I know, I know. We sound utterly unhinged. But wait just a gosh darned minute.
Back when WandaVision was airing and at the height of its zeitgeist-grabbing powers, we all became a little, uh…fixated on Marvel villain Mephisto. The extra-dimensional fire demon of nightmares seemed to be a great fit for the show’s ultimate big bad. Mephisto had pre-existing connections to Wanda Maximoff and Doctor Strange (who was originally intended to be a part of the show). Naturally the Internet at large began to ponder the many ways in which Mephisto could enter the series. He’s controlling the commercials! He’s the beekeeper! He’s your shadow! He’s creeping up behind you RIGHT NOW!
Ultimately, all the Mephisto theorizing was incorrect. Kathryn Hahn’s Agatha Harkness was WandaVision’s main antagonist, and the world was all the brighter for having more Kathryn Hahn in it. Now the Spider-Man: No Way Home trailer has arrived and we can’t help but start the Mephisto theorizing all over again.
Simply put: something is a bit off about Doctor Strange in Spider-Man: No Way Home. Yes, this is but two and a half minutes of runtime out of context, but that’s still enough time to pick up on some questionable vibes. This Stephen Strange, ultimate protector of the multiverse, is surprisingly eager to manipulate said multiverse just to help his little high school aged buddy out of a jam.
During the events of Avengers: Infinity War, Doctor Strange informed his new colleagues that he would let each of them die rather than let Thanos get his hands on the Time Stone he was sworn to protect. It was only when Strange foresaw that the only path to ultimate victory was to give up the Time Stone that he did so.
Based on our knowledge of Doctor Strange’s dedication to his responsibilities, this leaves us with two potential explanations. The first is that Doctor Strange was planning on manipulating the multiverse anyway (perhaps to investigate the damage done to it by Wanda Maximoff and Loki in their respective Disney+ series) and he’s just letting Peter Parker in on the ride to appease him. The other explanation is the more sinister: that’s not Doctor Strange…it’s Mephisto.
Lest you think we’re pulling Mephisto out of thin nerd air (again), Spider-Man: No Way Home’s plot appears to be drawing a little inspiration from an existing Spider-Man comic run that just happens to feature the big red baddie. Spider-Man: One More Day was a four-part comic series in 2007. On a logistical level, the story was designed to consolidate the three ongoing Spidey comics (The Amazing Spider-Man, Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man, and The Sensational Spider-Man) into just one (The Amazing Spider-Man). In reality, however, it was an attempt from Marvel editor Joe Quesada to divorce Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson because he’s a monster who hates love.
To that end One More Day picks up after the events of Civil War where Peter Parker has revealed his identity and Aunt May is slowly dying of a gunshot wound. To save Aunt May’s life, Peter seeks all manner of magical assistance (including from Doctor Strange, who declines his request). Eventually Peter encounters the satanic Mephisto, who says he can save Aunt May. In return he wants not Peter’s soul – but his marriage with Mary Jane. They accept the demon’s offer and life continues on…shittily. This was not a much-loved comic.
This is all to say that some base-level similarities between Spider-Man: No Way Home and Spider-Man: One More Day are unavoidable. To regain his secret identity, Peter will have to give up Michelle. Perhaps Doctor Strange will be revealed as Mephisto in disguise this time around. Or perhaps we’ll be wrong again. In that case, we’ll at least be less wrong than we were during the Great WandaVision Delirium of 2021.