Through figures like Doctor Strange and Loki, the MCU established its rules for magic. However, WandaVision makes Wanda destroy them all.
WARNING: The following contains spoilers for WandaVision Episode 8, “Previously Activated,” which is now airing on Disney +.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe took a faltering step around its mystical side in its early stages, leaving Thor and the rest of Asgard in a mix of magic and advanced science. It wasn’t until 2016’s Strange doctor that Marvel’s magical aspect finally earned its due. Now WandaVision has delved into the hidden rules that define sorcery in this superhero world, giving Agatha time to show off as she torments Wanda. But Agatha’s elegant illustration of how magic works also creates a backdrop to reveal how Wanda’s powers break all those rules.
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It is worth nothing that only the magic of the Earth has quite clear rules so far. Asgard has since come to terms with her magical nature in things like Frigga’s witchcraft, though it is still unclear how her study compares to Earth witches. And Loki’s illusions are appropriately subtle, sometimes marked with a wave of the hand, sometimes not. A thousand years or more of study leaves these out-of-world wizards in a category of their own, along with Krugarr, the Devastating sorcerer seen in Guardians of the Galaxy 2.
Strange doctor He led his injured neurosurgeon into the hidden corridors of Kamar-Taj, a place of great magical study. The Masters of the Mystic Arts exhibit a highly ritualized and monastic form of magic. Many of their abilities are tied to the ancient artifacts they wield, and even teleportation magic is tied to the magic rings each wizard wears. The golden spells Strange displays have geometric patterns, visually suggesting a ruled order behind how these spells work. But some of Strange’s magical powers are more practical, and of particular interest is the portal he creates in Thor: Ragnarok, his magical intention powered by a lock of Thor’s hair.
Agatha Harkness gets a flashback reintroduction in this week’s episode of WandaVision, placing it in the heart of Salem. But his judgment is not at the hands of scared villagers. Instead, he turns against the women of his own coven, including his powerful mother. The scene is a display of the wildest witch magic. Like Wanda, they use their hands to create a powerful flow of the magic they wield, although Latinized spell chants offer additional structure to naturalistic movements. The choice of language is reminiscent of the Latin and sometimes Greek roots of Marvel comics spells, details that often go back to hidden Atlantean roots.
Agatha’s anger at Wanda’s power riddles leads her to sarcastic seminars. She uses Wanda’s imprisonment to illustrate runic magic and how she protects witches in their places of power, frustrated that Wanda does not know this basic ability. It shows illusions and transfigurations, and even talks about necromancy. There is also a potent link to the magical methods of Kamar-Taj, as Agatha creates a portal from a lock of Wanda’s hair, a spell cast similarly to Strange’s portal in Ragnarok. Instead, this spell is infused with Agatha’s darkest powers. Everything is underlined by the centuries-long effort that Agatha has put into honing her skills. Wanda breaks all these rules, everything that Agatha and Strange, and to a lesser extent, Loki, have established over the years of the MCU.
The revelation that Wanda’s innate power comes from an Infinity Stone doesn’t overwhelm Agatha on its own. She has already seen potential in a scared Wanda trapped by the Stark Industries bomb, a rising witch in a world that hasn’t offered much room for magic. Agatha suspects that Wanda would never have achieved her magical awakening without encountering the stone. But the pain and emptiness that hollowed out the poor woman, along with the Infinity Stone and the promise she glimpsed within, unlocked something she’s been waiting for all along.
It is unclear if Agatha witnessed the silhouette that Wanda saw in her Hydra experimentation flashback. But at the end of the episode, it’s a moot point. Agatha recognizes that Wanda is a game changer in a world of magic chained by ordered rules. Wanda’s power is pure chaos, intention given form, a singular magical entity like no other. It’s been subtle preparation for the series, laying down the rules only to reveal exactly how Wanda breaks them all. The Scarlet Witch, an avatar of pure chaos magic that can rewrite all of reality with just one word, is embodied within the MCU.
But with Wanda still under the control of Agatha, her twin sons imprisoned by the evil witch, it remains to be seen what the ultimate limits of Wanda’s new power really are. The scariest possibility of all is that there is no are without limits, and with the return of Doctor Strange to the big screen, the ramifications in the Multiverse could be incomprehensible.
Written by Jac Schaeffer and directed by Matt Shakman, WandaVision stars Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff / Scarlet Witch, Paul Bettany as Vision, Randall Park as Agent Jimmy Woo, Kat Dennings as Darcy Lewis, Teyonah Parris as Monica Rambeau and Kathryn Hahn like Agnes. New episodes air Fridays on Disney +.
KEEP READING: A WandaVision Guide: News, Easter Eggs, Reviews, Summaries, Theories, and Rumors
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