The latest episode of Marvel’s WandaVision may have been packaged with a hidden teaser for the show’s future that most of us weren’t even looking for. So far, Marvel Studios’ maiden foray into the world of television has come without the creative giant’s customary post-credit scenes. You know, those minute-long tidbits that lead us to linger several moments in the theater for a peak at what’s to come? Well, the third episode of the series, “Now in Color”, didn’t have one of those little scenes, but the credits did finish with a bit of a recommendation. It seems Marvel was really hoping you’d give up a little time to watch Avengers: Age of Ultron before you continue along with the mind-bending adventures of Vision and the Scarlet Witch.
*Spoilers for WandaVision*
There are a lot of simple reasons why Disney+’s algorithm may have decided to advertise the second Avengers film at the conclusion of that WandaVision episode. After all, Age of Ultron was the Marvel Cinematic Universe project that introduced both Wanda Maximoff and Vision, and “Now in Color” contained a major reference to the climax of the film, with “Geraldine” commenting on the death of Pietro Maximoff at the cold, metallic hands of Ultron himself. The more interesting explanation, however, could be that WandaVision will make an effort to continue the major theme of Ultron; confronting demons. Eventually maybe literally, but for now, I just mean figuratively. One of the major plot points of Wanda Maximoff’s debut appearance is her ability to mess with other people’s minds, forcing them into dream-like states they can’t escape. The unfortunate souls on the receiving end of this magic travel ticket find themselves facing down their deepest, darkest fears and insecurities. Of course, we’re still a long way off from finding out what’s really going on with Wanda in her current starring vehicle, but if Marvel is actually trying to tell us something with that sneaky “watch next” suggestion, it would make a lot of sense for it to have something to do with the dream-world power we haven’t seen in action since 2015.
Thus far on WandaVision, we’ve seen Wanda doing her best to live a happy life in a picture perfect town. And yet, despite her best efforts, she’s occasionally put in the position of preventing the real world (because I think it’s safe to assume Westview isn’t real) from seeping in. It seems clear she’s giving the age-old tactic of suppressing trauma the old college try. Unfortunately for her, conventional storytelling would indicate she won’t be able to do it much longer. At that point, in my opinion, WandaVision is going to pick up where Age of Ultron left off, and Wanda is going to have to face all those demons if she wants to survive herself. Now, let me turn your attention to the film that brought us here.
The subtle genius behind the Avengers sequel script is the way it inverts the objective of the previous film to become a little more personal. Whereas the original is a story of our heroes learning to cope with each other to function as a team, the sequel is about them learning to cope with themselves in order to continue functioning. Over the course of the movie’s two and a half hour runtime, each prominent character is forced to confront their greatest personal demon, via some witchy business, and attempt to come out the other side better for it. And you know what? It’s all done brilliantly. It turns out that, just like Disney+, I think you should rewatch Avengers: Age of Ultron, and you should do it with this theme of personal demons in mind. I think it just might change how you see the MCU’s Phase Two. Here’s a quick rundown of what goes on for each major player in Ultron, according to the topic, so you can keep it in mind when you hit play (presented in pairs, for convenience).
Iron Man & Ultron – Ego
This is the obvious one, so let’s get it out of the way. Tony Stark’s greatest demon is his own ego, or more specifically, his narcissism. He holds a firm belief that he is the only person who can truly save the world, permanently, and if he doesn’t, everyone’s deaths will be on him. This is apparent in several spots over the course of the story. His Wanda-induced nightmare features Cap directly telling Tony that he failed the world, and he goes as far as to tell Nick Fury that the Avengers have found themselves at the end of a path he started them on. So, the man creates Ultron, a literal manifestation of his own overcompensation. He basically gives his ego a body. Ultron also firmly believes only he can save the world, to the point of operating with an army comprised entirely of himself. The lesson Tony learns from all of this is that sometimes he needs to listen to the advice of others, and it’s this acceptance of teamwork that leads to Ultron’s defeat. Oh, and in the spirit of inverse, the movie even goes an extra length to present Stark as Ultron’s demon, in oedipal fashion.
Captain America & Thor – Destiny
Steve Rogers and Thor Odinson have perhaps one of the most unique relationships in the MCU. Aside from their now famous moments of mid-battle banter, both are soldiers who feel somewhat displaced. Rogers is a man forced out of his own time, while Odinson is a god who feels most at home among mortals. Age of Ultron plays off of this dynamic splendidly, as the two Avengers find themselves facing a crisis of destiny. Their nightmare sequences find them both at parties in locations they know they should call home. Cap hallucinates a group of WWII soldiers slain in war, whom he feels he should have been around to protect, and the love of his life still begging him for a dance. Thor finds Heimdall waiting for him with a foreboding message of a coming doomsday the God of Thunder is not around to prevent. The duo spend the film carrying with them the weight of guilt, contemplating whether they have cheated themselves out of their intended fates, and whether or not those they care about have suffered because of it. The difference between the two arcs is that while Thor struggles with his future, Rogers struggles with his inability to change the past. Ultimately, Steve commits to building a life in the present, accepting his role as a modern soldier, and Thor realizes that saving Asgard might be the key to saving all Nine Realms.
Black Widow & Hulk – Humanity
A tale of two people who see themselves as monsters. Natasha Romanoff, because she was once willing to sacrifice her future in order to become a better killer, and Bruce Banner, because sometimes when he’s mad he literally turns into a giant green rage monster. They’re both heroes who are concerned they’ve done too much harm to ever balance out with good, and they cling to each other so that they might feel just a little more human. Luckily for them, they’re actually more human than most at heart, and they’re able to see each other for who they really are. Despite magic-induced flashbacks to her time in the Red Room, Natasha spends most of the film bringing a much-needed sense of humanity to her teammates. She makes lighthearted jokes with Clint while he’s down and out, has his kids calling her “Aunty Nat”, and even manages to talk down a raging Hulk. When she has a chance to disappear and start a new life, she instead chooses to help save the world. In the end, Nat realizes that she never sacrificed a future, but has actually forged a new one with chosen family. Banner, on the other hand, opts to remove himself from the equation, and retreats to parts unknown.
Hawkeye & Quicksilver – Mortality
Clint Barton has maybe the second-most prominent demon in the movie, and it’s his own mortality. The character study is set up early, when Hawkeye finds himself unable to keep up with the Avengers’ newest super powered antagonist, Quicksilver, and winds up bleeding on the ground because of it. This is followed by a string of plot points and throwaway moments that just repeatedly punch you in the face with the concept of Clint Barton being a lot less indestructible than his teammates. Not only that, but Barton is revealed to have a family, which makes the challenge to stay alive all the more important. It acts as a foil for basically everyone else’s self-centered problems, and really highlights just how resourceful Hawkeye has been this whole time. It’s also juxtaposed wonderfully against the plight of Pietro Maximoff, an enhanced individual who is still coping with the death of his family. It makes it all the more surprising when a morally rejuvenated Quicksilver sacrifices himself to save Hawkeye, who accepts his mortality and attempts to ride off into the sunset with his loved ones.
Vision & Scarlet Witch – Trauma
Ever since her debut, the MCU’s take on Wanda Maximoff has been motivated mostly by past trauma. She loses her parents, and the emotions she feels fuel her to team up with Ultron. She is born from an act of terrorism and inadvertently finds herself acting as a weapon of a terrorist. Then, in the midst of trying to recompense, she loses her brother. It’s a lot for one person to bottle up inside, which we see when she drops to her knees and completely obliterates a small army of Ultron bots, before ripping the heart out of Ultron himself. After all she goes through, who else could possibly understand her pain? Only another child of trauma, Mr. Vision Vision (which I assume is his full name). He may be a synthezoid, but Vision was created using the brain patterns and powers of multiple men all trying to deal with what it means to be human, which could have gone horribly wrong, but instead resulted in a soulful figure with a deep understanding of failure. He ends up saving Wanda’s life, and who knows? She might have saved his as well.
From this point forward, Wanda only experiences more and more trauma. She accidentally causes the demise of countless innocents in Captain America: Civil War, and she loses Vision twice (once by her own hand) in Avengers: Infinity War. This is true for the other characters mentioned above, but unlike the heroic giants she’s surrounded by, Wanda has had trouble fully reconciling with her past. That thread hasn’t been tied up just yet. Expect WandaVision to change that.