Wanda Maximoff, better known as the Scarlet Witch, is near the epicenter of the event that serves as the catalyst for the MCU’s Civil War: during a botched heist in Lagos, Wanda manages to save Captain America from death by suicide bomber, but deflects the explosion rather than diffuse it, resulting in the death of a dozen innocent Nigerian citizens. While the resulting media outrage largely places responsibility for the tragedy on Wanda, the reactions of her fellow Avengers are more varied, and reveal a full spectrum of responses to Wanda’s unprecedented demonstration of power.
Among the first to react to Wanda’s power is Iron Man himself, Tony Stark. Still attempting to manage his PTSD, and especially emotionally vulnerable after the collapse of his romantic relationship with Pepper Potts, Stark’s response to Wanda’s unparalleled power is to attempt to deny her agency. While the decision to confine Wanda to the remote Avengers Compound may come off as hypocritical, especially considering Stark’s refusal to hand over his power suit technology to the Government during the events of Iron Man 2.
However, Stark does not see this forced confinement as an act of hypocrisy, at least not entirely: instead, he likely identifies with Wanda, an individual that has suddenly found herself wielding powers much greater than those afforded to the average individual. In Stark’s opinion, when he was given such great responsibility, he failed to act appropriately, resulting in the loss of innocent lives. When he looks at Wanda, he sees an individual who has been given a similar surplus of power, and he fears that she will make the same mistakes he made.
Stark can only lie to himself so much, however, and he knows that denying Wanda the right to make her own decisions is wrong. Stark attempts to assuage these feelings by talking about the amenities and ample square footage of the Avengers Compound, but the subtext is clear: he has difficulty justifying Wanda’s house arrest, even to himself.
While Stark has approved the decision to keep Wanda under house arrest, the actual process of keeping her confined is left to Vision. A singular character, Vision stands apart from his teammates, a synthezoid among humans. When Vision offers an opinion on the Sokovia accords, he is met with a sarcastic “this will clear things up,” suggesting his unique perspective is often dismissed, or at least misunderstood.
But after admitting to Wanda that Tony has asked to have her kept under house arrest, Wanda listens to Vision’s opinion carefully. Like Wanda, Vision draws his powers from the mind gem, and like Wanda, Vision is unsure of the full extent or nature of these powers – but Vision is in no hurry to test these boundaries, and he encourages Wanda to follow his example. If they saw the full extent of her powers, Vision argues, people would fear the Scarlet Witch. For the moment, Wanda is convinced by Vision to remain under confinement in order to avoid inciting fear of her power.
By contrast, Captain America perspective strongly emphasizes that Wanda should be given the freedom to make her own decisions. This is embodied even in Hawkeye’s rescue of Wanda from house arrest, which isn’t really a rescue at all: the non-powered Hawkeye breaks into the mansion and – despite some nifty arrows – he is immediately and completely overpowered by Vision. Despite his capture, Hawkeye was never meant to rescue Wanda from her confinement, he was there to serve the same purpose he did in Age of Ultron: to remind Wanda that she had a choice in the matter.
Hawkeye’s plan to “rescue” Wanda works for one simple reason: while Stark and his allies had attempted to deny Wanda’s agency, they hadn’t actually done anything of the sort. The tragedy in Nigeria left her emotionally vulnerable, allowing Vision’s persuasive speech to convince her that the fears of others had validity. But despite Stark’s attempt to exert control over her, the only individual who is actually restraining Wanda in this situation is herself.
Once Hawkeye’s speech has reminded Wanda of her agency, she takes control of the situation, forcing Vision to release Hawkeye. When Vision warns her that because of her actions she will be feared, Wanda tells him that she cannot control their fear, only her own. It’s a powerful moment for the character, and it not only affirms Wanda’s own agency (and her recognition of the same), it also embodies a declaration that she accepts that her control over herself does not extend to others. Then she punches Vision halfway through the Earth’s crust.
Ultimately, Stark seems to realize that he cannot deny Wanda’s agency. After Wanda and the rest of Cap’s team are imprisoned, Stark pays the facility a visit. A lingering reaction shot demonstrates how unpalatable he finds the excessive restraint being used on Wanda, who has not only been placed in a straightjacket but also fitted with a device that prevents her from speaking. While Stark’s house arrest methods were less extreme, they nevertheless constituted an attempt to deny Wanda her agency.
As the MCU progresses and Wanda becomes even more powerful, the audience must hope that Stark has learned his lesson – not for Wanda’s sake, but for his own. Did you see what she did to Vision? Through the Earth’s fucking crust. Good god damn.