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What If Episode 4

Updated: Sep 10, 2021

“Is she worth the pain?”

The most anticipated episode of Marvel Studios’ What If…? has finally arrived! Was it worth the hype?

What If…? continues to amaze fans of the superhero genre with a lot of twists to known storylines and characters. For this week’s episode, another ounce of pain has been successfully delivered to the viewers which Marvel has never failed to give us in Phase 4. Episode 104 is entitled “What If... Doctor Strange Lost His Heart Instead of His Hands?.” The episode stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Stephen Strange, Rachel McAdams as Christine Palmer, Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One, Benedict Wong as Wong, Ike Amadi as O'Bengh and Leslie Bibb as Christine Everhart.


This week’s episode is darker compared to the previous episodes of the current season of the series. The episode starts similarly to the origin film of Doctor Strange. On their way to an awards night, Stephen and Christine have a conversation in the car. Christine mentions that she only agreed to be his date because of the crème brûlée. However, things start to change when the titular hero loses the love of his life in a car crash. Desperate for answers and wishing for more time, Strange studies the mystic arts. Compared to his solo film, he is able to master the mystic arts at a faster rate in this episode due to him not losing his hands. The next set of events happen in the same fashion as the film as well wherein The Ancient One meets her demise and Strange fights Dormammu.

After the battle, we get a shot of Strange and Wong in the Sanctum. This variant of Doctor Strange is in denial of losing Christine. He decides to travel back in time using the Eye of Agamotto. Doctor Strange attempts to save Christine. Unfortunately, Christine still dies. Doctor Strange keeps on time traveling and still keeps on getting the same result. Even if he changes the flow of events, Christine still keeps on dying. In one of the loops, the astral form of The Ancient One appears to talk some sense into Stephen. They have a fight, and Doctor Strange ends up in a forest which is later revealed to be the Lost Library of Cagliostro.

Stephen seeks answers on how to break an “absolute point” in time. With the help of O'Bengh, he settles in and starts to study immediately. Strange starts to summon mystical creatures only to gain their powers. The variant ends up becoming Doctor Strange Supreme. This variant is more powerful than the main Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) timeline Doctor Strange that we know. Strange sees a dying O'Bengh on the bed. He finds out that centuries have passed. He attempts to turn back time to make O'Bengh live again, but he declines politely. Before he dies, O'Bengh reveals that there is another Doctor Strange lurking around in their timeline. It is revealed that during the fight of The Ancient One and Doctor Strange, The Ancient One performed a spell to split Doctor Strange into two namely one that would move on and one who wouldn’t. The one who didn’t move on is Doctor Strange Supreme.

In the latter part of the episode, both variants of Doctor Strange see each other. They have a huge mystical fight. Despite all the protection spells, Doctor Strange is defeated by Doctor Strange Supreme. The latter merges himself with the former. He revives Christine. However, the timeline isn’t stable. When Doctor Strange Supreme comes in contact with The Watcher, he realizes his mistake and asks for help. The Watcher explained that he isn’t a god, and he cannot interfere. Doctor Strange Supreme watches the timeline slowly get obliterated right before his eyes. The episode ends in madness.

Similar to episodes 2 and 3, episode 4 is as creative as it can be. The plot twists would really make you jump out of your seat. Seeing Doctor Strange go down a dark path is an unexpected yet very unique storyline. The episode paid homage to WandaVision with the similar fashion of presenting the five stages of grief. In addition, the episode paid homage to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. with the time-loop and the existence of two variants of a character in a single timeline. The visuals and editing of the episode are marvelous. The effects are very on-point and eye-catching. Benedict Cumberbatch’s voice acting performance as both Doctor Strange and Doctor Strange Supreme is very exceptional. You can see that he has range as an actor. You can feel all of the emotions. You can distinguish easily whether he’s playing Doctor Strange or Doctor Strange Supreme. The dialogues are precise, interesting and emotional. Kudos to the writer’s room!

With What If…? being canon to the MCU, the series further solidifies and establishes the idea of the multiverse in the Marvel franchise. The series also continues to lay the groundwork for the rest of the multiverse saga of the MCU.

A key takeaway that I learned from this episode is the importance of letting go and moving on. It’s important for us to go back to society and live our normal lives. We can’t be stuck in a certain situation forever. Losing someone is inevitable. Even if we want a happy ending, it doesn’t always turn out that way. The episode was able to depict how breaking Doctor Strange’s heart can affect how the events unfold. From a World War II narrative, intergalactic trek and a murder mystery to a tragic love story, Marvel Studios continues to retell their famous arcs in the most mind-blowing way possible. It is definitely worth the hype. This episode is hands down my favorite episode. Overall, I would rate this episode a 10/10.

“Love can break more than your heart. It can shatter your mind.”


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