Why Evil Doctor Strange Looks So Different | Screen Rant

In What If...? episode 4, the usually benign Doctor Strange is transformed into a powerful, almost demonic being capable of destroying the entire universe. As befits this radical character shift from the main MCU timeline, this version of Doctor Strange looks completely different from his "good" counterpart. Beyond aesthetics, there are several key reasons why evil Strange has such a radically different appearance.

The episode revolves around an alternative reality where, instead of losing his hands, Doctor Strange is motivated to study the mystic arts after the death of his beloved, Dr. Christine Palmer. The show imagines that, stricken by grief, Strange attempts to alter a so-called absolute point in time and save Christine from her fate. However, the power required to alter an absolute point is so great that he is forced to absorb other magical entities and take their power, using a book of magic called the Darkhold. Ultimately, however, although he is able to stop Christine's death, Strange's meddling ultimately causes his universe to collapse in on itself – despite his pleas to the cosmic entity known as The Watcher.

Related: Marvel Just Set Up The MCU's Doctor Doom

Just how evil the evil version of Doctor Strange actually is is still up for debate. However, what's beyond any doubt is that his actions in the episode radically alter both his personality and his appearance. After absorbing a range 0f magical entities, as well as a separate version of himself, Strange seems paler, gaunter, and even vampiric. Even his signature cloak has a more gothic look about it, making the sorcerer seem more physically imposing than ever. As it turns out, there are several reasons for this, both from a practical and narrative perspective.

The first is that, given Strange's actions and refusal to heed the advice of the Ancient One, it makes total sense for there to be a physical consequence. During his numerous battles throughout the episode, he absorbs the essence of multiple magical and demonic entities, including the tentacled elder god known as Shuma-Gorath. As a result, Strange begins to show signs of the different creatures roiling within him – exemplified when, during the episode's climax, he transforms into a nightmarish chimera, constituted of everything he has absorbed. This transformation also serves to highlight the powers that Strange is playing with and is a very stark reminder of why pursuing such unbridled power is a bad idea.

A second consideration is that Strange's transformation works as a story-telling device. His change into a haggard, drained and desperate-looking version of his usual confident and self-assured self functions as the physical manifestation of his own grief. This highlights the trauma that he is experiencing and helps to explain Strange's reckless and dangerous actions. It also served to make him both a terrifying and extremely sympathetic villain. In fact, this complex characterization,  aided by the protagonist's physical change, is arguably the reason why this episode of What If...? ranks among the show's most emotionally effective.

More: Every MCU Easter Egg In What If? Episode 4

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