Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness changed the game in the MCU during its opening weekend with a full exploration of other universes for the first time in franchise history. As Benedict Cumberbatch's master magician encountered everything that the Multiverse had to throw at him, he also had to deal with an unexpected foe that put him and everyone else in serious danger.
Warning - The rest of this article contains spoilers for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
The film's marketing campaign teased a couple of new villains for this film in the one-eyed monster Gargantos and potentially a Variant known in trailers as Sinister Strange. However, that turned out to be a misdirect as Elizabeth Olsen's Wanda Maximoff took on the lead antagonist role, unleashing her full power as she embraced the Darkhold to try to get her family back.
Although the movie ended with the Scarlet Witch seemingly meeting her end, fans had mixed feelings about her villainous path, especially after seeing her find a redemption arc at the end of last year's WandaVision.
Now, with the sequel making its first rounds through theaters, its head writer recently addressed that controversial change in character for arguably the MCU's strongest Avenger.
Michael Waldron Addresses Scarlet Witch Villain Turn
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness writer Michael Waldron touched on Wanda Maximoff's evolution into the main villain of the MCU sequel.
Gizmondo asked Waldron about Wanda's arc through WandaVision and this movie, calling it "an accelerated descent into madness" but noting that it's earned due to her ending the Disney+ series in possession of the Darkhold. Hearing her children's voices in her head locked her onto that path as the Darkhold used her emotions and her trauma against her:
"Yeah. I mean, it’s an accelerated descent into madness for her, but one that felt earned by the fact that she walked away from WandaVision with the Darkhold and the knowledge that she was the Scarlet Witch. The last scene of that show, their tag, is her reading the Darkhold and hearing the voices of her children. I think [in] this movie the Darkhold has got its hooks into her and really what it’s preying on and is maybe even less than her grief but her anger. Residual anger from all the trauma that she’s faced in her life. And I also think Wanda makes good points in this movie. That all these heroes are hypocrites. Stephen and these guys break the rules and they’re their heroes. She does it and she’s a villain. That doesn’t seem fair. And they push her to her breaking point and you see what happens."
Waldron also spoke with Rolling Stone about how this path was always something that the MCU was headed toward, mentioning how this is what happens to Wanda in the comics as well. The big question was when exactly it would happen, but he also teased another version of the movie where Wanda wasn't the main villain and how things could have been different:
"Well, first off, it’s true to who the comics’ version of the character is and what she does in the comics. It was always where Wanda was headed in the MCU, even as I inherited the movie. The question just became, when would it happen? Certainly, there was a version of this movie where Wanda was part of the ensemble that ended, I guess, with her turning bad, and then she could have been an antagonist of another movie. But I feel like in that case, you would have had a watered-down version of Wanda going bad because it’s still Dr. Strange’s movie. She wouldn’t be the protagonist, and she wouldn’t really be the antagonist. You’d have to have a [different] antagonist throughout the entirety of most of the film."
Waldron also looked back at how much the Darkhold influenced Wanda, making her believe that there was a way to get her family back, even though they weren't real. Even remembering how she made the right choice in letting all of Westview go, it was still a tough situation to come to grips with as the Book of the Damned spoke to her the entire time:
"You know, she’s doing bad stuff throughout WandaVision. She does make the heroic choice to let go of all those people. But it’s also revealed to her that the family she’s built is not real. Then she gets the Darkhold at the end of the series and learns that there is a real version of her children out there. And if you’ve got the Book of the Damned whispering in your ear long enough that your kids are out there and you could go get ’em, maybe that can push you to do some terrible things."
Waldron Stands By Wanda's Turn in Doctor Strange 2
Wanda Maximoff has always been a character that's toed the line between hero and villain, having first started off as an ally to Ultron in Avengers: Age of Ultron, her first MCU movie. Having more power than arguably any other character in the franchise has certainly come with a major burden, and when compounding that with the loss she's suffered, writer Michael Waldron sees it as a natural move for her to be fully unleashed this time around.
Over the past seven years, Wanda's villainous nature has been teased on numerous occasions, even as recently as WandaVision during her last fight with Monica Rambeau in Episode 7. Now having an opportunity to get her children back and being driven by some dark forces within the Darkhold, a recipe for absolute disaster came together as she pushed for what she wanted.
The only real question now is whether Wanda will truly get that redemptive journey that she started at the end of WandaVision, especially after bringing all of Mount Wundagore down on top of herself. Doctor Strange is currently learning about the effects of the Darkhold himself, and Wanda could very well have to come back to the light to keep the public from too much danger down the road.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is now playing in theaters worldwide.