Marvel’s What If..? Episode 4 Review: Dr Strange Pushes the Multiverse to its Absolute Limit

In the most unpredictable and consequence-filled episode yet, Dr Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) pushes the multiverse to its limit. It completely redefines some of the show’s main concepts and characters, and lays down the laws of time travel in the newly-formed multiverse. This episode’s change to the timeline, more than any we’ve seen previously, snowballs into the most catastrophic shift in events that What If..? has shown us so far. It starts out simple – Stephen loses his heart, his love Christine, instead of his hands in the crash that kicked off the events of Dr Strange. 

This is a sad, but ultimately very minor change to the events that we know, it is also another story (like the premiere episode’s Captain Carter) that begins with a twist to a heroes’ origin story. This seems to be a running theme of the series, and the lack of creativity does create a sense of boredom towards the start of the episode. As the narrator quickly skips through the events that lead Strange to becoming the Sorceror Supreme, it’s also hard not to wish that What If..? would stop re-hashing the events of the films that its audience have already seen.

However, after the first few minutes, the episode does amazing things with the simple concept of Stephen losing Christine. Not only do we see the most changed incarnation of a character so far in the series, but we also get a cautionary tale that provides some truly emotional and melancholy moments. As Strange tries to use the time stone to change the past and save Christine, we are presented with a tragic montage that shows the limits of the multiverse, despite all of its infinite possibilities. It may not have been obvious when viewing previous instalments, but truly emotional moments are something that What If..? has been lacking until now, and this episode makes you realise how sorely they’re needed.  

Being the first episode to delve into the magical and cosmic side of things, it brings cool aesthetics, as well as laying down the ground rules for time travel in the multiverse and making some significant and interesting changes to the show’s lore. The timeline might be able to branch out in various directions, and people have the freedom to make choices that create new branches, but we see here that no matter what individuals choose to do with their futures, you really don’t want to mess with the past. 

Strange’s What If..? debut keeps bringing the surprises as well, especially when it comes to the magnificent creature design and getting to see Stephen go into full warlock mode, dabbling in the darker side of the magical arts. Perhaps the most surprising of all, though, is the fact that it redefines what we thought we knew about the show’s narrator. The Watcher (voiced by Jeffrey Wright), has previously acted as our guide to the multiverse, showing us different timelines and observing coldly from afar. He’s always been enigmatic, and we still don’t really know who or what he is (unless you’ve read the comics), but this episode reveals that there is more to him than meets the eye. He’s not necessarily an outsider peering into the timelines, and he’s definitely not just a tour guide. 

What If..?‘s fourth episode completely redefines the rules of time travel within the multiverse, as well as the concept of the entire series. It might still focus on small changes to the origins story of a hero, but it successfully takes that and turns it into the most emotionally intense and unpredictable tale. One that has more extreme repercussions than any other timeline we’ve observed as yet. We need more episodes like this. 

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