Wednesday, September 1, 2021

What If...?: Episode 4

4. What If... Doctor Strange Lost His Heart Instead of His Hands?
In an alternate universe, Dr. Stephen Strange’s vehicular accident claims another life, that of Dr. Christine Palmer. With his hands remaining intact and functional, his longing to bring back his dead lover brings him to Kamar-Taj anyway to dabble into the mystic arts, becoming the Sorcerer Supreme after the Ancient One passes away. Still, his yearning for Christine leads him down a reckless path, seeking the Library of Cagliostro to gain the power he requires to bring her back from the afterlife. Days turn into centuries as he absorbs the force of mystic being after mystic being. Meanwhile, the Ancient One returns to intervene, splitting Strange into two different timelines existing in the same reality, culminating in a face-off between two opposing sides of the same persona. The obsessed defeats the reasonable and merges his two life forces, but the reversal of Christine’s death being an absolute point results in the dissolution of this parallel reality, it being reduced into mere nothingness.

Yet another Man vs. Himself narrative creatively executed by Marvel. Intervening with the flow of time has always been an intriguing premise for any storyline. In the context of the MCU, the overlap with magic and the already established lore makes everything even more alluring. The best thing about the episode is how it humanizes Strange anew. We’ve seen that side of him in the first half of his debut movie, selfish and arrogant until he completes his story arc. After that, he becomes some sort of savior figure, almost omnipotent and divine that he could no longer seem to go wrong. If the new Spider-Man trailer is of any indication that the Sorcerer Supreme will be contributing to the Multiverse of Madness instead of fixing it, then this What If chapter is a good primer to remind us that this character is not at all infallible. And I like that, because in the last few films he appeared too Deus Ex Machina to me. The only thing I don’t like in this episode is how Christine does not even remotely resemble Rachel McAdams. Forgivable.

“We have watched how one moment, one choice, can ripple across space and time giving birth to new stories, heroes, whole universes. But what if it's the wrong choice? What if the best of intentions has very strange consequences?” –Uatu

<<Episode 3                Episode 5>>

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