Key MCU events responsible for the multiversal chaos in ‘Doctor Strange 2’

doctor strange 2
Image via Marvel Studios

Warning: The following article contains spoilers for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is fast attaining a pattern wherein not watching the past films and yes, even the shows, will just not cut it if you plan on actually understanding what is happening — a fact that is further reinforced by the recently released Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

Spoilers ahead.

The latest Marvel serving doesn’t only demand in-depth knowledge of the comic books from its viewers — given the crazy amount of unexpected and expected cameos — but also an ardent fan-following of the franchise. This means that you should have, no scratch that, must have watched every Marvel screen adaptation leading up to the events of Doctor Strange 2. 

But we understand not everyone was that devoted to watching six to eight hour-long episodes of weekly shows like Loki and What if…? especially after the MCU crossed limits in teasing what could be in WandaVision only to retrace its steps at the last second. 

So, in case you are planning to watch the Doctor Strange sequel or have seen it and are all busy scratching your heads over facts like when on Earth (Earth 616, to be precise) did Wanda have kids or who kickstarted the multiverse in the first place, here is a mini-map of key events from past films and shows that influenced the plot of the film:

Doctor Strange

Doctor Strange

The brilliant surgeon Stephen Strange becomes the all-powerful sorcerer in this film after he gets in a terrible accident, which effectively ends his career as his fingers are severely damaged, thus forcing him to seek the Ancient One who takes him under her tutelage and introduces him to the world of sorcery.

While he eventually becomes the Sorcerer Supreme, his already shaky relationship with Christine suffers the most throughout the film as he breaks up with her. The couple briefly reunites but Strange has other priorities, like saving the universe from Dormammu and his disciples as well as stopping the former’s terrifying Dark Dimension from gobbling up Earth.

Apart from including the sad conclusion to Strange’s ill-fated love story, which was doomed, to begin with, Multiverse of Madness also ends with Charlize Theron’s Clea (Dormammmu’s niece in the comic books) approaching the sorcerer to aid her in stopping the multiple “incursions” (entire realities collapsing) and opens a portal into the Dark Dimension. It remains to be seen whether she is a friend or a foe and how a trip to the Dark Dimension is needed to save the multiverse. 

Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame

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Image via Marvel Studios

Throughout Infinity War, Doctor Strange is busy fighting Thanos, which was followed by five years of being dusted away post the Snap. Seeing that he wasn’t ever the committed-to-the-relationship kind of guy, this huge gap must have further contributed to Christine getting over her feelings for him. 

Infinity War also saw Wanda make the ultimate sacrifice and kill Vision to destroy the Mind Stone, only for Thanos to reverse time, resurrect the stone, and kill the love of her life all over again. The Avengers eventually manage to club the Infinity Stones together, allowing the return of everyone who was dusted five years ago sans Vision, as he was killed not snapped away. We also get the first taste of the immense power Wanda possesses as she almost annihilates the mighty Thanos all by herself. 

While the Titan lord is defeated in Endgame, Wanda, who has already lost too much in life, still can’t process the death of Vision — effects of which were eventually felt in Disney Plus’ WandaVision. But before we dive into its events, explaining the impact of Loki is paramount as before it, even though the multiverse existed, the Sacred Timeline (i.e., Earth 616) was safe and separated from the other realities.

Loki 

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Image via Marvel Studios

So far, the MCU hasn’t been very clear about the timeline of Loki, which is both connected and disconnected from the original chain of events as it unfolds in a place outside the realm of time. But it is safe to say that what happens in the series is the prime catalyst for the chaos seen in Doctor Strange 2. 

It is revealed that the bureaucratic organization TVA, i.e., The Time Variance Authority, had been tackling and erasing any temporal anomalies aka ‘branching’ of the Sacred Timeline. Apparently, there was a set order of how things were supposed to happen in this timeline and any imbalance led to the creation of variants who are not supposed to exist. They had been keeping this reality from suffering any harm or having any interaction with other realities as well.

But by the end of the series, female Loki, aka Sophie kills He Who Remains, the creator of the TVA and the one holding the Sacred Timeline in check, effectively erasing the only barrier protecting the timeline from the other realities and allowing it to branch.

It is safe to say, that earlier, the Sacred Timeline was under his protection and no one could breach in or out of it. But with He Who Remains’ demise, it is easier for events like the arrival of the different Spider-Man and the villains of their respective universes on Earth 616 or for America Chavez to hop into this universe.

WandaVision

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WandaVision sees a heartbroken Wanda’s powers become limitless as she takes the entire town of Westview hostage by controlling the minds of its inhabitants and turns them into characters of her idealistic sitcom TV land. She creates a simulation of Vision and even gives “birth” to her two twins — Billy and Tommy, who age rapidly and possess superpowers of their own. 

Wanda ends up tapping into her expansive powers and it is revealed that she is actually the Scarlet Witch, the powerful ancient being who can harness the dark Chaos magic and alter reality. She gets her hands on the Darkhold, the big bad book containing the intricacies of dark magic and the source of her evil powers in Doctor Strange 2, via which she hunts America Chavez and Doctor Strange across the multiverse. 

doctor strange 2 scarlet witch
Image via Marvel Studios

There is no clue as to whether the storyline of Loki takes place before or happens along with the events of WandaVision. But it can be said with certainty that by the time Wanda starts perusing the Darkhold and hears her children, the barrier separating the Sacred Timeline from the other existing universes was destroyed with He Who Remains’ death, allowing her to sense the alternate versions of Billy and Tommy. 

But it is yet to be clarified whether these alternate versions of her children were also her creations or whether the other Wandas had them biologically in these universes. All we know for certain is they exist in every reality out there in the multiverse.

What If…?

Strange Supreme in What If..._
Image via Marvel Studios

Marvel’s first animated series touched upon the various versions of its existing MCU characters and how they are faring across the multiverse. In one of the alternate universes (Earth 838), Peggy Carter ends up getting the super-soldier serum instead of Steve Rogers and becomes Captain Carter, whom we meet in Multiverse of Madness. 

But one of the most important episodes is “What If… Doctor Strange Lost His Heart Instead of His Hands? where an alternate Doctor Strange loses Christine in the accident instead of his hands. While he still goes on to become the Sorcerer Supreme, he can’t let go of his lost love and eventually succumbs to the allure of getting her back by travelling back in time via the Eye of Agamotto. But it soon revealed that her death is an “absolute point” in time in this universe and as Wong said “tinkering with time can weaken the very fabric of the universe.”

To avoid the inevitable, the Ancient One divides Strange into his good and bad counterparts, where the former gives up on his crusade to get Christine back while the latter, named Strange Supreme, starts gobbling up the essence of dark beings to increase his powers. The good Strange tries to stop his evil half, but he fails. 

Though the dark Strange manages to save Christine, the resulting temporal paradox results in his universe collapsing in on itself, leaving Strange to helplessly watch as every living being apart from him, starts disintegrating, including Christine. 

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Image via Marvel Entertainment/YouTube

Interestingly, the evil Strange we meet in the Multiverse of Madness isn’t Strange Supreme. It is Sinister Strange, as shared by Benedict Cumberbatch in an interview. This version fell victim to the Darkhold’s manipulation in his crusade to unite with Christine and ended up destroying his universe. The Strange seen in What If…? just gave MCU fans a taste of what an unhinged version of Sorcerer Supreme looks like and what devastating consequences his respective universe would face as a result of the same.

Once again, it needs to be remembered that the multiverse always existed. It’s just that Earth 616’s reality was safe from “incursions” i.e., realities colliding and collapsing on each other — an advantage it no longer possesses. So, the rippling effects of chaos in other realities will be felt in this universe as well, something that is made more evident by the fact that Charlize Theron’s Clea came seeking Strange’s help to avoid the same. 

Spider-Man: No Way Home

No Way Home Doctor Strange

This third outing of MCU’s Spider-Man sees Peter dealing with the ramifications of Mysterio revealing his secret to the world. Seeing that the revelation is impacting the lives of his loved ones as people are divided when it comes to supporting him. he asks Doctor Strange for help in making people forget that he is Spider-Man while ensuring that those close to him like Aunty May, MJ, Ned, etc didn’t lose their memories of his identity. 

This complicated request ends up botching the spell and creates holes in the fabric of reality, allowing villains like Green Goblin and Electro to enter Earth 616, though Strange ultimately fixes the blunder with another spell. 

It needs to be remembered that at this point, the fabric of reality was already in a state of flux. The Sacred Timeline had lost the protection it had thanks to He Who Remains, allowing the super-powerful Wanda to temper with it as she pleased to find her children. 

It won’t be too far-fetched to say that while Strange was busy patching up his mistake, Wanda was taking advantage of the chaos to freely look for ways to travel through different universes and that’s how she found America Chavez, who possesses the power to create portals to alternate realities.

The mid-credits scene in No Way Home and the trailers for Multiverse of Madness seemingly teased that the fabric of reality is unsteady because of Strange tempering with it to help Peter. But it is now evident that Wanda is to be blamed for its instability.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is now in theaters.