Would You Rather

Last week, I talked about Wandavision needing to stick the landing. And let me tell you, it did. But that’s not what this blog post is about. Let’s go back to setting things up.

Obviously, spoilers for Wandavision abound below. And also spoilers for The Mandalorian. Just go with me on this one.

Anyway.

The penultimate episode leaves Wanda in a bit of a bind. She’s created a microcosm of a world where Vision still lives and she has a family with him. Of course, this can’t last: she’s effectively brainwashed an entire town to maintain this illusion, freeing them and ending her spell means losing Vision and her sons. Vision himself is a whole conundrum unto himself: the one we know from the show is actually one Wanda created out of whole cloth, with no actual relation to the ‘real’ Vision beyond Wanda’s own memories — the corpse of the ‘real’ Vision has been reassembled by the villainous Hayward into a soulless machine. Oh, and then there’s the Agatha Harkness of it all, ‘cuz nothing throws a wrench in it all like a powerful witch trying to use your powers.

In any case, Wanda has to make a choice: What to do with Westview? Does she release it and lose her husband and sons, or does she save her husband and sons but keep Westview hexed? Narratively, Wanda has to let Westview free — after all, her hexing of the town is what’s spurred the main B-plot and the involvement of Jimmy, Darcy, and Monica. Losing her husband and sons makes the choice difficult for her, which is the brilliance of the plotting. 

There’s no easy way out for Wanda, and the plot of the finale doesn’t offer any easy way outs. Take the Vision Situation. We have White!Vision and Wanda!Vision, arguably the body and soul of the Vision we’ve come to know. An easy out would be for them to merge into a new Vision, one that can exist outside of the hexed Westview. Surely there’s some comic book shenanigan that could allow for it. No such luck. Nor do we get some magical solution where her sons are made real. There’s no easy solution for Wanda; she has to choose.

A good story is a series of characters making choices. Sometimes it’s just the choice to double down on committing to the quest (like Luke going with Ben to find Leia), other times it’s about showing that you’ve learnt something (like Indiana Jones choosing between the Holy Grail and his father in The Last Crusade). The most interesting choices, though, are when a character is forced into a painful game of “Would You Rather,” because they show us something about the person making the choice.

The Mandalorian spends a good deal of time establishing two central ideas. First, the Mandalorian, Din Djarin, is fiercely devoted to his creed, a major tenet of which is that no one can see his face. Secondly, Din has become quite attached to the Child, Grogu, and there is little he won’t do to protect him. Chapter 15: The Believer forces Din to choose between the two: Will he remove his helmet to find and rescue Grogu? Or will he stick to his code and let the Child be lost?

Din chooses to save Grogu, and his decision tells us much about him. We’ve had fourteen episodes developing Din and his priorities, fourteen episodes building a case for why he should and shouldn’t follow his creed, fourteen episodes (well, thirteen) building his relationship with Grogu. A decision like this, a case of Would You Rather, shows us character. In choosing to remove his helmet — when surrounded by enemies — we see that Din has moved away from his fanaticism, and we see why.

For a superhero show, Wandavision is light on action and fights, almost styling itself after a slow-burn mystery and character drama. Naturally, then, it’s in character that it culminates. When Wanda chooses to free Westview, knowing the cost, we’re told that, yes, she has a selfless bone in her, even if it doesn’t undo what she’s done. But we do know what it cost her and that, no, it wasn’t an easy choice.

Writer’s Note: I realize, at the tail end of this post, that I’ve been discussing two live-action Disney+ shows based on what’s, to this point, usually been movies. With more MCU-based and Star Wars shows in the pipeline, I’m genuinely excited for what they do next. The slow burn that tv affords can — and has — yielded some pretty cool stories. Here’s hoping the next ones are as good.

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