Why Marvel’s Agatha Spinoff Series Should Avoid the Problems of Loki

If Marvel Studios is going to continue to embrace villain-led projects like their new Agatha Harkness spinoff series, it might be time to stop turning them into the good guys.

Kathryn Hahn As Agatha Harkness In Marvel's WandaVision
Image: Marvel Studios

This article contains spoilers for WandaVision, Loki, Black Widow, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.

Its been reported that Kathryn Hahn’s popular WandaVision villain, Agatha Harkness, is getting her own “dark comedy” spinoff series at Disney+, and like a lot of Marvel fans out there I’m hyped. Agatha is arguably the most deliciously fun villain the MCU has had to offer since Loki, and she even came equipped with her own catchy theme song. I can’t wait to see more Agatha, and I can’t wait to see Marvel have another stab at a villain-led MCU project, but I’m still a little apprehensive about what direction the show will take after watching Loki.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe has been peppered with villains getting their asses kicked to death since its inception back in 2008. Bad beings doing bad things who almost always got their just desserts thanks to Earth’s Mightiest Heroes (including Agatha). However, looking back on the many villains the MCU has had to offer, none of them have ended up being as iconic and enduring as Tom Hiddleston’s Loki.

Loki has been so spectacularly mischievous since Kenneth Branagh’s 2011 Thor franchise-starter that even Marvel Studios couldn’t stop his popularity rising, no matter how many times he tricked, betrayed and murdered his way around the galaxy – and they really did try! But eventually they caved to demand, and resurrected a ‘variant’ version of Loki for his own Disney+ series, which streamed to much acclaim earlier this year.

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Loki saw the God of Mischief dragged into the headquarters of the Time Variance Authority – a bunch of temporal cops whose mission was to prune creatures who dared stray off the path of the Sacred MCU Timeline – and Loki was given a ten billionth chance to reflect on his terrible actions and do something good with it. After meeting several other twisted versions of himself with various problematic issues, and having seen the grim path that was once set out before him, Loki finally started taking steps to trust other people and actually make friends.

Loki became a good guy, or at least a better God, by the time the ambitious series came to a close. This version of him was indeed determined to set things right instead of throwing a spanner in the works of those with better intentions.

But in transforming Loki into a viable protagonist that the audience could root for without feeling at least a little dirty about doing so, Marvel traded a villain for another kind of hero, and had sanded the edges off their golden goose somewhat. Make no mistake, that thing is still gonna lay a shitload of golden eggs, but the series asked a lot of its writers in terms of the character ground they had to cover by transforming this Loki so quickly post-Battle of New York, and many fans merely went along for the ride rather than fully buying into his redemption arc.

And why not? We shouldn’t feel compelled to treat every cheeky villain under the Disney umbrella with the seriousness of a stiff-lipped college Lit class discussing narrative themes, should we?! At the end of the day this is family entertainment, and Loki is popular with a range of age groups (I haven’t fact-checked this, but I’m pretty sure there are least five corporate focus groups who would concur). And, hey, almost everyone deserves a shot at redemption. Even Loki.

But between WandaVision and Loki came The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, which gave us a broken Bucky Barnes in therapy trying to make amends for his past misdeeds. Having once been a deadly assassin, Barnes would slowly put his support behind Marvel’s new Captain America, Sam Wilson. Along the way, he helped fix the Wilson family boat and spare the life of the charming but dastardly Baron Zemo. This new Winter Soldier is now a hero with a pardon from the US government who continues to help fight the bad guys instead of being one. I’m happy for him, even if it meant Marvel ultimately lost yet another of their coolest villains.

Meanwhile, on the movie side of things, we met Taskmaster and Wenwu in Black Widow and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings respectively. By the time those movies wrapped, we had two more terrific but sympathetic villains to add to the Marvel roster. We might not see Wenwu again for obvious reasons, but Taskmaster is sure to re-emerge at some point with at least a slightly less savage modus operandi.

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With all this happening in the opening stages of Phase 4, therein lies the rub. See, I really don’t want to see Agatha Harkness on a redemption arc in her series like Loki or Bucky – at least not so soon. The despicable witch showed no signs of hidden sweetness during her tenure on WandaVision. In fact, the show deliberately offered up the possibility that she was just plain misunderstood during a flashback sequence toward the end of the series, and then snatched it away like “oh, you thought?” No. Agatha is naughty through and through, and I want to see that continue.

Maybe you don’t, and that’s ok! Let’s be real: Marvel is not DC. It’s not like they would ever sign off on a villain-led project like Joker that portrayed the character as pretty messed up to begin with and completely off the chain by the time the credits rolled, and depending on how you feel about Joker that could inspire a big sigh of relief anyway. It’s not like I’m suggesting Agatha should go on The Late Late Show With James Corden and demolish him right there on live TV. Although…?

Still, I think it’s possible for Agatha to stay bad as hell in her spinoff series, and it’s absolutely conceivable that this is very much the plan for it over at Marvel. We really don’t know anything about this show yet. If it’s a prequel, perhaps it could take us back to a time where Agatha had a change of heart and was less enamoured with dark magic. We could see that version of her close to redemption, only to get sucked back in.

That would probably be a decent watch, but I reckon it would be much more interesting to see returning WandaVision writer Jac Schaeffer approach the series in a way that would truly embrace everyone’s new favorite wicked witch utterly and completely: show us just how bad Agatha can be, and keep our new cackling, bunny-stroking villain on the MCU chessboard for as long as possible before her inevitable death or redemption.

Let Agatha be Agatha.

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