Ending Explained is a recurring series where we explore the finales, secrets, and themes of interesting movies and shows, both new and old. This time, we look at the ending of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Yes, prepare for spoilers.
Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) breaking bad is the first surprise dropped in Sam Raimi‘s Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Although, it’s not really a surprise, right? Comic book fans have waited for this moment for some time, and WandaVision watchers shouldn’t be terribly shocked either. Many Avengers have suffered over their lifetime, but Wanda saw more loss than most.
First, she lost her parents after her Sokovian apartment was bombed. Then she lost her brother Pietro to the Stark-raving-mad murder-bot called Ultron. And finally, she was forced into killing her beloved Vision before Thanos ripped the Mind Stone from his noggin, only to have the Mad Titan reverse time and do it himself anyway.
The act was one painful moment too many. WandaVision‘s penultimate episode revealed how Wanda rebuilt Westview in her sitcom image, complete with two kids and a husband conjured from her chaos magic. According to the series villain Agatha Harkness (Kathryn Hahn), such abilities are impossible.
The nosey neighbor spent years studying the Book of the Damned, a.k.a. the Darkhold. Its pages promised that only the mythical Scarlet Witch could achieve creation from nothing. The two battled it out, and Wanda eventually conquered victoriously, snatching the book for her purposes.
The Multiverse of Madness Ending
We learn early in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness that the Darkhold poisons its readers. During her short time with the book, its evil seeped into Wanda, transforming her grief into rage. The latest Marvel movie’s plot kicks off when she sends demons after the multiversal-hopping America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez), pitting her against Doctor Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch).
The film’s climax occurs atop Wundagore Mountain, in a temple devoted to the Scarlet Witch. Unlike the other Stephen from another universe, our Stephen assures Chavez that she can take on Wanda by herself. The women crash into each other but come to a pause after America opens a portal to a reality where Wanda and her kids live happily. Witnessing their terror in her presence, our crazed Wanda backs off. She eventually decides the Darkhold must be destroyed and brings the mountain down upon her head.
Is there a future for Wanda Maximoff?
Is our Wanda dead? Seems likely. How can a person survive devastation on such a scale? Uh, well, she’s still the Scarlet Witch, and Avengers walk away from these catastrophes daily. We won’t believe she’s dead and gone until we see a corpse.
Wanda has perished a few times in the comics, and she always comes back. That’s how these things work. And frankly, it would be a relief to see her come back because we don’t want her story to end with the Darkhold manipulating her pain. As stated at the top, she’s suffered a lot. Her life, and her character, deserve a definition apart from her misery.
Of course, now that we have access to the Multiverse, we have access to multiple Wandas. The Wanda with the happy home life, which shocked our Wanda into revelation, could easily crossover into our prime 616 reality someday. Her interactions with the emotion-wiped, but not data-wiped, Vision seen during WandaVision‘s final episode would be melodramatically scrumptious.
What’s the deal with Doctor Strange’s third eye?
Sam Raimi gotta Sam Raimi. The final shot from Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness recalls the final shot in The Evil Dead. Instead of Ash Williams being overtaken by the Deadites, Stephen Strange succumbs to the Darkhold’s wicked ways. While walking down the street, Stephen crumples in pain. We see a third eye popping from his forehead when he springs back up. He read from the Darkhold, and now its hooks are in him.
The sequence is a startling, almost terrifying moment…until the mid-credits end scene arrives. We see that Stephen Strange is back on the street, none the worse for wear. Whatever poison the Darkhold injected into his body seems properly managed. So much so that when Charlize Theron taps him on the shoulder and asks for help with a Multiversal Incursion, the third eye blinks like a bonus superpower.
Why can Stephen withstand the Darkhold’s grasp while Wanda Maximoff and Agatha Harkness could not? Hard to answer. You could chalk it up to his Kamar-Taj education, but Agatha had even more time to study magic than Stephen ever did. Maybe he simply doesn’t contain the infectious hurt that Wanda and Agatha endured. Maybe it’s just plot manipulation. Whatever the case, as Wanda would say, “it doesn’t seem fair.”
Did you say, Charlize Theron?
I did! While she’s not named in the mid-credits scene, Theron is playing Clea. She’s been around in the comics for quite some time, first appearing in 1964’s Strange Tales #125. Clea is from the Dark Dimension, which we saw in the first Doctor Strange. She’s the daughter of Umar, the sister of Dormammu, that big-headed dude Stephen defeated via his never-ending bargains.
In the comics, Clea and Stephen were romantically linked and even married at one point. Recently after The Death of Doctor Strange event, Clea took on Stephen’s duties and currently stars in the monthly title. So, her arrival in the MCU is a big deal and could signal a major relationship shift in the movies going forward. Sorry, Rachel McAdams. Your Christine is happily ever after with some other dude now.
We are also obviously not done with the Multiverse in the MCU either. The madness is merely beginning. Clea informing Stephen that he caused an Incursion could also be the first step to the franchise reaching its Secret Wars event, which could be the next Avengers: Endgame.
What is Secret Wars?
Incursions are when different realities collide, destroying both. Earlier in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Reed Richards (John Krasinski) told Stephen that their Illuminati group was mostly concerned with this apocalyptic phenomenon. He also stated that Stephen Strange is the person causing these cataclysmic blunders more often than not. Clea retrieving Stephen to fix an Incursion is like asking your child to pick up their bedroom. You made the mess; you clean the mess.
In Jonathan Hickman’s classic Avengers storyline Time Runs Out, Doctor Doom manipulates a series of events where multiple realities fold into each other. What’s left is a singular realm where he rules. The Avengers from all realities coming together to take down Doom occurred in 2015’s Secret Wars maxi-series. It’s an epic brawl in which good and bad come together to save existence, and it seems like the best bet for one-upping Thanos’ Infinity Gauntlet storyline.
Pizza Poppa is free!
The final end-credits scene drops in classic Marvel Studios fashion. The halfway point stinger gave us a tease of what’s to come, and the last stinger gives us a giggle and sends us on our way.
There was no chance we were getting out of a Sam Raimi movie without a Bruce Campbell cameo. Many probably wished the great chinned one received a meaty Marvel role. Instead, we get another classic comedy bit much more in tune with the cameos Campbell provided in the Spider–Man films. He’s Pizza Poppa, the food seller America Chavez tried to pinch some pizza balls from while starving in a reality that was not her own.
When Poppa threatened to slow her and Stephen down, the good doctor put a spell on him. He was forced to punch himself repeatedly; a slapstick gag Campbell mastered in Evil Dead II and Army of Darkness. The final scene reveals Pizza Poppa after the last magical punch is thrown, seemingly hours later. In relief, he screams, “It’s over!” And with that, we’re free to go back to our daily lives. Thanks, Pizza Poppa.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is now playing in theaters.