“When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.”— Ernest Hemingway
Dr. Strange rarely listens, and almost never does so in this, the fourth episode of What If …?
What We’ve Learned So Far
The overall What If…? series is just about halfway done. So far we’ve learned what WWII Earth would have been like if Agent Peggy Carter became Captain Carter, aka: Captain Britain. We learned how the cosmic order might have shifted had T’Challa become a Star-Lord. Lastly, until this week, that is, we learned what might have happened if the Avengers were eradicated before they could become … the Avengers.
This week we are treated to a truly dark premise: What If…Doctor Strange Lost His Heart Instead of His Hands?
By this, the title means, what if Dr. Steven Strange, God’s gift to egomaniacal surgeons, had gotten into the car accident, but instead of losing the use of his hands, the crash takes the life of the lady he loves: Christine Palmer? And also, by that, what if Strange then entered an obsessive / compulsive phase where he has to bring her back to life? At all cost? That’s a powerful story, especially when nearly everyone warns him not to do what he feels he must do. Wong warns him. The Ancient One warns him (several time). A mystical sorcerer from a past era warns him. Kids sitting on ottomans eating popcorn in Duluth, Minnesota, probably warn him, too. What he doesn’t do is listen. Not to anyone.
No spoilers here. The tale is in the telling, and what a tale it is.
An Even Stranger Strange
This is the most sinister What If …? episode so far. Strange uses the Eye of Agamotto to try to shape the time stream so that Christine doesn’t die. Like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, he does it again and again. Each time he fails, but he doesn’t stop. After he battles The Ancient One (who tries to get him to stop – does he listen?), the story takes a turn when Strange goes back in time to visit the library of Cagliostro. He hopes to learn more about how to succeed from ancient lost texts that were not present for him to learn from at the library within Kamar-Taj.
Searching For Clues
The library of Cagliostro is full of information, as well as a mentor in the person of O’Bengh. Is he actually Cagliostro in the flesh? O’Bengh says no, but who can tell. Marvel often presents a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. All we viewers can do is guess! Details on O’Bengh are kept sketchy on purpose. He does provide valuable clues to help Strange with his journey. He also warns the Sorcerer Supreme about what might befall him if he continues. Do you recall that Strange doesn’t listen much in this episode? Yeah. We thought so.
What The What!?!
Interestingly, the episode fails to recognize that its premise hinges on an earlier events that the Watcher fails to make note of. In the feature film, Doctor Strange, the title character invites Dr. Christine Palmer to join him at the lecture he is giving that evening. By this time in the movie, it is clear that Palmer and Strange are still friendly co-workers, but lovers?? Not so much. She politely, yet firmly, declines Strange’s invitation (possibly preferring to go home and watch downloaded episodes of the cancelled Netflix series: Daredevil. Charlie Cox … grrrrowllll!). This choice allows the totally self-absorbed Strange to charge off into the character arc that awaits him at Kamar-Taj and, later, when he defeats Dormammu.
BONUS FEATURE: DO YOU WANT TO KNOW ABOUT OTHER WIZARDS?
At a key moment in the What If …? show, the Ancient One appears to tell Strange to give up his quest to save Christine, “You cannot reverse an absolute point,” she says. By that she means an absolute point in the time stream – Christine’s death. The Doctor Strange movie is Marvel canon. What If …? is known to be Marvel canon. So there seems to be a disconnect here. Christine’s actions in the movie’s time stream are then said to be impossible in the What If …? time stream.
Do these details make the show unwatchable? Hardly. It is very engrossing, extremely well written, and keeps up the previous high quality standard of animation. The action sequences are crisply executed. Also, the bait and switch tricks that earlier episodes employ to keep viewers on their toes are fully present here. Pay special attention to the very, very end frame. It can inform you of what might happen during an episode sometime down the road. Or perhaps in a feature film. Everything here is canon. Ahhh, spoilers be damned! Just know that we’re probably not done watching the shenanigans of the What If …? variant of Dr. Strange!
Voice casting is stellar in this episode. One reason: we have two scoops of Benedict Cumberbatch atop the ice cream cone. Who doesn’t love that? We continue with Jeffery Wright as the Watcher, aka: Uatu. Other returning MCU stars include Rachel McAdams as Christine Palmer, Benedict Wong as Wong, Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One, and Leslie Bibb as Christine Everhart. Amadi joins in the ruckus as O’Bengh.
Unlike Dr. Steven Strange, use your best listening skills and watch this show right now! Binge watch the previous three while you’re at it. No one is threatening you with a life of painful purgatory if you don’t, but you might be consigned to watching with those kids sitting on the ottomans and eating popcorn in Duluth, Minnesota.
New episodes of What If …? debut every Wednesday.
*Source – YouTube: Marvel What If Episode 4 TOP 10 Breakdown and Evil Doctor Strange Easter Eggs