Could Scarlet Witch be the villain of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness? Marvel Studios has been dabbling with the idea of alternate universes and dimensions for a while; the Multiverse was subtly introduced in the Thor films, and was explored in more depth in Doctor Strange and the Ant-Man movies.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe traditionally uses the term "Multiverse" to refer to the idea of other planes of existence, such as the Quantum Realm or the Dark Dimension. Doctor Strange even featured a Magical Mystery Tour in which Stephen Strange's Astral form was blasted across the Multiverse by the Ancient One - easily one of the trippiest scenes in the MCU to date. Avengers: Endgame further developed this concept, revealing that the Multiverse also includes alternate realities where history has progressed in a different way. This will be key to at least two of the Disney+ TV shows: Loki and What If?
The title of Doctor Strange 2 strongly suggests that the Multiverse is about to become central to the MCU as well. Meanwhile, Benedict Cumberbatch will be joined by an unexpected guest-star, Elizabeth Olsen's Scarlet Witch. The two have fought alongside one another in the recent past - but Scarlet witch could be a villain rather than an ally in Multiverse of Madness.
Scarlet Witch's Connection To The Multiverse In The Comics
The title of Doctor Strange 2 clearly establishes that the film will be tied to two themes; the Multiverse, and potentially quite intense psychological trauma. There's significant comic book precedent for Scarlet Witch to be linked to both themes, and her powers are connected to the nature of reality itself. At their most basic, she has the ability to generate so-called "Hex Magic" that alters probabilities within an area. She can make it more probable that a gun will misfire, for example, or that lightning will strike a specific point. Over the years, this power began to expand and Wanda learned that she tapped into something called "Chaos Magic." Using Chaos Magic, she could make entirely impossible events happen; she could freeze the air in a given area, or cause spontaneous combustion.
Marvel Comics eventually revealed that Wanda's powers are tied to a quasi-demonic entity called Chthon, an Elder God who dwells on another plane of reality and seeks to conquer our own. Scarlet Witch was born in a place that was rich in magical energy, and as a result Chthon was able to imbue her with latent mystical potential. It took years for that potential to be realized, and when it was, Chthon possessed Scarlet Witch and had his agents attempt to bind him to Earth permanently.
The upper limits of Scarlet Witch's powers have never been charted. In 2005's "House of M" event, she was literally able to restructure reality itself, creating an alternate timeline where she granted everyone their heart's desires. Naturally, these desires were conflicting, meaning the result was a strange parody of the real world where Magneto ruled. Fortunately, the nature of Chaos Magic meant that this new branch of the Multiverse was unstable, and a number of heroes regained their true memories and confronted Wanda.
Scarlet Witch Has A History of Mental Instability In The Comics
Scarlet Witch's vast powers came at a terrible cost. As Doctor Strange noted in Avengers #503, Wanda possessed abilities that she had neither earned nor understood. "Can you understand the delicate mindset of a woman, a person, who has control over reality," he asked the Avengers. "It means reality controls her. Imagination becomes the enemy. Structure disappears." Every day, Wanda faced the subtle temptation to wish away anything bad that happened to her. And every time she did that, her grip on reality itself began to slip away.
At its most dramatic, this manifested in Wanda's desire to have children. The Avengers were understandably more than a little surprised when Scarlet Witch became pregnant with twins; the father, Vision, was an android who was theoretically incapable of reproduction. Wanda gave birth, but tragically the Avengers learned that the two infants never really existed at all. They were illusions, created by Wanda's fragmenting mind. The Avengers erased all memory of the babies, hoping that would allow her to recover.
But Scarlet Witch was a powder keg, and all it took was an unwary comment from Wasp to light the match. She remembered her children, and suffered a complete nervous breakdown. This led to the shocking events of "Avengers Disassembled," where reality itself became the Avengers' greatest enemy, tearing them apart. Significantly, Elizabeth Olsen herself has said that this arc - which led to the "House of M" story - is one she'd love to see on the big screen. Could Doctor Strange 2 present her with the chance to see her hopes fulfilled?
The MCU's Scarlet Witch Could Be The Villain Of Doctor Strange 2
There's clearly a strong comic book precedent for Scarlet Witch to become the villain of Doctor Strange 2. The MCU's version of Wanda Maximoff isn't quite the same character as she is in the comics, and so far her powers have been subtly different. However, it's notable that Marvel Studios appear to be preparing to retcon Scarlet Witch as a sorceress. The MCU introduced its version of magic in the first Doctor Strange, in a speech from the Ancient One. She described magic as "the source code that shapes reality," and explained that the Masters of the Mystic Arts "harness energy drawn from other dimensions of the multiverse, to cast spells, conjure shields and weapons to make magic." In an interview back in 2016, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige suggested that Scarlet Witch's abilities operate in the same way.
"Her powers, she's never had any training, I'm talking about Scarlet Witch. She never had any training; she's figuring it out. Arguably, you could say that that's why her powers are much more chaotic and much more loose in the way that we showcased those light effects. In [Doctor Strange], some of what you might see today, even the cover of Entertainment Weekly, it's much tighter. It's all about focus. It's all about pulling energies from other dimensions in an organized and purposeful fashion, which is why they can do a lot more than she can in, at least, a much more precise way."
It's worth noting that this doesn't necessarily contradict the movies themselves. According to the Marvel Studios Visual Dictionary, the Mind Stone may not be the source of Wanda's powers. Instead, it may have triggered "something latent inside her." Notice the word-choice, which was also used in the comics to describe the mystical potential Chthon placed inside Wanda. The potential is there for Scarlet Witch to be a latent sorceress, just as in the comics, perhaps even linked to Chthon himself.
It's not at all difficult to imagine the MCU's Scarlet Witch suffering some kind of nervous breakdown, and as a result unlocking depths of power that she's never wielded before. The MCU has always stressed that there's a connection between Wanda's powers and her mental state. When Quicksilver died in Avengers: Age of Ultron, she let out a keen of rage and grief that was accompanied by a devastating burst of telekinetic force. When she took on Thanos single-handed in Avengers: Endgame, she was still fresh from Vision's death. Over the course of Phases 2 and 3, Wanda Maximoff has lost everything she loves, and it would hardly be a surprise to see her mind begin to crumble.
This leads us to one of the strangest aspects of Marvel's Phase 4 plans. Marvel Studios is releasing WandaVision right before Doctor Strange 2, a TV series on Disney+ that will feature the unexpected return of Vision. The events of that series are currently a mystery, but Marvel Studios has confirmed that WandaVision leads into Doctor Strange 2. It could be that, just as in the comics, Wanda's expanding powerset and mental instability have led her to create a tragic illusionary reality in which she gets the family she dreamed of. Over the course of the show, Scarlet Witch could begin to question this reality, and realize her mind is breaking down. That would perfectly position her to go to the Sorcerer Supreme, and become a key player - perhaps even ultimately the villain - in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Magic.
- Black Widow (2020) release date: May 01, 2020
- Eternals (2020) release date: Nov 06, 2020
- Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021) release date: Feb 12, 2021
- Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2021) release date: May 07, 2021
- Thor: Love and Thunder (2021) release date: Nov 05, 2021