlet Witch wants a happy ending and is willing to do anything to achieve it and that’s where the tragedy comes from. Wanda’s fatal flaw is her belief in happy endings, which given that she’s in the MCU, shouldn’t be shocking. But she doesn’t get one despite almost all those around her receiving one. She tells Strange as much in the film, “You break the rules and become a hero. I do it and I become the enemy. That doesn’t seem fair.” It isn’t fair, but as we see, other Stranges have become the enemy in their realities and it’s the choices made that make our Strange different.
Fantastic, Wanda’s story resembles that of a Greek tragedy so that makes it the best part of Doctor Strange 2? No, but consider this, what is the titular Doctor Strange’s arc? In the first film he had to overcome his arrogance and accept that he didn’t know everything. In the sequel? He has to get over his old flame, Christine (Rachel McAdams). Riveting.
It’s odd that Strange himself is one of the least interesting parts of the film in terms of writing. Wanda, however, has had so much build up, so much justified anger, so much misused power, and it all comes to a head here. It’s the culmination of her character up to this point. How does Strange defeat Wanda? It isn’t with his skills in magic, it’s by showing Wanda the effects of her selfish desire for a happy ending.
In order for Wanda to have a happy ending, she has to destroy another’s. In this case, her multiversal other. She can’t have her happy ending by being the Scarlet Witch. The Witch was prophesised to rule worlds, not raise a family. Had she succeeded and stolen her sons from another universe, they would have been, for all intents and purposes, captives. They would have feared and resented the Witch, who would have likely killed their real mother. Hardly the happy ending she was after.
Her motivation as a villain is a sympathetic one. People said that Thanos’ motivation was what really set him apart from other villains and if that’s the case, it should go double for Wanda. Her turn as villain is believable and doesn’t come from nowhere just so a former hero can fight Doctor Strange (think Captain America: Civil War where our heroes have to act or say things out of character just so we can get them fighting each other because realistically, why would they?).
That’s why Wanda is the best part of Doctor Strange 2. In one sense it was inevitable that her actions as the Scarlet Witch would doom her happy ending. And what else does Doctor Strange 2 have to offer other than that? Some admittedly cool visuals and concepts, but nothing deeper than that, the best parts of Doctor Strange 2 are all superficial with the exception of Wanda.
For more like this, check out how weirdly historically accurate Our Flag Means Death actually is.
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