With a roster of cosmically-powered adversaries like Kang the Conqueror and Galactus now fair game for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, speculation about the big screen's next Big Bad is rampant, with the aforementioned acquisitions from Fox currently at the top of most fans' wish lists. But what if Marvel has something more sinister planned? What if the MCU's next villain has been right under our noses this whole time?
Could Scarlet Witch, in fact, be the next threat to face the Avengers?
Let's start with the most obvious: A heel turn for the chaos magic-wielding sorceress, played by Elizabeth Olsen, wouldn't be entirely unprecedented for the character. Both on-screen and in the comics, Scarlet Witch was introduced as a villain, teaming up with, Ultron and Magneto, respectively, two of Marvel's most formidable bad guys. And though she's since repented, she wouldn't be the first villain-turned-hero-turned-villain-again.
If she did break bad, it wouldn't be a problem, either. The little we know about Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, and Wanda's inclusion therein, seems to indicate that she'll finally be growing into her heretofore undefined abilities, and finally earn the name Scarlet Witch -- a name that exudes power, but hasn't actually been uttered yet in the MCU. Similarly, her upcoming Disney+ show, WandaVision, is almost certainly going to involve some kind of reality manipulation, given that half of the title couple is dead.
Neither one of those things bodes well for her fellow heroes.
A mutant in the comics (most of the time), Scarlet Witch's powers have included everything from matter manipulation to teleportation, energy projection and the ability to remake reality. Her power levels have risen and fallen sporadically throughout the years, with the current Wanda relegated to being a wielder of decidedly non-reality-threatening chaos magic.
The only real constant in the comics, from her debut in 1964 until now, is that Wanda is prone to losing control of her powers -- especially when dealing with grief. And when Scarlet Witch loses control, people die. Heck, in the infamous "House of M" storyline, she all but erased mutantkind with three simple words, just to spite her father.
Contrast that with what we've seen of Wanda so far in the MCU. While her powers are similarly scattershot, they're only trending in one direction: up. Scarlet Witch has only gotten stronger with each subsequent movie.
Though she started as little more than Ultron's henchwoman, by Avengers: Endgame, she was able to stand toe-to-toe with Thanos, very nearly killing him single-handedly. And no less an authority than Marvel Studios President, Kevin Feige thinks she could have done the deed, had the Mad Titan not punked out and called in a suicide strike over the battlefield.
But the real show of Wanda's potential came during the end of Avengers: Infinity War. Overshadowed by the Snap as it was, everyone seems to have forgotten that Wanda successfully destroyed an Infinity Stone. (Thanos only pulled that trick off later with the help of all the Stones and an Infinity Gauntlet.)
More damningly, though, Wanda's inability to control her burgeoning powers is also something we've already seen on screen. Her fumbling of a bomb-wielding Crossbones in Captain America: Civil War, though she was able to save Cap's life, was the inciting incident in the formal declaration of the Sokovia Accords and the titular "civil war" between the Avengers.
So that's two-for-two so far for the MCU's Witch, with both potentially unchecked power and a less than stellar track record of using it well. However, she's also about as emotionally unstable as her comic book counterpart. Endgame seemed to go out of its way to show Wanda going after Thanos specifically for vengeance, and not the greater good. And in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, that's a no-no.
The upcoming WandaVision also seems poised to delve into the character's darker side. After all, a surrealist, 1950s sitcom doesn't jive with what we know of the MCU. Wanda's clearly going to warp reality to her own ends, at least a little. And, if the movies follow the comics at all, the relationship between Scarlet Witch and Vision is going to get real weird and real dark, real fast.
So the pieces are there. But how, exactly, will Wanda Maximoff become a villain?
A popular reddit theory speculates Wanda will discover a timeline Doctor Strange missed in Infinity War, in which Strange dies and Vision lives. She'll then blame Strange for Vision's death and go insane, threatening to unravel reality.
Given Scarlet Witch's comics history, that's certainly plausible. But it doesn't feel quite right for the MCU's version of Wanda. Never mind that WandaVision is going to happen first, directly feeding into Multiverse of Madness.
As mentioned earlier, the surreal sitcom nature of WandaVision suggests that Wanda will, in order to be with the late Vision, already have tapped into some kind of alternate reality well before she crosses paths with Doctor Strange. Between Wanda not having a super great handle on her powers -- she's only had them in-universe for a couple of years, after all, and without any real training -- her history of accidentally starting international incidents, and reality manipulation being a heretofore unprecedented feat for anyone in the MCU (sans Infinity Stones), it would almost make sense if she lost control of her reality, inadvertently threatening all of them.
Either way, it's bad news for Doctor Strange and the rest of the MCU.
Directed by Scott Derrickson, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Elizabeth Olsen. The film hits theaters on May 7, 2021.
Jac Schaeffer's WandaVision, starring Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany, with Randall Park, Kat Dennings, Teyonah Parris and Kathryn Hahn, will be available for streaming on Disney+ in spring 2021.
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