“What If…?” S1E04 – Doctor Strange

Come, this way, Sorcerer Armani.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

That hit me right in the feels in a way I absolutely did not expect.

What If…? has been quite an interesting show so far. Unlike Loki, Falcon and the Winter Soldier, and WandaVision (which remains my all-time favorite show of the year), the MCU’s first entry into animated television hasn’t had high enough stakes so far, emotional or otherwise. What if…T’Challa Became Star-Lord and now Doctor Strange Lost His Heart Instead of His Hands are both exceptions. Where the T’Challa episode shone for obvious reasons (getting to hear Chadwick Boseman reprise his titular role one more time was the greatest gift 2021 ever gave us), Doctor Strange hits all the right marks that makes time travel stories so fascinating.

Stephen Strange (voiced once again by Benedict Cumberbatch) finds himself compelled to travel back in time and save Christine (the fantastic Rachel McAdams) to the dismay of Wong (Benedict Wong!) and the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton!). In spectacular time-travel fashion, every attempt fails. As the Ancient One explains to him, Christine’s death is an Absolute Point in time and therefore no matter how many times Strange tries to go back and reverse it, it will still happen.

Not that this particular explanation stops him from trying. What comes next is one of the most tragic sequences the show has produced yet, in which Stephen refuses to accept this, trying over and over (and over) again to save the love of his life. The episode also hilariously references the iconic “Dormammu, I’ve come to bargain” sequence, but it shouldn’t come to anyone’s surprise that the self-obsessed Strange doesn’t take no for an answer.

Along with tragic storylines and gut-punch-worthy moments, What If…Doctor Strange also delivers one of the most entertaining fight scenes yet. We get Strange vs Strange (and Cape vs Cape! Unless they were…dancing?) and tentacles and fire effects and a goosebumps-inducing score (and the Watcher almost interfering?), all of which lead to a truly devastating ending as we zoom out on a lonely Stephen in a universe that basically dies out of existence. It’s the kind of bleak, somber ending that I absolutely would have never expected from a lighthearted, 30-minute show like What If…? but it works, and I am still at a loss of words.

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