Warning: Spoilers for Marvel’s What If…? episode 4.
The latest episode of Marvel’s What If…? acknowledged that Doctor Strange’s arrogance is still a major issue in the MCU. His colossal ego during his days as a respected neurosurgeon is what started him down his journey to being the Sorcerer Supreme in the first place, and it looks like even now, it’s still an important aspect of his character.
By exploring an alternate version of his origin in Doctor Strange, Marvel’s What If…? episode 4 revealed what would happen if Strange lost the person he loved instead of his hands in the car accident that changes his life. As it turned out, the tragic death of Christine Palmer was not only worse for Strange, but it was also a catalyst for the end of the entire universe. Doctor Strange’s refusal to listen to the Masters of the Mystic Arts about time travel and drawing power from mystical beings culminated in a battle between two versions of Strange and the destruction of his entire timeline.
Marvel’s What If…? episode 4 shows that Doctor Strange didn’t actually overcome his ego problem when he became the Sorcerer Supreme. It’s still very much a part of who he is. This was demonstrated by his approach to Christine’s death. After ignoring warning after warning, Strange read in an ancient spellbook that the power he needed to bring her back was “nigh impossible to obtain,” but he scoffed at the idea, seemingly believing his magical expertise made anything possible for him. Of course, he was wrong to think that he could reverse time and save Christine without consequences. Toward the end of the episode, Strange realizes his mistake when talking to the Watcher, who said that Strange should have known better than to meddle with time. In response, Strange admitted that this disaster was caused by his own arrogance.
This wasn’t an issue for him in Avengers: Infinity War or Avengers: Endgame, but there are moments in both movies where it’s made clear that Strange has a tremendous amount of confidence in his abilities as a sorcerer. While that could be a good thing, it can also be a problem at certain points down the road, as proven by Marvel’s What If…? episode 4.
The scenario that played out in Marvel’s What If…? fortunately didn’t come to pass in the main timeline, but it may foreshadow Strange’s arrogant attitude coming back into play in the MCU’s future. In fact, this key character flaw could be what sets in motion the events of Spider-Man: No Way Home. The trailer reveals Strange, against the advice of Wong, casting a powerful spell that will make everyone in the universe forget Spider-Man’s secret identity. From the looks of things, Strange’s misguided belief that he can make the spell work is what ignites the movie’s multiversal chaos. Hopefully, this mistake, unlike the one in Marvel’s What If…? episode 4, won’t destroy any universes.