Marvel What If…? Episode 4Review
It finally happened. After four episodes, our trip into the new MCU Multiverse has taken viewers to a Universe where there’s no happy ending. No light at the end of the tunnel! Everything that can go wrong does go wrong! And this week, the Watcher shows us a reality where Doctor Strange loses it, and everyone suffers as a result.
Doctor Strange, Minus the Dose of Humility
Whereas every episode of What If…? has started out following the main MCU only to branch off, this week’s Universe sees it having branched off before hand. In this universe, Doctor Strange and his colleague, Christine, are dating and going to an award show together. Then comes the car crash that changes his life. However, instead of losing his hands, Strange loses Christine instead. And somehow, this still motivates him to learn magic and become the next Sorcerer Supreme. The real problem comes afterwards, where his inability to accept Christine’s death leads to horrific consequences.
While I think the concept of the episode is hampered by the fact that no explanation is given as to why Strange and Christine were dating, I quickly ignored that in lieu of how this affected the plot of the episode. Having kept his hands intact, Doctor Strange never gets that dose of humility that he needed to become the hero he was meant to be. As a result, he arrogantly tries to use the Time Stone to try and prevent Christine’s death, only for the universe to keep willing it to happen.
And, being Strange, he doesn’t accept this, and tries to undo this event anyway. And this leads him down the path to becoming a monster.
Using the Time Stone, Strange spends centuries learning magic to bring Christine back. More terrrifying, though, is the fact that he spends that time absorbing all manner of supernatural creatures to increase his power. As a result, he gradually becomes less human and more of a humanoid abomination.
Doctor Strange is one of my favorite characters in the MCU, and Benedict Cumberbatch brings so much life to him. Needless to say, seeing the snarky but good-natured Doctor fall down this dark path was hard to watch. Even more so when an alternate, good version of him created by the Ancient One tries, and fails, to defeat his dark counterpart. By the time the episode ends, he’s barely even human anymore!
And he does bring Christine back, but as Mordo would say, the bill comes due. With Christine now alive, Strange had no reason to study magic. The resulting paradox then causes the entire universe to implode, killing Christine again and leaving only Strange himself, alone in the void.
The Watcher Begins to Interact
As heart-breaking as that ending was, it’s nothing compared to the Watcher’s role in this episode.
Until now, the Watcher has kept to his role, merely observing events as they happened, like a stand in for the audience. However, at one point in the episode, Strange seems to become aware of the entity’s presence when he remarks how he’s tempted to intervene and warn him about the folly of his actions. Yet the Watcher decides to keep to his decision to not intervene, as he knows that that will only make things worse.
This then comes to a head in the episode’s final moments when the Watcher confronts Strange directly, with the maddened sorcerer pleading for help. While a part of us wants to fix Strange’s mistake, the Watcher rightfully calls him out on his decisions, and leaves him to face the consequences. It may seem terrible to abandon an entire universe, but this was the result of what Doctor Strange did. His hubris destroyed his entire universe.
Regardless, this marks a notable shift for the Watcher. Fans of the comics know that he has repeatedly intervened in universe-threatening events in the comics. Given the threats that this new multiverse may unleash, the MCU Watcher may soon have no choice but to intervene. Either way, it’s likely that these one-off episodes are building up to something bigger.
This was the darkest episode of the series thus far, and it’s only a fraction of what the series can give us. Definitely a step up from last week’s story.
I Give “What If… Doctor Strange Lost His Heart Instead of His Hands?” a 4.5/5
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