It’s always difficult when a hero turns towards the dark side. It’s also quite common.
While Dr. Strange In The Multiverse of Madness is the first big hit of the summer movie season (half a billion and counting as of May 11th), fans are debating why Wanda Maximoff aka Scarlet Witch is the Big Bad after several years as an Avenger. She’ s a woman who wants a different life, but she uses a very dark method to get it. Compare that to another witch who did a lot of damage not too long ago in a little town called Sunnydale
In both examples, it has to be asked: can we ever forgive them? One gets a second chance, while it’s not certain if the other did….yet.
Wanda Maximoff helped save the world with the Avengers for years, but experienced a lot of grief. She lost her parents when a bomb exploded in Sokovia, then lost her brother Pietro during Age of Ultron. She had to sacrifice Vision in Infinity War, but finds out the military took his body without her consent because it wanted to make him into a weapon. This led her to turn Westview, New Jersey into her own sitcom world in WandaVision. She eventually set it free once she realized her mistake. However, the series ended with her astral self absorbing the power of the Darkhold.
Fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer recall when her love Tara McClay was suddenly killed, Willow Rosenburg went out on a mission of revenge against the assailant, Warren Mears. Her dark road, however, started even sooner in “Wrecked”. With the help of fellow witch (and former rat) Amy Madison, she gets tempted by black magic thanks to a warlock named Rack. It causes her to accidentally conjure a demon and also hurt Dawn. Willow thinks she can stop whenever she wants, but it’s the start of a dark road.
Back to Wanda, Dr. Strange visits her at a tranquil apple orchard, hoping she can help him protect a multi-verse traveler named America Chavez. It’s not long, though, before he sees Wanda has gone full Darkhold and become the Scarlet Witch. Wanda didn’t stop to think about the consequences because no one was there to turn her around. If it was Strange, he was a little bit late. At least Willow tried to be careful.
Wanda wants to be in a multiverse where she can be a mom to her twin boys, Tommy and Billy. She leaves behind a massive road of destruction behind her, escaping many obstacles including a mirror dimension.
Some were shocked she made quick work of the Earth 838 Illuminati, who thought Strange was the bigger threat. It recalls how that multi-verse’s version of Strange went too far battling Thanos with the Darkhold, but it wasn’t prepared for Wanda’s power.
Some websites initially didn’t like this approach because it ignores the lesson Wanda learned in WandaVision. She made a town in New Jersey a big sitcom dimension because of her grief, so why do it again in the movie? Some pointed out director Sam Raimi didn’t even see the show.
That last scene in WV where Wanda’s astral self is deep into the Darkhold tells fans things may get bad. They just weren’t prepared for how dark and bad Wanda would get. Eventually, though, many remembered that Wanda got pretty dark many times in the comics, especially the House of M saga.
Willow’s descent into darkness happens at the end of Seeing Red, Warren shoots Buffy and Tara, but it’s Tara who dies. That drives Willow to absorb (literally) a vast amount of black magic to exact revenge. Buffy tries to calm Willow down, but she becomes just as unstoppable as Wanda. She kills Warren, then tries to kill Andrew and Johnathan.
Wanda’s goal to find her sons involves over the body of another version of her through a method called sleepwalking. She also tries to get America’s multi-verse power to find the place where her family in 838 exists. Dr. Strange does the same thing, using a dead version of another version of him. Thing is, he’s forced to use a copy of the Darkhold. Its darkness may change him (and does), but that’s all he has.
So, how do both witches overcome the darkness within them?
For Wanda, it’s recognizing what she had done. She found her sons, but they are terrified of her. They wanted the mother they know. That’s when Wanda/Scarlet Witch realizes her need for motherhood was causing a lot of damage. Her 838 counterpart recognizes the pain inside her darker version and forgives her Scarlet Witch/Wanda sacrifices herself and destroys all Darkholds everywhere.
Willow also breaks the hold the black magic has within her, thanks to Xander Harris. In the season six finale, “Grave,” he tells her he knows Willow wants to end it all, but he won’t go away. Their friendship is that important. He even recalls when she was upset when she broke her yellow crayon in kindergarten, and that she’s come a long way from that.
That leads her to break down and weep over the death of Tara. It also saves the world.
Instead of sacrificing herself, she goes into magical rehab and becomes a wiser witch in season seven.
In both cases, two women are hit by tragedy which sends them down a very dark path. Fans can argue Wanda suffered more by losing her parents, her brother and her love. No wonder she’d go through extreme lengths to have a family life that is not only fake but destructive to all. What happened to Willow was tragic, too, but her arc not only shows how grief can lead to darkness, so does addiction. Buffy shows Willow got addicted to stranger magic the same way someone can get hooked on drugs or vaping. Losing Tara put her over the edge.
The only difference is Willow recovered from her darkness, while Wanda sacrificed herself, thinking it will end her dark days. It will, but her days are far from over. Marvel Studios will see to that.
ONE MORE THING:
While this essay looked at how two good witches went bad, Buffy also looked at how Angel turned bad because of a gypsy curse and whether he could be forgiven. During season two, Buffy and Angel were quite the happy couple until they made love in “Surprise’. That’s when a Romani elder told his niece, Jenny Calendar, about how Angel would lose his soul if he experienced true happiness. It’s too bad he didn’t say this sooner.
Once Angel became Angelus, he leads a widespread campaign of death that included Jenny.
There is a spell that could restore Angel, but it’s conveniently hidden from all until the season finale. When it’s found, Xander says Angel should not be re-souled because of his past crimes, but Buffy wants Angel restored but is aware killing him is an option.
The stakes rise when Angelus finds the Stone of Acathla, named after a demon who wanted to send Earth into a Hell dimension but was stopped by a knight and his sword. Angel, of course, wants to finish the job.
In the end, Angelus and Buffy have their final battle while Willow casts her first major spell and restores his soul. Unfortunately, Acathla’s spell is starting, and Buffy has to stab the souled vampire she loved. The world is saved, but her world has died.
The show, at least, made sure that Buffy is not to blame for all this. Giles said towards the end of “Innocence” he thought Angel loved her before he lost his soul, and insisted that she still has his respect.
Still, she thinks after she kills Angel it IS her fault because she dared to love a vampire, the one thing she’s required to kill. It leads to her summer exile, but she eventually returns to Sunnydale. As fans remember in “Faith, Hope and Trick”, Buffy lays down her Claddaugh ring and says goodbye to Angel. The end.
NOPE! There’s a rumbling, a bright light, and the naked body of a souled vampire who falls out of Hell.
That is why fans of Wanda Maximoff should express their sympathy for her grief, but also know her story is far from over. She, like Angel, is likely to return. It’ll be a while, though.