With Wanda Maximoff set to appear in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, most Marvel fans were similarly expecting the Sorcerer Supreme to return the favor for the Scarlet Witch's streaming service series. Alas, it didn't come to pass — but that's only thanks to a late change, according to Marvel's very own Kevin Feige, who confirms Stephen Strange nearly wound up in Westview.
Here's how the Strange cameo in WandaVision was supposed to work out, and why cutting him from the series was a huge mistake for the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
The News — In an interview with Rolling Stone, Feige reveals Benedict Cumberbatch was originally meant to appear in WandaVision. Doctor Strange would have shown up in the final episode of the series, but the appearance was cut late in the process.
“Some people might say, ‘Oh, it would’ve been so cool to see Dr. Strange,’” says Feige. “But it would have taken away from Wanda, which is what we didn’t want to do. We didn’t want the end of the show to be commoditized to go to the next movie — here’s the white guy, ‘Let me show you how power works.’”
Doctor Strange's planned appearance tied directly into the in-universe commercials littered throughout WandaVision, which Cumberbatch's character was apparently using to crack through Wanda's warped reality. Cumberbatch himself was even potentially going to appear in one of the advertisements, according to head writer Jac Schaeffer.
Commercial Chaos — Hearing that Doctor Strange was going to appear in WandaVision at one point should come as zero surprise, considering his fate is linked with Wanda in the upcoming Multiverse of Madness. But the way in which he was going to factor in? That's eye-opening, for sure.
Many of the commercials found throughout WandaVision alluded to Wanda's life outside of Westview. There were references to many of the tragedies in her life, from Stark Industries' role in destroying her family to the destruction of Sokovia itself. But there are other moments that feel a bit less connected, such as the allusions to the Nexus, which seemed like more of a setup for some multiverse concepts from the comics that never paid off on the show.
While it wrapped up many different storylines by the end of the run, WandaVision did little in the way of advancing the multiverse, at least overtly. The Nexus ended up having no real impact on the series itself. But if Strange had shown up the references to Nexus would have made so much more sense.
The Inverse Analysis — Did WandaVision need Doctor Strange? Definitely not. Is it weird that Marvel got as far as striking "a deal" with Cumberbatch for a WandaVision appearance only for it to disappear "late in the process"? Yes, absolutely.
It's a sign that Marvel is still figuring out the television game. It's one thing to edit a movie right up until close to showtime — but once the feature film is released, that's it. With TV, and specifically TV that deals with an airtight story, it's much harder to get away with making eleventh-hour changes to the plot.
The absence of Doctor Strange was felt in WandaVision, not because Marvel needed a major cameo in order to make a satisfying conclusion but because Strange was clearly part of the plan until he very much was not. The audience sees evidence of Strange's arrival in the form of the commercials — specifically the one in Episode 7 — and yet, no actual sight of Strange himself.
Will the Nexus commercial make more sense if it's featured in the Doctor Strange sequel? Sure. But it's one thing for one movie to plant seeds for another and another for a single scene in a TV show to try that same trick. It's too much to ask of the television medium and the television episode as a specific storytelling unit — especially without the payoff at the end of the series to explain what that one weird moment was all about.
WandaVision is streaming now on Disney+.