WandaVision: Love and Grief's Transcendent Union
How WandaVision speaks to the unseen fruits of grief
“Surely he has born our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.”
— Isaiah 53:4-5 (ESV)
Wanda walks up to an empty lot in the city of Westview, a nice, quiet American suburban town, her world lifeless and empty. Although the Avengers had saved the Universe, it had cost Wanda her entire world: the love of her life, the noble and gentle Vision. The empty lot where she now kneels would have been the place she and Vision would have built a home and humble life together, a place “to grow old in” as Vision writes on their house deed. Yet here and now, Wanda has absolutely nothing, the void of grief staring back her, engulfing her in utter darkness.
For any of us who made it through Infinity War know that Wanda twice endured the death of her beloved; the first time by her own hand so that the Infinity Stone that is Vision’s essence wouldn’t fall into the Thanos' possession, and then the second time when Thanos simply rewound Time and took the stone from Vision’s head anyway, completely nullifying their painful sacrifice. Wanda has born trauma after trauma, her life full of grief, as WandaVision artfully and powerfully showcased to us. From the loss of her parents, to the loss of her other half and twin brother Pietro, and then the loss of her Love. Not to mention, all this including her being experimented on by the Nazi organization Hydra, which is how she obtained her powers in the first place. Loss and grief seem to be Wanda’s only reality, and it was only by Vision’s steady, wise, and uplifting presence that she was guided through the loss of her brother. With Vision gone, Wanda has no one to guide her back to the light, and so it seems as if she will be crushed irrevocably by the wave of darkness.
Yet something completely unexpected happens in this moment of complete despair. In a deep, soul cry of anguish, Wanda’s reality-bending powers burst out of her like a gushing waterfall, and she begins to bring into reality that which her soul desires, a beautiful new home constructed from out of thin air, her powers even changing the town of Westview into the perfect, idyllic American suburban town à la the 1950s. Then suddenly there stands Vision – woven, constructed, and seemingly made alive again by the sheer power of her will!
This moment is a miracle! Yet it is also a nightmare, as Wanda’s complete overtaking and transforming of Westview has subjected all its citizens to her control, and they are forced to play out specific roles through the lens of sitcoms and tv tropes. Even more than this mind control, they are subjected to all her internal torments and nightmares, feeling her deep, aching grief. Here in Westview, Wanda’s grief has suddenly been made very real, both its horrors and its joys. Because of this, the main driving force of the plot is centered on the question of whether Wanda is a victim or villain, if she is a threat, or someone who simply needs help. However, I think by trying to quantify Wanda’s actions on this level we would be completely missing the main conceit of this remarkable little story. For I believe there is something much deeper here at work, as WandaVision explores the depths and many facets of grief.
Wanda has constructed this marvelous reality where she is able to live out a complete life with Vision through the lens of sitcoms, with all its strangeness, absurdities, and human foibles amplified, where she and Vision are able to settle into a new house, a new town, with Vision even going through work stressors or Wanda having to deal with neighborhood gossips and small-town dramas. A reality now made home, where she and Vision can start a family, going through the pleasures and pains of pregnancy, childbirth, and child-rearing. It is glorious, it is hilarious, and it is painful. But it is not a self-made fantasy, even if you may be tempted to believe so. No, it is something her grief constructed through the power that flows within her. This is the critical point. As Wanda tells Vision in the final episode when he asks her who he is (as Vision once again finds himself at an identity crossroads), she answers, “You are my sadness, you are my hope. But mostly you are my love.” This isn’t a fantasy, an illusion, or the machinations of madness, but the actual living personification of Wanda’s grief in its entirety. This is not just Vision, but her family, their home, the town, and its inhabitants, too. Grief is terrible, painful, and even torturous, which is why the townspeople suffer and why their plight is truly horrific. Yet grief is also beautiful, which is manifested within the faces of Vision and her two precious sons, Tommy and Billy. There seems to be this duality of grief being shown to us and what we are being made to feel with Wanda as she walks through it, and Wanda’s grief is fully real.
Yet even more than this duality is this profound, mysterious, and wondrous connection of grief and love. This where I believe WandaVision truly shines in its telling as it understands the reality where grief and love are intrinsically interwoven. “But mostly you are my love,” she tells him, and when we witness that moment of memory where Vision is comforting her while they lived together in the Avengers compound, he speaks probably one of the greatest lines ever written: “What is grief, if not love persevering?”
This is the whole crux of the thing. This is the cumulation of our story! WandaVision is a story of Wanda and Vision’s love persevering and living on despite all the pain and trauma they endured together. It is a story where Wanda, through the trials of her sorrow, is shown reaching beyond her present reality to grasp and hold onto something that is eternal. Even by this new reality taking the form of TV shows and sitcoms, this is made to be true. As we later discover, watching old sitcoms was a special pastime Wanda enjoyed with her family – a center upon which even her last memory of them rests. Wanda's love for her family lives on through the medium by which this new story is being told. The lowest point of her life, the darkest moment of grief, becomes a moment of creation: love making all things new!
“And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”
— Revelations 21:5 (ESV)
Finding this reality-altering manifestation of grief and love woven together should come as no surprise to us, for where have we not seen this personified perfectly except in our Lord Jesus Christ? Isaiah 53 describes our Lord as “a man of sorrows” who is “acquainted with grief.” Scripture continues to speak of how He “has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows” and that “he was pierced for our transgressions […] crushed for our iniquities” where “upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:4-5) Grief, sorrows, wounds – our Lord is acquainted intimately with suffering and trauma. It is what makes Him a worthy High Priest, who can sympathize with our weaknesses. Even more than this, did He endure the greatest suffering, humbling Himself to the point of death, even death on a Cross. And why did He do this? "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
Grief and love. A most beautiful union.
However, what purpose would this union serve if everything just ended at grief, at the lowest point of the Story? With Wanda left desolate and alone, or with Christ broken upon the Cross? As Vision says to Wanda, “It can’t all be sorrow, can it?” This question echoing Paul’s argument in Corinthians:
“Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.”
— 1 Corinthians 15:12-14
The Story does not and cannot end at grief. There needs to be a reality-shattering event, something that changes utterly the whole structure of the game, even if it means breaking all the rules of what we know to be possible. In WandaVision, this is shown through Wanda tapping into the Chaos Magic of the Scarlet Witch, birthed from an Infinity Stone, transforming reality itself and having powers that far exceed even the Sorcerer Supreme! She sets off a chain of events that proves that she can not only control the minds and atoms of an entire town and make memories into living, breathing entities, but her powers become so abundant and uncontrollable that she gives birth to twins – the living souls of her children - her magic resulting in bringing forth life itself!
This is truly the stuff of miracles, but we should be very familiar with it. In the “Greatest Story Ever Told,” God does something that no one in human history could have even conceived, by sending His only Son in human form – God made flesh! A virgin conceives. A great astronomical event heralds His coming. A mad man in a desert prepares the way. The list could go on and on of reality-bending miracle upon reality-bending miracle, of the Son of Man lifted high upon a Cross, bearing the wrath of God, taking the sins of the world for all time. Of earthquakes, curtains tearing in two, and the dead being raised to appear before many - until that great universe-shattering moment when a tomb's constraints are burst apart and the One Who Is Worthy shines forth in that cascading waterfall of grace and glory in order that “whoever believes in him may have eternal life” forevermore. Grief and Love have come together in this moment, completely upending everything of what we knew to be true or possible in this world, through the miracle of the Resurrection, the triumph of Love over sin and death. The fruits of grief blossoming in an abundance of their glory that “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.” The truth of which leads Paul to make this incredible and glorious conclusion in 2 Corinthians 5:17: “The old has passed away; behold the new has come.” Life Eternal personified in its completeness in our Lord Jesus Christ!
“...looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”
— Hebrews 12:2 (ESV)
Finally, I do want to return quickly to what I previously mentioned about Wanda obtaining her powers while within the clutches of Hydra. It is important to observe that Wanda seems to increase in her powers only through moments of great suffering. Under Hydra’s cruel experimentation and observation, Wanda was joined to an Infinity Stone and came away a changed person. Subsequently, all the continued growth and manifestations of her power were all brought on through moments of suffering: the death of Pietro, the trial of trying to defeat Thanos, and finally through the death of Vision. As Agatha Harkness declares: “The Scarlet Witch is not born, she is forged.” In becoming Scarlet Witch, obtaining the power to create and bend reality at its most fundamental level, tapping into Chaos Magic, all of this was forged - forged by suffering.
I find this to be a beautiful reminder because while the work of the Cross is finished completely for all time, our stories are not complete in this life. They are still being written, and our stories will undoubtedly contain suffering and grief. Yet I like us to meditate on this word “forged,” because that is the purpose of suffering in our stories, just as it was for Wanda in hers. This was even true for Jesus. Because we know that the servant is not greater than his master, we should expect to also learn obedience, to learn discipline in this way - forged - through the suffering that will come to us. As Wanda discovers upon her own road of suffering, that strange unearthly reality where one can be “as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” (2 Cor. 6:10), the union of Grief and Love brings forth supernatural fruits and eternal beauties far beyond anything that the mind of man can ever imagine.
“We are an unusual couple, you know,” observes Wanda as she sits comfortably on their living room couch. Vision replies, joining his wife’s side as if he has always been there, “Oh, I don’t think that was ever in question.”
“For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”
— 2 Corinthians 4: 17-18