Disclaimer: spoilers for Disney+’s “WandaVision” are included within this article.
The fifth episode of Marvel’s WandaVision ended with a surprise guest appearance — and a cliffhanger. At the emotional peak of an argument between the superpowered Wanda and her android husband, Vision, over her reality-warping control of their sitcom-styled hometown, Westview, their doorbell rang. Wanda opened the door to find her brother, Pietro, who was supposed to be dead. Pietro, or QuickSilver, previously had superhuman speed and was killed by Ultron in the second Avengers movie six years ago.
But this Pietro wasn’t that Pietro. In Avengers: Age of Ultron, Aaron Taylor Johnson played the part. At the door was the actor Evan Peters, reprising his role as Pietro from another comic book movie franchise: X-Men one. The actor swap was entirely in keeping with the late-20th-century-sitcom signal that WandaVision emits. As the scientist Darcy Lewis put it on the show: “She recast Pietro?…”
It’s unclear whether Wanda and Vision already brought the multiverse to them, though, especially with all the mind control and metafictional games leaning up against WandaVision’s fourth wall. But swapping X-Men Pietro for Avengers Pietro has an in-story significance beyond actor availability. It’s a hint, perhaps — I’m guessing — of a broad change to the wider shared universe of the Marvel movies, of the apparent creation — or destruction — of multiple parallel storylines and timelines. My theory is that WandaVision is a hint that this is a multiverse, featuring the same or related characters living out different lives, but still sharing the same overall continuity.
Marvel movies have teased the existence of divergent timelines for a while. Endgame laid out rules for time travel that allowed for alternate universes — like where Captain America lived a life with Peggy Carter before returning to the mainline as an old man. And then there’s the upcoming Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness film, which will hit on this same idea. The trailer for the upcoming Disney+ series Loki hints at missions in different timelines, and Loki’s Loki seems not to be the same character who got killed in the main story line. Spider-Man: Far From Home featured the actor J.K. Simmons as Peter Parker’s nemesis. J. Jonah Jameson — a character Simmons played in the early 2000s movies where Tobey Maguire played the hero.
However, all these stories and timelines might give you a frowny-face. Which one is real? Which ones actually happened? The answer, of course, is that none of them are real. These are comic books. But how would a new reader — a new customer — pick up the expensive weekly habit of binging, if the stories are impossible to keep up? It’s already hard enough to explain what happened in last week’s WandaVision.My point being, I sense that someone is going to pitch this. You can feel the rumbling. Someone is going to suggest, quietly, in a meeting in Hollywood, that maybe it could work. Somebody is going to find a doorway between the DCEU and the MCU. Wonder Woman could meet Captain Marvel. Would Batman beat Captain America in a fight? This could all happen. But it’ll cause a problem. The writers will have to figure out a way to erase the universe-shattering consequences, because otherwise no other movies will make any sense afterward. The movie will only exist so it can destroy itself, or it’ll destroy all the others. This is the trans-universal meta-crisis that X-Men Pietro brought to Wanda’s door. And I’m telling you: we’re not ready.