This article contains spoilers for WandaVision
You could say it all started with one Paul William Bettany.
Last month, the star of Marvel’s WandaVision got fans’ attention when he started teasing a new character arriving in the MCU spinoff series that had miraculously survived online leaks, which in turn meant that Evan Peters’ “Pietro” Maximoff definitely wasn’t who he was referring to.
“There is one character that has not been revealed,” Bettany told Esquire. “And it is very exciting. It is an actor I’ve longed to work with all of my life. We have some amazing scenes together and I think the chemistry between us is extraordinary and fireworks on set.”
The internet immediately got busy trying to work out exactly who Bettany was chatting about, and which character from Marvel Comics they could be playing. Robert De Niro as Mephisto? Keanu Reeves as Nightmare? It must be someone big and important, fans reasoned, for Bettany to tease the upcoming cameo in such a way, and his co-star Elizabeth Olsen added fuel to the fire by indicating we could be in for a ‘Luke Skywalker’-level appearance.
As more dream casting and fan theorizing took place, WandaVision’s potential scope became amplified. Other X-Men could return! How about alternate, multiverse versions of deceased characters?! There were endless Reddit threads discussing it. Group chats took wild turns as people had fun shooting down each other’s ideas. Everywhere you turned, podcasts and YouTube videos were wondering what WandaVision had in store. But when the penultimate installment started streaming on Disney+ at the end of February, the towering wall of overexcitement started to crumble.
In episode 8’s post credits scene a weaponized version of Vision was revealed to be in SWORD’s possession, and this ‘White Vision’ was once again played by Bettany. The realization that we may have all been trolled quite expertly slowly dawned on us. Was the actor Bettany had “longed to work with” all his life that he had “amazing scenes” with actually …himself? Was it Paul All Along?
Ahead of the much-anticipated finale this week, WandaVision director Matt Shakman was was asked to address the possibility, and it certainly appears so.
“I’m gonna let Paul Bettany answer that question,” Shakman told HuffPost. “He dug himself this hole. He can get out of it.”
It may well be time for fans to lower their expectations of what WandaVision will deliver in its final episode. If there are no big cameos outside of Benedict Cumberbatch’s Doctor Strange (more on that in a moment) and no villains other than Agatha Harkness, SWORD Director Tyler Hayward and White Vision to come, Marvel has been telling a much more focused story of grief, loss, and how Wanda Maximoff would finally become the Scarlet Witch.
That story has been incredibly moving for the majority of viewers, but Shakman knows that those who have become too invested in how much of a domino effect the series will have on the Marvel Cinematic Universe may feel let down.
“I hope that [fans] feel like the journey was satisfying for them,” Shakman mused with EW. “I know there are so many theories out there; there will be a lot of people who will no doubt be disappointed by one theory or another. But we’re always telling this story about Wanda dealing with grief and learning how to accept that loss, and hopefully people will find that the finale is surprising but also satisfying, and that it feels inevitable because it’s the same story they’ve been watching the whole time.”
So, does all this mean we should rule out any big surprises ahead? Not necessarily. We have been explicitly told that WandaVision will set up Sam Raimi’s Sorcerer Supreme sequel, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, so it’s still reasonable to assume that there will be elements of the Westview Hex that don’t get wrapped up in a neat bow during the finale. It would be hugely surprising if Cumberbatch didn’t make an appearance.
Then there are Wanda’s twins, Billy and Tommy – it looks like they might make it to the next step of Phase 4, too. Julian Hilliard and Jett Klyne, the young actors who play the pair in WandaVision, reportedly both posted (now deleted) Instagram pictures close to London’s Pinewood Studios in the UK when Doctor Strange 2 began filming.
In terms of a bigger bad than Agatha Harkness, though, it seems unlikely that a substantial appearance is in the wind, and that’s just fine. If you think about how Thanos was slowly introduced across multiple films starting with 2012’s first team-up movie, The Avengers, you realise what the impact of a slow burn villain reveal can be.
It wouldn’t surprise us to see a little flash of Big Bad excitement in the WandaVision finale, but right now we’re tempering our expectations. If there are any massive shocks ahead, we want to enjoy them without comparing everything to a fantasy version of the show’s story that only really existed in our minds, or dwelling on what might have been.