What If...? changes how time travel can work in the MCU

Doctor Strange in What If...?
(Image credit: Marvel Studios)

What If…?’s Doctor Strange episode has, predictably, played with time. But it’s gone even further than that – and introduced a concept that could have far-reaching consequences for the rest of the MCU.

In the first act of the episode, a frenzied Doctor Strange continually goes back in time to try and save Christine. No matter what he does, she keeps on dying: car crash, heart attack, and a hold-up at a pizzeria are just some of the ways Rachel McAdams’ surgeon shuffles off this mortal coil.

There’s a reason why Christine can’t be saved. Even with the Sorcerer Supreme’s Time Stone and boundless magic, her death is referred to by the Ancient One as an 'Absolute Point'.

In this universe at least, an Absolute Point is an "unchangeable, unmovable" event that will continue happening, even though the circumstances and context may change. 

According to The Ancient One, Christine’s death is the catalyst that spurs Doctor Strange down the path that would eventually lead to him defeating Dormammu. Without that, the universe would cease to exist – which is why the universe brutally takes Christine away every single time, no matter Strange’s actions. Can Doctor Strange find a way to break the Absolute Point? You'll need to watch the new episode to find that out.

So, if an Absolute Point shows up again in the MCU, there's no changing what happens. That also means everything that has happened in the MCU to this point, as far as we know, is fairly malleable. But the opposite is also true. Absolute Points probably do exist, but this is the first time someone has directly encountered them – with utterly grave consequences.

For more on the MCU's future, check out our comprehensive guide to Marvel Phase 4.

Bradley Russell

I'm the Senior Entertainment Writer here at GamesRadar+, focusing on news, features, and interviews with some of the biggest names in film and TV. On-site, you'll find me marveling at Marvel and providing analysis and room temperature takes on the newest films, Star Wars and, of course, anime. Outside of GR, I love getting lost in a good 100-hour JRPG, Warzone, and kicking back on the (virtual) field with Football Manager. My work has also been featured in OPM, FourFourTwo, and Game Revolution.