'WandaVision' Creator on Agatha's Master Plan, That Ralph Bohner Reveal and White Vision (Exclusive)
By John Boone
"We've spoken before," WandaVision's head writer and executive producer, Jac Schaeffer, acknowledges at the start of our Zoom. "Back when my mouth would move and nothing would come out."
Now, the series has aired its final episode, thus ending its love story of a grief-stricken witch, Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen), coming to terms with the loss she's experienced in her life, including the death of her other half, the synthezoid Vision (Paul Bettany). Over nine episodes, we watched as Wanda created her own sitcom reality, received a lifetime's worth of therapy from an ancient witch and ultimately stepped into her own as the mythic Scarlet Witch, destroyer of worlds. (Or so it's foretold in the Book of the Damned.)
Which also means Schaeffer is finally able to talk about WandaVision. In conversation with ET, she breaks down "The Series Finale," its biggest revelations and red herrings, what exactly happened between the Visions and why she's not worried about pleasing everybody.
ET: I do not envy you having to keep all of these secrets for all of these weeks while having to do interviews. Obviously, you want to keep it all a secret, but was there one thing in particular you were extra careful to keep under lock and key?
Jac Schaeffer: Evan [Peters]. I feel like it leaked a little bit. People who were paying really close attention saw that he might appear, but I was really afraid that the manner in which he appeared would be spoiled. So, I was relieved that that was not. Although there was some leak that showed him in the Halloween episode, but I was pleased that people seemed to ignore that for the most part. I wanted to keep that locked up. And then this wasn't a secret, but I was so excited for episode 8 to drop, because obviously, it's such a departure. It starts in Salem. It's such an emotional episode. It fills in so much of Wanda's story. It was such a labor of love, that episode. So, any press I did, I wanted to be like, "Just wait! Just wait." [Laughs] Things are going to happen! It's going to be different than you expect and hopefully satisfying.
Kevin [Feige] had the idea of combining Marvel and sitcoms with Wanda at the center. What was your initial pitch on that that got you this job?
I connected with Wanda. I connected with the grief. I think I have the skill of writing authentic characters and the desire to write women well, and I think they knew that about me, because I'd worked for them before. With this project in particular, the basic structure of what you see is close to my pitch. A lot of things changed -- especially in the finale -- but the idea of we start grounded in the sitcom and we take it very seriously, the fraying edges feeling Twilight Zone-y, and then the Monica-type character gets kicked out and we have what feels very much like a bottle episode, that explains from that character's perspective everything we've seen up until this point in real time. And then it turns into a two-hander, where it's half in the sitcom, half in the base, and the second to last episode is Wanda's rewind that, like, solves the mystery of the how and the why of the Westview anomaly. That was the framework I brought to it. And then the final episode being both a spectacular and also the goodbye. And as I said, so much iterating, but I think that was what got me the job.
Was Agatha part of Kevin's plan? Or was that a character you brought in?
No. They had a lot of like, "Maybe this character, maybe this character," and Agatha was central in that conversation. In the early stages, she functioned as more of a mentor, and then as we got into the room and started really legitimately breaking the episodes, it became clear that having more of a proper antagonist would serve the structure really well, so she increasingly moved in that direction. But we didn't lose sight of the potential for her to be a mentor and a teacher and a partner and a confidant. All of that still infused all of their scenes together. And we like to say that there's a version of the story where Wanda and Agatha walk off into the sunset together, you know? You could kind of see it, and I think that led to better writing for the two of them, those gray tones in there.
In the end, despite everything, I think a lot of people would still have been happy to see them walk off into the sunset together. That might just be that everyone loves Kathryn Hahn.
Right? I know. Well, and they're both good and bad. They're both light and dark. It's all a spectrum. I don't know. I feel like it all comes down to intention. All the things that Agatha says, she's speaking truth. She's telling Wanda what she needs to hear, but Agatha's agenda is ultimately pretty selfish.
She very much walks that line in the finale. She tells Wanda that the Scarlet Witch is going to bring about the end of the world and offers to take her powers from her. People wondered if Agatha had a grander plan at play, if she had a specific reason for wanting that power. What say you?
There was a lot of conversation about that kind of thing. It's very hard to write super villains in any of these properties, because you want them to feel fully realized. In my opinion, the secret is you have to identify with them. If you can understand their POV, then you sympathize with them and then it's more complex and you're more engaged and that's the way to do it. So, the sort of low hanging fruit of, "She wants the power to bring her mom back" -- like that kind of thing -- sure, we explored that. But everything felt like too much of a detour. It felt like enough that she shoplifts power. That's what she does, and she's good at it. And Kathryn is such a tremendous performer that it's clear there's more there, but that's not for this story. This is Wanda's story. So, I'm pleased that we didn't tack on a super objective. We took our time pulling back the curtain, so then to pull back the curtain and then be like, "And on top of that, here are all the things that she--" Then it becomes about her, and our focus was still Wanda.
You mentioned that the finale ended up changing and evolving through the writing process. What were the ideas you had at the beginning of what you wanted it to be? And then what were some of the ways in which it changed along the way?
The thing that was always how it is was the goodbye scene. That scene was written very early -- the tucking the kids in and specifically them in front of each other and Vision's speech about what he's been and what he might be -- all that was early and set. Some of it was even part of my pitch. That's the stuff that I really felt in my soul and was very excited about. Everything else was kind of up for grabs. We knew that there'd be a Vision-on-Vision battle. We knew there would be an Agatha and Wanda battle and Monica would be in the mix. The questions of, How much does Monica's power manifest? And how much do the kids get involved? And the chess board of, like, where is Hayward? Where's the military? So, the hex has to open so he sneaks in, but then it has to close again. What about the townspeople? I mean, I want to open my brain and be like, "Do you see the scars?" Because it was super hard. That was the stuff that was just figuring it out and the logistics of production and what our limitations are and then, oh, also a pandemic. That's what shifted. Also how far are we going to go defining Scarlet Witch? What serves the story and what serves subsequent stories? That kept evolving as well.
Throughout it all, you also have to plant these red herrings to keep people guessing. I think the biggest one is obviously Fietro. What were conversations like in terms of coming up with things to throw viewers off track a bit, but not having them feel disappointed or cheated when you reveal it's not what they think?
It's the rare instance of like, "OK, guys, what are the red herrings?" In my experience, if you're doing good work, the red herrings kind of crop up. So, like with Dottie, for instance, the mean girl trope is a thing in sitcoms, and fitting in is central to Wanda's journey and to Wanda's desires. So, the idea that episode 2 was about them trying to fit in in the masculine-feminine spheres of this small town, and that there would be obstacles to that, chiefly in the form of a mean girl queen bee, that's just good storytelling. And then we were like, "Oh, also people are maybe going to think something about her." [Laughs] That was our approach. I didn't really think about making the fans mad. And I have to admit that, over the past eight weeks, there have been some like twists and turns where I'm like, "Oh, I didn't want to disappoint anybody. Sorry." But you can't please everybody. The stuff that's most interesting to me about the show is always the human story. So, with that in mind, I can usually let the other stuff fall away.
One of my favorite scenes in the finale is the Ship of Theseus conversation between the Visions. It's a wonderfully written exchange in the midst of all this punching and blasting. At the end of that conversation, why was it important for you to have Vision give or unlock his memories within White Vision?
It wasn't about the directive of, where do we leave White Vision? That wasn't the focus. The focus was, how do you resolve the problem of two Visions fighting each other? Where does that end? They'll just be fighting each other until the end of time. It became clear to us that it's got to be a logic battle, right? You've got two Synthezoids with the exact same programming. It's going to come down to logic. The Vision inside the hex, we call him Soul Vision, we wanted Soul Vision to win based on something that was not only incredibly crafty and indicative of his extreme level of intelligence, but also was aligned with his journey, which is one of identity.
So, he's only thought of himself as Vision this whole story. He hasn't been born that long. It's been a couple days. For him to surrender that authentically to his original self, I guess, it just seemed really beautiful and very smart and we loved it. And the idea of the ship of Theseus is actually Megan McDonnell, one of the other writers in the room who's writing Captain Marvel 2, she stumbled upon that thought experiment and had to explain it to us, like, eight times. We were still like, "Wait, what is the thing?" [Laughs]
Do you think Soul Vision gave Wanda a heads up off screen, like, "Hey, just so you know, the other one is still out there"?
The way that we approached it is he's not-- He has the data, but that's not her guy. That's not the father of her children. That's not the man that she's been in the sitcom world with. At bare minimum, White Vision? Not funny. I don't know where the characters are going to go, and in the superhero space, I relish that the storylines, like, you're like, "Well, that can continue." But that it's going to be something different. The Vision that she said goodbye to, that's a complete goodbye. That's a period on that sentence.
I have one final question -- and last I spoke with you, it was one that you couldn't say anything about -- which is: We had the Grim Reaper Easter egg and in one featurette, it seemed like you were sat in front of Wonder Man concept art. Was there ever talk of including those two? Or is Marvel doing red herrings in featurettes now, too?
No. I will say emphatically that that was not a red herring inside of a featurette. Not that I know of. Marvel might've done you all dirty with that. [Laughs] But I was not doing that on purpose. That writers' room was papered from floor to ceiling with just about everything, and so that was just one of the many things that made it up on the wall.
All episodes of WandaVision are now streaming on Disney+.