It was Agatha all along. Obviously. Or maybe not. For many, the true identity of Kathryn Hahn’s neighborly Agnes in WandaVision came out of left field. Yet, for a small minority – those who have been relentlessly searched for clues, gobbling up breadcrumbs scattered by Marvel, and devoured every fan theory – the Agatha Harkness bait-and-switch was a long time coming. Curiously, it has now raised a mirror up to how saturating yourself in speculation week after week can not only help your enjoyment of a TV show – but also hinder it.
From the very first episode, those who are well-versed in Marvel spotted the obvious connection between Agnes and a sorceress from the comics named Agatha Harkness – one that has a storied history with Wanda. That didn’t lessen the shock value of the reveal, but telegraphing twists so far in advance risks making moments such as Wanda’s trip to the basement seem like hoop-jumping and box-checking from the comics rather than a well-constructed misdirect. The song still slaps though.
Don't ruin the magic
Anecdotally, I’ve spoken to people who went in blind to WandaVision. Their Marvel knowledge is fleeting and they certainly don’t spend weekends around the virtual watercoolers of Reddit and social media picking over every little moment. For them, Agatha’s appearance came as a surprise, a fork in the road that makes sense narratively speaking but wasn’t dampened by the comics acting as an atlas charting future spoilers for the show.
There is, it seems, a danger of knowing too much. How Marvel can counteract those who have piled up decades’ worth of knowledge is a question worth pondering. Thankfully, the studio has played this game a few times before.
Take one of 2018’s most supposedly concrete fan theories: Captain America will die in Avengers: Infinity War. All the pieces were there in the trailers, from Cap’s anguished face to a peek at a climactic throwdown with Thanos. There’s even a callback to seminal ‘90s comic The Infinity Gauntlet, one which saw Captain America defeated, if not outright killed, before Thanos snaps away half the universe.
Happily, Cap survives Infinity War, yet Marvel still pulled the rug from under our feet with Black Panther, Spider-Man, and other heroes reaching their dust-filled end. That moment shows just how adept at playing with audience expectations the superhero studio could be.
Fan theories, and Marvel’s knack of predicting them, can even enrich the viewing experience. One such moment in WandaVision saw fans wondering who killed Sparky, Wanda’s family dog that only stuck around for one episode before dying off camera. Attention turned to Agnes, Pietro, and even Wanda herself. Marvel, though, knew we would be guessing, with the track "Agatha All Along" eventually revealing that, yes, Agnes killed Sparky too.
It’s evidence of Marvel’s continued prescient dialogue with the fans. Kevin Feige and company have an uncanny knack of predicting what the audience will be talking and typing about. It doesn’t always work but, when it does, Marvel’s crystal ball coming to life on the big (or small) screens can be just as gratifying as coming up with a theory yourself.
Spoilers, spoilers, everywhere
However, there’s still the looming specter of fan theories as an almost double-edged sword. On one hand, it can be immensely gratifying to see hours of detective work come to fruition yet, on the other, knowing what’s potentially coming can leave the ultimate outcome too obvious and deflating. Worse still, by putting teasers for fans to theories about, it can even set about building up too much hype.
Take the as-yet-known engineer that is set to appear in WandaVision. Monica Rambeau actor Teyonah Parris has done little to quell fan expectation by telling ComicBook.com that she "can’t wait" to see our reactions to the grand reveal. That, when coupled with people fantasising about the likes of Fantastic Four’s Reed Richards having a cameo appearance, is only setting the show up for disappointment – we’ve reached the point where fans are expecting Marvel to over-deliver.
But you never know. Marvel might have one more misdirect and one more sleight of hand in store than blows all of our fan theories and hard work out of the water. Mephisto may arrive, but not as we expect it, or another cameo could break the internet. That’s a very exciting prospect and, let’s be honest, the finished product is so often better than any hare-brained fan theory we happen to concoct at 3am on social media in a cloud of Red Bull and YouTube videos that far exceed the normal amount of red arrows and circles highlighting "the secret moment you MISSED."
Yet, there remains a lingering doubt that some surprises have already been spoiled – thanks to our own curiosity. The modern-day phenomena of discussing and dissecting new WandaVision episodes every weekend is undoubtedly part of the fun, but can sometimes leave shocks feeling hollow and surprises feeling like a letdown. We have no one to blame but ourselves but, for Falcon and The Winter Soldier and beyond, it might make us think twice before we dive headfirst into Theoryville.
For more from the MCU, check out our guide to Marvel Phase 4.