WandaVision and Loki gave Marvel fans a great running joke.
In the former Disney+ series, Wanda got her hands on the Darkhold and began to learn chaos magic. In the latter, Sylvie literally broke the universe into an infinite series of branching timelines. Both these events begged the question: what would Doctor Strange do? (WWDSD)
Whatever we thought the answer might be, the Spider-Man: No Way Home trailer proved us all wrong. Here’s why that matters — and the dark secret this Marvel threequel could be hiding.
Compared to other Avengers, Doctor Strange has always been the voice of reason. He knew the odds going into Endgame. He’s kept Tony Stark’s impulsive side in check. Now, in the No Way Home trailer, he’s bundled up in a frozen-over Sanctum, dressed in a Columbia sweatshirt.
When Peter Parker approaches Strange about casting a spell to change the fabric of reality, the Sorcerer Supreme (or Stephen, as he’s now referred to by Peter,) appears hesitant at first, especially after being warned by Wong not to cast the spell.
But then, he winks.
That’s largely (but not entirely) out-of-character for the Doctor Strange we’ve known up to this point. What’s the meaning behind this gesture? Here are some theories.
1. Dark Doctor Strange
Rumors abound that an upcoming episode of Marvel’s What If...? will follow an alternate Doctor Strange who falls down a darker path and becomes essentially an evil twin to the Sorcerer Supreme we know and love. Could this alter ego have replaced the main-timeline Doctor Strange without anyone noticing?
Yes, What If...? is mostly considered an anthology series unrelated to the ongoing storylines of the MCU. But with the multiverse emerging, there’s no telling what hijinks the canon will get into. What better than a plot twist surrounding Marvel’s foremost voice of reason?
Yes, that’s right. After countless fans (ourselves included) cried wolf around Marvel’s equivalent of the devil possibly appearing in either WandaVision or Loki, weird parallels can be drawn between the No Way Home trailer and that character. As Peter and Doctor Strange talk, the Sanctum is entirely iced over. Could this be a reference to hell freezing over?
In another shot of the trailer, a protest sign claims Peter is a “devil in disguise.” Could this be another reference to Mephisto meddling with the multiverse before Peter makes a dark bargain?
3. That’s just Stephen
When half the Earth’s population was snapped away, every Avenger reacted in their own way. Steve remained optimistic, Natasha grew out her roots, and Thor... took a little time off. What we haven’t really seen is how all these Avengers reacted to everyone returning.
It’s clear from The Falcon and the Winter Soldier that the social climate on Earth post-snap is a little strained, so maybe Doctor Strange is learning not to take things so seriously. This could just be character growth, showing the lighter side to one of the most serious-minded Avengers since Vision.
It’s also worth noting this isn’t the first time we’ve seen Strange wink at a compatriot. He famously winked at Tony Stark in Avengers: Infinity War after casting the Winds of Watoomb spell to counteract the deafening wind and clouds of dust being kicked up by the children of Thanos hovering over New York. After showing off his mastery of the magic arts, Strange has been known, on occasion, to get a little cocky.
It could be this side of the character that indulges Peter’s request and precipitates all manner of multiversal madness in No Way Home.
Spider-Man: No Way Home arrives in theaters December 17.