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The Ending Of Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness Explained

Every film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe adds something new to the ever-expanding world first established with "Iron Man" back in 2008. But even among other MCU installments, "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness" seemed poised to do some very big things.

For one thing, it's the first time we get to see Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) teaming up to solve a distinctly magical problem. For another, it's got the word "multiverse" right there in the title, setting up a journey through parts of the MCU that we've only heard about up to this point, and opening the door for many more explorations to come.

Just as the trailers predicted, "Multiverse of Madness" did indeed deliver plenty of new stuff, and new twists on old stuff, for MCU fans to chew on. Whether we're talking about Stephen Strange's personal journey, Wanda Maximoff's fate, or a few well-placed cameos, there's a lot about this film to talk about, particularly when it comes to the ending. So, let's break it all down.

Spoilers ahead for all of "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness."

Stephen's mental state

Stephen Strange spends much of "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness" in a state of distress. By the end of the film, he seems to have mostly resolved what was troubling him. He manages to hold out long enough for Wanda Maximoff to see the error of her ways, set a lot of things right, and even keep America Chavez safe from harm throughout their adventures together. But he's also, as Wong (Benedict Wong) points out at the end of the film, used an alternate universe Darkhold to Dreamwalk and possessed his own alternate universe corpse.

We know from Stephen's multiverse journey that holding on to the Darkhold even a little too long can corrupt someone's mind. We saw it with Wanda and with the alternate Stephen Strange who admitted to killing his various multiversal selves along his path to madness. Our Stephen seems fine right up until the very last shot, when he collapses in pain on the streets of New York and reveals a third eye in his forehead. By the mid-credits sequence, he seems fine with that third eye, suggesting he's adjusted to his presence. Is Stephen okay, or are witnessing the Master of the Mystic Arts falling from grace, just like versions of him from other universes? It'll be fascinating to see what the next adventure holds for a man who faces so many threats not just to his body, but to his sanity.

America's future

Much of "Multiverse of Madness" deals with pre-existing Marvel Cinematic Universe characters, but it does introduce one major key player: America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez), a young woman with the power to punch open portals to other universes, and can thus navigate the entire multiverse with a swing of her fist. When we first meet America, she's on the run, as the Scarlet Witch works to corner her and steal her power for herself. By the end of the film, with the Scarlet Witch problem seemingly solved, American has settled down in the MCU proper, learning magic at Kamar-Taj under the tutelage of Wong and seemingly embracing the kind of home she's found among the superheroes.

All this primes America for future adventures in the MCU, whether she's fighting alongside Doctor Strange or meeting other heroes along the way. There's still plenty for her to do in a very personal way, including searching for her two mothers after she accidentally knocked them through a portal as a girl, but as a fighter in her own right there's even more potential. In the comics, America is a key member of the superhero team known as the Young Avengers, which also includes characters like Kate Bishop, aka Hawkeye. Since Kate is alive and well in the MCU already, it would be both welcome and understandable to see those two team up sometime soon. Whatever she ends up doing, though, America has a bright future.

Wong's future

In "Spider-Man: No Way Home," we learn that Wong is actually the Sorcerer Supreme, because he was around while Stephen Strange vanished during the Blip, leaving him in charge by default. It seemed like a bit of a throwaway joke, but by the time of "Multiverse of Madness," it's clear that it's far from a gag. Wong takes his work seriously, something we've known since we met him back in the first "Doctor Strange" film, but not just because he's a serious person. He clearly carries the burden of being the Sorcerer Supreme in a dignified, courageous way, and it shows through his actions in the film.

Even when the fight gets more personal, and when Stephen is forced to separate from his friend and colleague, Wong fights on. Though it sometimes feels hopeless, he just keeps marshaling the forces of magic in the MCU to combat the threat of the Scarlet Witch and her Darkhold. By the end of the film, he's proven himself a survivor and he's won a new level of respect from Doctor Strange himself.

Now, it falls to Wong to attempt to rebuild the magical order of things in the MCU. With so many sorcerers taken down during the battle, he's in charge of replenishing the ranks. And based on how well he's handled everything else, it seems all those beginner sorcerers are in very good hands.

Wanda's fate

For much of "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness," we're dealing with a character who looks and sounds like Wanda Maximoff, but isn't exactly Wanda Maximoff. Instead, she's the Scarlet Witch, the long-prophesied magic user first introduced in "WandaVision," who has basically assumed Wanda's entire life and taken on an all-consuming quest to be reunited with her lost children, Billy and Tommy.

The Scarlet Witch means well, of course, but the madness caused by continued use of the Darkhold has corrupted her mind, making grief over the loss of her children into a power-hungry drive to go through anyone and anything to get what she wants. That makes her a terrifying yet sympathetic villain figure who only really stops when she realizes how frightening she's become not to her friends, but to her own children. When an alternate universe version of Billy and Tommy react in terror, she sees how far she's fallen, and takes steps to fix it.

Wanda's solution is to destroy the Darkhold, not just in one form, but in all forms. That means the book disappears in every universe, but the throne atop Mount Wundagore in which she's sitting when she makes her decision also crumbles with her inside. That said, we never see her die. It's entirely possible that Wanda is still out there somewhere, waiting for the moment she can continue her redemptive journey.

Wanda's kids

"WandaVision" is a show about grief, specifically how Wanda Maximoff deals with the loss of her lover, Vision, in the wake of what happens in "Avengers: Infinity War" and "Avengers: Endgame." Wanda's rising chaos magic powers, coupled with the burden of her loss, eventually lead her to take an entire town hostage and create a pocket reality for herself, in which she's the perfect wife and mother, raising twin boys with Vision.

By the end of the series, Wanda's forced to admit she made a mistake, and thus sacrifice her boys. But in studying the Darkhold, she's learned that Billy and Tommy are alive not just in some other realities, but in all of them. She devotes much of "Multiverse of Madness," in her Scarlet Witch persona, to tracking one version of the boys down and basically trying to become their mother. The Scarlet Witch ultimately fails, and Wanda has to make do with simply knowing that the boys are loved by their alternate Earth mothers, but is that really the end of Tommy and Billy's story? In the comics, they both grow into superheroes in their own right, something "WandaVision" hinted at more than once. Does that mean they'll eventually migrate from one Earth over to another? Does Wanda have a chance at having kids for real one day? However they return, it seems very unlikely that Tommy and Billy are simply left to a happily ever after in a world we don't get to see.

Weakened magical forces

Early on in "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness," as the Scarlet Witch prepares to assault Kamar-Taj to capture America Chavez, Wong uses his influence as Sorcerer Supreme to turn the magical sanctuary into "a fortress." He brings in all of his students and arms them with weapons both magical and non-magical, prepares hidden defenses around the building, and even calls in the leaders of the Sanctums in both London and Hong Kong to help with the fight.

Sadly, despite all their magical energy, this army of sorcerers is not enough to hold the Scarlet Witch back. She tears through their defenses, damaging much of Kamar-Taj and slaughtering numerous sorcerers. By the end of the film, it's revealed that quite a few sorcerers survived, and Wong and company are focused on rebuilding, but it's clear that a major blow was dealt to the magical defenses of Earth — a realm known to fall under attack from all manner of supernatural threats.

All that means that a key defensive part of the MCU's core planet has been compromised, and while Wong's working hard to fix that, there are vulnerabilities that the more nefarious figures in the MCU might be able to exploit. So, who will come for the sorcerers, and how long until they realize they have an opportunity?

The Darkhold and the Book of Vishanti

In "WandaVision," MCU viewers were introduced to the concept of the Darkhold, a book of magical spells and secrets that could grant its user untold power, but at the terrible cost of their sanity. By the end of the series, the book was in the hands of Wanda Maximoff, and by "Multiverse of Madness" she was using it to learn Dreamwalking, the forbidden magical practice of invading the lives of others in the multiverse.

But "Multiverse of Madness" also revealed that the Darkhold has an opposite number: The Book of Vishanti, a book of light magic that has the potential to unlock even more magical secrets for its user, including how to navigate the multiverse. By the end of the film, both books are severely compromised. The Book of Vishanti has lost spells, while the Darkhold is apparently destroyed in every universe, leaving its secrets potentially lost forever.

But anyone who's been watching the MCU films and shows for long enough knows that two great MacGuffins can't be kept out of the picture for too long. The Darkhold had a secret copy in at least one universe, while the Book of Vishanti could potentially exist in others. They're in bad shape right now, but we wouldn't be surprised to see both books make future MCU appearances in some form.

The threat of incursion

As the title suggests, "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness" takes us on the deepest guided tour of the MCU multiverse so far, with all the wrinkles and complications that implies. One such complication also introduces an intriguing new threat to the large world of these films: Incursions.

While meeting with the Illuminati on an alternate Earth, Stephen Strange learns that increased tampering with the multiverse can eventually lead two universes essentially colliding with each other, leaving one of them vulnerable to complete obliteration. This has happened at least once before, thanks to that Earth's version of Doctor Strange, and it cost untold trillions of lives. If the multiverse is continually tampered with, incursions can definitely happen again and create an even greater threat to the wider multiverse.

This idea isn't expanded on all that much in the film. There's simply too many other things going on, and a more personal battle for Stephen Strange to fight, but that doesn't mean we should forget about it. As the film's credits scenes remind us, incursions are real threats, and they're something the heroes of the MCU will have to deal with sooner or later.

Multiversal Illuminati

While traveling through the multiverse, Stephen Strange eventually visits an alternate Earth that includes an extremely high-tech version of New York City, where he's taken captive by that universe's Sorcerer Supreme, Karl Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor). Mordo eventually reveals that he's a member of The Illuminati, a secret society of heroes that includes Reed Richard (John Krasinski), Captain Marvel (Lashana Lynch), Captain Carter (Hayley Atwell), Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), and Black Bolt (Anson Mount).

The scene is obviously noteworthy for the sheer number of cameos it packs into the film. By the end of the sequence, that Earth's Illuminati are in shambles, with all but one of them very dead. That means we probably won't hear from this Illuminati again, but it definitely doesn't mean we'll never hear from any Illuminati again.

The 616 universe already had a Captain America, a Captain Marvel, and a Sorcerer Supreme, but this scene heavily implies that our Reed Richards, Charles Xavier, and Black Bolt are still out there somewhere, and they might look more-or-less exactly like their multiversal counterparts. Even if we don't get the Illuminati, though, these heroes are all on their way in some form, and it's exciting to think about just how much this universe could still expand.

Where's the original Mordo?

In "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness," we met an alternate universe version of Karl Mordo, a former ally of Strange who became the Sorcerer Supreme when that universe's Strange was executed for his sins by the Illuminati. Because of what the Strange he knew did, this version of Mordo is very suspicious of the Prime MCU Strange — but after a brief struggle over the fate of the Book of Vishanti, he basically disappears from the film, left to pick up the pieces in his world.

Mordo's brief but significant appearance in this film is, of course, a reminder that the main MCU version of Mordo has basically been absent from the entire narrative since 2016's "Doctor Strange." At the end of that film, the sorcerer who helped trained Strange grows disillusioned with the new Sorcerer Supreme and quits, but it's later revealed that he's roaming around sapping other magic users of their powers in a bid to solve the problem of "too many sorcerers." We haven't heard anything from that version of Mordo since, even when Strange has been in the magical spotlight in various adventures. So, where is he? Is he still holding a grudge? Is he biding his time to strike back? Perhaps a third Doctor Strange adventure will shed some light on his whereabouts.

Making peace with Christine

"Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness" marked the returns of several key characters in Stephen Strange's life, but one of the most interesting was the inclusion of Christine (Rachel McAdams), Stephen's former surgical and romantic partner, who's moved on with her life in the years since he became a Master of the Mystic Arts. As the film begins, Stephen is suiting up to attend her wedding to another man, where she assures Stephen that their romance would never have worked because, in her words, he always "had to be the one holding the knife." 

Their reunion is, of course, interrupted by a giant monster terrorizing New York City. Later in the film, Stephen gets to continue a version of that conversation with an alternate universe version of Christine, who actually gets to work helping him in his quest to stop the Scarlet Witch. Though they don't actually know each other, their experiences create a kind of kindred feeling, which allows Stephen to finally say what he's wanted to say for years: That he truly loves Christine, in any and all universes. It's a moment of peace and honesty in a relationship that was otherwise built on quite a bit of posturing, and it feels like something that allows both of them to move on from their losses. Of course, there's also always the chance that Stephen could one day reunite with this alternate Christine, but that's a story for another day.

Stephen's next adventure

There are plenty of loose ends in "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness," but Stephen Strange's personal journey isn't necessarily one of them. He's solved the issues at hand in the story, made it back home, and even made some kind of peace ... until he's confronted in a mid-credits scene by a mysterious woman in purple robes, played by Charlize Theron. This woman warns him that another incursion is happening, due in part to his adventures, and that she needs his help to stop it. She even dares him by asking if he's afraid, sending Strange headlong into another dimension for yet another adventure.

This woman is Clea, one of the first major supporting characters in Doctor Strange comics lore. Raised in the Dark Dimension under the watchful eye of Dormammu, she eventually becomes the Sorcerer Supreme of the Dark Dimension, and at one point even takes over for Strange as the Sorcerer Supreme of Earth. She's smart, powerful, and capable of warping the world of Doctor Strange forever. We don't yet know exactly where the next adventure will take Stephen Strange just yet, but with Clea at his side, we know it'll be something worth watching.