[Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers through the season finale of WandaVision, “The Series Finale.”]
At the beginning of my conversation with WandaVision creator Jac Schaeffer, she admitted that she has been reading Internet coverage of her show (including Collider’s recent editorials on the finale by Matt Goldberg and Carly Lane, which she loved.)
“I’ve been looking at a lot of it and my writers, they send things,” she said. “I’m a writer, so all I want to do is talk and write and read about things, and analysis is the best part. So I would like to pretend like I haven’t read anything and I’m just over here doing me with my head down, but that’s a lie. I have been reading a lot of things.”
This is understandable, given that there’s been a lot to discuss when it comes to the fascinating Disney+ series, from the way it played with the history of American family sitcoms to its eventual evolution into a compelling story of grief and loss. And while Schaeffer wasn’t able to answer all of our questions, she was able to give us some insight into key aspects of the show, from the function of the “commercials” to the importance of Malcolm in the Middle to whether or not the finale addresses Wanda’s actions over the course of the season.
Collider: Were you anticipating the level of scrutiny that this project has gotten, to some degree?
JAC SCHAEFFER: I honestly, I wasn’t, not to this degree. I expected the sort of normal level of Marvel interest, but this really, to me, seemed supersized. I think that the fact that there was a year elapsed with no Marvel content, that people are housebound, and the fact that we were first, which was not necessarily how it was going to go.
So, going into the show, I knew that classic sitcoms would be a big reference point, but I was kind of surprised by how important Malcolm in the Middle ended up being. And I was curious, how specifically did that show become part of the mix, not just in its tribute episode, but then later in Episode 8?
SCHAEFFER: Well, so when we were sort of figuring out which sitcoms we were going to align with, the guiding force became family sitcoms, and in the early episodes, like one through three, essentially, and then also to a degree, five, they were the shows that were very sort of aspirational. It was like, this is what you want. Especially in the ’50s and ’60s, it’s like, this is what you want your family to look like and be like and everything like.
And then by the ’80s, it’s like, we’re normal people and everything. This is all a little bit more authentic, but still it’s very stylized and romanticized. And it seemed to us that that started to break apart, in the sort of late ’90s and early 2000s, and so Malcolm felt right to us for that because their house was a mess, and the kids were disasters, and the parents fought, but also were sexy with each other and it was that sort of massive, it really worked.
And then the Modern Family piece of it seemed very… With the interviews and breaking the fourth wall, it felt very right for the depression sequence and that confessional mode of talking about your feelings.
Of course — with Malcolm, though, it wasn’t just in its own episode — there’s also the Episode 8 sequence where Wanda and Vision are watching the show together.
SCHAEFFER: Oh, yeah. So that was about wanting to, in each of her trauma moment flashbacks, tie it to a sitcom piece, and we liked the notion that it moves through the eras as well. So as we’re advancing in time in her life, she’s watching these different sitcoms as they progress. It just seems like it had a really beautiful symmetry to us.
Excellent. So, another random question for you: Going into the finale, I was personally wondering if there would be a flat-out explanation for what the commercials meant, and I was actually genuinely pleased that they were left a mystery to some degree. That being said, was there a discussion about explaining more about where the commercials were coming from?
SCHAEFFER: Yeah. There were a lot of conversations and there were times where [the commercials] had a little bit more of an agenda and a function in the plot, conceptually. They were pretty much the same on the page throughout — it was more in conversations about maybe we could lean this way, maybe we can lean that way.
My experience at Marvel, toward the end of making something, is that there’s usually a hole that you have to patch, and I sort of kept being like, “It’s going to be the commercials. Whatever the thing that we box ourselves into, we’re going to solve with the commercials. Guys, I promise. I promise.” Because there were times where we’re like, “Well, we’ll just cut the commercials. Do we need the commercials?” And I’m like, “No, we need them because they’re awesome. And also because they’re going to be our savior.”
And then ultimately we didn’t need that and it really ended up being just so tied to her subconscious in this open-ended way. But it was equally tied to her subconscious and to the MCU that, to me, it feels very right in the way it functions and exists inside the narrative.
So from your perspective, the commercials are really driven by Wanda? Because there is a theory floating out there that Agatha is actually manipulating them.
SCHAEFFER: In my mind, they’re Wanda. Yeah. The completeness of her show, and her vision, and the experience of it, included commercials.
Excellent. The one nitpicky question I have in that regard is that you establish that her relationship with sitcoms is based on her watching DVD box sets, which of course do not include commercials.
SCHAEFFER: Yeah. I would say that… So her father was a bootlegger. What we see is the box sets, that’s what the closeup is, but the ideas that he has all these VHSs and pirated copies, and so I think that she got to see that content, and then once she goes to the States… I mean, you can’t turn your head without seeing some kind of advertisement. But that was a very shrewd question.
Thank you! Meanwhile, one element of critique I’ve found really interesting to read about is the question of “Has Wanda atoned properly for the pain she caused the people of Westview?” And I wanted to get your perspective on how you had to hit that point, and where you feel you landed?
SCHAEFFER: Yeah. It’s a really interesting question. There is ultimately a hopeful element to the show. I mean, it deals with these heavy things and there is a lot of sadness and people cried and all of that, but it is sitcoms, it is genuine love between these people in this family. And so the desire was to end it in a way where you still sort of have that hopeful texture and that you’ve been so aligned with Wanda on this journey. You’ve been so with her and understanding her POV and her motivations that you forgive her for a lot of it.
But that walk through town, where everyone is staring daggers at her — it’s not okay with she did. It’s really not okay what she did. And I’ve read a little bit of like, “Oh, we let her off the hook.” That’s not really how I feel. I mean, she flies away and Monica lets her go, because Monica knows she can’t stop that lady. There’s no being like, “Oh Scarlet Witch, do you mind staying and giving a statement?” That’s just what it is, and I think that Monica does feel very sympathetic to her. But yeah, I mean it, I think it was not part of this series to move into the punishment or consequence phase of the story, but in my mind, I don’t forgive her. I understand what she did, but I don’t think it’s okay.
In terms of the final episode, was there any temptation to try to slip in one last theme song, one last sitcom homage? Or did you always kind of know it was just going to have to be straight Marvel action?
SCHAEFFER: Yeah. I mean the finale was the thing that was rewritten the most times, and was the hardest to find and craft and bring home. But no, that was never in the cards because it was always the design that we would shatter the sitcom overlay with “Agatha All Along” — that it would be done after that.
You just said that the finale had to be rewritten a lot, and I know that COVID was a factor in production, and Matt Shakman has already given interviews about some stuff that got dropped. What’s one thing that you wish, in a non-COVID production situation, you would have been able to add into the finale?
SCHAEFFER: That’s a tricky question where my real answers, my honest answers, I can’t say out loud. But I will say that… I think it’s still very successful when the townspeople are surrounding her, but I think that the sort of physicality of that scene, had it been shot pre-COVID, could have afforded a little bit more sort of frenzy. But it’s still very effective because those actors are all really talented, and their performances are great.
To wrap up — I’m sure you saw Paul Bettany make comments a few weeks ago about how the finale included him getting to work with an actor “he always wanted to work with”? What was your reaction to that?
SCHAEFFER: Well, I mean, I talked to him about it. It was hilarious. He’s hilarious. He’s just what you want him to be. He’s wildly charming, and mischievous and just wonderful. I’m not a trickster, ever. It scares me too badly. But he’s been doing this forever and he’s been doing this since the very beginning. If anyone has earned the right to troll, it’s Paul Bettany.
All episodes of WandaVision are streaming now on Disney+.
KEEP READING: ‘WandaVision’: Every Original Theme Song, Ranked
In a cryopod, no one can hear you scream.
About The Author