Disney Plus has allowed Marvel Studios the unprecedented opportunity to create theatrical quality streaming series that expand the tapestry on which they can tell their shared narrative. For Marvel fans, there are now more “stories” being told than ever and that’s proved to be a double-edged sword as events from the D+ series carry over into films, sometimes leaving fans less than sure of exactly what’s happening.
To date, no project has relied more on fans’ understanding of the events of the D+ series that Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. The motivations of the film’s primary antagonist, the Scarlet Witch, were explored in WandaVision and when fans first meet her in the film, they’re supposed to know that she had been studying the Darkhold and the dangers of doing so. The lack of understanding of Wanda’s journey has led some fans to express outrage and disappointment in her arc in the film, but at least there was a clear link between the two projects.
Fans were also clear on the idea that the events of Spider-Man: No Way Home, which featured Doctor Strange in a major role, would connect to the Strange sequel. In it, characters from other universes made their way into the MCU after a spell cast by Doctor Strange went awry. However, by the end of the film, everything seemed all nicely buttoned up and almost everyone and everything went back where it belonged.
Less clear was the link between Multiverse of Madness and another Marvel Studios’ streaming project: Loki. The final episode of the 2021 streaming series saw Loki and Loki Variant, Sylvie, make their way to the Citadel at the End of Time and meet He Who Remains who, as it turned out, was responsible for managing the timeline. As He Who Remains warned them, if he died, the timeline would begin to branch wildly, creating a truly mad multiverse without oversight. Loki director Kate Herron’s wonderful explanation of the creation of the Multiverse, which you can see below, made sense of the seemingly complex set of circumstances and, as the series concluded, the audience saw some of the consequences of Sylive’s decision to kill He Who Remains.
Interestingly enough, it turns out that the old “It’s All Connected” maxim is now more true than ever, according to Marvel Studios One Above All, Kevin Feige. As Feige pointed out at the premiere of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, and producer Richie Palmer further details in a new article at Marvel.com, the death of He Who Remains played a crucial role in No Way Home (it “allowed for the spell to go wrong“)and led to the madness Strange and America Chavez experienced as the traversed a multiverse that wouldn’t have been there if Sylvie had stayed her hand.
If the events of Loki never took place, if Sylvie didn’t do what she did, this movie and the events of Spider-Man: No Way Home wouldn’t have been able to happen. It was the activation of the Multiverse, or maybe the reactivation of the Multiverse at the end of Loki that really led to the possibilities that you see in What If…?, Spider-Man: No Way Home, and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. At that moment, the Multiverse expanded indefinitely forward into the future, back into the past, sideways, left and right, to alternate realities we can’t even comprehend.Richie Palmer
It’s truly fascinating to see a series of events, that take place over several projects, blend so smoothly together, even though it’s becoming increasingly harder to connect all the dots. Thankfully, Palmer summarized it nicely in one, concise statement: “If it wasn’t for Sylvie, we wouldn’t be here right now.“
Loki, What If…? and Multiverse of Madness seem to converge to form the tip of the multiversal iceberg. Over the next several years of projects, fans should expect more of that iceberg to be revealed and with it, as writer Michael Waldron hinted, the growing multiversal threats to become more clear. Fortunately, we can count of Marvel to help keep things cleared up…for now.