Doctor Strange has gone through a lot. In the alternate universe of the Disney+ series What If...?, this loss is only compounded.
In episode 4, which debuted on Wednesday, September 1, we find Strange in a terrible situation. Instead of losing his skills as a surgeon, he loses something far more valuable. And there’s nothing that will stop him from getting that back, not the rules of time travel, not the universe, not even the Watcher. Here’s everything you need to know about the new episode — and the comics that inspired it.
Warning! Spoilers for What If...? Episode 4 below!
The change in the Sacred Timeline in episode 4 of What If...? is simple:
What if instead of losing his hands in a car crash, Stephen Strange loses his heart: Dr. Christine Palmer. She stood by Stephen after his accident, so it makes sense losing her would plunge him into a dark place.
While he still trains and gains the powers of time and dimension manipulation like Doctor Strange, he doesn’t use them to save the world. Instead, he focuses on Groundhog Day-ing himself in the day he lost Christine, trying over and over to save her life, but failing every time.
The upcoming sequel, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, is set to explore the many timelines unleashed in Loki and documented in What If...?.
In fact, we may have already seen this character’s live-action debut in the trailer for No Way Home. Unfortunately, there’s no way of knowing until the film opens in December.
Back to What If...? — It’s after Strange’s tragic loss of Christine that he is told by the Ancient One (visiting from beyond the grave) that her death is a fixed point in time, happening no matter what he tries. But that’s not enough of a reason to stop trying to save her. He begins summoning creatures to defeat them and absorb their power, including the tentacle monster we saw in What If...? Episode 1.
This leads to a fight that’s a lot more Avengers: Endgame than What If...?. Strange in the altered universe, aka Dark Strange, faces off against the Doctor Strange we recognize. They fight, epically, and at one point Strange even reaches out to the Watcher for help. Unlike his comic persona, the Watcher seems to be sticking with his “don’t interfere” rule for now.
Unfortunately, Dark Strange’s plan backfires. He’s able to save Christine, but in the process, he morphs into a hideous creature. He’s saved his love but lost himself along the way.
If this What If...? episode is anything to go by, Dark Strange is a force to be reckoned with. And it feels like we’ll see more of him.
What If...? is now streaming on Disney+.