Written by JJ Barnes
WandaVision was a real highlight in television accomplishments, and part of the reason for its success was the villain turn of Agatha Harkness. I’ll talk you through how this was done and how to recreate the effect in your own writing.
What Is A Villain Turn?
A villain turn is a plot twist that takes a character previously established as good, and reveals they are actually a villain. If done well, it is both an exciting shock, but also a revelation that completely makes sense.
In WandaVision, while Agatha was initially pretending to be Agnes from next door, the suspicion was growing. Through foreshadowing, it’s hinted at but never confirmed. The impression that Agnes is just the friendly neighbour is maintained. So when she reveals she is Agatha Harkness the dangerous witch, it pays off everything you’ve been wondering about. It’s a thrilling moment.
How To Establish Your Agatha Character
When you introduce your Agatha character, play it very subtly. Don’t layer on hints that they’re secretly evil. Introduce them as a genuine person who is a true friend to your Protagonist. However, they are someone who is ALMOST superfluous. They are more interested and more friendly than is necessary, and care more than you might expect. However, because you write it with conscious subtlety, their presence doesn’t stand out as unnecessary. It’s only when you look back that you realise their place in your Protagonist’s inner circle was contrived.
In WandaVision, Agatha is established as the friendly neighbour. She’s always around, always chatting and being helpful. A funny and likeable woman, she comes across as nosy but kind. There’s no real reason for her in the story other than a source of conflict and entertainment, but, because she slides so perfectly into the story, she doesn’t stand out immediately. There’s so much going on and so many characters coming and going that she is just one more.
Grow Suspicious Around Your Agatha Character
When you have established your Agatha, you need to start growing the suspicion. At first it’s easily dismissed. They might know something that perhaps they shouldn’t. Or their surprise feels just a little artificial. A good villain is smart and competent, so this can’t be heavy handed. Just an occasional hint that there is knowledge where it shouldn’t be.
In WandaVision, Agatha seems to appear where you don’t necessarily expect. She finds Sparky the dog, who you later find out she kills. She seems to know Geraldine (Monica Rambeau) and to be casting suspicion her way. Small hints that suggest she has more knowledge than she should.
The Power Of Foreshadowing
Foreshadowing acts as hints all the way through your story, building to a plot twist. Hints that you might notice, if you’re particularly paying attention and looking for them. But the likelihood is, they’ll get absorbed into the story and not appear like hints until the end. A plot twist without foreshadowing feels like it came from nowhere. That feels unplanned, unrealistic and unsatisfying. You want it to feel like a revelation, a moment of both shock and deep satisfaction because it completely makes sense, you just didn’t predict it. By layering your foreshadowing in from the start, your audience will feel like you are completely in control of your story. You’re a competent story teller, and they are in safe hands, and your story is an excellent experience.
In WandaVision, secrets to Agnes’ true identity are dripped from the beginning. Ag is the start of Agatha, Nes is the end of Harkness. She tells Wanda that her anniversary is June 2nd, noted in history as the date the Salem Witch Trials began. When the S.W.O.R.D team are finding the true identities of the residence of Westview, Agnes remains on the board as someone they have been unable to identify. On Halloween she dresses as a witch, and drives a car with a Connecticut license plate, the location of the Hartford Witch Trials, despite telling Wanda she lived in Westview her whole life. These are just a few of the little moments that could easily slip by unnoticed. But they tell you that, from the beginning, they knew exactly what they were doing. And the plot twist felt planned and satisfying.
Give Them A Fantastic Turn Moment
There is no point giving a villain turn to a character who isn’t interesting. You want this moment to be significant. Your Protagonist has trusted your Agatha character, confided in them, allowed themselves to be vulnerable. When they reveal their truth, it should be a serious moment. Perhaps your Protagonist is expecting them to have their back in a fight, and they side against them. Or they tell them a serious and important secret, which they then expose. But whatever it is, you’re building to this turn. Don’t let it slide by without recognition.
In terms of epic villain turn moments, Agatha Harkness has the most epic I can think of in television history. The Agatha All Along song will go down in history. However, it wasn’t just that. Wanda had trusted Agnes so much that she sent her children to her to be safe. She had invested so much faith in this woman that she allowed to her abduct her own babies. The sons that she had longed for and brought into existence by sheer love and passion. It also carries huge weight because we know how powerful a witch Wanda is. She is so powerful that she has enslaved an entire town, and turned it into her own private TV show. And, despite this, Agatha is able to out-magic her. She is stronger, she is more experienced, and she knows how to stop Wanda in her tracks. This villain turn is masterful in every way.
Agatha Is Fantastic
Of all the excellent moments in WandaVision, of which there are many, Agatha is a true stand out. Whether the character will return or not, I don’t know, but I hope she does. I think she will make an exceptional addition to the MCU. And if you want to learn how to write the perfect villain turn in your own story, I recommend studying everything they did with this character. From Katherine Hahn’s portrayal to the carefully crafted writing.
On Siren Stories The Podcast (on all podcast platforms), I podcasted about WandaVision with Jonathan McKinney. Jonathan also recorded a heavy metal cover of Agatha All Along.
More From JJ Barnes:
I am an author, filmmaker, artist and youtuber, and I am the creator and editor of The Table Read.
You can find links to all my work and social media on my website: www.jjbarnes.co.uk
Buy my books: www.sirenstories.co.uk/books
Follow me on Twitter: @JudieannRose