What If…? Episode 4 Recap: Heartache and Strange magic

Doctor Strange in Marvel Studios' WHAT IF...? exclusively on Disney+. © Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.
Doctor Strange in Marvel Studios' WHAT IF...? exclusively on Disney+. © Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved. /

In What If…? Episode 4, the master of the mystic arts loses more than he can bear. But when one commands the time crystal, can death really be an end?

The Disney Plus show has been going to some dark places recently. Gone are the jokes of the opening episode and the fun of the second. The third installment saw the death of the Avengers, and this week, there’s even more at stake.

In the MCU, Doctor Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) invited his partner, Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams), to a dinner in his honor. She didn’t accept. Instead, Stephen drove on his own and ended up in the accident that set him on the path to the mystic arts.

In What If… Doctor Strange Lost His Heart Instead of His Hands?, things happen a bit differently. As a result, the line between good and evil begins to blur until it’s gone completely.

What If…? Episode 4 – Groundhog Day

In What If…? Episode 4, Christine does accept the invitation to join Stephen for the soiree. She’s in the car with Stephen when it crashes. In this universe, Stephen miraculously survives. Christine isn’t so lucky.

Heartbroken, Stephen searches for answers in the mystic arts. As in the universe we know, Stephen finds the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) and becomes a sorcerer.

He learns how to control the Eye of Agamotto, the controller of time. He defeats Dormammu. He befriends Wong (Benedict Wong), and the two set up the Sanctum Sanctorum in New York.

So far, so normal.

But in this universe, Doctor Strange is painfully aware of the power he carries with him. Why can’t he use it to save Christine?

On the second anniversary of her death, Doctor Strange decides to use the Eye of Agamotto. He returns to that fateful night, to Christine, and uses the knowledge he already has to avoid the mistakes he made the first time. Christine still dies.

Doctor Strange tries again. And again. And again. Taking different routes. Staying in. Avoiding the event altogether. Leaving Christine waiting. Nothing works. Christine always dies.

Eventually, the Ancient One pays Strange a visit. She explains to him that Christine’s death is an absolute point in time. It can’t be changed. Because if it is, the entire universe will unravel.

But this isn’t good enough for Strange. Why does Christine have to die for the universe? Why can’t he change this one thing? Strange has done his reading. He believes that Cagliostro, who wrote the book on time, knew how to break an absolute point.

And that’s where Doctor Strange disappears to. He goes way into the past in search of answers. He’s going to find so much more than he bargained for.

What If…? Episode 4 – Absolute power corrupts absolutely

Doctor Strange is looking for Cagliostro in What If…? Episode 4. But he finds Cagliostro’s head librarian, O’Bengh (Ike Amadi). Though O’Bengh insists he isn’t Cagliostro, in the Marvel Comics, he is.

O’Bengh introduces Doctor Strange to the enormous library. There’s a lot of great material here, but Strange is only interested in the book about absolute points.

He learns that there is a way to break an absolute point in time—more power. But, of course. How will Strange get this power? By absorbing other beings.

Now, this is the point where any normal person—and presumably, the MCU’s Doctor Strange—would close the book and go home. But not this Doctor Strange.

He calls forth an enormous being, one familiar to What If…? audiences. The same tentacle monster from the first episode returns, and it makes short work of Strange.

O’Bengh nurses Doctor Strange back to health. But this pain isn’t enough to stop him. Strange starts small this time and successfully absorbs beings.

The more he absorbs, the more he’s able to take. Until the monsters are bigger, more terrifying, more powerful, he even manages to notice the Watcher. But only for a second.

By the time Doctor Strange is done, centuries have gone past. O’Bengh is now dying. And Strange finally has the power he needs to save the one he loves. Anybody else getting serious Darth Vader vibes from this Doctor Strange?

What If…? Episode 4 – End of times

But there is a failsafe plan in place in What If…? Episode 4. When the Ancient One realized the path Strange was taking, she split him in half.

While one Strange went to Cagliostro’s library, another Doctor Strange sat in the Sanctum Sanctorum, deciding against using the Eye of Agamotto to change time. That Strange finds his universe slowly disintegrating in front of him.

The Ancient One, or rather, an echo of her, explains to Strange what his counterpart has done. Doctor Strange is the only one who can stop his evil half. But is he up to the challenge?

Strange manages to cover himself in protection spells, and Wong adds a super-powerful one just to be sure. And then, Wong disappears into the ether, leaving Strange to fight himself.

The evil Doctor Strange doesn’t exactly have the power to save Christine. But the two Doctors together can do it. There’s one problem—the world is disintegrating.

Evil-Strange doesn’t care that the universe is dying because he’s changing time. He just wants to save Christine. A massive fight ensues. Good-Strange holds his own. For the most part.

But Evil-Strange has the power of several cosmic beings. Good-Strange doesn’t stand much of a chance. He ends up being absorbed.

His power complete, Doctor Strange resurrects Christine. Who immediately starts disintegrating along with the rest of the universe. Nothing Strange does helps stop this. He even turns to the Watcher and beseeches him for aid.

But the Watcher can never intervene. He can only watch. And even if he wanted to, he can’t sacrifice the universe just to save Christine.

On his own, Doctor Strange constructs a mystic shield around him and Christine. The universe implodes, but the shield keeps them safe. Well, it keeps Strange safe. Christine goes the way of the universe.

Doctor Strange is left alone, in this mystic shell, apologizing to nothing but darkness.

Final Thoughts – What If…? Episode 4 is really intense

Can we get some happy and fun episodes, please? I thought last week was a lot to take in, but What If…? Episode 4 took it to a whole new level.

Not only does a bonafide Avenger turn into a villain, but he takes the whole universe with him. This is heavy! Somebody, please bring T’Challa and his Ravagers back.

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What did you think of What If…? Episode 4? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

What If…? is streaming on Disney Plus.