This Marvel’s What If? review contains spoilers.
Marvel’s What If? Episode 4
What If…? episode four is here. While many fans were likely expecting to see Captain Carter show up as soon as they realized it was a Doctor Strange story, that is not the case. Instead, we get a romantic tragedy which pits two versions of Stephen against each other in order to save the woman that they love.
It’s a cosmic ride through Strange’s own arrogance that has absolutely world ending consequences. It’s also, interestingly, the second episode where we see a hero turn to the dark side. It might not mean anything but we definitely think it’s worth noting.
If you’ve been reading our reviews, you’ll know we have a new format for our What If…? coverage which we hope will work as both an in depth breakdown and easy way for readers who aren’t as familiar with the Marvel Universe to keep up!
With that in mind, let’s dig into “What If…? Doctor Strange Lost His Heart Instead of His Hands.”
As a comparison piece, the only film you need to watch before this is Doctor Strange. Just like the previous episodes, this one basically re-imagines the origins of our hero and his first movie. So if you want to know how things have changed, the MCU movie is a must watch.
We of course have Jeffery Wright leading the cast here as the mighty Uatu. Returning MCU stars include Benedict Cumberbatch as Stephen Strange, Rachel McAdams as Christine Palmer, Benedict Wong as Wong, Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One, and Leslie Bibb as Christine Everhart. There’s a new addition too with Ike Amadi joining as O’Bengh.
If you’ve ever wished the first Doctor Strange movie was just Christine Palmer getting constantly fridged, then you’re in luck! As the title hints, the big change here is that rather than damaging his hands in the car crash, we see him lose Christine during it. In a spin on the H.G. Wells classic The Time Machine, Strange keeps going back through time in order to try and save Christine. But no matter what he does or how he changes his actions, she always dies. After many failed attempts to save her using the Eye of Agamotto, we learn that Christine dying is what the Ancient One calls an Absolute Point. It’s a moment in time that cannot be changed or stopped without destroying the timeline. But Strange won’t be stopped and so begins to look for the mysterious Library of Cagliostro.
After battling with the Ancient One, Strange ends up finding O’Bengh — who comics readers will recognize as a vital Marvel magic character — who takes him to the library. There we see multiple magical books as well as a summoning of Shuma-Gorath, the same tentacles seen in What If…? episode one. Strange claims that he wants to harness the evil creature’s powers in order to bring back Christine. The first attempt goes poorly but soon Strange is sucking up the dark magical abilities of creature after creature before returning to his first tentacled capture. But as you can imagine that doesn’t go so well for him. Strange is quickly possessed by the beast before we see O’Bengh dying and revealing there are actually two Stephen Stranges in this universe. How did that happen? Well, we’re going to get to that.
The Ancient One split the timelines creating two Doctor Stranges, one who went to pursue the occult in order to save Christine and the other who was more sensible and just chilled with Wong in the Sanctum Sanctorum. Of course, this was a world-ending decision which puts the chill Strange on a collision course with the evil Shuma-Strange or, as the subtitles call him, Strange Supreme. Doctor Strange and Strange Supreme have an epic showdown as the latter tries to convince the former to work with him in order to bring back Christine. Doctor Strange is having none of it, but ultimately Strange Supreme overpowers his counterpart, sucking the benevolent half into him and using their powers to bring Christine back to life.
How Does It Work Out?
Not well! Surprising no one who understands how these things go, Strange Supreme’s plan ends up destroying their reality. He pleads with the Watcher to help save his universe, admitting his culpability and begging Uatu to change the course of history. But as the Watcher reminds us that’s not his place and, although he’d love to punish Strange and save Christine, he cannot interfere. Thus this universe ends, leaving nothing behind.
There’s a ton of cosmic fun to be had here if you can get past the multiple murders of Christine. Once Strange heads into the magical realm we get to see him imbibe the powers of many mythical creatures, which is incredibly fun. But the best moment has to be the awesome cloak-off. Strange’s cloak has long been one of the coolest things about the character, and with two Stranges present we get two cloaks. Supreme Strange’s cloak that he took from an evil giant bug has a much spikier and sinister collar. Doctor Strange keeps his classic look and as the two face down their cloaks do too. It’s a super cool sequence that shows the power of the Cloaks of Levitation and the awesome animation talents that bring What If…? to life.