Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness Changes The Game For The MCU's Disney+ Shows

Contains spoilers for "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness"

After dominating the box office during its opening weekend, "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness" has proven once again that the MCU is a force to be reckoned with. As one of the few franchises to remain a sure bet in the ever-shifting landscape of cinema, competing studios have run themselves ragged for years now attempting to compete with Marvel by starting shared universes of their own to varying degrees of success.

Over the past year-and-a-half, Marvel has pressed that advantage even further, expanding the MCU onto the small screen with a string of television shows on Disney+. While streaming data is often kept under lock and key, it's clear that these shows have been massive hits. "WandaVision" netted Marvel its first Emmy Awards, "Loki" got close to a million viewers on day one with its first episode, and "Moon Knight" was only beat out in popularity by Taika Waititi's sleeper hit of a pirate farce, "Our Flag Means Death."

However, until now, those Disney+ shows haven't affected MCU movies. Neither "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings" nor "Black Widow" required that viewers have seen Marvel's episodic content. Even "Eternals" didn't tie into the televised corner of the MCU. All of that changed with "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness," a movie that assumes audiences will have seen at least one Disney+ MCU show and hopes they'll have watched even more. It's a game-changer for the franchise, and especially for Marvel's Disney+ shows.

Marvel is committed to its Disney+ shows

While the MCU's Disney+ shows have been wildly successful, there hasn't been a film entry in the franchise that made them required viewing — until now. "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness" makes Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) its villain, a move which hardly makes sense unless you've seen "WandaVision." In that show, Wanda imagines two twin boys into existence within her hex on the town of Westview. She spends her time in "Doctor Strange 2" trying to make her way into a universe where they actually exist. If you skipped that show and the last time you saw her was in 2019's "Avengers: Endgame," her character in this latest film will make very little sense.

Additionally, "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness" draws on characters from the animated series "What If...?" When Doctor Strange finds himself confronted by the Illuminati on Earth 838, one of their members is Captain Carter (Hayley Atwell), a version of Agent Peggy Carter who took the Super-Soldier Serum meant for Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) and became the first Avenger instead of him. That character previously appeared in Episode 1 of "What If...?" and, yet again, doesn't make a lot of sense in the context of "Doctor Strange 2" unless you've seen that episode.

All of this confirms what MCU fans have long suspected: Marvel plans on tying its Disney+ shows just as closely with its feature-length films as it has tied those films to each other until now. In other words, for better or worse, access to Disney+ is now a must-have for anyone who wants to understand everything happening in future MCU movies.