Wanda Maximoff is one of the MCU’s most beloved characters. She’s had quite the journey over the past decade, going from villain to hero and back again. But what is it about the Scarlett Witch that fans love so much? Why do audiences adore her despite her deplorable actions? Join me as we explore what makes Wanda one of the MCU’s greatest characters.
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Wanda Maximoff: From Hero To Villain
Have you ever wondered how a villain could be the hero of their own story? Or why we all come to care for characters that have been nothing but downright diabolical? It happens all the time. Look at Tony from The Sopranos. Or Walter from Breaking Bad. These characters have arguably committed some of the most morally distasteful crimes you could think of, and yet audiences love them for it. The answer to this is simple, really; no tricks and certainly no magic. It’s just good storytelling, and with every good story, blooms the beauty of character development. For a relevant example of this, look no further than Wanda Maximoff, also known as… the Scarlet Witch. She first appeared in the MCU as an antagonist working against the Avengers in Age of Ultron. At this point in time, Wanda and her brother, Pietro, were both working with Hydra. Or rather, they both volunteered to be experimented on BY Hydra. But what’s her story? How did she get to where she is today? Why, after all this time, do we as fans still have so much love for her? The love for Wanda didn’t start with Wanda, it started with the talent behind her.
Elizabeth Olsen is an icon in the entertainment industry, and this was even before her successful role as the Scarlet Witch. She has always known what success looked like being that she is the younger sister of Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, two of the most iconic childhood actors in the industry. Her relationship with them sparked her love and desire to pursue a career in acting in their footsteps. Since then, in many of her roles, she excelled in dramatic, suspenseful, and horror genres of storytelling. Fast-forwarding through her career, it is obvious why she was the perfect choice to play such an emotional character in the MCU. Elizabeth has a track record of playing roles where her character was under heavy amounts of trauma and stress and played those roles to perfection. With a resume like this, and a fan base of millions already, Elizabeth Olsen provided Wanda Maximoff with a grand debut when she first arrived in the MCU.
Elizabeth Olsen’s portrayal of Wanda’s character is incredibly impressive. She did so well in providing context about Wanda’s trauma not only through her language but in her eyes; it was written all over her face. Wanda is a woman who has suffered, for what seems like her entire life. People love an actor who can make us feel some type of emotion just by looking into the camera a certain way, and that’s what Elizabeth has always been good at. Her emotion seeps through the screen and touches the hearts of entire audiences. This was the foundation for our love for Wanda Maximoff. It wasn’t the story itself, it couldn’t have been, because at first, we didn’t really know what her story was. Elizabeth got the ball rolling on the craze for the Scarlet Witch, but after that, her life began to unfold, and the love only grew from there.
Wanda’s trauma started very early in her childhood when she and her brother were only about 10 years old. At this time in her life, the world around her was at war. Her parents, Olek and Iryna Maximoff did everything they could to not let such devastation affect their children. Every night, they would sit together as a family and watch the silliest sitcoms together. For them, it was an escape from their harsh reality, and it will be this same mindset that will evidently stick with Wanda for a lifetime. When taking a look at Wanda’s character since she was introduced, she has never been at peace. Her life has been surrounded by violence, which could be why she handles all of her problems using violence and deception. That and the fact that she suffered through the deaths of both her parents after a stray bomb obliterated her tiny apartment. With two of her most prominent guiding figures gone, she left the rubble of her home a completely different person.
The pain of her parents’ death was still fresh in her heart when she joined ranks with the terrorist group, Hydra. Although Wanda stands by the idea that she believed they were a force for good, this was only another pit of trauma to add to her resume. It was here they experimented on Wanda, and her brother, to learn not only about their powers but to learn about the Mind Stone. The two were used as a weapon for Hydra, except they didn’t need any serious brainwashing like Bucky. She joined this movement after only being accustomed to war. It was all she knew at this point. Something like this sticks with a person, and it can be extremely hard to get out of bad habits.
Take Bucky Barnes for example. After what looked like an excruciating death in Captain America: The First Avenger, we learn that for the next 70 years he had been experimented on and brainwashed by Hydra to be their weapon. All he knew was the Hydra way for 70 years, nonstop; he wasn’t allowed to think for himself. In The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, he was trying so hard to make up for his past and to reassure the people he hurt as the Winter Soldier. However, as certain events unfold, it was necessary for him to return to his old ways, and he did so with ease. Keep in mind, after Captain America: Civil War is when his Winter Soldier days were finally over; it has been nearly 8 years since Bucky was last under someone else’s control, yet it’s all still there. This same concept can be applied to Wanda, except this pain and violence lasted almost her whole life.
Pain, loss, and guilt are frequently used themes in the world of comics. They’re often the driving point for a person to take on the mantle of a superhero. Peter Parker’s loss of Uncle Ben led him to become Spider-Man. Bruce Wayne’s loss of his parents drove him to become Batman. But the story of Wanda takes a different route by having that pain, loss, and guilt weigh on her in a manner that she struggles to ever truly recoup from. It’s honestly a more realistic and human approach to sadness and the effect it can have on a person’s mental health and well-being. And when the person suffering happens to be one of the most powerful beings in the universe, the stage is set for world-altering outcomes.
Wanda was first introduced in Age of Ultron, where she was one of several antagonists throughout the film. By the end of this whole ordeal, Wanda had lost her home, her parents, and her brother. She’d been experimented on for years. And all for what? She still feels the same pain, except now, it’s worse than it’s ever been. There were some, like Cap, Hawkeye, and especially Vision, that looked through her pain, and saw a girl who needed help, a home, and someone to love and take care of her. So the Avengers, although the decision was split, decided to take her in as one of their own. Her path to becoming one of the good guys has finally begun. This was a pivotal moment in Wanda’s character arc. Because it allowed the character to move in a new direction. One that had the promise of happiness and belonging.
At this point, fans weren’t sure about Wanda, and rightfully so. Can she be trusted? What if this is all some elaborate plan to take them out from the inside? Did she just forget about her qualm with Tony Stark? All viable questions, but through her pain, empathy arises. We begin to look at her as a human, with real emotions, for the first time since her initial appearance; not just as a Hydra weapon. This moment is what sparked fan appreciation for Wanda, as she has lost so much, and suffered through an unbearable amount of trauma; any one of us would snap under that sort of pressure. She just has the power to decimate entire worlds when she does.
Wanda uses her powers for good the next few times we see her; Captain America: Civil War, Avengers: Infinity War, and Avengers: Endgame. She wanted to be there for the people who took her in and eventually engaged in a particular love interest. Vision and Wanda became close fairly quickly.
And their connection makes sense when you look at their similarities. Vision is a robotic being. He’s not human, and therefore he’s incapable of feeling human emotions like empathy, love, or sorrow. At least, that’s how he’s viewed by others. But we know now that Vision is much more than what he first appeared to be. Just as Wanda was first thought of as a weapon. A dangerous being who served no purpose beyond destruction and death. But Vision and Wanda see each other on a deeper level. They see the goodness that resides within each of them and through their bond, they bring out the humanity in each other. This is a major turning point for Wanda and a significant benchmark in her expansive character arc.
By the time Infinity War rolls around the two are in a serious relationship, even discussing running away with each other. This was the beginning of a downward spiral that none of us were fully prepared for.
Thanos presented the biggest threat that the Avengers had ever faced. His goal to wipe out half of all existence put everybody in danger, but none more so than Vision. The mind stone is a powerful stone firmly embedded in Vision’s forehead. Its powers are what give Vision life. But in order for the Mad Titan to succeed in his plans of decimating half of the universe’s population, he needs to obtain all six of the Infinity Stones… the Mind Stone included. Thanos threatens everything that’s important to Wanda. She’s finally found peace, comfort, and belonging but all of that is about to be ripped away from her in a wave of violence.
Vision knows that if Thanos obtains the Mind Stone the repercussions will be disastrous. So… he asks Wanda to make the ultimate sacrifice. He asks her to destroy it, and in doing so, to kill him. When looking at the broad scope of things to come, the request makes sense. Sacrificing one in order to save billions. But when the sacrifice that has to be made is your burden to bear, it’s a much tougher idea to come to terms with. The emotional and psychological turmoil associated with the act of killing somebody you love would affect anybody… even somebody as powerful as Wanda. Remember, Vision is the person who has allowed her to move beyond her tortured past.
In the end, Thanos wasn’t able to be stopped before killing Vision and obtaining the stone. That loss was enough to push the emotionally fragile Wanda Maximoff into a state of depression, denial, and instability. And when you put somebody as powerful as the Scarlet Witch into a state of depression, denial and instability… the results can be nothing less than disastrous.
WandaVision introduced fans to the true extent of her powers. It was the gateway that Wanda Maximoff never knew existed, and she certainly didn’t know how to control it. Through sheer willpower, she was able to rewrite reality over an entire town, with a population of over 3,000. The effects of her powers were so huge that it attracted the attention of Agatha Harkness, a powerful witch who’s been around for several centuries. Agatha took us on the insightful journey through Wanda’s memories and traumas, and this is when fans truly began to understand. The state of her powers are undoubtedly linked to her emotions, whether she’s scared, angry, or in pain. Once again, Wanda Maximoff had to lose her newfound family for the sake of everyone else. Except this time she lost part of herself in the process. Now that Wanda understands her powers, and knows of a certain book that can make her stronger, she’s got one mission in mind; to get her kids back. The second she acquired the Darkhold, was the second it latched onto her, completely altering her personality. For the first time since her appearance in Age of Ultron, we finally witness the official birth of the Scarlet Witch. We have seen the extent of her capabilities when she wants something, and this was BEFORE she was a mom! Through this entire experience, we learn that Wanda Maximoff is as strong as her mind is… and right now, her mind is falling into madness.
The events of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness take a whole new approach, one that has never been used in the MCU before. The theme embodies a horror movie, which is something Sam Raimi has a track record of doing exceptionally well. The horror aspect of this is perfect, especially considering nothing is scarier than a mom who would do absolutely anything for their children; there’s no way of REALLY telling what they are capable of. And Wanda Maximoff was no exception. This is her first role as a truly disturbing villain, and she absolutely NAILED it. The level of gore and lack of remorse by Wanda’s hand was phenomenal. She was constantly being asked if her kids would approve of her actions, if they would approve of the lives she’s taken on their behalf. It got to a point where America Chavez punched her into a different universe where her kids were alive, just so they could see her for the monster she has become. The realization was written all over her face; she made a grave mistake and needed desperately to make up for it. But is she too far gone? Even after destroying the Darkhold and every variation of it, across every universe, is she redeemable? Did Wanda Maximoff become the hero again after all? This is a matter that I’m sure will be addressed in due time, but I can guarantee the consensus will be split between fans, turmoil to ensue.
At this point, we see and understand what Wanda has lost. We acknowledge what she’s been through, the full extent of it. We don’t judge her for it, we don’t hate her for it, we love her for it. As fans, we gravitate towards the characters that just need love and give them that. Regardless of the harm, they cause others, because we imagine ourselves in her shoes. Love and pain makes people do crazy things, and if any one of us had her powers and suffered the way she had, we would not hesitate to take back what was once ours.
Wanda Maximoff may be the most connected character to the authenticity of humanity as a whole. Her actions were never based on malicious intent, but rather an act centered around a severely fractured heart. Can you honestly say you’ve ever known any human who acted logically in the wake of true heartbreak? Wanda Maximoff represents humanity in its rawest, most uncut form; she’s so relatable and fans love that. She is not being put on a pedestal as a “hero with no flaws”. It’s like she said, when people like Doctor Strange break the rules, they’re heroes, but when she does, she becomes the villain. Regardless of good or bad intentions, she is seen in a negative light, and this could be deemed unfair by many. So many fans would defend Wanda Maximoff until they are blue in the face, and maybe they’re right. We won’t know for a while what comes next for Wanda, but I can imagine Feige is far from through with the development of this uniquely complex character. Who do you think has the best character arc in the MCU? Let us know in the comments. Don’t forget to like, subscribe and hit the notification bell so you never miss a video. I’ll see you next time.