Warning: This article includes spoilers for WandaVision Episode 8.
Critics and fans alike have praised WandaVision for its realistic portrayal of trauma and grief. Because of the episodic format, WandaVision has the space to explore these issues in more depth than Marvel films.
In Episode 8, “Previously On,” we see this theme being brought full circle as Wanda approaches the final stage of grief.
For those not familiar with the “5 Stages of Grief,” or the Kübler–Ross model, it’s a popular framework used to illustrate how people process grief. The five stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
The model, invented in the late 1960s, doesn’t apply to all situations and has been debated among psychologists. But it’s obvious that the narrative structure of WandaVision takes cues from the model.
The Five Stages
Wanda starts the series in complete denial, living in a fabricated sitcom world that comes from her lifelong coping mechanism of watching sitcoms. Even when presented with concrete evidence that something is wrong in Westview, she shrugs it off to stay in her delusion (Episodes 1 and 2).
Monica Rambeau’s slip up in Episode 3 acknowledging Wanda’s life before Westview forces Wanda out of her denial. She reacts with anger, ejecting Monica from the town. Vision’s suspicion about what’s going on also causes Wanda to react aggressively, with her rewinding scenes and cutting him off with end credits (Episode 5).
Bargaining comes in Episode 6 when Wanda tries even harder to justify what’s happening. In addition to working to convince Vision that everything’s normal, she also tells Pietro all the ways she’s actually improved the lives of Westview’s residents (for example giving them better jobs).
She tries to compromise with Hayward: she’ll leave the outside world alone if it leaves her alone.
Depression is front and center in Episode 7 with Wanda admitting her feelings after initially writing them off as “a case of the Mondays.” A commercial for the fake anti-depressant Nexus doubles as a Marvel Easter egg and acknowledgment of Wanda’s mental state.
Which leaves us with one final stage: acceptance. It’s somewhat cruel Wanda doesn’t get the chance to reach this stage on her own — she’s dragged into it by Agatha’s desperate search for an explanation of Wanda’s power.
We also learn, ironically, that Wanda actually had been getting there on her own before seeing Vision’s dissected body caused her to have a mental breakdown. All she wanted was a funeral, and Hayward gave her a horror show.
Regardless of the circumstances, it’s this final stage we find Wanda starting by the end of Episode 8.
Why It Matters
The model WandaVision seems to be based on is just one lens to understand grief. Grief is not linear or predictable, though for the purpose of a nine-episode limited series it makes sense why it’s written that way during Wanda’s time in Westview.
The flashbacks used in Episode 8 remind us that Wanda’s grief isn’t just limited to her time in Westview though. She’s experienced grief in different ways in response to the many tragedies she’s faced. She tells Vision:
“It’s just like this wave washing over me, again and again. It knocks me down, and when I try to stand up, it just comes for me again.”
The fact the show takes time to explore all of these corners of grief is a significant shift in the MCU’s storytelling. The story doesn’t rush Wanda to find closure or, worse yet, let her trauma turn her into a villain.
Marvel gives us a chance to see our own experiences with grief reflected back at us in a realistic way (or as realistic as a superhero story can be).
We get to see Wanda Maximoff, the strongest Avenger, experience a common part of life the way we do.
Beyond all of the intrigue of mystery villains, new superheroes, and the specter of the multiverse, WandaVision carries a powerful message about the necessity of grief.
In a flashback set after the real Pietro’s death, Vision tells Wanda:
“But what is grief, if not love persevering?”
It’s a beautiful quote and a meaningful one. It tells us that grief is not bad, it’s just another phase of the love we feel for someone.
But the quote only works when you acknowledge that grief is not just the sadness you feel. It’s all of these parts, including when you accept the reality of your loss.
Wanda’s love — for her parents, her brother, and Vision — perseveres. Not because she’s “strong” or “pushes through the pain,” but because she allows herself to grieve.
We don’t know what Wanda will choose to do after accepting Vision’s death. Her choices may have important consequences for the future of the MCU. But for WandaVision, the most important thing was always her journey to that point.