With Ralph Bohner, WandaVision achieved something we've never seen before
They really used our expectations against us, didn’t they?
WandaVision fans spent a majority of the past few weeks thinking Evan Peters was playing Pietro Maximoff (aka, Quicksilver), in the Disney+ series, and with good cause: it was a role he previously played in Fox's X-Men movies. His debut in WandaVision’s fifth episode sent fans reeling for that very reason, and the internet has consistently kept busy with multiverse and mutant theories in the wake of his introduction.
But it turns out that Peters wasn’t ever actually playing his character from the X-Men films in WandaVision. He was playing someone else, totally new and relatively unnoteworthy… and, well, that’s kind of incredible.
Who is Ralph Bohner?
One of the WandaVision finale’s biggest reveals is that Evan Peters’ character in the show isn’t Pietro (Marvel’s or Fox’s) or someone created by Kathryn Hahn’s Agatha Harkness. Instead, it turns out that Peters was a man named Ralph Bohner all along, just another innocent Westview resident whose house (and life) got taken over by Agatha.
He wasn’t plucked from the multiverse. He’s not magical in any way. (Though he was given Pietro’s super-speed powers by Agatha in a way that's never really explained.) He’s just Ralph, the “husband” Agatha was referencing throughout the entire series, more or less a mind-controlled puppet the entire time.
It’s a twist that very few WandaVision fans saw coming. And it's not that this was hard to predict because the twist itself was all that brilliant or complex. The brilliance lies in something much more meta: the way it used fans’ own expectations against them.
Recasting Pietro in WandaVision
The moment Evan Peters showed up in WandaVision, we immediately assumed the Disney+ series had taken the actor’s version of Quicksilver from the Fox X-Men movies and put him into the MCU. It seemed, on the surface, to be the beginning of Marvel’s gradual integration of mutants into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Of course, as we now know, it wasn’t any of those things.
Instead, Marvel and Disney used Peters’ work in the X-Men movies as a way to throw fans off the trail of what was really going on in the series. While most WandaVision viewers knew all along that Kathryn Hahn’s Agatha was actually Agatha Harkness from the comics, no one assumed that she was the one responsible for Peters’ appearance in the show.
We all assumed that "Pietro" had arrived as a result of Wanda missing her brother and searching for the closest possible thing to him that she could find in the multiverse. Having Kat Dennings’ Darcy Lewis announce in the show itself that Pietro had been “recast” only further fueled those assumptions and theories.
It was, essentially, the biggest red herring in a show full of them. And it’s something that we’ve never really seen before in the MCU.
Marvel has a history of subverting the expectations of both casual viewers and die-hard comic book enthusiasts. The entirety of Iron Man 3, the ending of Avengers: Infinity War, and the opening 20 minutes of Avengers: Endgame are all examples of times Marvel used viewers' ideas of what was going to happen against them. But the studio has never used a casting decision in the same subversive way that they did in WandaVision. Everyone assumed Evan Peters was reprising his role as Quicksilver because why wouldn’t they? He was Quicksilver once before. Why not again, especially when it was so relevant to Wanda's life?
It was an ingenious moment of fan manipulation and one that made the last handful of WandaVision episodes considerably harder to predict and keep up with.
Why Ralph Bohner matters
Looking at WandaVision as a whole, it’s hard not to be impressed by the fake Pietro (“Fietro,” if you will) twist. Not that there aren’t some valid criticisms here as well; there are worthy discussions to be had about whether or not Peters’ identity as Ralph was an anti-climactic conclusion to one of the show’s admittedly weirder storylines.
But there’s no denying that the WandaVision team’s decision to go to Peters for the role was itself a shocking bit of meta-casting, one that built up fans’ expectations for what was to come, only to completely and utterly subvert them in the end. As Agatha would say... Bravo!
WandaVision is streaming now on Disney+.