Marvel’s “What If…?” animated series has provided looks into alternate realities where one small thing made an amazing difference. I’ve enjoyed all the stories, but I’ve also noticed the overall trend is they seem to be getting darker as they go. That certainly continues with “What If Dr. Strange Lost his Heart instead of his Hands?”
The Watcher opens with his usual musings on things changing so easily, and we see a few different events in the life of Dr. Strange, which end in the car wreck we are familiar with, but this time Christine dies instead of him getting massive nerve damage to his hands. It’s an interesting story, but I find it a bit odd that she’s the center of his world here and never even got mentioned in Infinity War or Endgame.
At any rate, she dies, Strange moves on, becomes the Sorcerer Supreme, and we see or hear about the important events in his early MCU career. Then, on the second anniversary of her death, he succumbs to temptation, despite Wong’s advice. What follows is a truly anguishing set of replays where, no matter what he does, she dies. It’s a heartbreaking series of events, and Strange gets more and more despondent. When he’s at what might be his lowest point, he gets an unexpected visitor who tells him why he can’t change what’s happening. To me, it sounds a lot like something out of Dr. Who. Having come this far, Strange isn’t in the mood to listen to reason, and launches a new plan.
Searching the world, Dr. Strange seeks forgotten and forbidden lore, and finally finds a rumored library. We meet a new friend, get different jokes about a name being wrong, and then Strange finds something he really shouldn’t have in his possession. Going well down the dark path, he becomes a very specialized kind of serial killer, and you can see him losing who he used to be. Even all this doesn’t get him what he wants, and he learns something shocking. This was a twist I didn’t remotely see coming. It leads to a very different perspective on what’s happening, and a confrontation that was surprising to say the least.
This turns into a fight bigger than the previous ones, and Strange is, as before, well past the point of reason. Finally, the Sorcerer is triumphant… briefly. He gets what he wants, but at a cost beyond what most people could imagine, and it doesn’t last. When it’s well past too late, there’s also a big change, something that hasn’t happened in any of the prior episodes. That was fairly shocking, and, by the end of it, this version of Dr. Strange is truly in a unique hell of his own making. The episode ends on a somber observation from the Watcher.
What I liked: It was an interesting story, and they got all the major actors back to reprise their roles. It was a dark episode, without doubt, but it was powerful and struck a nerve with many people, including some who work on the show. The episode raised some interesting questions, and could be a great discussion with friends. While Strange did some horrible things, it was easy to see how he got to the point that he did.
What I didn’t: The series is fantastic overall, but I’m really starting to wonder if the writers are in some kind of competition to see who can do the most depressing story. The first one was so much fun, and they’ve been getting steadily darker as they go. I’m not sure how I feel about the moment that was so different from the other episodes.
It was a great story, but really disturbing. I’ll give this a high 3.5 out of 5. I really hope this trend end soon or this series is going to start a wave of comic book geek suicides, I swear…