By Zach Johnson
Consider Marvel Studios’ WandaVision a new kind of “reality” TV.
The nine-episode series, from director Matt Shakman with head writer Jac Schaeffer, will premiere January 15 on Disney+ and feature Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany reprising their roles as Wanda Maximoff and Vision, respectively. A blend of classic television and the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), WandaVision will explore what happens when these super-powered beings try to hide their powers in an idealized suburban setting. It’s a visionary era, to be sure—but bit by bit, they will start to see the cracks in their new reality.
But how did Wanda and Vision get to this mysterious place?
Bettany has been a key player in the MCU since its very inception, providing the disembodied voice of J.A.R.V.I.S. in 2008’s Iron Man. A sophisticated A.I. assistant created by Tony Stark (Disney Legend Robert Downey Jr.), J.A.R.V.I.S.—an acronym for Just a Rather Very Intelligent System—is the namesake of Edwin Jarvis (James D’Arcy), the Stark family’s beloved and devoted butler. After Tony assumed the mantle of Iron Man, it was J.A.R.V.I.S. who helped the “billionaire in a flying metal suit” stay grounded… to the best of his abilities, anyway. And as he continued to aid the Super Hero in 2010’s Iron Man 2, 2012’s Marvel’s The Avengers, and 2013’s Iron Man 3, J.A.R.V.I.S. became increasingly advanced.
Wanda, meanwhile, made her first MCU appearance in a mid-credits scene for 2014’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier alongside her twin brother, Pietro Maximoff (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). Years prior, they had survived an explosion in Sokovia that killed their parents. Another missile—with the name Stark emblazoned on its side—landed but did not detonate, haunting them for days as they remained stuck in the rubble. As adults, the twins volunteered to undergo genetic experimentation overseen by HYDRA’s Baron Wolfgang von Strucker (Thomas Kretschmann), who used the scepter previously wielded by Loki (Tom Hiddleston) to give them powers. As rare survivors of the illegal HYDRA experiments, Wanda received several special abilities, including telekinesis, energy manipulation, and neuroelectric interfacing, while her brother gained superhuman speed.
The twins first tangled with Earth’s Mightiest Heroes in 2015’s Avengers: Age of Ultron. As Iron Man was raiding a HYDRA research base, Wanda messed with his mind, giving him a waking nightmare—one he wouldn’t be able to shake for years to come. Realizing just how useful the scepter could be in preventing future threats, Tony boldly decided to use it himself—and Wanda allowed him to take it, knowing his blind ambition would be his downfall. J.A.R.VI.S. then analyzed the scepter. “The jewel appears to be a protective housing for something inside—something powerful, like a computer,” he told Tony. “I believe I’m deciphering code.” Unbeknownst to the rest of the Avengers, Tony and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) used the jewel to complete Tony’s “Ultron” global defense program.
Tony’s goal was simple: “Peace in our time.” But intent and impact are two different things, and the peacekeeping program birthed an unexpectedly sentient android, Ultron (James Spader), who believed he must eliminate humankind in order to save Earth. The first casualty was J.A.R.V.I.S., who’d planned to warn Tony of Ultron’s “malfunction.” Ultron then used Wanda and Pietro’s hatred of the Avengers—and Tony in particular—to recruit them for his own gains. Later, while acquiring vibranium in Johannesburg, Wanda implanted more nightmarish visions in the minds of Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and Hulk (Ruffalo), until Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner)—previously subjected to Loki’s mind control—literally left her stunned.
Because Ultron’s strength and weapon capabilities depended on the robotic body he was inhabiting, he forced Dr. Helen Cho (Claudia Kim) to use her regeneration cradle, vibranium, and the scepter’s gem—which was later revealed to be the Mind Stone, one of six Infinity Stones—to craft him a permanent, indestructible body. Once the process was underway, Wanda was finally able to read Ultron’s mind. Wising up to his evil plan, she and her brother turned against Ultron and aligned themselves with the Avengers, who stole the unfinished body. When Tony and Bruce realized they could still use the partial form to their advantage, they fused J.A.R.V.I.S. into the body. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) then summoned lightning to bring Vision to life. As Captain America remained skeptical, Vision explained his reason for being: “I am on the side of life; Ultron isn’t. He will end it all,” he said. “I don’t want to kill Ultron. He’s unique and he’s in pain. But that pain will roll over the Earth, so he must be destroyed—every form that he’s built, every trace of his presence on the net… Maybe I am a monster; I don’t think I’d know if I were one. I’m not what you are and not what you intended. So, there may be no way to make you trust me.” Imploring them to act immediately, Vision then handed Mjölnir to Thor, proving his inherent worth and goodness.
Back to Sokovia the Avengers went, determined to defeat Ultron once and for all. That was made easier with Vision on their side, as he was the metal megalomaniac’s match. But mere moments after Wanda stepped into her power, thanks to inspiring words from Hawkeye, her brother was fatally wounded while rescuing a small boy. It added to the grief she’d carried since her parents’ deaths and made her feel lonelier than ever before. Thankfully, Wanda found a new family in the Avengers. Guided by Captain America and Black Widow, she joined new recruits Vision, War Machine (Don Cheadle), and The Falcon (Anthony Mackie) in learning how to harness and combine their abilities to serve the greater good.
Wanda was next seen in the opening scene of 2016’s Captain America: Civil War, where she joined Captain America, Black Widow, and The Falcon in trying to prevent Crossbones (Frank Grillo) from stealing a biological weapon from a laboratory in Lagos. After a skirmish, Crossbones detonated a bomb in an attempt to kill Captain America. Wanda telekinetically diverted the explosion, accidentally killing several Wakandan humanitarian workers in a nearby building—and, in turn, expediting the proposed Sokovia Accords, which sought to establish a United Nations panel to oversee and control the Avengers.
Meanwhile, a more soulful Vision expressed new feelings for Wanda. To cheer her up amid the Lagos fallout, he cooked her favorite meal: paprikash. He tried to further bolster her mood with logic, his earnest effort making her smile. “No one dislikes you, Wanda,” he said. “It’s an involuntary response in the amygdala. They can’t help but be afraid of you.” Luckily, he added, “My amygdala is synthetic.” As Vision discussed the mysterious “true nature” of the Mind Stone—which gave him consciousness and Wanda her abilities—their bond grew. But when Wanda tried to leave Avengers headquarters, she was met with resistance. “Mr. Stark would like to avoid the possibility of another public incident until the Accords are on a more secure foundation,” he said, visibly pained to be the one to break the news.
Soon after, the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) was blamed for a UN bombing, further fracturing the Avengers. Determined to find out who had framed his best friend, Captain America recruited Wanda, The Falcon, Hawkeye, and Ant-Man (Paul Rudd). Vision tried to stop her, but she proved too powerful. “If you do this,” he warned, “they will never stop being afraid of you.” Wanda’s response? “I can’t control their fear,” she said, “only my own.”
Vision later joined Iron Man’s team alongside War Machine, Black Widow, Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), and Spider-Man (Tom Holland). Fighting on opposing sides was complicated and messy, and Wanda and Vision ultimately apologized to one another. But as Captain America and The Winter Soldier made their escape, Vision inadvertently blasted War Machine out of the sky, partially paralyzing his friend. That accident—and the entire “catastrophe” he had so rightly predicted—caused Vision to reconsider… well, everything.
At the outset of 2018’s Avengers: Infinity War, Wanda and Vision were seemingly in a better place. With a rendezvous in Scotland nearing its end, Vision proposed riding off into the sunset. “Wanda, for two years we’ve stolen these moments, trying to see if this could work, and… I don’t know,” he said, suddenly and uncharacteristically nervous. “You know what? I’m just going to speak for myself. I think…” Before he could finish his sentence, Wanda smiled and said, “It works.” Vision agreed, reproposing a different life: “Stay. Stay with me.”
Tempting as his offer was, news of a sudden attack in New York—and Tony’s subsequent disappearance—thwarted their plans. Before they could go their separate ways, Corvus Glaive (Michael Shaw) arrived and impaled Vision, preventing him from phasing and fighting back. Wanda did her best to get Vision out of harm’s way and was prepared to lay down her life for him. Thankfully, help arrived just in the nick of time, and they were able to stop their mysterious new enemy from stealing the Mind Stone from Vision’s forehead.
Later, at Avengers headquarters, Vision asked Wanda to do the unthinkable: Kill him. “I’ve been giving a great deal of thought to this entity in my head, about its nature, but also its composition. I think if it were exposed to a sufficiently powerful energy source—something very similar to its own signature, perhaps—its molecular integrity could fail,” he said. “Eliminating the stone is the only way to be certain that Thanos (Josh Brolin) can’t get it.” Wanda called the price too high, to which he replied, “Only you have the power to pay it.”
Instead, at Captain America’s suggestion, they traveled to Wakanda, where Shuri (Letitia Wright) started to reprogram Vision’s synapses so they could remove the Mind Stone safely. With more than 2 million neurons, it would be a long and complicated process, and time was in short supply. With the enemy gaining ground, Wanda was lured into the fight, leaving Vision vulnerable and without his strongest protector. One by one, the Avengers were picked off by Thanos. Realizing Thanos was only one stone away from completing his Infinity Gauntlet and killing half the universe with a single snap, Vision again asked Wanda to make the ultimate sacrifice. “It’s not fair. It shouldn’t be you, but it is,” Vision said, tears rolling down Wanda’s cheek. “It’s all right; you could never hurt me. I just feel you.” Brokenhearted but strong, Wanda succeeded in destroying the Mind Stone—but an unrelenting Thanos used another stone to turn back time and pluck the Mind Stone from Vision’s forehead, killing him. Then, in a single snap, Wanda was “blipped” out of existence.
After the surviving Avengers completed a “time heist” in 2019’s Avengers: Endgame, retrieving the six Infinity Stones from various points in history, they were able to undo Thanos’ galactic genocide. Their actions brought Wanda and the rest of the fallen back into existence—excluding Vision, who had died by Thanos’ hand. When Wanda faced the Mad Titan on the battlefield, she told him, “You took everything from me.” Thanos claimed he didn’t remember her, and with a defiant furor, she promised him, “You will.” With nothing left to lose, Wanda hit him with everything she had, stripping him of his armor and scaring Thanos so badly he ordered his lieutenants to “rain fire” at the expense of their own troops.
In the end, the Avengers defeated Thanos—at great cost. Later, Hawkeye mourned Black Widow after Tony’s funeral and turned to Wanda for comfort. “You know,” he told her, “I wish there was a way that I could let her know that we won. We did it.” Looking both somber and hopeful, Wanda gazed across the lake and replied, “She knows. They both do.”
Given everything that’s happened, a great detail of mystery surrounds Wanda and Vision’s next adventure in WandaVision. As Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige teased as part of Disney’s Investor Day 2020 presentation, “Wanda and Vision are two of our most powerful and complex heroes, and this series is a perfect expansion point for MCU storytelling.” What is Vision’s status? What are the full extent of Wanda’s powers? How will familiar faces such as Darcy (Kat Dennings) Jimmy Woo (Randall Park)—and new faces like Agnes (Kathryn Hahn) and Monica Rambeau (Teynoah Parris)—fit into the couple’s new reality? All these questions and more will be answered after WandaVision debuts on January 15. And for an even deeper dive into Wanda and Vision’s MCU origins, watch the first two episodes of the new Disney+ series Marvel Studios: LEGENDS, premiering on January 8.