Spider-Man: No Way Home will probably turn out to be the most significant Spider-Man project in the MCU so far. Given that it’s a massive multiverse film, it might impact the Marvel Cinematic Universe in a way that wasn’t possible for Homecoming and Far From Home. While we know the movie’s biggest spoiler, we still have no idea what to expect. We saw at least one plot leak that appears to be accurate, but it’s not detailed enough. And there is at least one big No Way Home Strange mystery in the first trailer that needs to be explored. And thanks to Marvel’s What If…?, we might already have the beginnings of an explanation.
Mind you, a few significant spoilers follow below, so make sure you watch the latest What If…? episode before reading any further.
What If…? gave us a few massive Strange surprises
The fourth What If…? episode premiered on Disney Plus early on Wednesday. We knew from all the recent promos that we were in for a Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) treat. And the Strange episode might be the highlight of the entire series.
The Strange story we saw in What If…? deserved a lot more time than 30 minutes. It’s an alternative to the Doctor Strange events from the main MCU timeline. Instead of crushing his hands and losing his medical career, Stephen Strange loses Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams) in What If…?. He loses his heart.
How is this Strange story relevant to No Way Home? We’ll get to that in a minute.
The What If…? episode shows us a different but familiar Strange. He’s obsessed with fixing his problem, just like he was in the Doctor Strange movie. But the Strange in the film ultimately understands that he’s no longer just a doctor and accepts the new life and responsibilities that come with being the Sorcerer Supreme. The Strange in the What If…?, not so much.
The Ancient One can still influence Strange from beyond the grave
The episode might be only 30 minutes long, but there’s a big twist in it. The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) haunts Strange from beyond the grave, explaining that he can’t undo Christine’s death. In the process, she separates Strange into two different people, creating two timelines in the same universe. By the end of the episode, the good Doctor Strange fights the evil Strange Supreme. The latter wins, destroying the entire universe in that timeline and losing Christine again in the process.
Oh, and Strange Supreme is so strong that he senses the Watcher’s (Jeffrey Wright) presence. And he challenges him to restore order to the universe Strange had just destroyed.
What matters for No Way Home is that Marvel just showed us what a bad version of Doctor Strange could do. And how he can co-exist with the regular Strange.
The big No Way Home plot twist
We talked a few days ago about Strange’s very odd behavior in the No Way Home trailer. He blames Peter Parker (Tom Holland) for messing up a spell and unleashing the multiverse — and Peter is indeed at fault for that. But Wong (Benedict Wong) explicitly told Strange not to attempt to cast the spell that would make everyone forget Spider-Man’s identity. Strange does it anyway.
It’s Strange who is ultimately to blame for things getting out of hand. That said, Marvel trailers are often misleading. We almost certainly don’t have all the context we need to interpret Strange’s actions.
We said at the time that there’s a simple explanation for what Strange did. He might not be the doctor looking to get the use of his hands back. But he’s still arrogant. His thirst for knowledge and for pulling off interventions unseen before might play a big role in motivating him. Just like he might be the only surgeon capable of pulling off a breakthrough experimental procedure on a patient, he’s also the only wizard who can help Peter with an unusual solution.
The other explanation came from an insider who keeps revealing supposed MCU secrets. The Strange in No Way Home might not be Stephen Strange. Instead, it might be Mephisto posing as Strange.
Is it Mephisto or Strange Supreme in No Way Home?
Mephisto is a massive MCU villain who has appeared in all sorts of leaks for more than a year. We saw hints of him in all sorts of places — or we wanted to see them. And we expected Mephisto to be the big villain in WandaVision. That never happened, and we learned to temper our expectations about Marvel’s various Disney Plus series since then. But what if Marvel has been planting devilish seeds in these Phase 4 movies for a big Mephisto reveal later on down the road.
On the other hand, What If…? episode 4 showed us that Strange might be just one heartbreak away from trying something dangerous and stupid. His relentless pursuit of stronger, better magic could put him on a path to darkness. On that path, a different, better Strange variant might await for him to save the day. The problem is that both these Strange variants would come from the same timeline.
No Way Home will deliver some Strange answers
In other words, we have more reasons to suspect that the Strange in No Way Home might not necessarily be the Avenger we expect. Grace Randolph released a clip a few days ago in which she explains that the Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness villain will introduce X-Men in the MCU. In that clip, she also points out that Strange acts odd in the No Way Home trailer. She also said that an evil Doctor Strange would appear in What If…?.
Again, the simplest explanation for everything we see in the first No Way Home trailer is that Strange is an emotional being. That’s something we keep experiencing in the MCU. It’s feelings that drive superheroes and villains alike to do what they do. His vanity might be the thing that makes him go forward with the Spider-Man identity spell, regardless of the consequences.
We’ll just have to wait until December 17th to see if the Strange in No Way Home is the Avenger we know or a new, more nefarious variant. And we expect the Spider-Man movie to provide direct hooks to Multiverse of Madness, which hits theaters on March 25th, 2022.