There was a lot to process as the credits began rolling on Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, but the surprises didn’t stop there. In typical Marvel fashion, an extra scene placed in the middle of the credits revealed a lot of exciting new information about the future of Doctor Strange and the Marvel Cinematic Universe at large. A new character makes her grand debut on the big screen, something sinister appears to be afoot, and Strange dives forehead first into his next mission. It’s all very exhilarating, but for some, it might not be all that easy to comprehend. There are a handful of exciting puzzle pieces at play, so let’s try putting them together to map out what may lie ahead.
The mid-credits scene follows an ending cliffhanger that involved Benedict Cumberbatch‘s titular hero collapsing to the ground and alarmingly growing a third eye in the middle of his forehead. His screams are cut off by the ending titles, but when the mid-credits spot picks back up, he is once again casually strolling down a New York City sidewalk. All seems fine until a mysterious new figure appears behind him, an apparent mystic arts wielder played by Academy Award winner Charlize Theron. Strange is just as shocked as the audience to see Theron‘s face, but the former Mad Max: Fury Road star doesn’t wait for the bombshell to wear off before informing Stephen that his prior actions have caused an “Incursion” that the two of them must fix. Ready as ever, Strange confidently opens his third eye and jumps with the woman through a portal toward his next adventure.
While the one-time Aeon Flux lead never gives her name, and Strange never asks for it, any longtime comic book fan could probably deduce her identity based on appearance alone. Theron is portraying Clea, whose signature silver hair and purple attire are both present and over-the-top for the duration of the scene. In the comics, the character is perhaps the most important supporting player in Strange’s circle, outside of the loyal Wong. Originally introduced in 1964, only a year after Strange himself, Clea is the niece of the dreaded Dormammu and heiress of the Dark Dimension. Her mother, Umar, was a higher-dimensional being of energy and the sister of Dormammu, who eventually became trapped in human form and produced Clea with a Dark Dimension disciple named Orini. Cold and calculating, Umar would ultimately use her daughter as bait to lure Doctor Strange into a trap, but the hero instead saved Clea and brought her back to Earth to live and train with him.
Over the years, the pair would become great partners. Umar and Dormammu’s defeat leads to Clea taking the throne of the Dark Dimension, a role she frequently loses and regains based on story needs, and with Strange’s help, she effectively grows into one of the multiverse’s most powerful magic users. Clea also remains the most significant and longstanding love interest in Doctor Strange’s history. The two even wed at one point, with the mononymous sorceress sometimes using the full name “Clea Strange.” However, their relationship has always been very on-and-off, with the fiercely independent Clea often going on her own to lead rebellions in the Dark Dimension or fulfill her own duties. Most recently, during the events of Marvel’s Death of Doctor Strange, Clea took on the responsibilities of Sorcerer Supreme following Stephen’s apparent demise, doing battle with powerful enemies like Doctor Doom and interdimensional warlords.
In the MCU, however, it does not appear that Clea will need Strange’s help in becoming a proficient sorceress. Theron‘s take on the character seems to have just as much interdimensional mastery as the good Doctor himself, if not more, implying a lot of her backstory may have already occurred off-screen. Multiverse of Madness does a great job of organically ending Strange’s romance with Rachel McAdams‘ Dr. Christine Palmer, which means the mischievous look he gives Clea before jumping through her portal could be the beginning of a whole new era in Stephen’s MCU love life. It’s not really made clear what the meaning behind Strange’s newest peeper is, but events from the film’s third act would suggest it has something to do with a possible magical corruption caused by fiddling in the Dark Arts. Perhaps getting to know Clea, an expert on Dark Dimension magic, will aid in this development going forward.
What’s also unclear is how Clea is aware of Strange’s involvement in creating an Incursion, or what she’s been up to that would lead to her needing to stop it. As explained by the movie, an Incursion occurs when two universes collide with each other and temporarily co-exist before being erased from existence. The concept was a major part of Marvel’s 2015 Secret Wars event and has now made its way to the MCU. This little mid-credits scene could potentially be the start of a bigger path that leads to an adaptation of that comic, but for now, it simply appears to set up a third Doctor Strange film with plenty of questions to answer. Who knows, maybe fans will even get another Dormammu appearance out of the deal.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is now playing in theaters everywhere.