Almost too appropriately, What If…? takes a bit of an alternate route (oh, you know what I mean), with Doctor Strange visiting what might be the character’s version of his darkest reality! The episode also explores a somewhat Doctor Who-esque rule of the universe wherein a definitive fixed point in time makes all the difference to reality.
While there is much to be gleaned from this episode in regards to the finer points of timelines and the multiverse (no, not all alternate timelines = new universe, apparently), the true eyebrow-raiser of the episode isn’t even our hero.
It’s a familiar tentacled-monster from the depths of a hell dimension, one of many demonic denizens we meet in this episode, but maybe the only one to have already appeared in this series.
Throwing back to the very first episode of What If…?, the Red Skull’s summoning of the “Champion of HYDRA” was a fascinating interpretation of the Nazi offshoot. While HYDRA has long dealt with the supernatural and fringe sciences of reality, this was the MCU’s first explicit confirmation that their dealings went a little further than the global axis.
Very quickly, the possibility of the creature being an ancient being known as Shuma-Gorath was floated by fans. Of course, it is not impossible that Red Skull had just summoned a giant squid, but for true believers, the fourth episode of What If…? may have confirmed that there is more to the beats than just its tentacles.
While it does seem unlikely that the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s next major villain would be introduced so far off the big screen, it isn’t a completely unlikely thought that this may be a sign of things to come. After all, the MCU’s Phase 4 does seem to be encroaching on the idea of the cosmic. Or, perhaps, this Cthulthu-to-be may just be the villain of the upcoming Doctor Strange sequel.