WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Marvel's Avengers: Infinity War, in theaters now.
Avengers: Infinity War made it clear that Thor is indeed the strongest Avenger. However, the most powerful Avenger is arguably Scarlet Witch.
Consider the array and magnitude of her abilities: She can manipulate other peoples' minds and move things with her own. Wanda Maximoff alone is an undeniably mighty force, and Infinity War finally showed audiences the extent of her powers. But the journey to get to that moment – from Age of Ultron through Infinity War – has been incredibly frustrating to watch.
Age of Ultron: Scarlet Witch Has a Babysitter
The Avengers: Age of Ultron sets up a dependent dynamic between Wanda and Pietro Maximoff, her twin brother. The first shot we see in Age of Ultron is of them holding hands, and with few exceptions, every scene with Wanda had her brother in it. They are referred to as “the twins” repeatedly in the film. As a result, from the moment we're introduced to her character, Wanda’s identity is automatically lumped in with her brother’s.
Because they are orphaned twins, there is obviously a strong connection between Pietro and Wanda, even before Wanda got her powers. Her powers exceed his, however. Ultron confirms this when he tells Pietro that while they can hurt the Avengers, it’s Wanda who can tear them apart from the inside, and her hypnotic powers overcome strong heroes like Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and Black Widow through the course of the film.
During the final battle in Sokovia, Hawkeye has to give Wanda a pep talk when she becomes overwhelmed by Ultron’s forces. He tells her that if she goes out into the battle, she’s an Avenger. If not, she needs to stay put and wait for her brother to get her because he has no time to babysit. Babysitting is the perfect word for his and Wanda's relationship; throughout the entire film, she’s babysat by her brother. He never wants to leave her. When Pietro dies to save Hawkeye and a child, she no longer has her brother to rely on. Wanda has to figure out how to be on her own.
Civil War: Scarlet Witch Gets a Jailer
Wanda’s independence, however, doesn’t last. In Captain America: Civil War, the writers paired her off with Vision. While her brother acted as a crutch for her, Vision was more like handcuffs. Once that incident happens in Lagos, Tony Stark, with Vision’s help, decides that it’s in the public’s best interest for Wanda to stay in the bunker. She is not involved in this decision. These two male characters make this decision for her. To make it worse, Vision cooked up some terrible paprikash in an effort to appease her.
There’s a history in Hollywood of pairing off powerful female characters with men who try to control them. A useful comparison takes us back to the ‘60s. The television show Bewitched was about a powerful witch named Samantha who marries a mortal named Darrin. Darrin disapproves of her magic and makes her feel guilty for using it, even if it’s to help people. In a lot of stories, leading up to the present, women are only allowed to be powerful if there is a man somewhere to keep her check.
Obviously, there are exceptions to this storytelling device, but we see another example of it in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Black Widow is a capable and highly intelligent fighter. Yet, the writers of Age of Ultron paired her off with Bruce Banner. Like Scarlet Witch and Vision, this relationship seems hastily thrown together. We haven’t seen a natural progression. This is symptomatic of a character development issue for the female Avengers: not much time is spent on them outside of their relationships with male characters.