The Marvel Cinematic Universe has never seen a character like Wanda Maximoff. For years, the MCU sidelined Scarlet Witch — only ever hinting at the full scope of her powers — but those days are gone. Already, WandaVision viewers are getting to see Wanda alter reality in ways she never has before, and recent episodes have hinted Wanda may soon be heading down a dark path — one that could put her in direct conflict with the heroes she once considered her allies.
If that’s the case, there really won’t be any other character in the MCU to compare her arc to. Wanda’s journey may, however, end up resembling the one taken by a memorable Marvel movie villain of the past: Doc Ock in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2.
WandaVision and Doc Ock
As the main villain of what's arguably the greatest non-MCU superhero movie ever (we would have also accepted The Dark Knight or maybe Logan), Alfred Molina’s Otto Octavius doesn’t start out evil in 2004’s Spider-Man 2. In fact, the first time Tobey Maguire’s Peter Parker meets him is during an interview for a college paper. Peter has dinner with Otto and his wife, Rosalie, and Otto is pleasant, funny, and wise. He and Peter discuss the responsibility of smart, powerful men — the privilege of their gifts — just as Otto is planning to unveil his new fusion power reactor to the public for the first time. It will be the culmination of his entire life's work.
Of course, the unveiling goes wrong. Otto’s reactor fails to contain the fusion energy within, and he, in his desperation, refuses to shut it down. Peter intervenes as Spider-Man and destroys the reactor, but Rosalie is killed in the chaos and the inhibitor chip that maintained control over the A.I. in Otto’s metal arms is destroyed. At night, when a team of surgeons attempts to cut the arms off of Otto, the A.I. fights back and slaughters everyone in the room.
Otto awakens, realizing that his life as he knew it is over. He contemplates suicide, but the arms begin infecting his mind, telling him that the failure at the demonstration was not his fault. They convince him that he just needs another chance at the project, this time with more fusion power. He becomes hell-bent on proving that the problem with the reactor was not his fault, which would also absolve him of the guilt he feels over his wife’s death.
Otto becomes a criminal.
From Hero to Supervillain
By the end of the film, Otto does manage to get all the fusion energy he desires to try his experiment again. Unsurprisingly, it goes wrong, but when Peter tries to stop it again as Spider-Man, he realizes that he’s unable to do it alone.
So he asks Otto to destroy it with him, and in one of the film’s most powerful scenes, reminds Octavius of their conversation earlier in the film — about the responsibility of intelligent men. Otto, in his shame, attempts to explain himself. “It was my dream,” he says. Moments later, he takes control of the arms again and drowns the fusion reactor in the river, sacrificing his own life in the process.
Octavius’ journey in the film is one that not many superhero films have pulled off or even attempted. He starts the film as a good man, loses everything and everyone he cares about, becomes determined to fix it the only way he knows how, and nearly destroys the lives of millions in the process. In the end, he realizes the error of his ways and redeems himself in an unexpected manner.
Wanda the villain?
There’s a strong chance Wanda’s current story will take many of the same turns as Otto’s in Spider-Man 2. At the end of Avengers: Endgame, Wanda — like Octavius — is reeling from the death of her partner. But when WandaVision begins, she and Vision are living together in a strange, old-fashioned sitcom world — a world very much unlike any we’ve seen before in the MCU.
That’s because — as the series has hinted — it’s a world that Wanda either created herself or is simply manipulating with her powers. It’s a world where she still gets to live with the robot she loved, but also one where dozens of her “neighbors” are innocent people trapped inside an illusion.
Wanda’s willingness to change reality likely won’t stop anytime soon either, and her desperation to keep Vision alive no matter the consequences will likely result in the multiverse being opened up in Spider-Man: Homecoming 3. That, in turn, will likely be the reason for her role in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, which (like 2004’s Spider-Man 2) is directed by Sam Raimi.
If that’s the case, then does that mean Wanda will see the error of her ways and redeem herself in Doctor Strange 2? Given everything we know about the Scarlet Witch, it seems not only likely but inevitable. The previous MCU films have shown that she — like Molina’s Doc Ock — is emotional, but not evil or selfish at her core. Like Octavius, she'll make the difficult decisions when she's forced to. That means it’s entirely possible that, although WandaVision may leave the character in a dark place, she’ll still be able to rebound in Doctor Strange 2.
Assuming that is what Marvel and Kevin Feige have planned for the character, Wanda’s Phase 4 arc could very well end up being one of the most emotionally resonant that Marvel Studios has ever produced. After all — as Spider-Man 2 already proved — what’s more moving than watching someone give up on their own dreams for the greater good?
WandaVision is streaming now on Disney+.