Does WandaVision Fall Into the Same MCU Villain Trap?

For as much as the Marvel Cinematic Universe gets right, there are still things that they get wrong and perhaps the most notable are its villains. Many of the villains in the MCU are just reflections of the heroes, similarly-powered or motivated individuals who take a decidedly different turn than the good guys who end up saving the day. It's something that is likely intended to offer something of personal stakes for the heroes, holding up a mirror to how easily someone could fall to darker influences, and while that's not always a bad thing -- Black Panther's Killmonger, for example, worked so well because he was a reflection of T'Challa -- it's an area that could use some improvement. Now, with the MCU firmly in Phase 4 with WandaVision and that series having revealed its antagonists (thus far), does WandaVision fall into the same pattern?

To answer that question, one has to first consider if WandaVision actually has a true villain. Who the real villain of WandaVision is has been a source of major speculation and debate since the show's very first episode with people suggesting that Mephisto, Nightmare, or even Chthon could be behind everything going on. With Episode 7's reveal that Agnes was really Agatha Harkness, speculation shifted to consider that she was the mastermind though Episode 8 called that into question as well with Agatha trying to figure out exactly what Wanda is to be doing what she's doing in Westview. Agatha may not be a saint, but she's not exactly a villain either. The episode's credits scene also gave another villain option by revealing that Hayward has had Vision's body the whole time and manipulated things in order to obtain some of Wanda's power to activate the reconstructed synthezoid. It's an act that shifts Hayward firmly into antagonist mode, but one could argue that that doesn't quite make him a villain. More information is still needed to make that determination.

At this point, it feels like WandaVision is a series without a true villain, but even at that, the show does seem to be setting up for the same formula of the heroes and antagonists simply being mirrors of each other. While that may seem like a situation in which WandaVision is just falling into that same MCU weakness, this is a case where it's actually a bit more nuanced than that. From the very first episode, WandaVision has been a vastly more complex story than anything we've seen from the MCU before. A story set around grief and trauma, each of the characters' actions and motivations come from a place that by the very diverse nature of the human experience encourages a wide range of reactions. Wanda wanting to escape from her trauma by creating a "perfect" world for herself is one coping mechanism. Monica being determined to help Wanda -- and in a sense avoid her own grief and trauma -- is another. Agatha trying to figure out what exactly Wanda is (we don't really know much else about her motivations at this point so this is what we have to work with) is another form of coping -- Agatha's origins as revealed in Episode 8 are pretty traumatic after all. Even Hayward, it could be argued, is acting in a way consistent with a coping mechanism. Remember, he was among those left behind for five years after Thanos snapped his fingers, and while we haven't really seen what life was like, with that much of a loss of population chances are likely it was extremely difficult and traumatic with every day bringing new threats and chaos and very little resources to deal with it. Hayward trying to recreate Vision, presumably as a weapon, and kind of being a jerk to everyone is itself another coping mechanism.

From a storytelling perspective, having the antagonists and the "good guys" be two sides of the same coin in this instance makes a lot of sense. It's more than just a dark reflection situation and in terms of having characters with similar powers be at odds -- Monica and Hayward, Agatha and Wanda, and possibly even Vision and Vision -- it creates a situation where any actual showdown will be more balanced as those different responses to the same emotion clash rather than just having some Big Bad wipe out the good guy or the good guy take out the villain handily.

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So, does WandaVision fall into the same MCU villain trap? Yes, but maybe the real issue is expecting MCU stories to be so black and white as to have firmly defined villains with no humanity. While these are stories based in the world of comic books, they are also very human stories as well and even in real life, the villains we face are often just reflections of ourselves.

The first eight episodes of WandaVision are now streaming on Disney+.