Why Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness Had To Kill [REDACTED]

Proceed no further if you haven't yet watched "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Major spoilers ahoy!

After taking care of the existential threat of Thanos in the "Infinity Saga," the next phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has revolved around the expansion of the multiverse. Between "Avengers: Endgame," "Loki," "Spider-Man: No Way Home " and now this weekend's release of "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness," one thing has been made abundantly clear: the multiverse isn't going anywhere anytime soon. With a whole new comic book concept to play with, director Sam Raimi channeled his longtime love for the character of Doctor Strange to deliver one of the ... well, strangest movies yet in the MCU.

Those who have seen the film will no doubt have strong opinions about how everything went down, from the use of magic in the film to the spectacle-filled ending itself to everything in between. Yet one particular aspect more than anything else will likely inspire either the most vocal praise or the fiercest criticism among fans. I'm talking about the final fate of Wanda Maximoff, of course. Taken at face value, the bittersweet ending of the superhero-turned-villain probably wasn't what actor Elizabeth Olsen had in mind upon her first major MCU appearance in 2015's "Avengers: Age of Ultron" (not counting her post-credits scene from "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" a year earlier, at least). Her all-too-brief run as an actual Avenger only lasted 3 movies, until the death of her android lover Vision (Paul Bettany) — first by her own hand in a desperate attempt to foil Thanos' scheme, and again when the mad titan reversed time to pluck the Infinity Stone from Vision's forehead — set Wanda on a path to self-destruction.

That journey finally appeared to culminate in "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness," as the Scarlet Witch unleashed the full extent of her grief-driven villainy before perishing in a last-ditch effort to undo the damage she'd done, destroying the tempting evil of the Darkhold along with herself. Of course, comic book precedent suggests several ways that Wanda could potentially come back, but that still leaves us with our own feelings about how her fate was decided here. Director Sam Raimi and writer Michael Waldron (with final approval from Kevin Feige, naturally) purposefully chose this ending, leaving us to come to terms with the "Why?" of it all.

'There was no other way'

Much of Doctor Strange's arc throughout the MCU has focused on the cost of abiding by the philosophy of the greater good. In "Avengers: Infinity War," one of its most enduring images became Doctor Strange willingly giving up his closely-guarded Time Stone to Thanos and enabling him to snap half of reality out of existence, though not before his implicit promise that "There was no other way" things could have gone. In "Spider-Man: No Way Home," the (former) Sorcerer Supreme insists on condemning Peter Parker's (Tom Holland) multiversal enemies to their deaths. "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness" puts a neat bow on this by placing this ongoing concern front and center. In one universe, Strange is willing to suck the life force out of the powerful multiverse-traveling America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez) if it means preventing her skillset from falling into villainous hands. All of these ethically murky choices were made in service of — you guessed it — the greater good.

That's exactly where Wanda Maximoff comes in, as her rage sends her hunting through the multiverse to do much the same with America, though in the hopes of using her powers to reunite her with some version of her children. Living up to its hype as one of the most gnarly MCU movies, Wanda outright slaughters countless lives standing in her way and even seems willing to destroy other versions of herself if it means reuniting with her 2 sons. Though Marvel hasn't hesitated to redeem villains before, it's made abundantly clear that Wanda goes several steps too far. Additionally, the increasingly unlimited power set that makes her capable of such acts also poses an enormous problem. Though there aren't any "No more mutants" moments of rewriting reality, at some point her very presence would pose a logistical challenge for writers.

More importantly, Wanda's death acts as a clever mirror of Doctor Strange himself. Upon confronted with the trauma she puts her own children through, the ex-Avenger finally makes the call that Strange no longer can. Where our hero must unlearn sacrificing others for the cause, the villain selflessly decides to sacrifice herself to ensure the survival of others. Similar to Doc Ock in Raimi's "Spider-Man 2," this one last act in death provides the redemption she couldn't achieve in life. For better or worse, that's precisely why Wanda had to go.