The minds behind Avengers: Infinity War had Doctor Strange tell us exactly how many versions of the future he saw until he found the one where the Avengers emerge victorious. We still have no idea why Strange counted them all, or whether he stopped when he found the first path to victory. Strange is a geek of sorts, so of course he would count. He’s also pretty pragmatic, so he knows the odds are against the Avengers on this one and wants to make a point by telling them how bad things are. But all hope is not lost, and Strange is helping events unfold in the only way where they can win.
We’ve seen a bunch of interesting theories about the time Strange spent on Titan to explore different timelines, including one that suggests he was exploring the aforementioned timelines for more than 5,000 years. We now have an equally brilliant theory that poses something entirely different: Strange only spent minutes looking at those 14,000,605 futures and decided Iron Man had to survive Titan so he could then die 14,000,604 times.
That’s right, Redditor alexandrepigeot seems to think that Strange has trapped Tony Stark and Nebula in space in a time loop that’s meant to guarantee that Tony learns from his mistakes and finds his own way home to save the others. Tony will have to die more than 14 million times to discover the breakthrough idea that will get them home, as well as deal with growth and accept defeat.
The theory is otherwise very simple in terms of what Strange did behind the scenes, and I believe that he may have altered other things in the past to make sure this one future unfolds. The Redditor seems to think differently:
He told Stark and Nebula (the others present got dusted) about the one winning scenario, pretended that there was a point in fighting Thanos, then willingly gave him the stone. Assuming he didn’t zap back and forth in time behind the scenes during that time, that was all he did and, apparently, that was enough to reach that one scenario.
Beating Thanos isn’t possible without Iron Man, and that’s why Strange placed Tony in this time loop:
This is why in the Endgame trailer we saw a calm and resigned Tony Stark leaving a defeated message to Pepper Pots… He is not hoping to survive, he is in the process of giving up trying (refer back to Groundhogs Day when Phil Connors decides that he’s never going to escape his looping day ever and gets depressed over it).
In that moment of pure desperation, Tony will be dying over and over and, in the process, he will learn an invaluable lesson of trust and acceptance. He will forgo his control issue (still very present, as demonstrated by his relationship with Peter Parker) and learn to let go of some things to gain others.
Remember that he is very much hell-bent on saving everyone and everything and Dr. Strange simply knew that it was not a possible outcome and that, unless he matures first, Tony would have never compromised on this.
So first, he had to show Tony how to humbly accept defeat which is why he fought with Thanos, losing the battle to win the greater war in the heart of Tony Stark.
There is one thing to support this time loop idea in the first trailer, as one Redditor pointed out. It’s the moment Tony says in the message to Pepper: “and when I drift off I’ll think of you… it’s always you.” The scene from the Super Bowl TV spot where Tony and Nebula seem to be building something in space makes perfect sense with this theory in mind as well.
The theory seems to contradict some other Infinity War theories about Strange, but it doesn’t have to. The sorcerer may have used more than one time loop to deal with events of the future, including one on Titan, where he needed time to look at all those possible timelines. Also, Strange didn’t just focus on Iron Man. He allowed Star-Lord to let Thanos escape and he made sure that Ant-Man was sent to the Quantum Realm before the snap.
Avengers: Endgame launches two months from now on April 26th, so you have plenty of time to dig into the full theory in full below: