Marvel’s What If…? included an evil Doctor Strange and finally explained why Tony Stark can never be revived in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Warning: This article contains spoilers for What If…? episode 4.
Marvel’s What If…? finally explained a Marvel Cinematic Universe mystery, revealing why Tony Stark can never return. What If…? episode 4 put Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Dr. Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams) through repeated traumas. In the episode, Marvel explores what would happen if Doctor Strange never lost his hands. Instead, he loses Christine in his tragic car crash. Not being able to accept her death, Strange seeks out the mystic arts and eventually tries to bring Christine back. However, reversing Christine’s death could result in the collapse of the universe. The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) can’t stop Doctor Strange, so she splits him into two, allowing two of Strange’s timelines to occur in the same universe. Unfortunately, the evil Doctor Strange wins out, and he ends up destroying everything.
In Avengers: Endgame, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) takes his final bow. Doctor Strange previously explained in Avengers: Infinity War that there was only one way to defeat Thanos (Josh Brolin). In Endgame, Stark realizes that one way will result in his death. He successfully steals the Infinity Stones from Thanos and defiantly snaps his fingers, saying, “I am Iron Man.” Thanos and his armies eventually disappear, and the power of the Infinity Stones costs Iron Man his life. The moment serves as a fitting farewell to the MCU character that started it all.
In What If…?, Marvel finally explains why Iron Man can’t come back. In episode 4, Strange repeatedly tries to go back in time to save Christine Palmer. However, no matter what he does, she repeatedly dies over and over again. According to Tilda Swinton’s Ancient One, Christine’s death was an absolute fixed point in time. Strange wouldn’t have sought out the mystic arts if not for her death, so it must always happen in their timeline. Reversing an absolute point results in a temporal paradox that can destroy the universe. When an evil version of Strange finally gets enough power to change Palmer’s death, the Ancient One’s warning comes true, and reality is destroyed. Similarly, Stark’s MCU death uses the same reasoning.
Because of absolute points, certain events like Iron Man’s death need to happen. In Infinity War, Strange makes it clear that there is only one way to defeat Thanos. If Iron Man doesn’t sacrifice his life, it could spell the end of the universe as the Avengers know it. Black Widow’s (Scarlett Johansson) death was also likely a fixed point. After all, Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) tried to reverse it when using the Infinity Stones, but he couldn’t do it. It had to happen. Because Iron Man’s death is an absolute point in the MCU, Tony Stark can never be brought back without cataclysmic consequences.
Of course, the Multiverse does allow some loopholes. For example, while Marvel can’t bring back the version of Tony Stark who sacrificed his life, there’s no rule that another version of Tony can’t make an appearance. Furthermore, because of the multiple timelines in the Multiverse, several other Tony Starks are secretly showboating around other universes. So while the MCU can’t bring its original Tony Stark back, it’s still possible that Iron Man isn’t gone forever.
Marvel’s What If…? releases new episodes Wednesdays on Disney+.
- Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021)Release date: Sep 03, 2021
- Eternals (2021)Release date: Nov 05, 2021
- Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)Release date: Dec 17, 2021
- Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022)Release date: Mar 25, 2022
- Thor: Love and Thunder (2022)Release date: May 06, 2022
- Black Panther: Wakanda Forever/Black Panther 2 (2022)Release date: Jul 08, 2022
- Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (2023)Release date: Feb 17, 2023
- Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (2023)Release date: May 05, 2023
- The Marvels/Captain Marvel 2 (2022)Release date: Nov 11, 2022
Every MCU Easter Egg In What If? Episode 4
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