In case there was any doubt, Marvel has made it clear the studio doesn't need a movie on the big screen to blow minds and dominate the pop culture conversation. So what does that latest WandaVision episode — "On a Very Special Episode..." — mean for the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe?
A lot, but probably not what you think.
**Spoilers ahead for Episode 5 of WandaVision!**
So yeah, that just happened. As many fans suspected it might, WandaVision has brought back Pietro Maximoff (aka Quicksilver). Just not the version of the character fans expected to see. The MCU version of Quicksilver, played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson, died a hero's death at the end of Avengers: Age of Ultron. So with Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) rewriting reality on the miniseries, fans expected he might make a cameo. Instead, Wanda brought back a different version of Pietro — one that should be very familiar to fans of the recent run of Fox's X-Men prequel films.
Instead of Taylor-Johnson, Evan Peters reprised his role as Quicksilver from Fox's X-Men universe, where he played a different version of the speedster first introduced in 2014's X-Men: Days of Future Past (and went on to reprise it a few times in the future sequels). This was obviously a jaw-dropping twist because it not only brought over a fan-favorite star from Fox's run of X-Men films, but it specifically crossed over not just an actor, but a character from an alternate reality outside the established MCU. Barring some kind of red herring fake-out, this just kicked off a new era.
Put simply: We've officially entered the multiverse.
The implications of this are huge, and the move was made possible by Disney's purchase of Fox (which put characters who had been off-limits, like the X-Men, Deadpool, and Fantastic Four, under the purview of Marvel Studios). Whereas most fans expected Marvel to simply reboot the X-Men and Fantastic Four with new actors and new versions of those characters within the MCU, this WandaVision twist throws upon the door to something different and infinitely more exciting than just a simple MCU reboot.
Though it was still an MCU-shattering surprise, the Quicksilver reveal probably shouldn't have been quite as shocking as it was — at least considering what we've heard about the upcoming untitled Spider-Man threequel. It's long been reported the third film in Tom Holland's solo Spider-Man series would be introducing characters from previous Spider-Man film versions, including folks like Jamie Foxx's Electro (from the Amazing Spider-Man series) and Alfred Molina's Doctor Octopus (from the original Spider-Man film series). There are also lingering rumors that former Spider-Men Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield will be back — though that remains a rumor at this point.
The upcoming Doctor Strange sequel is literally titled Multiverse of Madness and will feature Wanda/Scarlet Witch as a co-star alongside Benedict Cumberbatch's Doctor Strange. There's also an animated What If? series coming to Disney+, which looks to take on even more importance in the wake of WandaVision. So, it seems the multiverse is here and here to stay (at least for a film phase or two). There were certainly clues out there, but still, it was hard to fathom an X-Man just showing up in Westview and knocking on the door like some kind of silver-haired Uncle Joey.
By introducing the multiverse, Marvel is setting the stage to not just launch new versions of characters like the X-Men and Fantastic Four (a new Fantastic Four film is already in the early stages of development), but keeping things flexible enough to cross over with the fan-favorite versions of these characters fans already know and love.
As the old saying goes, they've found a way to have their cake and eat it, too.
Does that mean the X-Men we already know — folks like Hugh Jackman's Wolverine, James McAvoy's Professor X, Tye Sheridan's Cyclops, and Sophie Turner's Jean Grey — will carry on as the MCU versions of these characters, fresh off the arrival of Peters' Quicksilver? It's possible, sure, but still not likely. Blending those worlds wholesale would just include too much narrative baggage to reconcile (not to mention the fact that we don't even have a modern, successful version of the Fantastic Four to cross over). Fox's X-Men franchise includes 13 movies (counting mainline films, sequels, and spinoffs). It'd just be too messy to try to incorporate that into the MCU, a continuity that is already sprawling enough in its own right.
Instead, this will enable Marvel to crossover and possibly even incorporate fan favorites (namely Ryan Reynolds' beloved Deadpool, for example) without trying to make sense of how the reality of Fox's X-Men universe, those competing Fantastic Four universes, and the MCU could become the same thing. This gives Marvel the freedom to pluck Jackman's Wolverine back for one more adventure or set up a future crossover between some "old" X-Men favorites with the eventual new versions of those characters once they're introduced. Heck, maybe even Micheal B. Jordan's Human Torch from 2015's Fantastic Four can come meet some Wakandans and really blow some minds.
Crossing characters over across the multiverse has been a staple of Marvel Comics for decades, with some of the coolest stories coming from when Earth-616 and the Ultimate Universe would collide; or the classic Days of Future Past arc from the X-Men; or the reality that birthed Spider-Ham; or all those super-fun What If? stories over the years. It's a staple of comic storytelling, and with Wanda plucking Peters' Quicksilver out of the multiverse to replace her departed brother (or whatever the heck is going on, the jury's still out), all those avenues are now open on the big screen (err, and streaming).
All we really know is that Marvel now has all these characters and franchises under one gigantic, superhero umbrella — and WandaVision makes clear the studio has no qualms about getting creative, mysterious, and wildly innovative in how to deploy them.
More than a decade in and Marvel still has plenty of surprises up its frilly, magical, bullet-proof sleeve.