WHAT IF…? S1E4 “What If…Doctor Strange Lost His Heart Instead of His Hands?

In just a few months Benedict Cumberbatch is set to reprise his role as everyone’s favorite Sorcerer Supreme, Doctor Strange, in the highly-anticipated Spider-Man: No Way Home. Before that though, you can catch Dr. Strange voiced by Cumberbatch headlining the latest What If..? episode.

In the “Sacred Timeline” Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams) rejected Strange’s offer to accompany his speaking engagement at an American Neurological Association dinner. In this alternate universe, Palmer instead decides to take Strange up on his invitation. And just like the main universe, Strange and Palmer are involved in a car accident… only instead of Strange losing his hands it ends up proving fatal for Palmer, thus explaining the episode’s title “What If…Doctor Strange Lost His Heart.”

From there, things play out like the 2016 Doctor Strange film. Strange travels to Kamar-Taj to study the mystic arts, acquires the Eye of Agamotto (in actuality the Time Stone), and manages to “bargain” with Dormammu to save the universe.

Doctor Strange Lost His Heart
Dormammu, I’ve Come to Bargain!

We jump to two years later (but presumably before Thanos launched his campaign to obtain the Time Stone in Avengers: Infinity War). Still unable to let go of Christina’s death, Strange uses the Eye of Agamotto to travel back in time in order to undo it. And as you’d expect, things take a turn into Russian Doll territory as all his attempts no matter what always lead to her death.

It’s during one of these attempts that Strange is visited by the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) who informs him that his efforts are in vain as Christina’s death is an Absolute Point, an unchangeable moment in time that would create a paradox and threaten the universe. Refusing to listen, Strange tries to use the Eye once again but is blasted by a bolt of energy by the ancient one and finds himself in a strange land.

It’s there he discovers a temple guarded by O-Bengh (Ike Amadi), the librarian for the Books of Cagliostro. O-Bengh guides “Sorcerer Armani” to the Lost Books of Cagliostro and after a deep cram session, Strange learns he can acquire the power to reverse an Absolute Point through the absorption of other beings.

His first attempt to “borrow” the power from a very familiar tentacled monster, doesn’t go as well as his bargain with Dormammu. Not heeding O-Bengh’s warnings, Strange decides to forcibly absorb the powers from other mystical creatures starting small and working his way back to the aforementioned tentacled Champion of HYDRA. In the process, Sorcerer Armani manages to acquire a more devilish looking Cloak of Levitation.

However Strange has frozen himself in time for centuries during this quest for power and discovers a much older O’Bengh on his deathbed. Refusing Armani’s assistance to cheat death, O’Bengh reveals to him that there is in fact another Skywalker Doctor Strange in the universe.

We then cut back Strange before he embarked his time travel shenanigans who has problems of his own as reality starts crumbling around him. He’s once again visited by the Ancient One (or rather a psychic impression sent through a splinter of reality) who reveals who she drew up on the power of the Dark Dimension to split Strange allowing for two timelines to exist one one universe.

Doctor Strange Had Lost His Heart
Behold! The Strange Supreme!

Strange has to defeat his evil misguided twin before he undoes Christina’s death and the resulting temporal paradox destroys the universe. Where’s the TVA when you need it? Strange is abducted by his darker half the “Strange Supreme” but not before Wong (Benedict Wong) provides Strange a protection spell.

The Strange Supreme believes that once the two Doctor Stranges merge, they will finally have enough power to reverse the Absolute Point of Christina’s death. It worked Piccolo and Kami in Dragon Ball Z, after all. Naturally, Strange tells his deranged self that his “marbles are long gone” and that means it’s time for a wizard duel!

An epic showdown commences, and despite the the sacrifice of Strange’s faithful magic carpet-esque Cloak of Levitation, the Strange Supreme gains the upper hand and absorbs his doppelgänger. Strange manages to resurrect but as predicted, reality begins to crumble all around them.

As hinted earlier in the episode, Strange actually has the ability to see the Uatu (Jeffrey Wright) and beseeches the cosmic being for his aid. It’s all for naught as The Watcher holds fast to his oath of noninterference and chastises Strange knowing the repercussions of his actions would doom the universe.

And with that “What If…Doctor Strange Lost His Heart Instead of His Hands?,” the darkest episode of What If… (thus far), ends with the entire universe all thanks to one selfish choice.

Miscellaneous Notes

  • In a blink and you’ll miss it moment, Leslie Bibb reprises her role as reporter Christine Everhart, first seen in 2008’s Iron Man, during a television news report.

  • Cagliostro or O-Bengh is a sorcerer in the Marvel Universe, perhaps most notably taught Doctor Doom the magical secrets in the arcane arts.
  • It’s not specifically revealed if O-Bengh and Cagliostro are one and the same person in this What If… episode. I assumed O-Bengh was pulling an Obi-Wan Kenobi or Yoda by not divulging his full identity.
  • The Champion of HYDRA monster rears its tentacles again. The jury is out whether or not it’s Shuma-Gorath. But is What If…? setting up a larger role for this creature in the MCU?

New episodes of What If…? are available for streaming Wednesdays on Disney+.