You could say it all started with one Paul William Bettany.
Last month, the star of Marvel’s WandaVision got fans’ attention when he started teasing a new character arriving in the MCU spinoff series that had miraculously survived online leaks, which in turn meant that Evan Peters’ “Pietro” Maximoff definitely wasn’t who he was referring to.
“There is one character that has not been revealed,” Bettany told Esquire. “And it is very exciting. It is an actor I’ve longed to work with all of my life. We have some amazing scenes together and I think the chemistry between us is extraordinary and fireworks on set.”
The internet immediately got busy trying to work out exactly who Bettany was chatting about, and which character from Marvel Comics they could be playing. Robert De Niro as Mephisto? Keanu Reeves as Nightmare? It must be someone big and important, fans reasoned, for Bettany to tease the upcoming cameo in such a way, and his co-star Elizabeth Olsen added fuel to the fire by indicating we could be in for a ‘Luke Skywalker’-level appearance.
As more dream casting and fan theorizing took place, WandaVision’s potential scope became amplified. Other X-Men could return! How about alternate, multiverse versions of deceased characters?! There were endless Reddit threads discussing it. Group chats took wild turns as people had fun shooting down each other’s ideas. Everywhere you turned, podcasts and YouTube videos were wondering what WandaVision had in store. But when the penultimate installment started streaming on Disney+ at the end of February, the towering wall of overexcitement started to crumble.
In episode 8’s post credits scene a weaponized version of Vision was revealed to be in SWORD’s possession, and this ‘White Vision’ was once again played by Bettany. The realization that we may have all been trolled quite expertly slowly dawned on us. Was the actor Bettany had “longed to work with” all his life that he had “amazing scenes” with actually …himself? Was it Paul All Along?
Ahead of the much-anticipated finale this week, WandaVision director Matt Shakman was was asked to address the possibility, and it certainly appears so.
“I’m gonna let Paul Bettany answer that question,” Shakman told HuffPost. “He dug himself this hole. He can get out of it.”
It may well be time for fans to lower their expectations of what WandaVision will deliver in its final episode. If there are no big cameos outside of Benedict Cumberbatch’s Doctor Strange (more on that in a moment) and no villains other than Agatha Harkness, SWORD Director Tyler Hayward and White Vision to come, Marvel has been telling a much more focused story of grief, loss, and how Wanda Maximoff would finally become the Scarlet Witch.
That story has been incredibly moving for the majority of viewers, but Shakman knows that those who have become too invested in how much of a domino effect the series will have on the Marvel Cinematic Universe may feel let down.