It’s Wednesday and we all know this means it’s time for another Marvel review! Today we’re talking about What If … Doctor Strange Lost His Heart Instead of His Hands?, so continue at your own peril. Spoilers ahead!
What was it about?
Doctor Strange’s entire life changes when he loses Doctor Christine Palmer in an accident rather than his motor skills.
So, that was quite something! Maybe I will really like every other What If …? reality more than the previous one. This episode truly felt like the Marvel version of a Black Mirror story and I didn’t mind it. That obviously means that the ending was quite depressing, which probably won’t be to everyone’s liking, but if you think about it, it is also not very likely that every reality in the multiverse is a happy one. Let’s break down the events of What If … Doctor Strange Lost His Heart Instead of His Hands?
Stephen Strange and Christine Palmer were on a date. They were goofing off, clearly having a great relationship, when the dreadful car accident happens. Instead of Stephen losing the precise motor skills in his surgeon hands, he loses Christine, the love of his life, instead.
I thought it was interesting that his grief for her sent him on the same journey as the despair about his hands did. He traveled the world, eventually trained in the mystic arts and became the Sorcerer Supreme. However, it’s after that, where the story really changes.
Unable to let go of the past, Stephen uses the Eye of Agamotto to travel back in time and redo his date with Christine. No matter what he tries, even if he stays away completely, she always dies though. Her death turning out to be an absolute point in time, unchangeable and irreversible.
The Ancient One tries to warn and explain to Stephen that he is endangering the entire universe with his obsession, but they fight and he escapes to the lost library of Cagliostro. There, in the midst of all the hidden mystic knowledge, he learns that he can reverse an absolute point in time, but will need more power. This power can be absorbed from other beings. While a regular person would probably stop at the thought of consuming creatures, Doctor Strange goes on to absorb every powerful being, small or big, he can find (yes, the tentacle monster from What If … Captain Carter Were the First Avenger? makes a reappearance) for centuries.
What this version of Doctor Strange wasn’t prepared for was the fact that his last interaction with the Ancient One led to a split timeline. All the while he got stronger, there was another half of him, who hadn’t chosen to change time, running around and still being good. This means we got a Doctor Strange vs. Doctor Strange face off.
Where a usual Disney or happy storyline would have the good Stephen, the hero, win, this story is not that. The evil and now monstrous looking Doctor Strange cannot convince his counterpart to help him save Christine. So, instead, he even consumes himself, ultimately resurrecting Christine into a crumbling universe.
Christine doesn’t recognize Stephen when she comes to. He looks like an amalgamation of all the monsters and creatures he consumed, having no resemblance of his former self anymore. But worst of all, his entire effort was for nothing as Christine starts to disintegrate with the rest of the universe. He had broken the fabric of his reality to the point of no return. Even begging the Watcher himself to help resulted in nothing. So, Stephen created a bubble to shield him and Christine from the destruction, but in the end, he was all alone in vast nothingness.
Something I enjoyed a lot during What If … Doctor Strange Lost His Heart Instead of His Hands? is the fact that The Watcher was involved, albeit he did not intervene. In one of the earlier scenes, The Watcher talked to us and told us that Stephen was on the wrong path. He could intervene, but the safety of one universe was not more important than the others, while he also didn’t think that Strange would actually listen. However, Stephen did hear him and later directly talked to him. As I said last week, he seems to get more present in the storylines each week. Be it in the imagery or by actually talking with the characters now. I wonder if this will amp up even more in the future.
While I still think that the episodes deserve to be longer to make full use of the storylines and the potential emotional impact, it worked better here than with some previous ones. Once again, there were some fun visual and dialogue references to movies we know. There was a whole montage of how Stephen learned his craft and jokes about his name and hilarious moments with the cloak. At the end of all of this, I might do a personal ranking of all the What If …? episodes. Would anyone be interested in that?
Once again, I’m coming to you with an all new Loki review/recap! Beware of spoilers for this week’s episode “The Nexus Event” moving forward!
What was it about?
Suspicions grow among the TVA agents as the two Lokis are captured.
My head is still spinning a little bit, if I’m being completely honest. I keep thinking that I know what’s going to happen, just to be surprised by some (albeit not all) developments. As with previous Marvel shows, we’re really getting into the nitty-gritty parts of the series in its second half. I like that I at least know to expect that much from the narrative.
Now where to start with this week’s breakdown? How about the beginning!
We finally learn how Sylvie got involved with the TVA. Although we never find out what Nexus event caused her to be taken in, we start off the episode with a little flashback. Ravonna, still being a Hunter back then, tracks down Sylvie when she was just a child to arrest her for crimes against the sacred timeline. At court, Sylvie manages to steal Ravonna’s TemPad and flee into the timeline, having jumped through place and time ever since. It’s so heartbreaking to watch, because Sylvie literally never did anything wrong. She just existed and was a mere child, who then got to grow up during the ends of a thousand worlds. I’m honestly surprised she isn’t more messed up.
While everyone at the TVA is scrambling to find the Variants, Loki and Sylvie have one more essential bonding moment as the world around them is ending. Sylvie shares her past, Loki genuinely seems to care about her. It’s now evident that I wasn’t imagining the heavy romantic undertones last time, because them holding hands and developing feelings for one another causes one of the biggest and most drastic Nexus events – ultimately leading the TVA to them and saving them before they perish on Lamentis.
HOWEVER, according to Kate Herron, this relationship is “not necessarily romantic”. I think people will find it difficult to not see that side, just because Mobius straight out calls it a crush later on in the episode, but I do see her point. It could all just be an elaborate tale of self-love and acceptance. Then again, Michael Waldron (showrunner) said they were falling for each other. No clue anymore. I will have to see future episodes to really tell, because not going to lie to you all, I still haven’t decided how I fell about a possible romance. It 100% makes sense with Loki’s narcissistic nature, but it’s also twisted.
Loki and Sylvie get separated, with Loki being put in a Time Cell. In there, he has to relive a bad memory with Lady Sif (what a fun and unexpected cameo and very on brand with the actual mythology) and it was really interesting to see him come to realizations about himself throughout that looped bad interaction. I think his feelings for Sylvie (whatever they may be) really clicked in that cell as well, because he kept being told that he was alone and always would be, but with Sylvie he really found someone who understood him.
Throughout the entire episode, we can see the growing suspicion about the TVA with several agents. Mobius’ doubt is fueled by his budding friendship with Loki and the desire to want to believe the trickster. B-15 got to experience memories while she was enchanted by Sylvie and even temporarily breaks her out to see more of her previous life. All the while, Ravonna becomes more and more shady as she hid the real reason C-20 passed away or why she wants to keep Sylvie isolated.
It all comes to a head when Mobius tries to side with Loki and gets pruned by Ravonna. You could see they had a special relationship and that it wasn’t easy on her, but she didn’t hesitate to have him erased. Her character seems to grow darker with each bit of information we learn about her. And losing Mobius … that was tough to watch, especially because Loki had grown really attached to him and so have we, as viewers, in the short span of time.
Ultimately, Loki and Sylvie both get brought in front of the Time-Keepers to get pruned themselves. B-15 shows up in the nick of time to bring Sylvie her trusted sword and a fight ensues. It looked like the Lokis were doing well, having defeated almost everyone and facing the Time-Keepers, just to find out they are fake and mindless androids. So, who is truly behind the TVA? Is Ravonna working for the real masterminds? Your guess is as good as mine.
In what looked like Loki trying to confess his feelings for Sylvie (again, let those be whatever they are?), us viewers get dealt one final blow – Ravonna prunes Loki. I knew he wouldn’t be gone. This is his show after all, but … that moment hurt. He came such a long way.
We got our first post-credit scene! I was waiting for it, because I knew it was going to happen in the second half of the season. I’m glad they didn’t leave us with too much of a cliffhanger as to what happened to Loki after he got pruned, but rather with more excitement and even more Lokis! (We have a spectacular Richard E. Grant in classic Loki attire, a kid Loki, boastful Loki AND alligator Loki!) I’m currently loving the theory that they are at a place where all the things that get erased go.
When Tom Hiddleston said that episode 4 and 5 were going to be game changers, he wasn’t lying. Aside from the fact that the body count went up considerably … so much just happened! While the suspicions towards the TVA were always warranted, I have an incredibly hard time imagining where all of this is supposed to go. No matter where we end up though, I keep enjoying the ride! All these characters are so well developed that I don’t even mind a couple smaller plotholes here and there.
As I say every week, here is your little Spoiler warning for the following post, which is a review/recap for episode 4 “The Whole World Is Watching” of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Proceed with caution if you haven’t watched yet!
What was it about?
Bucky buys some time with the Dora Milaje in order for Zemo to help them find Karli. All the while, John Walker and Lemar Hoskins are also on their trail.
This episode – there’s a lot to unpack!
When Sebastian Stan said that episode 4 was one of his favorite episodes (please don’t make me look up that particular interview, there’s been so many), I thought it would be full of banter and fun, but this episode was really dark. I’m not sure if it was just me, but even some of the one-liners that were put in for comedic relief didn’t hit home as much as in previous episodes and just felt out of place at times.
With only two more episodes to go, the narration is getting tighter, although I still feel like we are far from being able to tie things up. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier has brought up so many different topics and while they start to all come together instead of being separate stories, it’s still a big undertaking for the remaining screentime. I’ve thought about this ever since WandaVision ended, but I am not sure The Falcon and the Winter Soldier will end on a real conclusion either. I could see them using these shows to set up future movies in a more elaborate way, especially since they are so hell bent on making all the content one big universe and interconnected.
After last week’s appearance of Ayo, which really shouldn’t have come as a surprise considering that Wakanda would never let Zemo just walk free (Sam warned Bucky), we start off this week with a little flashback. Six years ago, Ayo (alongside Shuri and possibly other members of the Dora Milaje) was instrumental in freeing Bucky from the grasps of the Winter Soldier. I don’t think anyone could feel untouched at Bucky’s smile when he finally realized he was free. He owes so much to the people of Wakanda, for giving him a refuge when needed, restoring his arm and mind and you can see he does not enjoy having to barter for Zemo’s life, but he needs him. Ayo grants Bucky an 8 hour extension until they come for Zemo, therefore setting the timeline for the episode.
Side note: Marvel has not been great at featuring a lot of LGBTQIA characters so far. I am not saying there are none, but they are few and far between, so, please don’t ship Ayo with Bucky? I know it’s tempting, but Ayo is a canon lesbian in the comics and I’d really love it if they didn’t erase her sexuality.
So, let’s try and break down what all happens:
Sam, Bucky and Zemo visit a GRC camp of internationally displaced people in order to get some information on Donya Madani. Sam suspects that since she was such an essential mother figure for many people in the camp, there would be a wake or funeral with Karli in attendance.
While no one really seems to trust Sam or Bucky, Zemo made some new friendships with children by offering them Turkish delight. Not going to lie, I was very conflicted about how to feel. For one, don’t let strange men give your kids candy and second, it just had very odd White Witch of Narnia vibes for me. Ultimately, he did get the information they needed, but ever since Zemo’s return he has always made sure to stay useful.
While Sharon is still in Madripoor and not a huge part of the episode, Sam remains in constant contact with her, after asking for some more help. She uses her resources to be the eyes and ears of the team via some surveillance. Sharon also mentions that the power broker went “apeshit” when he heard about Nagel’s death. Despite last week’s episode title, we still don’t know much about who the power broker is. Sharon having taken on that mantle was just one of the theories, but there have been many indications that we have not met all the players yet. With only two episodes to go, I hope they won’t take until the last minute to reveal the identity.
John Walker and Lemar Hoskins unfortunately intercept Bucky, Sam and Zemo before they can get to Donya’s funeral and therefore Karli. However, the scenes that follow are the beautiful proof of why Sam Wilson should be the next Captain America instead of John Walker.
While Walker is eager to just grab Karli and fight, Sam can sympathize with her struggle and would rather want to talk. During their scene together, you can clearly see Karli opening up and realizing that her actions could be perceived in different ways than she intended and that Sam has a point. If it hadn’t been for John waltzing into their conversation, Sam might have actually gotten through to her and a lot of the coming pain could have been avoided.
In the ensuing chaos, Zemo manages to shoot Karli (not fatally) and destroy the serum she had kept safe until then. That is, all except for one syringe, which John Walker pockets for himself.
Back at Zemo’s hideout, things escalate further. When Walker and Sam almost go head to head (without the shield), the Dora Milaje interrupts to take Zemo. Like so many times before, Walker makes an utter fool of himself and starts a fight with the Dora Milaje. Time and time again, he proves that he does not know when to stop or when not to fight. His first go to response is violence, even when he cannot win, maybe because it is the only thing he has ever done.
Eventually, Bucky and Sam step in because Walker and Lemar thoroughly get their asses kicked, which Zemo uses to his advantage and flees. A noteworthy observation from that fight is that the Dora Milaje knows how to disarm Bucky (quite literally, by removing his arm), which he wasn’t aware of prior and seems like a huge deal to me. For those wondering what she said to him in Wakandan after the arm fell to the ground, she said “Bast damn you, James”. Bast is a Wakandan deity.
Karli, trying to regroup with her fellow super-powered Flag Smashers, realizes that she can’t fight on several fronts at once. Not only is the power broker after her, but also the new Captain America, so she makes a decision to contact Sarah Wilson and suss out if she can get Sam on her side. I think contacting and threatening Sam’s family was not only a bold but dangerous move. There’s no way he would have ever taken to that threat lightly.
The meeting gets interrupted by the fact that Walker found the Flag Smashers hideout and is attacking them, sending Sam, Bucky and Karli on their way to help. While Lemar gets taken in order to separate him from Walker, it turns out that John already took the serum to be on an even playing field with the other super soldiers. As everyone fights to support their side, Lemar eventually gets free and jumps in to have his friend’s back. Karli, possibly underestimating her strength, but maybe just trying to win, deals a fatal blow to Lemar. This is the final drop for Walker, who had been on edge for a while now and cannot take the loss of his friend. In a frenzy, he pursues one of the Flag Smashers and publicly executes him with the shield. This scene is all the more darker when you think back to the fact that this particular Flag Smasher was a fan of Captain America when he was a child. As I watched on in horror, the people witnessing the scene filmed it in shock, making the episode title come true in this devastating moment.
Not only was this scene a gruesome reminder of real life footage of police and other people committing violence against people on tape, but it was also a direct cinematic parallel to Civil War. Steve Rogers once held that shield up to crash down on Tony, but instead of decapitating or killing him, he disabled the power source of Tony’s suit instead.
I am furious that it was Lemar who died. That viewers once again had to see a black man brutalized on TV (just like it was really unnecessary to show Monica get shot in slow motion in the finale of WandaVision), but the show set it up this way, so that it could not be any other character. He was the only one Walker would care about so much that he would snap. And while I do not like John Walker, who has forever disqualified himself as a worthy Captain America, I think Wyatt Russell is playing the nuances of the character great. As much as it pains me to watch him.
A lot of this episode talked about whether the super soldier serum should be taken at all. I loved Sam’s quick answer to never wanting the serum compared to Lemar’s immediate opposite response when asked the same question. The episode showcased different opinions, such as Zemo’s radical belief that all super soldiers are a form of supremacy, the Flag Smasher’s need for action and their conviction that superheroes no longer have the luxury of keeping their hands clean, but also the thought experiment that it might just amplify your inner self and with that who you truly are. There was a lot of talk about how it never corrupted Steve Rogers, but at the same time, I can’t help but wonder if they squandered the chance of others doing great with the serum. People like Isaiah Bradley for example.
In general, while I do enjoy the emotional depth this show has given Bucky, I hope they will refocus more on Sam in the final episodes. We know there’s more coming with him and the shield as well as in his hometown with his family, but he deserves the spotlight. His name comes first in the show title and in terms of depth, he has taken a bit of a backseat so far, even if some seeds have been sown about his personal struggles. Mostly though, he has just been worrying and wanting to take care of others, be it Bucky, Sarah, Sharon or now also Karli. He cares a whole lot, as a true Captain America would, but I also want him to be taken care of.
It’s not often that I have to sit with an episode for a while and I am not sure I found all the right words to express myself in this recap. Something about an unhinged John Walker just terrifies me apparently, because I felt sick by the end of that last scene. The end credits, while I didn’t see any changes in the imagery, also reflected my dampened mood with a more somber outro song. It’s the little details that Marvel takes care of that I appreciate so much.
Fun fact: Marvel has set up a tourism website for Madripoor, which you can visit under exploremadripoor.com. It will let you click through several pages with hidden images and wanted posters. If you need passwords to enter certain areas, I also got you!
The art auction can be entered with the code “sharoncarter” and the docks with “powerbroker”. When you are in the container area, you may also search for any random container you like by entering a four-digit-number. E.g. 1273 will show you Sharon’s wanted poster, whereas 4261 was the container Dr. Nagel was in and will show footage from episode 3. Allegedly, some containers used to show names of X-Men such as Mystique, but have since been removed.
AND the string of numbers on the wanted posters for each character feature the date and issue the characters made their comic book debut. As I said, Marvel and its little details.
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