One of the greatest things Marvel accomplished with Infinity War and Endgame was to deliver a villain that’s easily the best and most complete bad guy in the entire MCU so far. Everyone else seems a joke compared to Thanos — and, hopefully, the upcoming antagonists will be even better.
But what if Thanos isn’t the real mastermind behind what happened in the last two Avengers movies? A brand new fan theory proposes an entirely different idea, one that makes plenty of sense and could deliver a brilliant twist for the MCU down the road. What if one of the Avengers was actually making sure the Snap happened the way it did so that the Earth and universe could be eventually saved from Thanos and the Avengers themselves?
You’ve probably guessed the only Avenger who could even think of such an elaborate scheme. That’s Doctor Strange, of course, whose ability to mess with space and time would have allowed him to manipulate Thanos into beating the Avengers the way he did in Infinity War, only to lose in Endgame.
After Endgame, it was clear that Strange’s “only way” of beating Thanos was to accept the Snap and its side effects and then eliminate a different version of Thanos five years into the future with minimal losses.
But Redditor Arc_the_lad argues in a carefully laid out case that Strange chose this particular turn of events out of the more than 14 million options he had at this disposal because he wanted to simultaneously eliminate Thanos and his dreams of balancing the universe, but also several of the Avengers who could turn out to be problematic (Iron Man, Vision, Hulk, Thor), and, ultimately, all of the Infinity Stones as well:
Why Dr. Strange wants them eliminated:
Thanos is capable of annihilating civilizations even without the stone and is determined use the Infinity Stones and “balance the universe” by erasing half of it.
Tony Stark essentially created either directly or indirectly almost all the problems he and/or the Avengers have had to face. Thus, if Stark can’t be trusted to NOT wreck present-day earth while he’s out superheroing. After he invents commodified time-travel, he will have become an even greater threat as because he could potentially ruin past and future earth too.
Vision is an abomination. What is he, man or machine? Both and neither. He’s essentially a ticking time bomb being the amalgamated mind of Ultron, with its proclivity for genocide, and Tony Stark, with his reckless tendencies, wrapped in the world’s strongest armor and in possession of one of the 6 most powerful weapons in existence.
The Hulk is a loose cannon who cannot be killed. A smart, thinking future version of the Hulk is even more dangerous than the original stupid version.
Thor is the protector of Earth and, as such, a rival to Dr. Strange. Also, as heir to the throne of Asgard, Thor is destined to become the protector of all Nine Realms. Yet he refuses the crown. If Thor cannot be counted on to fulfill his obligations to his own homeworld, then he also cannot be expected to honor his promises to other worlds, especially when his dereliction of duty led to the annihilation of his own planet.
Even a single Infinity Stones provides enough power to potentially bend reality. Dr. Strange’s job is to safeguard reality and as long as the Stones exist, reality is in danger.
Other than a few issues here and there, the fan theory provides plenty of evidence that paints Strange in a much different light. He’s still a good guy looking to keep Earth safe, but, much like his predecessor, Strange is ready to make major sacrifices for what he deems to be the greater good.
The theory says that Strange chose this particular succession of events not because it provided them the ultimate win, but because it’s the one that allowed him to manipulate the fates of the other Avengers who he deemed as potential threats, in spite of their own heroic efforts.
He made sure Thanos got his Stones and that he ended his quest, and he made sure the heroes would go through five years of anguish at the thought of not having been able to prevent this massive disaster. In turn, this would all lead to the only possible future, the one we saw unfold in Endgame:
Strange got everything he wanted. Thanos and Stark are dead. Vision and the Infinity Stones are destroyed. The Hulk is crippled, and Thor is finished as rival protector of Earth. Some heroes are dead, the Avengers are no more, half of the universe was temporarily erased, but it was all acceptable to the protector of earth and reality, the man with the strongest will.
In the aftermath, the Stones were all returned to the moment they were taken, except the Tesseract, which Loki made off with. Of all the people/entities intimately tied to the Stones (Wanda, Quicksilver, Ultron, Vision, Capt Marvel), three are dead. That leaves three loose ends for Dr. Strange: Wanda, Loki, and Capt. Marvel. However, Capt. Marvel is just powerful and not a threat to reality. Wanda’s very power it bending reality and Loki is running around the past changing it. Is it any surprise that Loki and Wandavision will both tie into the Dr. Strange 2?
One of the issues here is 2012 Loki, who isn’t a problem for Strange’s MCU timeline. Strange wouldn’t care what happens in the other timelines, where different versions of himself would be able to deal with whatever problems the surviving Loki ends up presenting. That said, as amazing as the theory might be, it’s not really supported by Marvel canon, so it’s unlikely that Marvel will go down this route with Strange’s character. Then again, Marvel can do whatever it wants to build a future crossover of epic Endgame proportions.
Let’s not forget that the rumored storyline for the future of the MCU is Secret Wars, where some Avengers will turn bad, for very different reasons. It remains to be seen whether Strange’s arc would approach the dark side in the near future or not. With all that in mind, I did explain the other day that Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness might help us understand what happened while Strange was looking at those 14 million versions of the future, which would be an exciting story for Marvel to explore.
The full theory, complete with all the evidence the Redditor provides to support his claims follows below: