You’re a god! You can undo this!
With the death of the love of his life, Dr. Christine Palmer, in a tragic car accident, Dr. Stephen Strange, expert surgeon and future Sorcerer Supreme, seeks to master the mystical arts to bring her back in this alternate timeline. After mastering the Eye of Agamotto and defeating Dormammu (I’ve come to bargain), Strange turns his attention to reversing time to try and save Christine, but fails over and over again. Explained by the Ancient One, Christine’s death is an Absolute Point, the necessary event that cannot be changed that begins Strange’s path to becoming the Sorcerer Supreme.
In a desperate attempt to stop Strange from continuing his misguided path, the Ancient One splits this alternate timeline in two. As one Strange decides to ultimately move on from his memory of Christine, another pursues that memory to the Lost Library of Cagliostro, a sorcerer rumored to have found a way to change an absolute point. Strange finds the answer to saving Christine and begins to capture and harness the power of countless mystical beings (one probably being Cthulhu…) until he has the power he needs. Seeking out the other Doctor Strange to absorb his power as well, the two doppelgängers enter into a battle of mystic arts, ultimately ending in the Dark Strange’s victory.
Now, with all the power he needs, he revives Christine, only for her to meet the hideous creature he’s become as reality breaks around them. With a desperate plea to The Watcher to fix his mistake, to not let Christine and the world be punished for his arrogance, the universe is destroyed, leaving the smallest pocket dimension for Strange to spend an eternity in, alone and, once again, without Christine.
Despite all the excitement of WandaVision, the hype of Spider-Man: No Way Home, and the upcoming Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness, Episode Four of What If…? is the first time we’ve returned to Dr. Stephen Strange since Avengers: Endgame, and I couldn’t be more excited. Getting back into the fray of Marvel’s mystical side is something I’ve missed since the first Doctor Strange and his roles in Thor: Ragnarok and Avengers: Infinity War. The magic shown is so unique from the rest of the MCU. Doctor Strange brings something else to the table other than superpowers, he brings intelligence and wit, as well as some much enjoyed sarcasm and sass. Against Dormammu, instead of beating him to a pulp, he tricked him into a time loop until he was ready to relent, and his spells and magical items sound as if they’ve come straight out of the D&D Player’s Handbook. Which is where this particular adventure of Doctor Strange falls short.
While the overarching plot was heartbreaking and compelling, the magic this Strange used was more brute force than intellect or cunning. He consistently summons and defeats these beasts over and over, and his conflict with the other Strange throws away wits and uses another generic fight to beat the protective warding off of Strange until he’s defenseless. It lacks what I personally enjoy about the character. However, this episode offers another intriguing element that we haven’t seen yet; The Watcher in direct contact with the universe. In the beginning the Watcher warned us that he could not, would not, should not interfere in the timelines, that he must only watch. However, he’s now spoken directly the the timelines focal point, Doctor Strange. Is this foreshadowing that not only can The Watcher interfere, but will he if the situation were dire enough. Will these alternate timelines eventually converge into something dangerous that the Watcher must confront directly, or will they remain something only to be watched?