WandaVision is nothing like it seems and it couldn’t be more obvious. Marketed as a sitcom focusing on one of Marvel’s most iconic couples, the TV show pretends to be more than meets the eye.
Apart from its genre-hopping, reality-bending episodes with quirky advertisements, magical twins, major hints and burning questions that go unanswered, the main message that WandaVision cannot be any more clearer. It’s a show about grief.
Trauma and tragedy follow the heroes no matter where they go. Multiple characters have died (Tony Stark, Natasha Romanoff, Gamora) whilst others bear physical (James Rhodes) and mental (Bucky Barnes) scars. Whilst fans cry and hurt together with the characters on screen, Marvel has never really delved into what happens after the bodies are lowered into the ground, or in Tony’s case, set adrift across a lake. With Marvel taking that first step towards exploring the consequences of death and trauma, who else would be better amongst the Avengers than Wanda?
Wanda has suffered immense pain and tragedies. She spent her entire childhood being manipulated by Hydra. She has been misunderstood and painted to be a villain time and time again. She has lost control of her powers and killed innocent civilians by accident (including T’Chaka, Prince of Wakanda and father of Black Panther T’Challa). She also had to see her brother take his last breath and kill her one true love to save the universe. Wanda has endured a truckload of pain and gets little to no reward.
The show tries to show the scope of Wanda’s grief in a number of ways, though the most obvious ways are through: the return of Vision, the return of Pietro and lastly, the Lagos commercial.
The return of Vision
After the events of Avengers: Endgame, Wanda has taken it upon herself to isolate from other people she knows and created an alternate reality where she is living in a sitcom show. Fit with laugh tracks and silly jokes, Wanda and Vision are seen living a happy married suburban life.
Few episodes in and viewers learn that she’s not only hidden the entire town of Westview so that she can remain isolated from the rest of the world. To add, she’s also trapped all of its residents in her sitcom charade, forcing them to play along with how she’d like her life to be. Wanda is clearly in a state of denial and in order to buffer the immediate shock of Vision’s death, she’s decided to block out and hide from the facts by pretending she and Vision are not only happily married, but are parents too.
The return of Pietro
Wanda’s brother Pietro died in Avengers: Age of Ultron, and whilst it was incredibly crushing for Wanda, the MCU never once glanced back at it. There was no mention of Pietro in the later films and there were no acknowledgements of Wanda’s loss. On top of mourning Natasha and Tony with the rest of the Avengers, Wanda’s mourning of Pietro and Vision was conveniently (and unfairly) erased.
Whilst we’ll only learn the truth about Pietro (if it even is him) in the later parts of WandaVision and how that would pan out for Wanda who has spent so much time burying (pun not intended) memories of her dead brother, bringing Pietro back in WandaVision allows Wanda to acknowledge and mourn the absence of her sibling. Will Wanda finally accept the loss of her brother? Time will tell.
What seems like a commercial for a brand of tissue paper actually holds a darker meaning. In Captain America: Civil War, Wanda accidentally kills innocent civilians whilst trying to save Cap in – you guessed it – Lagos.
It is likely that Wanda never really got over that and still feels immense guilt for something that she had no control over. Her temporary loss of control was later spun to look like a terrorist attack, branding her as evil. Even after being on Cap’s team and becoming an Avenger herself, the fear people have of Wanda never left, and so did her feelings of guilt.
Though it is unclear who is coming up with the commercials, the fact that Wanda controls what happens in the show – including wardrobe, laugh tracks, end credits etc – it is likely that the commercials are how she compartmentalizes her past traumatic memories. This grief and guilt that she feels about Lagos are later transpired when Vision confronts her about controlling people in Westview and why there aren’t any children in the town despite having a playground down the street. Wanda tells him that she doesn’t know and that she doesn’t control when people go to their dentist appointments amongst other menial tasks. When Vision doesn’t take her word for it, she is visibly heartbroken, angry, and feeling very guilty. Wanda had no control and thus isn’t responsible. Yet, she still feels that way.
As WandaVision continues to take a darker turn, we might see Wanda do more than experience denial, isolation, guilt and anger. Looking like an allegory for the different stages of grief, we might see the superhero go through the stage of bargaining and acceptance.
Now, with S.W.O.R.D interfering her process of grief and threatening her little bubble of happiness, there’s no telling if Wanda will ever get her peace of mind. Wanda deserved better in the comics, and she deserved better in the movies. We can only hope she gets what she deserves in the series.