Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Scarlet Witch's Tragic MCU Story Explained

When we think of superheroes, what comes to mind is awesome powers, standing up for what's right, and eye-catching costumes. Yet, superhero stories also reveal the unenviable side of this vocation. 

The seeds of Batman's drive to become a vigilante were planted when he witnessed his parents being murdered; Captain America's career is marked by the regular loss of loved ones; Deadpool only becomes a sort-of superhero after being horrifically scarred while undergoing treatment to cure terminal cancer. Yet, when it comes to overwhelming personal loss, there may be no superhero more tragic than the Marvel Cinematic Universe's Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen), also known as the Scarlet Witch.

Starting from childhood, Wanda's life has been marked by heart-breaking deaths and terrible sacrifices that would overwhelm almost anyone. Introduced in "Avengers: Age of Ultron," it wasn't until the Disney+ series "WandaVision" that the depths of Wanda's grief were deeply explored, alongside how that grief impacts her impressive magical abilities. Wanda's response to tragedy then became the catalyst for "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Magic," a story that took her to horrifying places. 

Throughout all these MCU appearances, Wanda's actions have been the result of a lifetime of pain and sorrow, which has come to tragically define her life. Below, a summary of her MCU backstory, and how it is impacting the realities of all those around her, across multiple universes. 

Wanda's first brush with tragedy followed by days of terror

Wanda was born in 1989 in Sokovia, a country torn apart by political turmoil and deadly conflict. Yet, as children, Wanda and her twin brother Pietro were largely shielded from the country's strife by their parents, Oleg (Daniyar) and Iryna (Ilana Kohanchi) who taught them to speak English by showing them DVDs of American sitcoms, to which Wanda developed a deep attachment.

As glimpsed in "WandaVision" (and revisited in the "Doctor Strange" sequel), when the twins were 10-years-old, Wanda chose to watch an episode of her favorite program, "The Dick Van Dyke Show." As she and her family were laughing at the on-screen shenanigans, a bomb hit their apartment building, killing Oleg and Iryna. Wanda reacted with shock as her brother dragged her under a nearby bed, just in time for another missile to land in their apartment mere feet away.

Believing that any move could trigger the bomb, the kids didn't emerge from under the bed until they were finally rescued two days later. Although the bomb turned out to be a dud, the terrors of staring at the potential instrument of their demise was understandably deeply traumatic for the Maximoff twins; it also made them despise the name emblazoned across it: Stark. The experience would instill them with a deep hatred for Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), and when Tony became an Avenger, their hatred would carry over to the entire superhero team.

Surviving HYDRA's experiments

After their parents died, Wanda and Pietro (Aaron Taylor Johnson) became politically active, protesting against Stark Industries. Their animosity toward Stark, the Avengers, and the United States eventually led them to volunteer for experiments run by HYDRA, which the terrorist organization promised would give the twins the power they needed to change things in Sokovia.

The experiments (as seen in "WandaVision"), were run by Baron Strucker (Thomas Kretschmann) and involved exposure to the Mind Stone (a powerful Infinity Stone), which at that time was held in a scepter. While every other volunteer would perish, Wanda and Pietro survived to become capable of amazing things. Pietro developed the power of super-speed, while Wanda became capable of harnessing magic, in particular the ability to see into people's minds, manipulate them mentally, and to change reality. 

In "WandaVision," the witch Agatha Harkness (Katherine Hahn) explained that Wanda already possessed latent magical abilities before the experimentation, but claimed they would have faded away had it not been for their enhancement via the Mind Stone. Due to this combination of natural ability and supernatural amplification, Wanda became the extremely powerful being we're seeing in the MCU today.

Joining Ultron, dropping a long-time vendetta

After the Avengers raided the HYDRA research base where Wanda and Pietro were held, the twins escaped. Shortly afterwards, they met with Ultron (James Spader), the rogue artificial intelligence created by Tony Stark. 

Stark designed Ultron to protect the world, but its programming was ultimately corrupted, yielding a deep resentment towards Stark and the Avengers. Since this desire to take out the superhero team aligned with the goals of the Maximoff twins, they became allies. Wanda and Pietro assisted Ultron on multiple missions, including one to acquire billions of dollars worth of vibranium, with Wanda using her mind manipulation powers to throw off the Avengers off. As depicted in "Age of Ultron," she even got inside Bruce Banner's (Mark Ruffalo) head, leading him to change into the Hulk and go on a furious rampage through nearby Johannesburg.

The trio then traveled to South Korea, where Ultron would attempt to upgrade his body by forcing Helen Cho (Claudia Kim) to build a new, more powerful corporeal form with her regeneration cradle. Yet, as his consciousness was being uploaded to the new body under the twins' watchful eyes, Wanda found she was able to read Ultron's mind for the first time, leading her to learn that Ultron was concealing his true objective: Putting an end to the human race. Wanda and Pietro would ultimately flee Ultron, and shortly afterwards, when they realized that Ultron was battling the Avengers nearby, the duo joined forces with the superhero team in protecting the people of Seoul.

This ill-fated alignment with Ultron would be cleverly referenced in the "Doctor Strange" sequel, as Wanda discovered Ultron drones on Earth-838 acting as security forces for the Illuminati. At one point in her attack, she tosses aside a decapitated Ultron skull. If you really want to blow your mind, you might want to reimagine these events through the prism of an intriguing theory that Wanda actually married Ultron.

Wanda's second brush with tragedy

While the alliance between the Avengers and the Maximoff twins was always uneasy, they agreed to go into battle together in Sokovia, where Ultron was planning to enact his final plan. Pietro and Wanda employed their powers to begin evacuating the city, but as Ultron's sentries fought back, the battle grew intense. 

Witnessing such destruction around her, Wanda found herself overcome with regret, believing she and Pietro were at fault for everything; a pep talk from Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), however, convinced her to join the battle, and Wanda was soon holding her own with the other Avengers against the sentries.

When Stark realized the only way to stop Ultron from causing an extinction-level event was to obliterate Sokovia, the Avengers resolved to evacuate all remaining civilians before doing so, a goal that became far more attainable following the arrival of Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) in a heli-carrier, containing lifeboats to carry everyone to safety. 

Wanda resolved to stay and fight the sentries until every last civilian was safe — but as we saw during these "Age of Ultron" events,  Wanda sensed the death of Pietro (shot to death by the gun of a Quinjet flown by Ultron as he tried to protect Hawkeye and a civilian child). As Pietro fell lifeless to the ground, Wanda, fueled by incredible grief, emitted a huge blast of magic, destroying all the sentries in the vicinity. Pietro's death would leave Wanda as the only surviving member of her family.

Joining the Avengers and making a deadly mistake

After the Battle of Sokovia, Wanda would officially become an Avenger, undergoing training at the team's compound in New York while mourning the loss of her brother. While Wanda admitted to feeling alone and isolated, Vision (Paul Bettany), now also part of the Avengers, attempted to comfort her by offering a sympathetic ear. This would lead to the great love of her life.

As depicted in 2016's "Captain America: Civil War," all the guilt and sadness she felt would be renewed a year later when she accompanied Captain America (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and the other newest Avengers to Lagos to stop an attack by Crossbones (Frank Grillo). During the battle, Crossbones detonated a suicide vest; Wanda initially contained the blast with her magic, but when she let it go after propelling it into the air, it blew apart the side of a building.

Devastated by the knowledge that she caused such destruction, Wanda retreats to isolation alongside Vision at the Compound. But she would soon choose to break out with Hawkeye and side with Captain America against the Sokovia Accords, an international agreement intended to regulate the actions of super-powered individuals. She even fought against Stark, Vision, and their allies when the team came to blows over the situation in the infamous airport fight, leading the government to imprison her and those she fought with in the Raft, a prison created for enhanced individuals.

Romance with Vision

After Captain America broke her out of prison, Wanda reunited with Vision, and they lived a fairly normal life far away from the Avengers, superhero battles, or any other conflict. Perhaps because of his synthetic makeup, or perhaps because he's powered by the same Infinity Stone that gave Wanda her powers, Vision is one of the few people who has never been scared or intimidated by Wanda's magical abilities. 

As a result of this, she and Vision always had an easy camaraderie, since their earliest days as Avengers. Even though she agreed to check in with Black Widow and not take any risks that would lead her to being detected or captured following her escape from the Raft, Wanda would ultimately decide to take time with Vision to let their romance blossom.

Roughly two years later (and as seen in 2018's "Avengers: Infinity War"), the pair's bliss was disturbed in Edinburgh when they were attacked by the Black Order, acting on behalf of Thanos (Josh Brolin). The Mind Stone had been indicating to Vision for some time that something was amiss, and soon enough they were attacked by Corvus Glaive and Proxima Midnight — who pried the Mind Stone from the forehead of Vision. 

Realizing the only way to stop Thanos and his plan to use the Infinity Stones to wipe out half of the universe was to destroy the Mind Stone, he begged Wanda to summon the energy needed to do so. However, Wanda refused, insisting that losing Vision would be too big a sacrifice.

Wanda's terrible sacrifice, rendered meaningless

Over the course of the "Infinity War," audiences watched while Banner offered a solution for destroying the Stone in Vision's head that would avoid his demise. Believing the Stone could be separated from Vision as long as someone had the proper technology to disentangle it from the other parts of his being, this theory sent Wanda, Vision, and the other Avengers to Wakanda, where Shuri (Letitia Wright) began the delicate work of extracting the Stone.

But the army of Thanos attacked during this procedure, causing the Avengers and Wakandans to join together to defend Vision. Following the brutal battle, Thanos arrived, and Vision urged Wanda to destroy the Stone even though it remained a part of him. She protested, but finally, tearfully agreed, deploying her magic at the Stone and causing Vision to perish as she destroyed it. Wanda had seemingly, successfully held Thanos off until the agonizing job was complete.

Collapsing in devastation following Vision's death, Thanos approaches then approached Wanda. He even claimed to empathize with her, given that himself had recently killed Gamora (Zoe Saldana) to acquire the Soul Stone. He then used the Time Stone to rewind to shortly before Vision's death — and as Wanda watched in horror, he violently ripped the Mind Stone from Vision's head, forcing her to watch Vision die a second time while rendering her sacrifice meaningless. 

Considering the emotional weight of everything she endured, it's no wonder that when Wabda turns to dust after the Snap, she would have a surprising look on her face: Relief.

Learning what happened to Vision's body

Five years later, Wanda was resurrected along with the rest of those who'd been snapped away by Thanos, participating in the Battle of Earth, playing a key role in defeating an earlier version of Thanos. 

Days later, with her grief over the death of Vision still fresh, Wanda ventured to the headquarters of S.W.O.R.D. (as seen in "WandaVision") and, knowing that if anyone would have Vision's body it would be the organization founded by Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch). Yearning for closure by giving Vision a proper burial, acting director Tyler Hayward (Josh Stamberg) instead showed Wanda that they were dismantling Vision's body, a duty he claimed his organization was obligated to perform because Vision was a sophisticated sentient weapon.

Shocked and saddened by the idea that Hayward and S.W.O.R.D. would reduce everything Vision was to labeling him solely as a weapon, Wanda once again asserted that she just wanted to bury him. But Hayward accused Wanda of planning to resurrect Vision, and when Wanda protested, he told her he couldn't let that much vibranium be buried anyway. Devastated by the state of Vision and further anguished when she approaches his body and realizes she can't feel him anymore, Wanda finds herself pushed to the brink.

Moving to Westview

Now heavily into "WandaVision" territory, audiences saw the events of the Disney+ series that predominantly took place when Wanda drove to the small town of Westview, New Jersey, finding a plot of land that Vision had purchased where he planned to build a home for them to "grow old in." 

As Wanda surveys the plot, she's overcome by all she's lost and breaks down. She then releases an astonishing surge of magic. Wanda unknowingly impacts the entire reality of Westview, building a house around her, bringing a version of Vision to life, and placing the entire town under her spell.

Through everything she'd suffered, the one constant in Wanda's life was the comfort offered to her by American sitcoms, so she builds this new reality around the cliches and gentle stories she knows from them. She even broadcasts what's happening in Westview outside from the Hex that has encircled the town. While Wanda's fantasy life starts out resembling her beloved "Dick Van Dyke Show" and other period sitcoms like "I Love Lucy" and "Bewitched," it evolves over time, as Wanda apparently uses her magic to adjust things to resemble sitcoms from different decades.

The arrival of Tommy and Billy — and the return of Pietro

During the time when her sitcom takes its cues from the 1960s, Wanda becomes spontaneously pregnant, and then after an accelerated gestation period and shift into the 1970s and finally broadcasting in color, she gives birth to twins, who Wanda and Vision name Tommy and Billy. The couple embrace parenthood, although in a very short period of time the boys age themselves up to 5 years old and then to 10. 

Shortly afterwards, the doorbell rings and when Wanda opens the door, she finds a strange man in front of her. When he claims to be Pietro (Evan Peters), Wanda welcomes him, although she remains suspicious, testing him to see if he remembers their childhood. Wanda has done everything in her power to maintain the illusion of her idyllic life in Westview, from ejecting Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris) to threatening the S.W.O.R.D. contingent situated outside the Hex.

Even with all that, it doesn't seem that Wanda's completely aware of the extent of the spell she's cast on the town, but when Pietro asks her how she brought Westview under her control, she only confesses to remembering that she felt completely alone. But after seeing a vision of Pietro's bullet-ridden body, she seems to forget what she was saying.

Discovering the truth about Westview and losing everything

Shortly after she blasts Pietro away with her magic, Agatha Harkness accuses Wanda of practicing Chaos Magic and being the Scarlet Witch. But even though Wanda is now willing to admit she created the her family's lives in Westview, it isn't until Agatha removes the spell she cast on the town's citizenry that Wanda realizes the extent of what she's done. In the middle of town, the people under her control beg her to release them. Wanda insists she's kept them at peace but they inform her that all they feel is her grief, which is torturing them.

Wanda agrees to let them go and uses her powers to open the Hex. Yet as she lifts the magical bubble, she realizes it is destroying Vision, Billy, and Tommy, who can't survive outside of Westview. She closes the Hex around Westview again to save her family and battles Agatha, but by the end of the fight and with Vision's encouragement, Wanda realizes she must remove the Hex completely.

As Wanda starts dismantling the Hex, she and Vision put Tommy and Billy to bed and head downstairs to say their goodbyes, with Vision disappearing as the spell lifts. Wanda is left alone once again in the middle of the empty lot Vision purchased before his death. Realizing now what she's capable of, Wanda takes the Darkhold, the book Agatha possessed, and isolates herself in a secluded cabin to learn more about her powers.

Corruption by the Darkhold

"WandaVision" concluded on a hopeful note, with Wanda sad and alone but having done her best to redeem herself for what happened in Westview and determined to better comprehend and harness her power, presumably so she will never hurt anyone again. However, studying the Darkhold apparently has a corrosive effect on her, as audiences would see in "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness." 

Wanda's reasons for taking the Darkhold are legitimate. After all, Agatha told her there is an entire chapter just on the Scarlet Witch, and if as Agatha claims, Wanda is the Scarlet Witch, reading what the Darkhold says about her would be key to understanding who and what she was. Yet, the Darkhold contains the darkest of dark magic and, consequently, seems to corrupt Wanda's good intentions.

One day while studying the book, Wanda hears her sons calling for her. Whether or not this really happens or is just a trick of the Darkhold, she soon becomes obsessed with the existence of the multiverse and learns that Billy and Tommy exist in every universe except her own. As we see in the "Doctor Strange" sequel, she begins to dream of being with the boys every night, waking up to a maddening reminder that they are gone, resulting in her obsession with being reunited with them in real life — and a willingness to employ whatever magic is necessary to make that happen.

Pursuit of America Chavez

Wanda soon found a solution for her desire to once again be a mother to Tommy and Billy, learning about America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez), a girl capable of traveling the multiverse. Although Wanda could have perhaps harnessed America's ability once to get to her desired universe, she instead becomes determined to take the girl's powers for herself so she can find a solution to any threat her sons may face in the future. Determined to follow this path, even though she knows taking America's powers will kill her, Wanda sends creatures from across the multiverse to kidnap and deliver the girl.

However, once Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Wong (Benedict Wong) learn about what's happening and take America to Kamar-Taj for protection, Wanda launches an assault. 

Wanda claims that up until this point she has been reasonable, but her patience is wearing thin. It doesn't help that she feels Doctor Strange's condemnation of her actions is hypocritical, a reasonable argument given he'd recently nearly caused the multiverse to collapse in on itself via the events of "Spider-Man: No Way Home." Perhaps if Strange expressed the slightest sympathy toward Wanda, instead of rejecting the idea that she is a mother in their universe because she'd magically created her children, things might have gone differently. 

Instead, it becomes a full-out war. Wanda devastates the sorcerers defending Kamar-Taj and takes Wong hostage, while Strange accompanies America on a spontaneous trip through the multiverse.

Dreamwalking, and becoming a monster

As a tied-up Wong watches from the rubble of Kamar-Taj, Wanda uses the Darkhold to dreamwalk, a ritual that enables her to take over the consciousness of a version of herself in another universe. She hijacks the consciousness of the Wanda in the universe where America and Strange have landed, but before she can go after them, she's stopped by Billy and Tommy who sing her a song. Touched and momentarily distracted, she is then pulled back into her universe when one of the sorcerers destroys the Darkhold. When Wanda realizes the source of her spells is gone, she tortures some of the remaining living sorcerers to force Wong to tell her where she can acquire another, leading him to reveal that the original Darkhold is carved into the walls of a temple on a remote mountain.

Wong magically portals them there, and Wanda recognizes that the statue of herself carved in the temple is an indication that she could use her power to rule the world. However, all Wanda wants is her sons back, so she resumes the dreamwalking ritual, and as she goes after America in the other universe with increasingly deadly results, she increasingly turns into a monster, a figure of horror that give America and Doctor Strange little choice but to run away.

Realizing what she's done, and setting it right

Despite all the destruction caused by her actions, it wasn't until Wanda finally kidnapped America and began the ritual to take her powers that she was forced to confront what she had become. 

Attacked by a dreamwalking Strange, America figured out how to control her abilities. After admitting she couldn't beat her, America opened a portal into Wanda's home in an another dimension, just in time for Tommy and Billy to witness Wanda angrily choking America. When the boys ran away from her in terror, Wanda attempted to reassure them — but after they threw things at her and attempted to hide, she realized that she had become a monster.

Devastated, Wanda collapsed in tears and was approached by her variant. Even though Wanda used her body to dreamwalk and do terrible things, Wanda's variant was the only character in "Madness" who chose not to fight or talk her out of her mission, but instead to demonstrate genuine sympathy.

Quietly reassuring Wanda that her sons will be loved, it broke the Darkhold's grip on the Witch. Wanda then returned to her universe, destroying the temple that carried the Darkhold's carvings as well as the versions of the Darkhold in every universe — ensuring it would never again be corrupted. 

The temple collapsed, with Wanda inside; enveloped in the rubble, a surge of magic could be seen. Is this the end for Wanda? Or does hope for her survival — and continued redemption — remain?