Episode 4 of Marvel Studios’ animated series has finally arrived, and it was a doozy.
In this episode, Doctor Strange took the center stage. The changing moment? Instead of losing the use of his hands in the car accident, he lost the love of his life, Christine. Just after seeing the teaser, I knew this one was going to be heavy, and it absolutely was.
The story, the action, and the ending were all stunning in this addition to an already almost perfect series. Again, the animated format was absolutely necessary to bring this particular plot to life as vividly as it was. In no way would these events have been as captivating had they attempted them in live-action. Marvel choosing to enter the animated world has opened up a hall of new doors for them, and they’re utilizing them to explore new, uncharted territory.
Benedict Cumberbatch, Rachel McAdams, Benedict Wong, and Tilda Swinton all reprised their roles from 2016’s Doctor Strange film.
Spoilers for What If…? episode 4 ahead!
So, what if Dr. Strange never lost the use of his hands, but instead the love of his life? Well, in the beginning, it turns out that answer is the same, he pursues knowledge in the mystic arts. It’s what happens two years later that things take a darker turn. A desperate man becomes a dangerous one, and Dr. Strange may be the most dangerous of them all.
This episode brought about a lot of interesting changes that the first three did not have, with the most prominent being Strange’s ability to see and communicate with The Watcher. I do feel like this will be specific to Strange, due to his abilities, but it was still jarring to see Strange interacting with the all-powerful being, and devastating to watch him try to bargain with him. This moved to reiterate not only the expanse of Strange’s powers, but the position of The Watcher within the series, and the MCU. He cannot interfere.
Shuma-Gorath also made another appearance, which is certainly something to keep note of. There have been rumors the one-eyed, tentacled villain will appear in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Could they be foreshadowing its impending arrival? It’s quite possible. But a double appearance by the same villain in a similar fashion within an anthology-type show like What If…? is not something we should write off.
Episode 4 also managed to answer a question that has plagued MCU fans since Endgame. Yes, there can be two versions of the same person living in the same universe. While Stephen’s circumstances were much better explained, it would seem that two Steve Rogers could exist within the same universe. Not saying I like anything about that … but it does clear the air a little bit. This is now the second tidbit that’s been tossed into post-Endgame projects that supports Steve Rogers’ decision, and whether or not it would be an issue. The first came in Loki, stating that the time heist was indeed supposed to happen, insinuating that Rogers’ jaunt back to the 50s was also in his predetermined cards.
Anyone who has lost someone has felt what Stephen has in this episode, and I think many would have followed in his footsteps had it been possible. Grief is all-consuming, that dark, bottomless pit that holds us hostage, clouding one’s judgment and all reason. Even the most powerful of us can fall victim to its clutches. It was important for Stephen’s quest to fail, despite his best efforts. Some moments are Absolute Points in time, they cannot be undone. This episode demonstrated all of these emotions with such grace, even it was heartbreaking.
This was the series’ best episode yet, beating out episode 3 by a hair. I loved the emotion of it, watching Strange turn to the dark side, and also seeing him freely admit his arrogance is one of his biggest weaknesses. The pacing was perfect, and the story’s end wasn’t a happy one, which lends to the strengths of this spectacular episode.
Don’t miss next week’s episode exclusively on Disney+. It premieres Wednesday, September 8 at 12 a.m. PST.
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