Warning: spoilers ahead for episode 4 of Marvel’s What If…?
Episode 4 of Marvel series What If…? takes a very dark turn on Disney Plus, envisioning what would have happened if on the night of Doctor Strange’s fateful car crash, he had suffered the death of the love of his life, Dr Christine Palmer and not losing his hands.
In What If…?, Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) must cope with the loss of Dr Christine (Rachel McAdams), who is with him in the car in this version of events.
After turning to the mystic arts and forgotten mystic books, Doctor Strange eventually becomes the Sorcerer Supreme following the death of the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton), which is when he decides to use his great power to try to reverse his heartbreak.
Despite the various different scenarios he tries – not overtaking the van on the road, letting Christine drive, taking a different route to the event and taking her for pizza at a fast food restaurant – it appears as though her death is always inevitable, much to Stephen’s dismay.
Following yet another failed attempt, Stephen is greeted by the Ancient One, who explains that Christine’s death is an absolute point in time, meaning that it is ‘unmoveable’ and ‘unchangeable’, as it was the moment that led to him becoming a master of the mystic arts.
While the Ancient One warns Doctor Strange of the dangers of changing to alter an absolute point in time, he ignores her and seeks out answers elsewhere.
Doctor Strange absorbs mystic creatures to bring her back
During Strange’s quest to resurrect Christine, he amasses incredible power by absorbing other mystical beings — essentially mirroring what Karl Mordo started to do in the Doctor Strange movie’s post-credit scene (a plotline that remains unresolved) — over centuries.
Many of the beings Doctor Strange Supreme absorbs are pretty demonic and creepy looking. You know he’s gone bad because his goatee and collar are pointier than normal, his skin is paler and he has dark circles around his eyes. Super stylish.
Battle of Two Doctor Stranges
Doctor Strange’s decision to absorb the mystic creatures isn’t enough to bring Christine back, thanks to a spell used by the Ancient One.
As it’s explained later on, the Ancient One basically splits Doctor Strange into two different characters within the same timeline: there’s the good Strange who stays in New York upon seeing no reality or outcome could save Christine; and, on the other hand, there’s the Doctor Strange Supreme who travels to a hidden library in search of the legendary Cagliostro’s lost books and writings.
What does Doctor Strange’s episode ending mean for the MCU?
At the end of What If? Episode 4, evil Dr. Strange beats good Dr. Strange. The evil version absorbs the good variant and brings Christine back from the dead. However, her revival comes at the cost of the universe collapsing in on itself.
With the Absolute Point of Christine’s death having been altered, the universe is no longer stable. As the world crashing down around Dr. Strange and the newly-revived Christine, the Watcher chooses to interact with Strange, saying: “Meddling with time and events only leads to more destruction.” The Watcher then leaves Strange to his fate.
Could the live-action Doctor Strange or Spider-Man inadvertently go down a similar path? Or will the same occur in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness when Scarlet Witch arrives on the scene?
The tentacled beast Strange summons looks like Shuma-Gorath again, an interdimensional villain from Marvel Comics (and the Marvel vs. Capcom games).
This is the first What If… ? universe we’ve seen being destroyed. It was hinted that Ego was going to ruin T’Challa Star-Lord’s universe in episode 2.
Strange mentions “Cagliostro” as the sorcerer who first discovered the Eye of Agamotto. In the main MCU timeline, the Book of Cagliostro is the tome Benedict Cumberbatch consults to learn the basics of time travel, and is also where Kaecilius swipes a few pages from before summoning Dormammu. This won’t be the only occasion What If…? episode 4 expands upon the mysterious Cagliostro.
Episode 4 does not have a post-credits scene.
What If…? is available to watch on Disney Plus with new episodes released on Wednesdays.