"Doctor Strange: Multiverse of Madness"

Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Elizabeth Olson, Xochil Gomez, Rachel McAdams, Benedict Wong, Chiwetel Ejiofor

Cameos by: Patrick Stewart, Anson Mount, Lashana Lynch, Haley Atwell, John Krasinski, Charlize Theron, but NOT Tom Cruise which made a bunch of idiots weirdly mad


Partial transcript of a conversation between me and Emilio while I was watching "Everything Everywhere All at Once" for the first time:
Diandra: I think I'm losing my sense of reality. Also, I might be a little drunk.
Emilio: ........should have started the day drinking with you.
Diandra: Is it still day drinking if it's 6:30pm? Anyway, anyone who described "Multiverse of Madness" as "unhinged" clearly never saw this movie.
Emilio: Yeah, just from the previews it looks unhinged. I haven't seen it yet.
Diandra: I'm pretty sure this scene was written by Quentin Tarantino while on a REALLY bad trip. [five minutes later] Scratch that, it's Quentin Tarantino describing other people's vivid fever dreams. Everyone has hot dogs for fingers. [ten minutes later] And now they're slinging Pomeranians like nunchucks. [five minutes later] And now everyone is shoving buttplugs in their asses and ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME WITH THIS SHIT?!
Emilio: Have you seen "Sausage Party"? Also, do you need me to bring you more liquor?
Diandra: [increasingly hysterical] Everyone is getting sucked into a bagel.
Emilio: Are you sure you're not watching "Sausage Party"?
Diandra: And now we're doing "Ratatouille", but with raccoons instead of rats. And martial arts. And her third eye is just a googly eye stuck on her forehead.
Emilio: [gif of Sam Jackson from "Pulp Fiction" with googly eyes that is SO PERFECT and the ridiculousness of it all made me stick my head between my knees and laugh hysterically until I dry heaved]
Diandra: "That bagel is where you finally find peace, Evelyn."
Emilio: [gif of lady looking confused]
Diandra: Okay, I'm done. My god, that was like if someone took all the multiverse ideas Kevin Feige rejected for the MCU for being too stupid and jammed them all into the same movie and NOBODY questioned it.
Emilio: So what we are saying is it's my kind of movie?
Diandra: Do you like barely coherent philosophizing interspersed with fight scenes written by people who were clearly so high they were in serious danger of frying their brains?
Emilio: Is it bad if I say yes?
Diandra: Then probably, sure. [Five minutes later in a group text to include Chrissy] Okay, I'm looking forward to the "MoM" recap now because that should be a pleasant return to sanity.

Present
Chrissy: I did try to warn you.
Diandra: Which is why I drank despite believing I needed to be clear headed to understand what was going on. Chrissy: Oh, who told you that? No, that movie is obviously best watched while under the influence of SOMETHING. THIS ONE probably requires sobriety.
Diandra: Is that why you told Emilio to bring a six pack even though I SAID I have a fridge full of beer already?
Chrissy: I said probably. For most people. But considering I'm not sure even the writer knows how the multiverse works, I doubt it would make it any more confusing.
Diandra: Yeah, I seem to remember responding to a fandom debate over the rules of the multiverse and time travel and why "Loki" and "MoM" might be inconsistent in approach despite having the same writer with "everything makes sense when you realize Michael Waldron probably doesn't know what the fuck he's talking about." (Also, in hindsight, Tom Hiddleston and Kate Heron should probably be commended for keeping him in check in a way that Sam Raimi CLEARLY DOES NOT.)

Okay. Let's take a page from the movie itself and just launch drunkenly into this, shall we? Cool.

We open with a dizzying shot panning across what looks like chunks of debris floating through clouds accompanied by some sort of shrieking. We finally reach something resembling a road, which a version of Stephen and newcomer America Chavez are running along. As some sort of introduction, we focus on the giant star on the back of her denim jacket and his ponytail as he turns to look at the shrieking thing chasing them, which looks like some sort of light demon. He does some sort of jumping turn without stopping and throws...some sort of spell at it that turns it into an ice sculpture. America asks if that killed it. He says no and points to a glowing book on a pedestal in the distance that he says WILL kill it. And the first time I saw this I thought I accidentally turned on the wrong language track because they're both speaking Spanish. They switch immediately to English as she exposits that that is the Book of Vishanti and I realize that was never mentioned in the first movie.
Chrissy: You only know about it because of the game.
Diandra: Yeah, and since I got that around the same time the first movie came out, I can't remember how much of anything they referenced then.

The demon creature breaks out of its ice prison loudly behind them and...I'm just going to start calling him Defender Strange because that's clearly who he is...exposits that they can't let the thing take her powers.
Chrissy: Playing Exposition Fairy now, huh?
Diandra: Yeah, well, if we're going to try to cram a bunch of worldbuilding AND new characters into a two hour runtime, we need to shoehorn stuff in everywhere no matter how awkward and obvious it gets.
They jump across the void as the runway they're on ends onto a floating column that they slide down screaming and fling onto another floating chunk that is flat, both landing in the three point superhero pose, which I'm pretty sure he never did before, but WHATEVER WE ALL DO IT NOW. The demon erupts between them and the book a few yards away now and stabs Defender Stephen in the thigh with a tentacle spear.

He remains standing somehow despite the GAPING HOLE in his leg and uses magic to throw chunks of whatever is floating all over the place at the creature. And apparently if the hair and costume weren't enough to make a distinction between variants, we can use the color of his magic because the rune things surrounding his wrists are blue, which is not a color our Stephen has ever used. He flails wildly in a way that definitely looked hilarious on set until the creature is completely encased in crap and wraps the whole thing in what looks like the spells the last movie claimed guarded the Earth from interdimensional threats. He remembers the wound that would probably be gushing blood if Sam Raimi wasn't required to have the weird, bloodless violence of PG-13 movies here and makes a bunch of grunting and groaning noises while he strains to keep the creature trapped with one hand. It starts breaking through and he moans that it's too strong. And then the gaping wound starts, like, sizzling and sending black tendrils up his leg and he screams.

Tentacles come out of the magic ball and dive toward the book. Stephen becomes visibly resigned and turns to America, apologizing for what he's about to do and throwing a spell at her with his free hand. It looks kind of like the spell Agatha used on Wanda to siphon her powers in WandaVision. "What are you doing," she yelps. He says it's the only thing he CAN do anymore because they can't let that thing get her powers and "you can't control it, but I can." She yelps that he's KILLING her. He recites a variation of a line he used in "No Way Home" about her sacrifice meaning more in "the grand calculus of the universe" than her continued life. But before he can get to the end of the sentence, a tentacle spears through his back and lifts him off the ground. She scrambles to the chunk of concrete with the book pedestal and runs for it. The creature drops Defender Stephen's dying body and grabs all four of her limbs, holding her spread eagled off the ground and roaring in her face. She shrieks, her eyes light up and a star shaped portal appears behind her. Defender Stephen manages to throw some magic disc things to cut the tentacles and gets sucked through the portal along with her.

...and then Stephen sits bolt upright in bed, yelling and can we talk about the fact that he sleeps with an open laptop, like, right on the mattress with him? Who the fuck does that?
Chrissy: That's what you're looking at right now? Seriously?
Diandra: What?
Emilio: Didn't you say in the last recap that this is normal?
Diandra: What is normal?
Chrissy: Yeah, now I remember. But to answer your question, Dee...single people. And if you think about it, I'm sure you can guess why.
Emilio: People in relationships can't do that too?
Diandra: ......................ugh. Okay, moving on.
He looks at the broken watch he still has sitting on his nightstand and gets up.

And we just flash to him almost fully dressed and standing in front of a wardrobe with a full length mirror on the front of it so he can do his tie. Which he uses magic to do because fuck it.
Chrissy: Yeah, I'm usually the one in charge of tying things.
Diandra: .............I'm not even going to dignify that with a response.
Emilio: Except he's not usually dressed, right?
Diandra: DON'T HELP HER.

Stephen arrives at a church for what is obviously a wedding in his full designer suit and finds a spot in a pew. The Asian guy next to him scoots away and before we can wonder if he finds Stephen that repulsive or something, Nick West sits in the vacated spot. If you don't remember who that is...just...read the recap of the first movie. That's what it's there for. They greet each other formally and Nick notes that he hasn't seen Stephen around for a while. Stephen snarks that he was kind of busy being a pile of dust on a distant planet for the last five years. I'm...not really paraphrasing much there. Nick says yeah, me too and Stephen's smile drops right off. Nick adds not that Stephen cares, but while HE was blipped, both of his cats died. Stephen makes a 'is this guy fucking kidding' face.
Chrissy: Don't mind him. He's very triggered at the mere mention of cats these days.
Diandra: Oh, good, we're referencing a different movie of Benedict's this time.
Chrissy: More like the interviews related to it.

Nick belatedly adds that he lost his brother too.
Emilio: But yeah, I mostly miss the cats.
Stephen offers condolences and probably hopes that's the end of this. But Nick continues that he lies awake at night wondering if all of that really had to happen. Was that REALLY the only way they could defeat Thanos? And I'm just going to point to something the Ancient One said in the last movie that has produced the most sensible argument I've seen against that ONE outcome being the ONLY one. As she was dying, she told Stephen that she couldn't see beyond that moment in time, so she always knew when she would die. So it's entirely reasonable to think that there may have been other futures where the Avengers defeated Thanos, but Stephen wouldn't have known about them because he died before the battle was over in them.
Chrissy: Also, he probably just gave up after he found that one if it took more than fourteen million possibilities to find it.
Diandra: Also that, yeah.

Stephen looks him in the eye and insists it was the ONLY one, yes. Nick mutters something about the best surgeon AND superhero, but hey, he didn't get the girl, did he? The Bridal March plays and Stephen belatedly joins everyone in standing to face Christine as she comes down the aisle.
And I suppose now is as good a time as any to elaborate on my comments in the last recap of this series. Back when the first movie came out and my understanding of these characters was more rudimentary I was confused by the whole Christine Palmer as the love interest of Doctor Strange subplot. Because as few comics as I'd read, I knew about Clea Strange. As far as I could tell, they have one of the most stable relationships in the Marvelverse. At the time, I assumed the whole alien wife thing was just TOO weird for the MCU and Christine was an original character invented as an alternative. Because we just HAD to have a romantic subplot. It turns out she IS a character in the comics, but as far as I can tell she never had any interaction with Doctor Strange at all, so it's more like the whole Ned/Harry Osborn/MJ thing and they're scrambling elements of the comics to incorporate them into the MCU.
Chrissy: Which brings us to your other complaint about Universe 616.
Diandra: Let's put a pin in that for now. If we go into all the problems this movie raises right now we'll never get through this recap.

At the reception, Christine is dancing with a black guy we've never seen before who is obviously the groom. Stephen watches bitterly from the bar while chain drinking martinis. She takes a break to come order a glass of red wine and Stephen offers to get it for her. He magics the wine glass full of either white wine or water sitting on the bar into red wine.
Chrissy: What, are you Jesus now?
Diandra: Pretty sure that's Tony, actually, and yes, I might still be cranky about that.

She says she has to introduce him to "Charlie" because he's kind of...uh...a fan. Because we are now in a world where the Avengers are growing celebrities that will hopefully not turn into "The Boys". He gives a sort of pained smile and stops her before she can run to get her husband so he can stutter through an apology that he wishes he had "been different".
Chrissy: Yeah, I wish you'd been a different person too. Specifically Idris Elba.
Diandra: Wow. I meant I should have been less of a flaming asshole, but okay.
Chrissy: That too.
Diandra: Didn't we talk about whether actors can exist in a universe where they already play a character?
Emilio: At this rate, EVERYBODY is going to be a character in the MCU eventually.
Diandra: True.

Even though they were kind of already not a thing when he did the whole magical hero journey, we're still claiming they would be together if Stephen hadn't "made sacrifices to protect you". And, you know, dusted for five years on Titan. She sighs that they were never going to work out anyway because "you have to be the one holding the knife."
Chrissy: [snort] If that's a euphemism for -
Diandra: [makes loud noises to cover Chrissy and try to stop her from continuing]
Chrissy: ...then yes, you are absolutely right. The good news is that Wong is very good with knives.
Diandra: [bangs head on desk]
Emilio: Doesn't Loki have a thing for knives too?
Diandra: Would you STOP?

She says she respects that about him, but she couldn't love him for it.
Chrissy: This is definitely a euphemism.
Diandra: We're MOVING ON FROM THIS NOW.
Emilio: Maybe YOU are.
He asks how long she was preparing that little speech.
Chrissy: Probably since you called me Daddy.
Diandra: [splutters]
Emilio: Wow. There's a whole headcanon behind that, isn't there?
Chrissy: Based on a Valentine's Day themed fic she sent me the link to, yeah.
Diandra: How is that...he never called her...ugh, never mind.

He says whatever, he's just glad she's happy.
Chrissy: Are you? Really?
She asks if he's happy too and he lies that he is.
Chrissy: Which is why the laptop with pictures of her open on it was still on the bed this morning.
Diandra: Is that what you meant? I thought you were talking about porn.
Emilio: I was.
Chrissy: There are different kinds of porn, which as a smut peddler you should KNOW Diandra.
Diandra: You are giving this headcanon of what he was doing with the laptop last night too much thought.
Chrissy: You're the one who brought it up.
Emilio: While ignoring his shirtless state entirely.
Diandra: Oh, is that what you thought I should be looking at?
Chrissy: No, I don't know why she's like this either, Emilio. You just get used to it.

She walks away while he watches moonily. But before he can actually talk to the new husband/big fan, there are a bunch of screeching and crashing noises outside. People start pouring out onto a balcony to gawp at the chaos down on the street and take videos of the people running around screaming. Stephen finishes his latest martini, puts it on the nearest waiter's tray (taking a second to thank him like I guess being nicer to the help indicates SOME character growth at least), rips his cloak out of nowhere and flings himself off the balcony.
Chrissy: [sigh] Such a fucking drama queen.
Diandra: Oh, blow me.
The rest of his clothes change themselves halfway down and he flies toward whatever it is, opening a portal along the way so some sort of giant fish creature eats a runaway car before it can kill a woman walking a stroller.
Chrissy: Well, that's new. Friend of yours?
Diandra: More like a friend of one of the things in the fridge. Although probably not because I'm sure the writers have forgotten about that already.
He arrives at an intersection where America darts into an empty bus, which something invisible lifts into the air and starts to crush. He cocks his head and does a spell to make it visible and everyone REALLY starts screaming as the one-eyed tentacle monster bear hugging the bus comes into view.

Stephen waves his hands and the bus fractures into a bunch of pieces. The tentacle monster blinks at it in confusion and then reaches for America, who is dangling from one of the poles. Stephen magic slices the tentacle off and flings the cape toward the bus so it catches America before she splatters on the ground. Once she's free, he crushes the bus and brings it down on the creature's head. This does fuck all. It winds up and throws the compacted bus at him. America ducks behind him and he uses one of those magic blade things to slice the bus in half before it can hit them, apparently entirely unconcerned with what sort of damage the two halves do to anything or anyone else who might be on the street as they go sailing past.
Chrissy: What was it you said about a sliding scale of acceptance for superhero damage?
Diandra: Yeah, I don't even pretend to understand that anymore.

Stephen takes a moment to ask America if he knows her from somewhere. The tentacle creature takes advantage of the distraction by slapping him through the nearest store window. It makes sure he's unconscious before turning back to where America was a couple seconds ago, but while its head was turned she darted underneath it. This works for about two seconds before it rotates its body upside down and snarls at her. She screams and runs and it gives chase, slowed down by the fact that it is still upside down for a few steps before it flips over again.

It catches her in a tentacle and a second later a sorcerer light whip catches her and rips her away from it, depositing her behind Wong to heroic fanfare.
Diandra: Now who's the drama queen?
Chrissy: Yeah, whatever. Hold my beer.
Wong runs at the creature and does a couple gymnastic rolls and flips over tentacles as it swats at him.
Diandra: Show off.
Chrissy: You're just jealous.
Diandra: Oh, I think we're all very aware of my jealousy issues when it comes to you.
He produces a dagger from nowhere and slings it toward the creature's eye. It catches it in a sucker instead and the next light whip Wong throws after a barrel roll it also catches, yanking him closer so it can grab him with a tentacle.

Meanwhile, the cloak is trying to slap Stephen awake. After a couple tries, it realizes this isn't working and flies out to rescue the fleeing America itself, flying her out of reach of the flailing tentacles. The creature grabs a motorcycle right from under a passing biker and throws it at the cloak, which drops her on a nearby ledge and falls onto a balcony on the opposite building, trapped under the bike.

Stephen finally wakes up and runs back out to the street, jumping on the hood of a taxi in pose that looked way more commanding in the preview without the context of the rest of this scene. He conjures his own dagger and throws it at the tentacle holding Wong. Wong casually lands on his feet and adjusts his clothing pointedly. "You're welcome," Stephen snots. Wong fires back that it's custom to bow before the sorcerer supreme. Stephen is like 'I know that, but we can talk about these kinks of yours later.'
Chrissy: Kind of hard to do that when your mouth is occupied.
Diandra: .................
Emilio: Yep, this is what I'm here for. It's like "Sherlock" all over again.

They both throw light chains at the tentacle creature and try to pull it down and it just starts climbing the building America is on and drags them along screaming. The monster starts destroying the ledge she's on and Stephen lets go of the chain with one hand so he can throw some sort of green smoke spell that doesn't seem to do much of anything.

Christine finally comes out onto the balcony with her new husband and groans at the sight of this bullshit, which is apparently happening on the building just across the street. The husband declares it "incredible." Christine is like 'yeah, sure. That's a word.'
Chrissy: I knew I shouldn't have invited him to the wedding.

The tentacle monster gets tired of the annoying barnacles and turns, slicing both chains and catching Stephen in a tentacle. Wong forms a portal as he plummets to the ground so that he ends up skidding sideways along the street into a flipped car.
Chrissy: Why am I not surprised that the tentacle monster would spare you from turning into road kill?
Diandra: I already know where you're going with this, don't I?
Emilio: It's because he's prettier and it wants to have some fun first.
Diandra: WHAT DID I SAY ABOUT HELPING HER?

America kicks a star shaped chunk of ledge at the monster to distract it. The cloak gets free of the motorcycle it was trapped under and flies over its eye. Stephen gets his hands free and...throws some giant phantom hands at a light post, ripping it out of the sidewalk and stabbing it right into the creature's eyeball as the cloak moves aside. This not being gross enough, he then rips the post back out, along with the eyeball with a loud pop. The cloak catches him as the tentacle monster tumbles down and splatters upside down on the street.

Stephen flies up to America and forms a portal so they can step back onto the street next to Wong. Wong asks who the hell this is now. Stephen has no idea. She starts to run and Stephen catches her arm and asks why that thing was chasing her. Wong wonders aloud where her parents are and Stephen starts to form a portal back to the Sanctum. Except he can't because he realizes she took his sling ring. Or, as he calls it while he watches her run away down the street: his "slingie".

She ducks around the corner of a building and runs right into them again because Wong still has his ring, which he holds up pointedly. Stephen holds his hand out and reminds her that he just risked his neck saving her, so why is she acting like he's going to kill her? She gives him back the ring and he says great, now she can explain why he had a dream about her last night. She says it wasn't a dream, he was seeing another universe.

So they go to a restaurant or cafe or something to talk. She starts by asking how much they know about the multiverse, which you will recall his answer in "No Way Home" being "frighteningly little" because this movie was supposed to be our introduction to it and LOOK, WE'RE TRYING OKAY. Stephen cites the "incident" with Spider-Man. America is like 'hold up, what kind of name is that?' Is he a mutant? Does he look like a spider?
Chrissy: Nobody knows what he looks like.
Diandra: Which is weird because some of us spent a lot of time with him and this universe doesn't really do secret identities, but if we pick that thread the entire plot of the last movie will unravel.
Wong says he just has spider powers like he climbs walls and shoots webs. America is alarmed at the thought of where those webs might be coming from and why everyone would be cool with a kid farting out high tensile silly string. Stephen realizes he doesn't know where the webs come from, but they should really move on and stop indulging the director making fun of himself here.

America takes a huge bite of pizza and Stephen notes that she's going to give herself a stomachache eating like that.
Emilio: Thanks, DAD.
Diandra: I was wondering how long it would take for you to realize she's basically a replacement for Peter and start roleplaying her too.
Emilio: So you don't object to being called dad this time?
Diandra: Oh, I do. I just don't see how it's avoidable.
She asks how he would know if their digestive systems work the same way being that she's not from this universe. He's still not sold on the fact that she IS from another universe, which is what she's supposed to be convincing them of right now. She switches to Spanish to snark that of the two versions of him she has met, he isn't her favorite.
Emilio: And that's saying something because the other one tried to kill me.

Wong snorts at that, but Stephen just stares blankly because I guess he somehow avoided learning Spanish in school.
Chrissy: Oh, like you remember anything past donde esta la bibliothequa?
Diandra: Well, no, but that's because I took two languages and neither of them was Spanish.
America turns to Wong and asks in bafflement if he doesn't speak Spanish. Wong replies in Spanish that he's not sure he particularly enjoys speaking English sometimes.
Chrissy: He pronounces his vowels weirdly sometimes. Like he's trying to cover an accent or something.
Diandra: Hahaha. Ha.

Stephen is starting to get annoyed that they're making fun of him and says he "left a very nice wedding to save a smart ass kid from getting eaten by an octopus" and he would like to have some answers now. Only he doesn't get a chance to finish that thought because Wong interrupts to ask whose wedding he was at.
Chrissy: And why wasn't I invited? I assume there was a plus one option?
No, actually he's just surprised Stephen actually went to that. America, confused, asks if he married Christine. At the same time, a lady already holding her phone up interrupts to ask if he would mind if she took a picture. He responds to all three questions at once in reverse order: "yes, I do, no, I didn't, yes" and then snaps at America to get to the part where she explains what the hell is going on already.
Chrissy: Forgive him. He obviously woke up on the wrong side of the laptop this morning AND went to his former girlfriend's wedding like I thought we had agreed he shouldn't because he's a masochist.

And yes, sidenote: Wong is staring at Stephen with a concerned expression like he's trying to gauge the emotional state he must be in right now.
Chrissy: Actually I'm realizing that this explains why I can smell alcohol on your breath and wondering how you aren't even the least bit tipsy when I'm pretty sure a breathalizer would say you're over the legal limit.
Diandra: So we're running with the "Doctor Strange is a functioning alcoholic" headcannon now?
Chrissy: The variant from "What If" is. This one's just...got a really high tolerance, apparently if he can suck down at LEAST three martinis in a row and still be totally sober.

America says the octopus wasn't trying to eat her, it was trying to kidnap her. Because it's "like a henchman who works for a demon."
Chrissy: Thank you, that makes SO much more sense.
And then we possibly skip a line that sets up her conclusion that all "we" (meaning apparently the other Stephen, but she's not making that clear) knew is that these creatures are trying to take her power. Stephen asks what power that is. She says multiversal travel. Duh. Problem is she doesn't really know how she is able to do it because she hasn't learned how to control it. It seems to happen when she's afraid. Stephen is somehow able to follow the thread about her teaming up with his variant despite nobody saying it here and asks if HE knew how to defeat the demon.
Emilio: Obviously not because he tried to kill me to stop it.

She starts expositing about the magic book of good that gives sorcerers whatever they need to defeat their enemies. Stephen recognizes this as describing the Book of Vishanti, but he thinks it's mythical. Wong is like 'uh...that's because that's one of those things you learn when you become Sorcerer Supreme.' America is surprised to find out that Stephen ISN'T the supreme because the other version of him was. Stephen is like 'if we could all stop rubbing salt in the wound, that would be great. Also, fuck you.'
Chrissy: You'll have to forgive his obvious feelings of inadequacy.
Diandra: You know, someone posited the theory that Stephen is suffering from something called "Post Blip Depression", which I absolutely believe would be a real diagnosis in this universe. And it's probably more of a thing for people who didn't have a choice in getting snapped out of existence for five years and returning to all the things that have changed.
Chrissy: Yeah, Tony's insistence that they not just undo the past five years created an even bigger fallout than was strictly necessary.
Diandra: Anyway, STEPHEN more than literally everyone else knew full well what would happen though. So maybe throw some guilt in there as well as denial if he thought he would be with Christine instead of that guy she married because THAT would probably have turned out the same regardless.
Emilio: You can know it would never have worked out and still grieve for the loss of the potential relationship.
Diandra: Yeah, that's the word: grief. All the ones who were blipped are probably going through some sort of grieving process for whoever or whatever they lost in those five years.
Chrissy: I just realized we're indulging the psych major over here. Why are we doing that?
Diandra: Sorry, this was used as a reasoning for why his behavior might be off for the past couple movies. You know, for anyone determined to deny that the fact that these storylines and characters were affected by the movies being pulled out of order, rewritten several times and postponed because of a pandemic.
Chrissy: So it's a fanwank.
Diandra: Basically. But there's SOME logic to it, unlike the "he's really Mephisto" thing.

Anyway, Wong says the book exists, but it's supposed to be "unreachable". America says yeah, but they found it. And then the demon caught up to them and...Stephen perks up and says this is the part he saw in that dream. She repeats that it WASN'T a dream and she can prove it.

Cut to Wong pulling a blanket back from Defender Strange's dead body that she just left on the roof of the building they ended up on in this universe apparently. This is enough to make Stephen conclude that dreams are really windows into other universes. America says yep, that was her Stephen's working theory. Wong voices what amounts to the main argument against that theory, at least in the real world: "so that recurring nightmare where I'm running naked from a clown..." Stephen looks at him like 'really, dude?'
Emilio: Hey, I've had a similar nightmare.
Diandra: Of course you have. Because the human brain is too complex for this simple of an explanation. So while SOME dreams could be flashes from alternate realities or memories of past lives, sometimes it's just your brain trying to work through fragments of shit. I'm pretty sure there is no universe where Matthew Fox was a serial killer and I was working with the FBI to catch him.
Chrissy: Or a universe where Benedict Cumberbatch is married to a black man and somehow has biological children with him because it's an Omegaverse?
Diandra: I knew I would regret telling you that one.
Emilio: Is that the same universe where Chris Hemsworth is your brother or the one where Tom Hiddleston was making out with Kenneth Branagh?
Diandra: Yes, thank you both for establishing so quickly just what kind of weirdo fan I am. And that last one was a movie I was watching IN my dream.
Chrissy: I just love that you dream about watching movies.

Diandra: Anyway. This is probably a good time to point out that I remember Emilio positing this glimpse-into-an-alternate-universe dream theory back when we were teenagers.
Emilio: That's because I read it in the comics. And because it's a theory of reincarnation like you said earlier. And because I've always had dreams that felt like I had been dropped into a different reality and time moved like it does in the real world and not like it can in dreams.
Diandra: Yeah, one of my best remembered dreams ticks those last two boxes, I think. I was in the middle of what looked like an ancient civilization and the scientists were saying the world was ending and I was running to the next town over when I died in what I would only later realize was an accurate depiction of an asteroid strike. But we've all had dreams that were definitely not anything more than your brain obsessing over real fears or things that might happen.
Chrissy: Although I did have that one dream where I was referring to a one time boyfriend as my ex husband, so...
Diandra: Yeah, my POINT is...if I can remember that far back...that while this might explain SOME dreams in this universe, it can only explain ALL dreams in the Marvelverse where apparently people don't have dreams with other obvious psychological explanations. And also where they can dream about people they have never seen before, which is not a thing in this universe. You cannot invent faces in your dreams. You can only use ones you have seen SOMEWHERE. Which is probably why I am just as likely to cast celebrities as people I personally know in my dreams.

Anyway. To make a long story short (way too late): it's possible that Marvelverse is a Scientologists wet dream where psychology is wrong. Because America confirms that Wong's dream is real SOMEWHERE in the multiverse, which implies that every dream anyone mentioned anywhere in these movies is now canon SOMEWHERE. Stephen is fixated on the fact that this dead variant of his has a ponytail like that's weirder.
Chrissy: Well, it does look pretty stupid. Though I can see where it might be useful. At least to the me in that universe.
Wong realizes that there could be other things coming after America.
Emilio: Not going to address what Chrissy just said, huh?
Diandra: No. She'll never learn if we keep encouraging her.
Stephen realizes that her power could be REALLY dangerous in the hands of a "real threat". America recognizes this as being close to the line of thinking that led the dead variant to try to kill her and starts backing away from him. Wong tries to placate her by kindly asking her what her name is because he just realized she hasn't told them yet. She answers and he asks if she could come to Kamar Taj with them for her own protection. She doesn't trust THIS version of Stephen to not betray her like hers did, but he shrugs that she'll just have to take a leap of faith on that.

Wong asks what they should do about this decomposing body. Stephen magically digs an entire grave sized hole under some rocks a few feet away like what is this doing on top of a multistory building? He sweeps the blanket back over Defender Strange's body and magics him into the grave while Wong grumbles about violating some sort of ordinance. Stephen says he's "buried worse" and I am alarmed by all these things we're randomly dropping into Stephen's history lately and the implications thereof. Wong asks if the creature that killed that Strange had the same markings as the "octopus" they were just fighting. Stephen nods and says they had runes and they both realize that means this isn't sorcery, it's witchcraft. Which is technically a minor distinction, but I realized I've been using terminology interchangeably for a while now because what the hell are those symbols the sorcerers are using called then? Wong asks if Stephen knows anyone who has experience with this, which somehow triggers a thought accompanied by music from "WandaVision" even though they don't really know each other in this universe yet.
Chrissy: Can probably retcon that they met at Tony's funeral.
Diandra: Yeah, what a convenient thing we can go back to as many times as needed.

We do a sitcom like swipe to Wanda in a kitchen kind of like any of the versions we saw on the show, fending off Billy and Tommy trying to "taste test" whatever she's baking. And for the people who didn't bother watching the Disney+ shows because they thought they wouldn't be important...told you so. Although for the people who DID...this might get annoying really quickly. We switch right to bedtime in a room that definitely looks the same. She goes to tuck Tommy in and he protests that they're too old for that.
Chrissy: Oh, sorry, it's just that it feels like it was only days ago that I was changing your diapers and...wait a minute. It was.
Diandra: Are you going to be Wanda then?
Chrissy: [smiles a sweetly deranged smile]
Emilio: Oh, this'll be fun.

Billy offers to let her continue tucking him in. She sits with him and gives him a variation of the speech she gave before the Hex dissolved about how they are family and can "never truly leave each other." She smiles and kisses them and...wakes up alone in her bedroom.

So sometime later, she's trimming trees in an orchard, which is where Stephen finds her. She hands him a branch and he sniffs it and says it smells "real", which might be foreshadowing. She claims it is because she's given up the magic stuff. But she figured he'd show up eventually...
Chrissy: I kind of expected it would be somewhere around the tribute to "Modern Family", but then I heard you were stuck in New Zealand. And then you were busy with that whole Spider-Man thing, although nobody can remember why. We can't remember a lot of things, actually, for SOME reason.
Diandra: Been working on that one for a while?
Chrissy: Maybe.

As I was saying, she knew he would show up to talk about the whole Westview thing and the people she hurt and...he says yeah, but she "put things right in the end" so. Now that we've given the barest of Cliff's Notes for the people who didn't see the show...he says he's actually here because he needs her help. Starting with providing as much of an exposition dump about the multiverse as she can. Apparently most of her knowledge comes from theories Vision had. She takes the branch back from Stephen and dumps it and a few more in a crate while they walk. He says they found a girl who can travel across universes and is being chased by a "demon" of some kind that's trying to steal her power.
Fanboys: Is it Mephisto? Come on, you HAVE to bring him in eventually for reasons I will carefully articulate in the following well thought out argume-...nah, fuck it. IS IT MEPHISTO?!?!

He says the girl is already safe because they hid her in Kamar Taj, but they could "use an Avenger" to compliment whatever defense team they already have around her. She notes that there are other Avengers still living. Stephen says yeah, "the archer with the mohawk and several bug-themed crime fighters." Thanks, he'd rather take the most powerful magic wielder on the planet. She thinks about it for a second and suggests he bring America to this place instead. She rambles for a few more steps about how they have a lot in common since she was also targeted for her abilities until Stephen registers the mistake she just made and stops walking. "And I can protect her," Wanda finishes before also realizing "you never told me her name, did you?" Stephen is like uh...no.
Chrissy: But you told me where she is before you knew if you could trust me or not, so that was brilliant.

Wanda says yeah, she was never very good at lying. Projecting massive, city-sized illusions though? That, she is VERY good at. She waves a hand and the whole orchard turns into some sort of horror landscape out of a Tim Burton movie with a red sky and dead, twisted trees. And her clothes turn into a variation on the Scarlet Witch costume. The Darkhold, which we saw her with in the last end credit scene that was probably supposed to be more like the scenes she's had in this movie so far, is hovering in front of her. Stephen identifies it, repeating (at least it's repeating for the people who saw Agatha do this already) that it is the Book of the Damned and adding that it has a tendency to corrupt "anything and anyone it touches." She says funny, because all it did was show her how she could reclaim everything she lost.
Chrissy: I mean, just because it requires a few human sacrifices doesn't make it automatically WRONG.
Diandra: And now I see why you wanted to play Wanda.

He asks what this has to do with America and the multiverse like 'please connect the dots for the audience as concisely as possible so we don't have to make this movie longer than it needs to be.' Apparently she has decided she no longer wants to be in this reality. And I guess while she got closure for VISION at the end of the show, she formed an attachment to the kids she magiced into existence in the process and wants to find a universe where she can be with them. And here's where this is DEFINITELY from the House of M comics: he reminds her that those kids were never real. Wanda doesn't see a difference between what she did and creating them biologically.
Chrissy: Did I mention their father was a robot? Yeah. I might be a virgin.
Diandra: I know we're screwing around here, but this is where some fans had two very logical alternatives that would have saved a whole lot of headache. One was an edit of the dialogue where Stephen suggests Wanda should help America learn how to control her powers in exchange for travel to whatever reality she wants as a peaceful resolution. This obviously not being as fun. The other is a fanfic where Stephen points out that she didn't actually need Vision to make the kids in the first place, so she COULD just make them in the more...organic fashion.
Chrissy: In other words, because he is an interdimensional communal bicycle, he volunteered to impregnate her.
Diandra: Er...yeah.
Chrissy: You fanfic writers are nothing if not predictable.

Wanda picks at the scab we just identified a couple scenes ago: asking if he wouldn't jump at the chance to go to a universe where he was happy. He repeats that he IS happy, damnit. She's like 'oh, sweetie...you might be able to make everybody else believe that lie, but we both know you're just hoping if you say it enough it will become true.' He snaps that she is violating natural law and the kid won't survive her trying to siphon her power. Wanda says she doesn't want to hurt anybody but takes issue with him calling America a child because she is a "supernatural being" who could totally wreak havoc on the world and probably any other she can travel to. So in a way...sacrificing her could serve a greater good. She looks like she's convincing herself of her own righteousness. Stephen snaps that that is the sort of logic their enemies use. She's like oh, you mean like that purple giant you HANDED AN INFINITY STONE TO STEPHEN? What sort of logic was behind that again? He grumbles that was different because they were at WAR and as he told Nick earlier it was the only path he could see to victory. She questions just how different it is, really. "You break the rules and become a hero. I do it and I become the enemy. That doesn't seem fair."
Chrissy: Yeah, we might be undercutting any philosophical arguments we were able to devote a lot more time to in the miniseries here, but we can still debate morality between fight scenes.
Diandra: Yeah, I know this isn't what they mean, but...the entire Civil War happened because of laws written after collateral damage she caused during a fight. The fact that nobody was killed in that last scene was a miracle because that fight caused WAY more damage. Come to think of it...how the FUCK did that not cause more casualties?

Since this is a movie with a two hour time limit, we're not going to get too far into this. She tells him to go to Kamar Taj and get ready to hand America over to her by sunset. Assuming he wants to resolve this peacefully and never see Wanda again anyway. She starts to swagger away before he asks what happens if they don't just hand America over. "Then it won't be Wanda who comes for her," she says. "It will be the Scarlet Witch."

Horror movie music accompanies a cut to Wong repeating that title. Stephen says yeah, uh...Wanda has been consumed by the Darkhold and lost her marbles. They are in Kamar Taj now and Wong explains to the gathered sorcerers and probably students that the Scarlet Witch is "a being of unfathomable magic" who can rewrite reality itself. The prophesy says she will either rule the cosmos or destroy it. There is no in between. Stephen adds that she recently enslaved a whole town into doing her bidding and the writer would like you to forget the fact that she was straining and losing control if she tried to enlarge the Hex a couple miles further and assume that she could do that to not just THIS entire world but ALL THE WORLDS.
Chrissy: Yeah. Humans have a long history of being easily scared by powerful women.
Diandra: Who they almost always labeled witches, yes.

The camera turns to show America standing near Stephen as she notes that the person he went to for help turned out to be the one trying to kill her and he told her EXACTLY WHERE THEY WERE HIDING HER?
Chrissy: Yeah, your first mistake was assuming this idiot has any clue what the fuck he's doing.
Emilio: I guess so.
Stephen's like 'uh...yeah. My bad.' Wong announces that they will have to stop whatever they were doing here and prepare for battle.
Chrissy: I will deal with YOU later.
Chrissy: Oh, there won't be much left to deal WITH when I'm through with him.
Diandra: How are YOU arguing with yourself first in a recap where there are multiple versions of the character I'M roleplaying?
Chrissy: I am not sorry.

So all the residents of Kamar Taj grab weapons and march out to the main courtyards accompanied by some guys banging on war drums and what the closed captioner dubs "dramatic music". Archers take positions on balconies and roofs. Portals open to the sanctums and apparently they have rebuilt the London sanctum because that one is identified by having a red phone booth in the background.
Emilio: A blue police box would have worked too AND made for an epic crossover.
Diandra: Yeah, the dudebros who believe they are the base of the MCU fandom were already pissed off by what they perceived as women (and probably non-whites in general) getting too much screentime in this movie. Bringing in the current Doctor (or the next one) would only make it worse.

Okay, so I mentioned the green minotaur in a couple places before, right? In the comics, he is an alien that Stephen rescued who becomes a loyal servant that we will not call a slave even though he refers to Stephen as "master". I believe I mentioned it specifically to demonstrate just how batshit the comics surrounding Doctor Strange can be while expressing relief that the movies were ignoring these weirder aspects. Well...this is the part where we say hi to Rintrah and start saying my goodbye to whatever remains of my sanity. I say start because I know this is actually going to prove one of the less crazy parts of this movie. Rintrah basically just serves as a throwaway nod and exposition fairy, identifying the people coming through the portals first as the masters of the Hong Kong and London sanctums. Presumably, Stephen is still master of the New York one. The Hong Kong master greets Wong in Chinese, saying she is honored to "court death" with him again. The Brit just vows to do whatever the Sorcerer Supreme needs them to do.
Chrissy: And there you have the differences between those cultures described in a nutshell.
Diandra: Yeah, adding in the part where the American got them all into this mess because he did something stupid.

The masters and their accompanying minions all bow to Wong and he turns to Stephen like 'see? THEY are showing appropriate deference to my authority.' Stephen's face kind of starts to twitch in a sort of smile.
Chrissy: Although I know you enjoy it more when you resist and make me force you into submission.
Diandra: Aaaaaaaaand there it is.
Chrissy: Seriously, can we revisit the possibility of you growing your hair out? Because that other guy's ponytail is giving me all sorts of ideas.

They join the people in the main courtyard as a massive cloud rolls over Kamar Taj, blotting out the sun. Red glows from an area overhead and the clouds there part to reveal Wanda hovering above the city. Because after she did a whole fight sequence in midair, doing one on the ground now would just be anticlimactic. Wong is like 'guess it's up to you to talk to her. Don't fuck it up.'
Emilio: He already did! Why do you people keep trusting him?!
Wong reminds him that the fate of the multiverse probably depends on him NOT fucking this up and Stephen snots "no pressure then."

He flies up to hover in front of her and two things. This is probably the scene they were filming where Benedict talked about being suspended higher than usual so he could see people on the nearby freeway rubbernecking like 'are those PEOPLE up there?' It is definitely the source of the behind the scenes footage of Elizabeth totally undercutting any tension in the actual scene by squealing "wheeeee! I'm gonna get you!" as she was winched closer to Benedict.

Wanda sneers that he's doing all of this for a child he just met yesterday. Thought you objected to calling her a CHILD, Wanda. He tries to placate her by saying she's justified in being angry after the sacrifices she's made... She interrupts to remind him that she had to blow a hole through her lover's head only to have his death accomplish fuck all so "do not speak to me of sacrifice." She flies right into his face and offers to use her newly acquired powers to send him to a world where he can be with Christine if he will just let her have what she wants.
Chrissy: Yeah, here's where the offer to impregnate her would probably come in.
Diandra: Yeah, but that doesn't make for a good plot anywhere but in fanfiction, so we're not doing that.
Emilio: Didn't you say something about another fic that did that with Loki instead of Wanda? Or am I just thinking about YOUR fic?
Diandra: Yeah, it's a repeated plot in fanfic.
Chrissy: Wow, you are just the go-to sperm bank in the Marvelverse, aren't you, Stephen?
Diandra: Hey, that's not ALL I am good for.
Chrissy: Right. Because some alien species procreate by laying their eggs in willing males.
Diandra: ......so you think I'm just a pretty face willing to whore himself out?
Chrissy: Oh, no. Not JUST a pretty face. No.
Emilio: [snort]

Stephen backs away from her like THE WITCH IS TRYING TO CORRUPT ME and says the entirety of Kamar Taj is going to fight her on this. On the ground, Wong apparently realizes this isn't going well and orders everyone to get into position and they form shields and notch their arrows. Wanda says she has been VERY reasonable so far. He asks which part of using the book of the damned to make monsters chase after a kid she considers "reasonable". She thinks not going after America herself was a sort of mercy. She also thinks she has asked him nicely to just get out of the way even though he keeps insulting her and being a hypocrite. So she's done pulling punches. She sends a blast of energy at him and it hits a wall of shields everyone on the ground is projecting all around the city. He cocks his head at her and flies back down beside Wong, snarking "nailed it."
Chrissy: And here is the argument for why you aren't MUCH more than a pretty face.
Diandra: Oh [blows a raspberry]

Wanda angrily flies along the outside of the bubble, throwing blasts at the shield. Then she stills and stares at the sorcerers projecting them and Stephen explains that she's trying to mind control them. Wong orders them to "fortify your minds", but she gets through to one and whispers "run" in his ear. He drops his shield and runs away, disrupting several other guys and creating a hole in the shield bubble. She sends a ball of energy through it, exploding a chunk of the ground and sending people flying. Stephen finally joins the group, forming a shield, but it's too late and the whole shield dome collapses. She flies through and some sorcerers appear with a stone canon that has a dragon head and try to shoot her down. Except they just daze her and send her flying backward a ways. Another group loads a second canon and she causes them, the canon and part of the building to levitate and sends everything flinging in all directions. The second canon lands on the first and knocks out anyone in the vicinity.

The archers shoot flaming - or probably just magic - arrows at her and she dodges some and sends some right back at the archers and blasts the shit out of the courtyards. Stephen yells for people to fall back and he and Wong are the last to escape the wave of destruction. Wanda lands in the courtyard and blasts a wounded sorcerer away. She walks through burning wreckage and charred bodies and this is when it probably becomes clear that it wasn't the superhero stuff on his resume that got Sam Raimi the job directing this movie. She closes her eyes and apparently uses whatever telepathy skills she has to locate America. But when she opens her eyes, Stephen is standing in front of her declaring that she'll have to go through him if she wants the girl.
Chrissy: You say that like it will be more of a challenge than we all know it will be.
She shrugs like 'okay then' and starts walking toward him, but when she steps on a particular design of the floor, the whole room starts rotating and kaleidoscoping and he fuzzes out like he was just a projection.

Everything stops moving long enough for her to see herself reflected in a mirror down the hall. She walks toward it and a creepy music box plays while she realizes she's in a fun house. She looks at all the reflected images of her on every level of the building and goes to cast a spell. A bubble of mirror dimension form around her, with sharp dagger like protrusions pointing inward. She tries to throw a spell and it pinballs all around her before fizzling out. She pauses, then reaches toward one mirror shard and pushes right through it like it's water.
Chrissy: We need to talk about this delusion you keep clinging to that the mirror dimension is some sort of weapon you have control over.
Diandra: Yeah, I'm not sure if the writers keep forgetting what happened the first time or if it's just him.

Stephen and Wong find America hiding with an ancient sorcerer. Stephen starts forming a portal so they can escape while Wong tells her that Kamar Taj has "fallen". Before he can fully form the portal, Stephen's sling ring glows with red magic and disappears. What the closed captioner calls "eerie, distorted screaming" comes from nowhere and everywhere and all the doors of the room slam. The old guy and the guard apparently posted at the door drop through pools that form in the floor. Stephen says Wanda is using the "reflections" and they should cover all the pools that are in the floor for some reason. They run around throwing cloths over them and then an eye blinks up at America from one and she screams and falls on her ass near a gong, which Wanda's arm reaches out through. She runs to Stephen and Wong as Wanda crawls completely through the gong like a demonic creature from a horror movie with all her limbs twisted in weird directions until she snaps back into her normal shape.
Chrissy: Bet you didn't know I could do that.
Diandra: NOBODY knew ANYBODY could do that in this universe. What the fuck?

Wanda asks if Stephen really sacrificed all those people just to keep her from her kids. Stephen says that was all on her and they can NOT let her go into the multiverse. Also, she HAS NO kids because, again, they were never real. She says they ARE real in every other universe she has seen in her dreams. She conjures the Darkhold, which projects images of the twins from different universes. Absolutely none of these images include Vision, because, again, apparently she's accepted HIS death and moved on now. She closes the book and we focus on America staring at her and probably feeling sympathy for the obvious depression she's projecting. Stephen says okay, but...what happens to the version of her in whatever universe she goes to to be with those kids? Isn't she effectively killing THEIR mother? Her lips quiver and she starts to conjure something, but Stephen beats her to it, throwing what looks like dragon snakes at her. She blasts the heads off them and they Medusa themselves new ones until she finally gets tired of this shit and blasts away the entire spell.

The music finally sort of plays a dark, twisted version of Giacchino's theme from the first movie while Wanda levitates and magically flings Stephen into the nearest pillar. She snares something around America and Wong throws a spell at her that she fractures and throws back at him. He is knocked off his feet and lands, bashing his head on a step and passing out. Stephen staggers upright to see America's eyes glowing while Wanda starts drawing the power out of her. The star portal snaps open behind her and he tackles America through it, Wanda angrily throwing a spell at his back before they disappear.

And here is where we get 90% of our glimpse of other universes as Stephen and America fall through a bunch of them. First there is what looks like a pretty standard parking garage. Then that outdoor part of Kamar Taj pre destruction. Then there's a bunch of lights and what looks like caves and creepy Watcher (or maybe Kang?) faces with glowing eyes. Then there's just...space with glowing tendrils of energy or something. And then more rock formations and some sort of animal shrieking in the distance. Then something that looks like Krypton or...uh...where were the frost giants from? Maybe it's supposed to be that. And then they're in a beehive with GIANT BEES buzzing around. And then they're underwater. And then they're over an intersection in New York along with a couple surprised fish. And then there's a futuristic looking world where the street is all white tunnels with a Stark Industries logo and flying robots. And then a church bell goes off in a creepy echo as they go through a hellscape with skeletons everywhere. Stephen grunts as he impacts a pile of skulls and then they're briefly in Savage Land with dinosaurs in the background hello comic book fans. And then they're in an animated universe with perky music and then...something...and then they're in the universe we saw in all the previews where their bodies start breaking into cubes as he finally catches her. This seems to make them go faster and he screams, which turns into a weird burbling noise as the next universe turns them into blobs of paint, then a creepy Loony Toon cackle as they go through what looks like the Film Noir universe from "Into the Spiderverse". And then there's three universes that are barely onscreen for more than a frame and don't have any defining characteristics other than one looking like Mordor before they are coughed out onto that same rooftop she left Defender Strange on in what looks like a normal, if slightly futuristic and brightly colored world. If you were keeping track, this last stop was the 20th.

Stephen stops screaming and asks if America is okay. She notes that he just saved her and says she's surprised he didn't throw up after that roller coaster. He cockily notes that it isn't his first rodeo of weird shit and then starts to note that they are obviously in New York but doesn't get all the way to the end of the sentence before gagging and puking into the nearest...whatever that is that looks like a chimney but hopefully isn't. America is like 'aaaaaaand there it is.' He straightens and the cloak tries to help him wipe his face off. He snaps at it to stop and pulls it off to look at the hole Wanda created in the back of it. He mutters that he'll fix that and puts it back on. Then he demands America open another portal to get them back home.
Emilio: So you weren't paying attention back there when I said I can't control it and only do it when I'm scared?
Diandra: Never assume that I am listening when someone else is talking.
Chrissy: Yep, we got the role playing assignments right.

He snaps that they need to get back there because they can't just leave "Wahng" alone with Wanda like that. Yeah...vowel sounds are hard, obviously. "I'm the only hope he has!"
Chrissy: God help me. I'm screwed.
Diandra: Hey, if it wasn't for me you would have stayed impaled on that rebar in Hong Kong, so...
He starts yelling that she MUST be able to control it SOMEHOW, but stutters to a halt when he realizes she's starting to back away like a kicked puppy. He sighs and asks if maybe the America in THIS universe knows how to control her power. She says she doesn't exist in any other universes, which she knows because she hasn't found one yet and she doesn't dream, so. He grumbles that he obviously can't fight Wanda off even if she could get him back to his universe. She says her version of him thought the Book of Vishanti would help. He says great, but he has no idea where that is and that version of him is dead, so unless there's ANOTHER version that can help... Her face lights up and they realize they can probably find another version of him in this universe.

So they go down to the street so we can see that there are gardens EVERYWHERE on every building and everything is bright and clean. A few people stare at him as they pass on the sidewalk. America catches him before he steps in front of an oncoming car and he blinks up at the stop lights, which work in reverse in this universe. While he's boggling at this, America says the first rule of Multiversal travel is to assume he doesn't know anything about how the world works. He starts crossing the street at the red light as he asks what the second rule is.
Emilio: That you don't talk about multiversal travel.
Diandra: Doesn't really work, but I applaud the effort.
He turns to find her suddenly disappeared and panics, spinning around until she grabs him and holds up a bowl of "pizza balls" to demonstrate rule number two: find food wherever you can. He asks how she paid for that. She says food is free in most universes and it's actually weird that they have to pay for it in his.

And here's where we get the obligatory (for Sam Raimi) Bruce Campbell cameo as he is the street vendor she got the pizza balls from. He snaps that she didn't pay for that and America is like 'or I could be wrong'. He awkwardly exposits that "Pizza Poppa always gets paid." Stephen tries to diffuse him by saying she's just a KID and she didn't know what she was doing. Bruce identifies him by name and asks where he got that weird cape. He grabs a part of it and Stephen corrects that it's a CLOAK and he might want to let go of it because it bites. Or that threat is implied anyway. Bruce accuses him of stealing this whole outfit from the "Strange Museum." Stephen is like 'the what now?' Bruce goes to squirt mustard in his face for some reason and Stephen waves a hand to turn the bottle back in his face. Then he decides the appropriate way of handling the guy is to put a spell on him compelling him to punch himself in the face repeatedly. He assures a horrified America that it isn't permanent as he swaggers away.
Chrissy: You know, this might actually be the best evidence that he's not quite himself.
Diandra: I don't know. I think it's possible it's been so long since his first movie with so many team ups in between that we've forgotten what he's like on his own.
Emilio: It's pretty consistent with the guy who made Loki fall for thirty minutes while he messed with Thor in "Ragnarok".
Diandra: Hmm. You're right: maybe the director has something to do with it. It's possible in this case that means cartoon logic for more than just the animated universe they flew through.

Stephen finally asks if they were really just blobs of paint in one of those universes they traveled through. Apparently she's been there before because she says it isn't a fun place to get stuck. "It's really hard to eat."
Chrissy: So does multiversal travel make you really hungry or is this a teenager thing?
Emilio: Possibly just an America thing.
Diandra: That almost sounded like a cultural statement.
Emilio: It wouldn't be wrong if it was.
He asks how many universes she's visited. She thinks about it and says this one is new so that makes it the seventy third.

He is still boggling over this when he steps on a pad in the sidewalk and a voice announces that he can replay "significant memories" here.
Chrissy: Define significant.
Diandra: Yeah, that...isn't necessarily a good thing.
It says there's a charge, but doesn't even verify that he has the funds for it before it starts scanning him, so this definitely sounds like a hustle. America watches warily while the recording ends with the slogan "we remember so you don't forget!" A hazy restaurant appears in front of them with Stephen and Christine in focus at the center table. She notes that this is really nice and asks if he had to take out another student loan to pay for it. Which is one way to quickly establish a timeframe. He jokes that he sold one of the kidneys they were operating on last week. Apparently this was when she gave him the watch that served as metaphor the whole last movie and Stephen gets choked up as his past self opens the box she slides to him. He grumbles that they don't have time for this and gets off the pad. He starts to walk away, but America jumps on the pad. It plays a fluffy little memory of her moms finding her in a field picking flowers. She hands a flower to one, who puts it in the other's hair. And before we can think this 12 second scene really was inconsequential and easily removed like the anti-LGBT countries demanded, a bee lands on little America's hand and the memory goes dark. She shrieks, her eyes glow and a star portal appears and sucks them all away.
Emilio: Yeah, a lot of first manifestation of powers stories in comics are tragic.
Diandra: Mmm. Can't have a happy, well-adjusted superhero. That would just be boring.

She flees the pad, saying he was right about this being a waste of time. He chases after her, noting that that was the first time she opened a portal and she lost her parents in the process? She says no, she KILLED her parents with powers she has no control over by sending them to a universe that was probably deadly. But since she apparently didn't go the same place she doesn't know where they are and they are stuck there. He thinks if she is any indication, they are survivors who are still wherever they landed and they will be reunited one day.
Diandra: Maybe one day she'll learn how to control her abilities so her next leap will be the fuck I'm sorry.
Chrissy: No you're not.
Emilio: Although since we're talking about multiverse travel and not time travel it would have made more sense to say the next "slide".

She smiles and says that little speech was "not bad."
Emilio: We might make a surrogate dad out of you yet.
Diandra: Yeah, one of my favorite takes when this movie came out was that Stephen was having "misplaced father feelings" after the whole thing with Peter that he doesn't remember and latching on to the first child that crosses his path.

She asks about the woman in his memory: that was Christine, right? He sighs and confirms, then is like 'wait...do you know her?' She says her version of Stephen was with her at some point, but they weren't currently speaking to each other because "he blew it."
Chrissy: Please refer to the part where he's an ass in every universe.
He snorts and she asks if he did the same thing. He gives her a somewhat dirty look as he agrees that he must have and it's complicated and he would like to stop having this conversation now.

They arrive at the sanctum, which has a big statue of him in front of it. Before we can think this Stephen has declared himself emperor or something, the camera focuses on the plaque, which expresses gratitude to Stephen as Earth's mightiest hero for sacrificing himself "to defeat Thanos." He uses this as proof to America that not all versions of him are as bad as she may have been led to believe. Yeah. Hold that thought. She asks who the master of the sanctum is if he's dead in this universe.
Chrissy: I feel like this is where we could have done the Loki as Sorcerer Supreme thing from the comics.
Diandra: If the next words out of your mouth are...
Chrissy: And you should totally write that fic.
Diandra: [groans] Don't I have enough fic ideas percolating yet?
Chrissy: I'll stop when you actually start writing one of them.

The door behind the statue opens and Stephen mutters "oh shit." America asks if he knows that man. Stephen identifies Mordo as "the first guy who let me into Kamar Taj".
Emilio: And he thanked me by letting me into other things if you know what I mean.
Diandra: Since when are you Mordo?
Emilio: Since right now. Deal with it.
America thinks that sounds promising, but Stephen continues that he snapped and dedicated his life to killing Stephen. Like...in the last few minutes of the movie so we never actually saw that, but okay. Mordo approaches, intoning that he always knew this day would come because his Stephen knew it would. Stephen half braces for a fight, but Mordo just laughs and hugs him, calling him "my brother". He invites Stephen to come inside and tell him ALL about his universe. Stephen shrugs at America and follows him in.

And we skip right to Mordo thanking "the stars" that they arrived here safely. Stephen isn't sure they're safe yet because Wanda can conjure monsters across universes to chase America. Mordo concludes that she must have the Darkhold then. He says he guards this universe's copy of it right in the sanctum because it's too dangerous to risk letting the wrong person get their hands on it. But assuming they operate the same way, Wanda can do more than just conjure creatures. He starts talking about a powerful spell in the book that can destroy reality and warp the soul like he's telling a ghost story at a campfire and the lights dim obligingly. It's called dreamwalking, wherein a magic user can project themselves into another universe. Or possess the body of the version of themselves in that universe anyway. We see Wanda starting a spell while Mordo continues drawing the parameters of this new ability. It isn't permanent, but it can last long enough for them to do all sorts of damage. America asks why the hell Wanda didn't do that in the first place then.
Emilio: Sorry, I'm young. I have a lot to learn about how stories are plotted yet.

Stephen mutters something about this being what she meant by being "reasonable". He asks what Mordo knows about the Book of Vishanti. Mordo says it's the opposite of the Darkhold and gives a sorcerer whatever plot convenient powers they need to defeat an enemy. Stephen starts to ask Mordo to help him get that, but everything wobbles just then and he and America both realize there was something in the tea they've been drinking this whole scene. From Stephen's warbling perspective, Mordo apologizes, but says THEY are a bigger threat to his universe than Wanda. America passes out in her chair. Stephen drops his cup and staggers around a bit before hitting the floor. The frame narrows around his face as he mutters "she's coming."

And then we're with Wanda as something the closed captioner calls "psychedelic music" plays. Really embracing the sixties vibe of the comics now, huh? She sits hovering above the floor and travels into what is apparently the same universe Stephen and America are in now, going right into the house where Billy and Tommy are begging their version of her to let them watch cartoons and eat ice cream just a little longer even though it is their bedtime. The comic on the television in the background is the character that predated Mickey Mouse in this universe, implying that Mickey does not exist in this universe. But Disney does.
Chrissy: Disney exists in every universe. You can't escape it.
Diandra: But this is one of the things that's fascinating about alt history/alt universe stories. Because differences are never simple or limited. One of the reasons I thought that "omegaverse" dream - as you called it earlier - would be interesting to explore, once I figured I was tying it to a "Children of Men" type fic I read once, is that it isn't just one historic event you change. There's a cascade of changes that affects fictional stories in universe as well as actual events.
Chrissy: Um...we need to talk about this later because WHAT?
Diandra: Basically I have a headcanon going about a universe where "Children of Men" and "Handmaid's Tale" are now works of historical fiction, not sci-fi.
Chrissy: And you're writing this fic?
Diandra: No. I'm just fascinated by the worldbuilding part. I don't want to actually write it.
Chrissy: God, you really are a writer, aren't you?

The boys argue some sort of sports thing that I can't be bothered to look into and wouldn't understand anyway while their mom wonders why she has the sense someone is watching her. The camera of perspective shot hides behind the staircase. The lights flicker, there's some creepy ghost like noises and the picture of her on a shelf at a birthday party seems to come to life briefly. The ice cream bowls blow out of her hands and shatter on the counter and she staggers and gasps. She blinks at the unwashed dinner plates where untouched peas roll around by themselves and a teacup with an ocean scene in it like 'why does it feel like this was written by someone with experience having a really bad trip?' She looks in the window and our version of her is reflected back. She jolts and writhes and generally mimes another person taking control of her body. Her eyes glow red for a second and she looks directly at the camera. She starts walking out of the kitchen but is pulled up short when Billy asks what she's doing. She blinks and warbles that she's taking out the trash. They both beg her to come into the living room so they can show her something. She goes over to them and they sing a dumb little song about ice cream while she has a nostalgia trip.

We pan out from this universe back to Prime Wanda hovering above the floor in front of the Darkhold with a bunch of universe bubbles surrounding her. This time we see that Wong is tied on the other side of the room, beyond which is burning destruction. The female sorcerer who was shooting a canon earlier creeps up to him and he expresses surprise that she's alive, then tells her to free him so he can destroy the Darkhold. She says he cannot be the one to do that, draws a dagger and runs toward it, ignoring his yelps of protest. She knocks the Darkhold from where it is hovering onto the ground and stabs it. Light blasts from it and Wanda falls over in surprise, releasing the other Wanda. The sorcerer, meanwhile, seems to both burn and turn to stone. We see some quick flashes between both Wandas as they hit the floor. Billy and Tommy rush to see if their mom is okay and Prime Wanda mirrors their mom's movements as she sits up and reaches for them before the connection is broken and she's just sadly reaching for empty air. She runs to the burned book, whimpering as she fishes its remains from the pile of ash. Then she glares at Wong.

Cut to her trying to beat Wong into giving her the spells because he's the Sorcerer Supreme so he must know them. He says she'll just have to kill him. Which obviously she won't because do you even know how threats work? She resurrects some of the dead sorcerers nearby, which apparently includes Rintrah, and they hover in the air screaming in pain until he blurts that it was just a COPY of the Darkhold. She stops torturing the others so he can explain that the original is on a mountain somewhere according to legend. Like the Vishanti is hovering in a cloud or whatever that was. Sure. It's called Mount Wundagore, which sounds appropriately stupid. Wanda sets her victims down where apparently they stay living now so we get to look forward to the minotaur making future appearances. Wong says the catch is that nobody has survived the journey to get to it. She magics a sling ring from one of the dead sorcerers into Wong's hand and hisses that they will have to test whether they will be the exception.

Stephen wakes up on the floor of a glass cage because of course that's what the holding cells look like. He blinks at the metal contraptions with glowing green spots around his wrists while America yells from her own cell and bangs on the glass. He staggers upright, reaches for the cloak that's gone and tries to perform some sort of spell. The green light on the cuffs glows and nothing else happens.
Emilio: Yeah, obviously we can't use our powers in here, genius. And have you always looked constipated when you're casting spells?
Diandra: [muttering and miming the Darth Vader distance choke] you little...

He asks a guy in a lab coat outside America's cell where they are. He starts up a rant about how these sort of "situations don't usually work out well for the nameless scientists, so"... Which is the cue for one of the lab coats to turn around so he can see it's Christine and shut up immediately. She greets them both in a way that makes it clear she isn't exactly thrilled to see him and says she can answer his question. They're in a research facility. Very high security and they are being held for research and testing. He balks at that, but she points out that for all they know visitors from another universe could be radioactive or carry unknown diseases, so think of it as quarantine. He asks if she's responsible for the jewelry. She says yes, she developed them herself using the Sands of Nisanti, which is a thing I didn't mention earlier. One of the hazards of this movie being rewritten, reshot, filming before anyone including the writer knew how it would end all while having to keep under a two hour time limit is that expository information can get hella awkward and obvious. I neglected to mention earlier that while Stephen was passing out from being roofied he paused to note the Sands of Nisanti glowing in an artifact that looked like a giant fabrege egg, which he apparently failed to notice being in the room until that particular moment. Obviously I didn't neglect to mention it because I didn't think it would be important. It is too awkwardly shoehorned in to NOT be a Chekov gun. And clearly I didn't do it to save myself time because I've now spent more time talking about than I would have originally. I didn't mention it because I fail to see how it was so necessary to see that brief glimpse of the artifact earlier that that moment of laughable awkwardness needed to be there.
Chrissy: Especially since, as you noted earlier, they seem perfectly capable of following a conversation while skipping details like who, exactly, they mean when they say "we".

Anyway, further reinforcing the pointlessness of dropping this detail earlier, Christine says the Sands of Nisanti was one of the magical relics that belonged to "838 Stephen". Stephen lights on the 838 designation and asks if that's some sort of cyborg thing. You might want to strap in because I'm about to go on another rant and it will probably be a LONG rant. She says 838 is just the designation for their universe. They've designated HIS universe as 616.
Chrissy: I wonder how many theaters had nerds yelling about that as loudly as you were when you first saw this.
Diandra: Every fan of the comics had something like that response, I'm sure. I know some fans have tried to offer explanations ever since, but all of them are basically fanwanks to try to deny that the writers don't know what the fuck they're talking about. Like Cap being able to live in the past in "Endgame" in flagrant disregard for their own established rules of time travel. Ask any three random fans to explain how the multiverse works in the MCU and they'll probably give you three different answers, at least two of which have a weird circular logic, but they are all convinced that THEIR answer is the correct one and they are the only ones smart enough to understand it.
Emilio: Breathe.
Diandra: Sorry.

Anyway, the reason this is upsetting is of course because 616 is the designation for the main prime universe in the comic books. As I have noted at least twice before, there are enough significant differences to the MCU that the only way it could be designated 616 is if we're disregarding the comic books as canon completely and overwriting it with these movies (and shows). Peter Parker is a completely different character. CHRISTINE is a completely different character not tied to Doctor Strange. Age of Ultron was a completely different story based on different rules of time travel. Thanos was trying to "balance the universe" to win over Lady Death, who he was obsessed with and the Infinity War was a WHOLE DIFFERENT THING involving a character never introduced to the MCU. Mutants have been known entities since the 40s. These are not SMALL, insignificant differences we're talking about. This is why the MCU was given its own designation. Now, I don't think anyone was actually expecting they would validate THAT designation, but...838 is not a designation in the comics. So obviously they could have assigned the MCU its own original designation (say something else in the 600 range close but not EXACTLY the same) and DELIBERATELY CHOSE NOT TO. The only explanation I have seen for this that makes any sort of sense is the suggestion that they are the 616 ACCORDING TO THE 838 and probably other universes assign different designations because who the hell is the official authority on any of this? Except of course this is another fanwank to explain away the problem of the writers not knowing any better.

Stephen notes that they must be very knowledgeable about the multiverse if they have someone giving universes numbers like that. She says that's her job, actually, as a "senior fellow with the Baxter Foundation" specializing in multiversal research. The nerds who aren't still stuck on that 616 nonsense perk up because while the Baxter Foundation doesn't exist in the comics, the Baxter Building is the name of the headquarters of the Fantastic Four. Christine stalks over to a computer panel, forcing Stephen to follow her so he can ask why she's HERE. She says she volunteered "at your funeral." He awkwardly thanks her for attending that. She's focused on some x-rays of his hands, noting that the damage is similar to HER Stephen's, but not exactly the same. He asks what they were to each other in this universe. "We never quite figured that out," she non answers. He's like 'yeah, same.'
Emilio: Are you noticing a pattern yet?
Diandra: I should give up on the idea that things might have been different without Thanos because we will never be together in any universe? Maybe.

He decides to try a different strategy and plead with her to let them go because people are in danger and "I know you don't know me, but..." She interrupts that she doesn't WANT to know him regardless of whatever the other version of her is to him in his universe. He asks why. She says he's dangerous. He says there's a dangerous woman chasing the girl in the next cell and she doesn't care how much she destroys to get to her so "I don't care if you're from the Avengers or SHIELD..."
Emilio: Are those bands?
Diandra: Yeah, way to assume those things even exist in this universe.
Mordo enters the room suddenly, flanked by Ultron bots, and says they don't belong to either of those groups actually. Stephen throws out the only other acronym organization he knows of (HYDRA) while Benedict's real accent makes a valiant effort to escape. By way of some sort of answer, Mordo announces that the Illuminati are ready to see him. The cuffs on Stephen's wrists activate and link to each other before the door of the cell opens. Stephen begs Christine not to let anyone hurt the kid and assures America that everything will be fine as he is escorted out.

Wong and Wanda step out of a portal onto a snowy mountain somewhere and pause to look at a creepy castle on a cliff in the distance. Wanda asks why he didn't just portal them DIRECTLY to the place. He says his magic only takes them so far and sorcerers aren't SUPPOSED to go up there. She glares and flies herself toward it, taking Wong with her so he can perform some more exposition. Apparently. Because he starts rambling about the first demon Chthon imbuing the temple thing they are in with dark magic. The spells he left all over all the walls were what was transcribed into the Darkhold.
Chrissy: And now I'm wondering how much of this was supposed to be in WandaVision.
Diandra: Yeah, we'll probably never know.
A piece of stone cracks off behind them and they pause to see if anything caused it before moving deeper into the cave.

Wanda lights some fire pits and Wong intones about there being any number of "soulless monstrosities" in here. And then a monster that looks something like Cthulu roars from the corner. Three more identical monsters come out of the other corners. Wanda jumps onto a pedestal in the middle of the room, her hands glowing. Wong forms shields, then decides fuck it and switches them to swords. But instead of attacking, the monsters kneel and the humans both realize Wanda bears a resemblance to a stone carving of the Scarlet Witch on the wall behind the pedestal. "This isn't a tomb," she declares. "It's a throne."

Back to the 838. Stephen is escorted through what looks like a museum and literally shoved through a doorway into a room where some people are sitting on a sort of balcony area overlooking the main floor with a ditch in between. Mordo recites his full name and title of Baron and Sorcerer Supreme and Stephen interrupts like 'wait...your name is Karl?' This universe's vibranium shield whizzes past him, pinging off the wall and returning to...Captain Peggy Carter. Mordo introduces her as the First Avenger and the Captain America fanfare plays briefly. Then Mordo introduces "Blackagar Boltagon", the keeper of the Terrigen Mist and king of the Inhumans whose costume is more comics accurate than it was in the show everyone hated. Full disclosure: I liked that show. Not as much as I liked "Agent Carter", but I didn't think it deserved as much hate as it got. Yes, the special effects were a little goofy, but...so what?
Chrissy: Can we talk about how dumb that full name is? Like...really? Black Bolt wasn't bad enough? Didn't he have a normal alternate name?
Diandra: Uh...no. They live on the moon and consider themselves a different species (hence literally "inhuman"), so why would their names not be weird?

The tuning fork on Black Bolt's forehead glows and Stephen makes a crack about his name ("hidiguy hidithere") and waves. Black Bolt just frowns like 'so this Strange is a cocky idiot, or...?'.
Chrissy: Yes.
Mordo turns to Captain Marvel, who in this universe is Maria Rambeau (aka 007) instead of either her daughter or Carol. A lighted doorway thing appears over the chair next to her and Reed "Mr. Fantastic" Richards drops out to Mordo's introduction of him as the "smartest man alive". Whereas Black Bolt is played by the same guy who played him previously, Reed is played by John Krasinski, which apparently was something fans of the MCU wanted even though they also seem to want Chris Evans to play the Human Torch again. Reed clicks a control to close the portal and greets Stephen, who snarks about the Fantastic Four sounding like a band from the 60s. Which...yeah, that sounds like it could be another name for the Beetles. Maria has finally had enough of his shit though and asks if he thinks this is a joke. Stephen says yeah, kind of...considering there's a guy over there with a tuning fork on his forehead.
Chrissy: Yeah, you think that's ridiculous? Wait'll you meet his wife with the animated hair and their giant, teleporting dog.
Diandra: ...who also has a tuning fork on his head and sometimes looks like he has a mustache. Yeah, there's a reason adapting those comics was probably never going to work.
Yes, that is Kamala Khan. She is also an Inhuman in the comics.
Black Bolt smacks his fist into his other palm and makes a shushing gesture, the meaning of which is likely obvious to anyone regardless of whether they speak sign language or not. For the members of the audience who don't know what his superpower is, Peggy...maybe starts to explain, but Stephen doesn't take the bait and ask WHY he doesn't talk, instead making a joke about him having bad breath. "This Strange is even more arrogant than ours," she mutters.
Chrissy: I know. I've tried, but he just DOES NOT train easy.
Diandra: [sticks her tongue out at Chrissy like a five year old]
Stephen says the advantage he has on their Stephen is that he's still alive. "For now," Maria says ominously.

Reed explains the problem here in terms that are familiar to anyone who has read any of the comics: that Stephen's presence in this universe is creating a "footprint" that threatens to "destabilize" their reality and cause an incursion. Stephen prompts him to explain that last word for the audience. Reed says it's when the boundary between universes becomes corroded and they "collide. Destroying one or both entirely."
Chrissy: So you haven't figured out how to patch the tear with amber yet then?
Diandra: "Fringe" reference for the win. Yeah, I'm remembering the visual explanation they gave on that show for whatever they called this. They smashed two identical snowglobes of New York City together and one shattered.
Emilio: Was it the one that belonged to Tommy Westphall though?
Diandra: Let's not bring that headcanon into it.

Peggy says their Stephen created the Illuminati "to make the difficult decisions that no one else could", so now they have to figure out what they're going to do about him and America. Maria offers to give him one more chance to say something in his defense before they take a vote. He says well, if we're talking about threats posed to your reality, why would he and America pose more of one than the Scarlet Witch? Maria thinks they can handle her if she dreamwalks into this universe. Stephen assures her they can't unless they give him the Book of Vishanti. Reed says in their experience, Doctor Strange is the greatest danger to the multiverse. Stephen asks if this is the same guy they declared Earth's mightiest hero on the statue outside the sanctum. And then a voice everyone instantly recognizes says the line from the previews about telling him the truth. And Patrick Stewart's Professor X wheels out in a 90s TV show accurate chair to that specific theme song and Mordo says yeah, that would be the last member of the Illuminati we didn't mention yet.
Chrissy: And we just pissed off all the fans who were convinced an Iron Man variant HAD to be here.
Diandra: The thing is, if it was Robert Downey Jr. doing a cameo as a different universe's Tony Stark, I would 100% be on board with it. But they got it in their heads somehow that it HAD to be Tom Cruise playing him and were absolutely convinced they were right and everyone else pointing out that they were holding blurry pictures of Lashana Lynch as "proof" was wrong. I actually saw some guy post a theory that a whole segment was shot with Tom that was scrapped because everyone "figured it out" before the movie was released. I went to take a screen shot of that insanity so I could point to it when I dubbed these people Q Fanon, but he apparently realized how crazy he sounded and deleted it. This is why I was nervous when the whole Spiderverse thing actually happened in the last movie. The fans who insisted that was going to happen despite everyone telling them it wouldn't were emboldened to become absolutely insufferable leading into this movie. It got to where Benedict was making sarcastic comments about Tom Cruise doing "all his own flying" in the movie and they didn't get that he was kidding and probably just tired of that question. 'LOOK! HE ADMITS TOM IS IN THE MOVIE!'
Emilio: Anyway. Does anyone want to take bets on whether this recap is going to beat a record?
Diandra: Thank you for politely steering us back after another rant. Sorry.

Stephen is like 'okay, what do you mean tell me the truth?' Xavier says they lied about how their Doctor Strange died. But before we get that flashback, let's go back to Mount Wandagore.
Emilio: That's...not the right name, but I applaud that effort.

Wanda prompts Wong by saying he's probably wondering what will happen now. He says no, not really. He's just wondering why she wants to TAKE America's power (and kill her in the process) instead of just forcing her to take her to another universe. Wanda rambles about the possibility of the twins getting sick and in an infinite multiverse, the cure to whatever illness they contract would be SOMEWHERE. "I won't lose them again." Wong argues that she can't control EVERYTHING. She thinks she can and the proof is the fact that her face is carved into the face of this mountain throne room. She is an ALL POWERFUL GODDESS.
Chrissy: So the Darkhold very literally turns you into a comic book villain driven insane by the promise of power.
Emilio: Yep.
Except she says she doesn't really want to rule the Multiverse. She just wants the kids she made out of chaos magic in a fake reality. Because they are apparently real everywhere else.

Wong points out that the cost of her getting those two kids back is the life of another and asks why she can't just be happy knowing that there are worlds out there where she is with the people she loves even if this one can't be one of them?
Emilio: Trying to tell us something?
Chrissy: Pffftttt no. Why would you think that?
She says no and casts a spell that sends him flying off the side of the cliff.

And then she's back to doing the dreamwalking spell. The Wanda in the 838 universe is crashed on the couch with the twins. She opens her eyes and they glow red for a second.

Back with Stephen and the Illuminati. As Professor X was saying, Stephen didn't die heroically defeating Thanos. In fact, Stephen was the only one who didn't join their efforts to defeat Thanos because he thought he had a better idea. Mordo interjects that he tried to use the Darkhold and dreamwalked into a few other universes to try to find their "salvation". Maria sneers that it didn't work, but that didn't stop him. Reed takes over and says one night he got the Illuminati together and told them about the dreamwalking "and in your words 'things had gotten out of hand.'"
Chrissy: And now we know why that line that was in all the previews was removed.
He never told them exactly what he did, but he said he had "inadvertently triggered an incursion" that annihilated another universe.
Chrissy: Interesting how some of them are using "him" when talking about their Stephen and some of them are using "you" like they're not talking to a completely different iteration of him.
Diandra: Might have something to do with whether or not they assume all versions of him are as corruptible.

Xavier says the silver lining is that he helped them find the Book of Vishanti, which DID help defeat Thanos. But... He puts his hands to his head and apparently telepathically projects a scene from the aftermath of the battle to Stephen.

Titan. Thanos is impaled on what looks like a harpoon or something, the Infinity Gauntlet only partly completed with stones. 838 Stephen is kneeling in front of the Illuminati, disheveled with blood under his nose and his fingers blackened from the Darkhold. Reed is holding the cloak and looking pained. "I shall miss you, my friend," Xavier says mournfully. Black Bolt steps in front of Stephen, the tuning fork glows and he does the same thing he did to his brother at the end of the series probably nobody got to the end of. He says "I'm sorry." But instead of collapsing a building or causing a rockslide or something, the sound waves just blow Stephen into dust or something.

Back in the present, Black Bolt closes his eyes like it's painful to remember that. Stephen asks if they told Christine about this. Reed confirms. Stephen asks what the statue is about then. Peggy says the world "needs heroes." But also, they executed him because they knew what he was capable of and they have no reason to think any other version of him would be different, so. Stephen starts looking unsettled. And then alarms start blaring, which Reed says mean the building has been breached. Peggy calls up security videos from the "sentries" on the far wall and a bunch of Stark Tech-like screens show what looks like a video game where Wanda is fighting off a bunch of Ultron bots. They zoom in on one as it tries to convince a dead-eyed, bloodied Wanda to stop before she does something that cuts off the feed.

Maria concludes that she's trying to get to America. Peggy tells Mordo and Xavier to watch Stephen and the other four run from the room. Xavier calmly tells Stephen that if he gets out of here, he should "guide" America. Save the cheerleader, save the...no, wait, sorry. "Save the girl and get to the book of Vishanti." Stephen is surprised that they have the book here somewhere. Xavier says their Stephen built "a waypoint" to...Mordo snaps at him to stop talking because this is STEPHEN he's giving this information to here and they DEFINITELY can't trust him. Xavier isn't so sure about that. "Just because someone stumbles and loses their way doesn't mean they're lost forever," he says in a direct repeat of a line from that one X-Men movie where they were interacting with their past selves and he was talking to McAvoy.

Christine watches some Ultron bots run toward the firey chaos out in the main rotunda and orders all the staff to get out. She goes to unlock America's cell and is still working on that when an Ultron bot head flies out of the smokey hell, still commanding the intruder to stop. Wanda, barefoot and bloodied, walks out after it and with a small flick of the wrist, shatters it completely.
Chrissy: Somewhere Quentin Tarantino just got an erection.
Christine is still working on the cell door, but Wanda is now fucking with the electronics so the screen is warping and preventing her from opening it.
Emilio: [snort laugh]
Diandra: ......did you just get the Quentin Tarantino joke?
Emilio: [nods]
Chrissy: I was wondering if you got that. It so specifically embodies all of his kinks that if I didn't know any better I'd say he wrote it.
Diandra: Not all of them. There isn't nearly enough blood. There should be a ridiculous amount of it, like, EVERYWHERE. And probably Sam Jackson sticking his head out from somewhere to yell "MOTHERFUCKER."

Wanda gets partway across the floor before Peggy drops in front of her to what is apparently the Captain America theme. Black Bolt and Maria follow close behind. Reed gumbies down in front of Wanda because I guess we should show his powers at some point, huh? He tries to speak directly to the version of Wanda possessing this one's body, pointing out that she's hurting an innocent woman here and she can still "do the right thing" and release her. She just cocks her head at him, so he tries another negotiator tactic and reveals that he has children too so he understands what she's feeling. She asks if their mother is alive. He says yes.
Chrissy: Yeah, she's around somewhere. She's just really hard to see sometimes.
Diandra: Ha.
She says good, then they won't be orphaned when I murder you. And then the Smartest Man Alive does the stupidest goddamn thing possible here and WARNS her that Black Bolt could kill her just by whispering in her direction. She's like 'thanks for the warning, moron' and casts a spell that seals Black Bolt's mouth over. He yelps in alarm, which apparently causes the sonic waves to blow back into his brain. His skull caves in and he slumps to the floor.
Chrissy: I think I saw a fanwank that suggested Reed did that because all the versions of Wanda they had previously met were reasonable.
Diandra: Sure. [wanking gesture]
Reed slings his arm at Wanda and she levitates him and turns him into ribbons from all four limbs inward. The female members of the Illuminati last a bit longer. Maria flies upward and sends bolts of energy at Wanda. Wanda holds her off, but has to let go with one hand when Peggy slings her shield at her, ricocheting it into a pillar. They keep fighting for a while and Wanda slings a statue into Maria, smashing her into a far wall.

Back with Stephen and the two remaining Illuminati men, listening to the chaos and destruction outside. Stephen begs them to let him at the Book of Vishanti so they can fight her. Mordo snaps at him to shut up and they will vote on this when the others get back. Uh, yeah. About that...

Peggy lunges at Wanda through the smoke filling the room, knocking her down. "Haven't you had enough," Wanda snarls as she gets back up. Peggy, naturally, responds with Prime Universe Steve's catchphrase, which is likely hers here: "I could do this all day." They fight a little longer so Peggy can show off the jetpack she's wearing that works to stabilize her if she's knocked down. Then she throws the shield and Wanda catches it with magic and slings it back where it slices right through Peggy the way it did Zombie Steve in that one episode of "What If". Except of course we don't see it in quite as graphic detail. Maria finally blasts free of the wall and Wanda levitates while they blast chunks of the floor all over the place. They standoff with beams for a few seconds while Maria's suit melts away from her face. Then they blast apart and Wanda pulls a statue down on top of Maria. Which you would think would do about as much good as slamming her into a wall with one did, but apparently it crushes her this time.

Stephen says yeah, uh...those other guys aren't coming back. And that's totally on you. Then he apparently gets an idea and sneers that this Mordo probably hated his Stephen just like HIS Mordo did, right?
Emilio: You cheat on him too? I mean...what? I don't know what you're talking about.
Diandra: WE WERE ON A BREAK!
Emilio: Is that a reference to something in your universe?
Diandra: Ooo. Good one.
Stephen continues that Mordo was probably SO JEALOUS of him, wasn't he? He probably loved it when it turned out he had been corrupted by the Darkhold. "Hell, you probably gave me the Darkhold to begin with."
Emilio: Oh, I didn't need an evil book to corrupt him. By the way, I remember something about a sadistic Baron...
Diandra: That was "Sherlock". But it might work as crossover/AU fodder, come to think of it.
Chrissy: Oh, god no. We're not doing that again.

Anyway, Stephen thinks it's AWFULLY CONVENIENT that 838 Stephen's death meant Mordo became both master of the New York Sanctum and Sorcerer Supreme AND a member of the Illuminati. And there must have been more to this (or there's just a disconnect between stuff that was reshot later) because Stephen's back is suddenly turned when Mordo snarls that he's ready to cast his "vote" and unsheathes a glowing sword. Luckily he yells really loudly as he leaps down to the floor, so Stephen is able to dodge the sword easily. They fight a bit and Benedict - or the stunt guy it's not really easy to tell - briefly forgets his hands are still supposed to be cuffed together while trying to kick Chiwetel's legs out from under him. The cuffs break a couple seconds later anyway when Mordo kicks him into the wall. Stephen pretends they're still attached while Mordo picks him up. Then when Mordo goes to stab him in the face, he gets the loose side of the cuff on the wrist Mordo is pinning him with and catches the sword hand with his free hand. Mordo blinks at him like 'what the fuck?'
Emilio: Why didn't you just say you wanted to do "The Defiant Ones"?

So now we have a fight scene with two guys handcuffed to each other. Because I think stunt coordinators love doing this. For a few seconds until Mordo flings them into the ditch in the room and the cuffs break again over some sort of protrusion in the wall on the way down. Which might say something about the security they have here. They fight some more and Stephen displays some martial arts skills I'm pretty sure he never had before. He gets out of the ditch by parkouring off the sides of it after one last kick to knock Mordo down. This doesn't knock him unconscious though as he shouts up to Stephen that he understands now why HIS Mordo didn't like him.

Back in the holding area, Christine is trying to pry the sensors holding the door to America's cell closed. Then she tries to bang on the special reinforced glass with a fire extinguisher. America looks at Wanda barreling down on them and punches a star shaped web into the glass. But Wanda is already in the room, so it's too late anyway. If you were wondering why Xavier escaped the earlier killing spree, it's because he was needed here. He arrives and throws a telepathic wave at Wanda while she's conjuring a fireball. Inside her mind, he finds a door surrounded by mostly demolished wall. And because he doesn't need the wheelchair here, he walks right up to it and it opens by itself to let him through. There's nothing on the other side but another pile of rubble with what might have once been a window frame opening under it. And a retro tv set beside it like maybe this is supposed to be that apartment that got bombed by Stark weapons that killed her parents? Normal, non possessed Wanda reaches through the opening and whimpers "help me!"

Before reaching for her, he just explains to her that she is being "held hostage" by an alternate version of her. There's an explosion, an air raid siren goes off and the rubble collapses a bit around her. Only then does Xavier reach for her hand, while suggesting out loud that if he can pull her out it might break the spell the other Wanda has over her. He starts pulling her out and a red cloud flows toward him from behind. He stops moving, sensing it. Wanda disappears back into the rubble and a monstrous version of her Scarlet Witch self appears behind Xavier, snapping his neck. Back in the lab, Xavier slumps over his ridiculous chair, dead. But while Wanda was distracted, America and Christine escaped.

They are running down a hallway and stop dead when they see a shadow moving on the far wall of another hall. They watch stupidly as it gets closer until it turns out to be Stephen, running nearly right past them. America runs sobbing right into his arms like "daddy!", the cloak flying right behind her and wrapping around him the second she lets go.
Chrissy: Nice of it to at least let her at him first.
Diandra: Yeah, it's possessive, but...like...not THAT possessive.
America says Christine fixed it. Stephen takes a half a second to thank her before launching into the exposition about this version of him building a waypoint to hold the Book of Vishanti and does she know how to get them to it?
Chrissy: I'm fine, by the way. Thanks for asking. That blue patch that she sewed over the hole in the cloak...is that from 838 Stephen's cloak?
Diandra: That probably would make sense. But you were talking about the "Loki as Sorcerer Supreme" plot earlier and I'm remembering now that that had a whole thing about the cloak being ripped apart when he took the role and he sewed it back together with Asgardian thread.
Chrissy: Seriously, why are you not writing this fic?

Christine isn't sure she can trust him. He apologizes for what the other him did, but insists the only solution involves the Book of Vishanti. She mutters that OF COURSE the only way to solve the problem is doing things HIS way.
Diandra: Why do I get a sense this is reflective of why things didn't "work out" between us in this universe?
Chrissy: Oh, you PICKED UP ON THAT DID YOU?
To further reinforce this, she echoes the thing Stephen's variant of her said: that her Stephen was JUST like this in that "he had to be the one holding the knife." And he killed a trillion people with this weird analogy. America jumps to his defense, claiming THIS version of him is different than the ones they knew. Aside from the knife thing, apparently. Which might go a long way toward explaining why everyone trusts him despite the mounting evidence that they shouldn't.
Chrissy: Yeah, we've only been introduced to four so far and a FULL HALF OF THEM destroyed an entire universe.

Christine sighs and uses some sort of remote thing to deactivate the one cuff remaining on Stephen's wrist. Although that's probably partly because of some crashing noises and flickering lights reminding her that Wanda is still after them. She takes them to some subbasement level of the building with tunnels she says (at some very awkward prompting from Stephen) go under the river. Seriously the dialogue is very clunky and I don't know how much of that is owed to editing down the runtime. Wanda catches up to them, limping because she literally had to walk over broken glass. Christine slams tunnel doors shut after them, which Wanda just blasts through. After a few of these, they either pass a door she can't get through or she's too tired to do it. Then they do the idiots in a horror movie thing where they just STAND there STARING at the door for a SEVERAL beats like WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE?!

America asks where Wanda went because there's no noise coming from the other side of the door. Which of course prompts Wanda to appear from a side tunnel in FRONT of the door while the music screeches like JUMP SCARE JUMP SCARE BOO! And I just realized that none of these jump scares worked on me even the first time I saw this which I suspect isn't because I'm desensitized to them in general but because they are SO OBVIOUSLY coming that they don't really work.

Wanda limps toward them until the glowing red of possession isn't the only thing we see of her eyes. Stephen tells the Wanda who is being used as a meat puppet to hold her breath and slams a spell into the ground. The tunnel cracks and water starts pouring in. The other three run for it, past another door that shuts behind them. America asks if he just killed Wanda. He says no, he's just buying them time.
Chrissy: Wasn't there a whole thing in his first movie about him not being able to kill people because he is a doctor and that goes against the oath?
Diandra: Bold of you to assume anyone in charge of this series remembers that.

They reach a door, which Christine says has the book on the other side, but their Stephen is the only one who ever accessed it. Stephen tries to use the Eye of Agomotto and some gestures to open it, but nothing happens. He mutters that it must be enchanted with something only he would know. He strains to think of what that would be until Christine holds up the broken watch. Which fits a depression in the middle of the wheel.
Chrissy: Yeah, that's...appropriately ridiculous.

The door swings open to show the same clouds and floating walkways America and Defender Stephen were running around in. They are hovering directly over the platform containing the book though. Stephen jumps down onto it and calls to America to follow. She does, landing in the three point pose and Christine follows close behind, Stephen half catching her. I guess she's here mainly to continue explaining stuff because she exposits that this place is a "gap junction" between universes. Stephen walks right up to the pedestal and pulls the book down, the light around it snapping off once it's taken from the stand. Wanda appears behind America, yanking her back by the hair. Christine starts to run toward her but Stephen stops her and sends a spell at Wanda. Wanda catches it and sends it back, knocking them both down and singing the book. She picks them up with a spell and, when America's power finally kicks in and a star portal opens, throws them through it. With the portal still open, she does the wiggly woo thing at America's temple until the portal focuses on her back in the main universe, still in a trance. She throws America through to the temple, then falls over as 838 Wanda is released of the possession. The shaken, non possessed Wanda, moans "my boys" and flies back through the portal into her universe where she might have to deal with the fact that she just murdered the entire Illuminati, but WE'LL NEVER KNOW NOW WILL WE?

Our Wanda comes out of her trance and America tries to reason with her, saying this isn't what her children would want. Wanda flips her up onto the alter and purrs that her children will never know. America hisses that SHE will though. Which I guess Wanda is going to ponder for the next few scenes so the others will still have plenty of time to figure out how to stop her.

So now we get the photorealistic version of that scene in "What If" where whichever Stephen that was emerges onto the street in New York to find everything melting. Christine says it looks like reality is collapsing in on itself. Stephen suggests it could also be two realities colliding. A red streak of lights zips past, not attached to anything and right through an old bed sitting in the middle of the intersection. The camera switches angles and we see a car hovering in the distance behind them, seemingly being spun by a tornado. Switch angles again and they're walking past several cars that are just hovering at various distances above the ground and at different angles. Christine asks where they're going, exactly. Stephen thinks if they can find whatever version of him is in this universe, they might be able to get back to America.

We get a little tour of this CGI wasteland. A bus (or possibly a subway car) popping out of a hole in midair. Puddles forming on the ground. Snow covering most of the landscape. A twisted version of a bridge going nowhere.
Chrissy: This must be what Guillermo Del Toro's dreams look like.
Diandra: Or Sam Raimi's, apparently.
Stephen is like 'so this is what an incursion looks like, huh?' And I'm going to pretend his accent didn't just slip again. I don't know if I'm just more sensitive to it this time around or if he's actually doing it more this time around. Christine says yes, his variant in this universe obviously did a shit job of stopping this from happening.
Emilio: Considering it looks like that episode of "What If", I would assume he CAUSED it.

They get to the Sanctum, in the middle of nowhere like a creepy haunted house and partly evaporated like everything else. Stephen snots that he'll be sure to tell his variant about her criticisms of his performance and heads toward what's left of the entrance. The doors open to let him in and slam behind him. The main staircase also appears to be in the middle of a desolate landscape, in this case an ocean. The stairs seem to lead up into the clouds like welcome to the Golden Compass, I guess.

He climbs the stairs warily and ends up in a perfectly normal, if dark and empty, room. His disheveled clone appears on a staircase deeper in the room and demands to know how he got in. Now here's where I could consult the nicknames that are scripted for these characters and use those to distinguish them. But the name for this one is apparently Sinister Strange and I'm...not doing that.
Chrissy: You could use the name you assigned in that "What If" episode since it was apparently wrong then anyway.
Diandra: Yeah, I guess that was Strange Supreme? Literally all the characters were variants, but we didn't get number designations of any of their universes beyond the two.

Anyway. Lord Shiva (Destroyer of Worlds) asks who Stephen is, which is somewhat hilarious. Stephen answers that he is "one of us". "From the multiverse," Shiva asks.
Chrissy: No, one of the voices inside your head.
Diandra: That's a different Steven.
Shiva demands proof that they are the same person, so Stephen recites the backstory from the comics that hasn't been mentioned at all in the MCU yet. The fact that he was inspired to become a doctor when he was a kid and watched helplessly while his sister Donna drowned after falling through the ice on a lake. Shiva says yeah, that sounds familiar, but "we don't talk about that, do we?"

Stephen tries to ask what the hell happened to this universe and Shiva non-answers that it was probably just like the one he came from "until I lost". But he won't give specifics about any of that.
Chrissy: ...his marbles?
Diandra: Nah, I haven't lost them. Or I haven't lost ALL of them. Yet. There's a hole in the bag somewhere though.
Stephen says he just wants to get home. Shiva snorts that he's been trying to leave this place for a while. We get a closeup as he sets his (very faintly scarred) right hand on the Darkhold copy attached to his belt and red magic sort of swirls around it for a second, his fingers briefly turning black. Stephen is like 'oh, you have it right here. That was easy.' He says he could use the Darkhold to communicate with his universe.
Chrissy: Oh, sure, just use the thing that corrupts everyone who uses it and drives them insane.
Emilio: But he's a special exception right? He might be like Frodo.
Diandra: No, we all know he's Sauron.
Chrissy: I'm impressed you actually came up with that name instead of just calling him the Cat Vagina.
Diandra: Cat EYE of Doom. Or Great Flaming Vagina.
Emilio: Either way, it's some sort of pussy.

To the three people reading this recap: I am so sorry.

Shiva warns that the Darkhold "exacts a heavy toll." Stephen looks at the swirling, slow motion destruction outside the window and asks just how much worse it could make things here. Shiva says he's not talking about the damage it does to the UNIVERSE. He's talking about what it will do to HIM. And instead of the full on scenery chewing he was doing in "Into Darkness", Benedict seems to be relying entirely on his eyes here to convey just how unhinged he is supposed to be. Stephen tries to sympathize that Shiva couldn't save his universe (assuming he tried), but suggests he could help save STEPHEN'S universe. Shiva stares blankly and asks if Stephen is happy.
Diandra: Why does everyone keep asking me that?!
Chrissy: Oh, quit bitching and answer yourself, Stephen.

Shiva wanders over to the window and looks down at Christine waiting outside as he mutters that that's the question HIS Christine asked him at her wedding. To which he responded that of course he is because he's a sorcerer with god-like powers and why wouldn't he be? "Then I came back to this goddamn haunted house, sat down and wondered why I'd lied." So he started using the Darkhold to try to find a universe where "things were different" and here we are. Because he and Christine are NEVER together anywhere apparently and I guess he can't be happy without that variable. So he killed all those unhappy Stephens in case Stephen was wondering about the repeated dreams of being pushed off a building.
Diandra: Even that one weird one where you claimed your name was actually Sherlock. Except it didn't work and you just told everyone someone named "Moriarty" tried to kill you.
Chrissy: Finally giving in to the crossover, huh?
Diandra: And then there was this whole thing with a Baron while you were in hiding...
Chrissy: DANNIT. I should have known.

A third eye opens in Shiva's forehead and the swirling chaos outside swirls faster. Shiva repeats the line about the Darkhold taking a heavy toll in a taunting, demented manner. Stephen is like ooooooookay then. Why don't you just hand the book over to me for a bit and try to come back down to Earth? Shiva offers a trade: the Darkhold for HIS Christine (obviously assuming that's the variant outside). Stephen says she probably wouldn't agree to that.
Chrissy: She would in fact probably make a counter offer to remove parts of his anatomy for him.
Diandra: And miss the opportunity to tell me to literally go fuck myself?
Diandra: I am literally the last person on this Earth and even I'm not that desperate. Yet. Check back in a couple days.
Shiva starts gathering up some sort of spell and Stephen tries to lasso the Darkhold off his belt. Shiva grabs the red energy beam and slings it back, turning it purple. Stephen slams into a grand piano and sends sheet music flying everywhere. This somehow gives him inspiration for the weirdest fight scene of the MCU so far. He stops the sheet music in mid air, lifts notes off the page and throws these glowing makeshift throwing stars at Shiva. Bursts of purple energy explode across Shiva's tunic as they hit like he's got a personal protective shield. One note knocks the Darkhold to the floor and several drive into a pillar behind his head. Shiva finally conjures a music staff to catch them and throws one of Bach's most recognizable melodies back.

Stephen conjures a shield to block it, but still gets thrown back so hard he apparently briefly fragments into several astral projections or something. He manages to gather it back and throw a line of Beethoven back at Shiva. And in case you're wondering, the music composer for this movie was, in fact, baffled and probably questioning the sanity of whoever first described this scene to him.
Chrissy: Are we sure it wasn't still Giacchino until this moment when he decided "fuck it, I'm going over to DC"?

The notes turn into a chaotic mess balled in the middle of the room, with both of them straining to hold it there. Shiva lets go with one hand to retrieve the Darkhold. Stephen notices a harp that has somehow survived this nonsense and flings a single note off it. The note impacts with the Darkhold, creating a blast that throws Shiva back, through the Sanctum symbol window. Stephen catches the Darkhold and Shiva is impaled on the spikey fence surrounding the Sanctum.
Chrissy: What is it with you an impalement anyway? Do we need to have a talk about this?
Christine runs over to him and reels back screaming as the third eye blinks at her.

And we're back in the prime universe with Wong, who has somehow landed safely on a ledge when he was falling over the cliff. He regains consciousness and starts climbing a light chain back up to the temple.

Inside, Wanda is starting to siphon power off of America, who is pinned to the altar by magic. But also, like, levitating above it. She screams.

Back in whatever the hell universe this is: Stephen opens the Darkhold and conjures the spinning universe bubbles around him. He somehow identifies immediately which one is his and expands it to show America screaming. He tells her to hang on and collapses the spell back into the book. He is just starting to cast another spell from a different page when Christine comes in and demands to know what he thinks he's doing there.
Chrissy: Also, nice of you to leave me down there while you were up here playing with yourself.
Diandra: Are you quoting that one comic there, or...
Chrissy: That's in a comic?
Diandra: Yeah, I forget the context exactly, but I think Jane Foster's Thor might have muttered about the men "playing with themselves" while a bunch of Loki variants fight each other.
Chrissy: Okay, first of all...where was this memory when we were recapping that fifth episode of "Loki"? And second...clearly I need to read more of these comics.
Close enough
Stephen says he's...uh...dreamwalking. She grumbles that all his variants really ARE alike. He agrees that they probably are, but he needs to save America right now and he's going to need Christine's help to do it. Because she's going to need to guard his body in case the souls of the damned decide to attack him while he's defenseless.
Chrissy: Mmmkay. Your Christine clearly never had a talk with you about hard limits.
Diandra: Meh, it's just a little possession. Seriously, somebody should REALLY ask about the things I've buried.
He gathers the, like, five dozen candles Shiva had strewn all around into a circle around him, lights them all and then starts levitating off the floor. Christine belatedly asks how he intends to dreamwalk back into the Prime universe since he needs the body of a variant living in that universe to dreamwalk INTO. He looks dead at the camera and delivers probably the clunkiest line of this whole mess: "who said they had to be living?"

And in a straight up horror movie homage, he possesses the half decayed body of Defender Strange and claws up out of the grave like yes, we managed to work in zombies. Sort of. You're welcome, nerds.

Zombie Stephen opens a portal to Mount Wandagore (I seem to have forgotten the actual name, so this is what I'm calling it now) and staggers to the top of the mountain that Wong identified as the closest point they could portal to. A black wraith appears, circling his head and screaming, quickly followed by two more. Layered demonic voices yell at him that possessing a dead body is FORBIDDEN and he should cut this out before he suffers "eternal consequences". The black figures swarm all over him and back in the collapsing world hands start grabbing at Stephen and pull him into a black pool. The screen goes dark for a second and Christine yells his name. It comes back with him on his back on the floor, reaching for her hand, wide eyed and shaking. She touches his forehead and yelps. He closes his eyes again so she pries one open to check his pupil. A demon flies right out of his eyeball and attacks her. She kicks it into a grandfather clock and turns to the other two demons that fly out after it, yanking Stephen's body around on the floor like a broken marionette.

She identifies the artifact in the case behind her as the Brazier of Bom'Goliath, aka the thing Stephen grabbed at one point during the big fight in the first movie, which Kaecillius noted he didn't know how to operate. Luckily, this Christine does for some reason. She grabs one of the candles and uses it to "light" the brazier while pointing it at an attacking demon and it burns spectacularly. This turns out to be the same demon she was already fending off as the other two are still playing tug of war with Stephen. She snarls at them to "go back to hell" and snuffs them too.
Emilio: We just needed an excuse to make her a badass this time around.
Diandra: I guess.

She rushes back to Stephen and holds his hand while she instructs him to "use" the spirits attacking him because he's the goddamn master of the mystics arts, isn't he?

In the prime universe, Zombie Defender Strange throws off all the demons smothering him (of which there are at least a dozen now) and casts a spell to gather them all into a struggling bundle at his back like some sort of wings that can fly him over to the temple.
Chrissy: Need a refill on that drink over there?
Diandra: [long groan] I'm getting tired.

Wanda hears whatever commotion this is causing and one of the sentries starts gathering a ball of energy to throw at the...thing wobbling through the air toward them. But Wong climbs back into range at just that moment and sends a light spear through its head, slinging it off the cliff. The remaining three sentries peer down at him and he mutters "uh-oh" as they pick up big chunks of rock to throw at him. He deflects the first one with a shield. Before the second one can let loose, Zombie Stephen flies past him and blasts all three of them off the cliff with some sort of energy bomb. Then he showboats a bit, doing something like that ganesha thing from "Infinity War" but with all the demon soul arms fanning around him.
Chrissy: You just HAD to one up me, didn't you?
Diandra: You're welcome.

Zombie Stephen lands at the edge of the temple and Wanda yells that he's SUCH a hypocrite before throwing a fireball at him. The demons fold around him like a shield, dead faces cackling. When they part, he says another goofy thing: "this time it's going to take more than killing me to kill me." Back in the collapsing universe, Christine cocks an eyebrow at Stephen like 'really?' Zombie Stephen runs at Wanda, doing a flip similar to the moves Wong was doing fighting the cyclops squid thing and flinging the demons at her. They surround her, shrieking "murderer" and hold her in place for a while. Wong clambers up into the temple finally and when Zombie Stephen glances back at him, shouts "I don't even want to know!"
Chrissy: Cementing his status as the most relatable character in the MCU, which is why he is in everything now.

Zombie Stephen flings the whole ball of demons with Wanda trapped inside over to him and Wong traps them inside a spell. Wanda's hand breaks free and reaches for him. A couple demon hands grab it, but Wong yelps that she's breaking free. Zombie Stephen just tells him to hold on.
Chrissy: What the fuck do you think I'm trying to do here?
Wong yells at him to take America's power because there's nothing else they can do. Stephen agrees that "this" is the only way and releases America from the spell Wanda had trapping her. Then he runs over and tells the dazed girl that "it's me...in...Other Me's body."
Emilio: And what's it like being inside another man?
Diandra: Well, since he's dead it's mostly like wearing a suit of human skin, but...[full Buffalo Bill impression] I'd do me.
Chrissy: Considering what we've been figuring out about you, I'm starting to think you would do that anyway.
Diandra: Oh, shut up.

America resignedly says he's going to take her power after all to prevent Wanda from getting it and it's okay. She understands. The camera gets way too close to his face and the first time I saw this I was completely distracted by the gross decay effects making a hole in the side of his mouth to pay attention to what he was saying. Like...he's been dead, what, a day? I didn't miss much, it turns out, because he just tells her - with way more facial animation than is probably strictly necessary - to trust herself and her power and together they can defeat Wanda. Because even if she thinks she can't control her power, she has been sending them exactly where they needed to go every time she "accidentally" opened a portal. Uh-huh. Sure. [blows a raspberry]

Wanda blasts out of the spell and demons holding her, knocking Wong over, and marches toward them. Zombie Stephen turns and takes a blast to the arm. Actual Stephen wobbles and Christine steadies him as Zombie Stephen's arm burns down to the skeleton. Wanda keeps going, burning half his body while Stephen's actual body is surrounded by her magic and Christine is thrown back. America finally snaps to and leaps at Wanda, punching her and creating a star portal behind her. She punches her a couple more times and kicks her until she reaches the edge of the cliff just through the open portal where it has a lava pit below. She catches the next punch before it lands and walks America back away from the portal, which closes. America moans that she can't beat Wanda, but she can give her what she wants. Sort of. She punches her with her other hand, opening a new portal. Wanda starts choking her until she realizes they are just on the other side of the portal in the 838 universe. Specifically, the living room of Wanda's house. Billy shrieks for his mother because "it's the witch!" "What have you done," Prime Wanda hisses at America.

838 Wanda rushes down the stairs, reassuring the twins that it's okay and shoving them behind her. Prime Wanda yells that SHE is their mother and magic slams the couch across the room so she can storm toward them. She throws 838 Wanda across the room too. America starts to run to her, but Zombie Strange's half charred corpse growls at her to wait. The twins start picking up random shit to throw at Prime Wanda, shrieking at her to get away from their mom and GO AWAY until she snaps at them to "STOP IT" and they hide behind the banister, sobbing and begging her to just not hurt them. Prime Wanda tears up and insists she would NEVER hurt them. Or anyone. "I'm not a monster."
Chrissy: I mean just because I LOOK like one and you've probably literally seen me in your nightmares by now...
Her face crumples as she realizes what she's done and sees them glancing worriedly at their actual mother groaning on the floor. She staggers backward and they run to her, falling down crying as the little family unit all verifies that they are okay.

838 Wanda staggers upright, assures the boys that it will be fine and goes over to Prime Wanda, who calms as 838 Wanda cups her cheek. "Know that they'll be loved," she says. Sensing the closure of this moment, America closes the portal to the 838 universe. Wanda sniffles and magics herself up onto the podium. The whole temple shudders. America asks the increasingly grotesque Zombie Stephen what they should do now. "Get out of here," says the Halloween decoration Stephen is animating.
Chrissy: It's like someone was challenged to make Benedict as hideous as possible and they really went for it.
Diandra: Yeah, I was confused when people were sharing screenshots from the preview of Zombie Strange surrounded by demon arms because it didn't even look like him. Not from a distance anyway.

She promises to find him and opens a portal at the edge of the cliff, taking Wong through it, presumably to the right universe and closing it again. Zombie Stephen and Wanda look at each other.
Chrissy: I suppose it's too late to negotiate some sort of deal? Recreate the boys organically? Obviously with the real you and not this freakshow zombie suit you're wearing. Unless you're into that sort of thing. What would that be? Some sort of reverse necrophilia? I'm just waiting for you to stop me, Diandra.
Diandra: Sorry, what? I was distracted by the fact that his ponytail is now in a bun like...when the fuck did that happen? Also, is anyone hungry right now?
Chrissy: You can't seriously have reprogrammed your brain to not only not be grossed out by gory horror shit, but actually respond to it by looking for food have you?
Diandra: Oh...uh...I didn't think about that but since the craving was for meat...
Emilio: Pretty sure this was the point when I saw it in the theater that I started eating even more popcorn.
Chrissy: There is something deeply wrong with both of you.
Diandra: Yeah, nobody is denying that.

Wanda says she's the one who opened the Darkhold, so she should be the one to close it to ensure that no one can ever use it again. Uh...apparently there are copies floating in several universes, so...oh, whatever. She uses magic to crumble the entire temple around her and we go to a long shot as chunks of rock slide down the side of the cliff and there is a red flash in the middle of it. Which many have taken as the cue to assume that she is not dead. And yeah, Elizabeth Olson just signed a contract for however many more projects and at this point we should assume that there is always a way to bring characters back in SOME form, but I'm not sure what a red flash of magic is proof of exactly. Especially since we saw what happened to the sorcerer who destroyed ONE COPY of the Darkhold.

Back in the collapsing world, Stephen helps Christine off the floor where she collapsed however many minutes ago. She asks if it's over now and if America is okay. He says she should be on her way to pick them up. "Wanda," Christine asks vaguely. Stephen answers with an equally vague "no." The Darkhold on the floor beside them catches fire suddenly which I guess answers how her destroying the temple would ensure no one can use it anywhere. In case that's not clear, Stephen says out loud that she just destroyed every copy in every universe. Christine concludes that again, in the end she did the right thing. They look at the swirling chaos outside the sanctum and Christine asks what his universe is like. He says it's "beautiful" although compared to what little we saw of hers it looks halfway to Titan. He says he wishes he could show it to her. She says she would like that, but...uh...she should really get back to her own universe. Although she acknowledges that "could have been one hell of an incursion."

"I love you," Stephen blurts. "In every universe." Except, you know, the ones where he's married to Clea.
Chrissy: Or the ones where he's with Tony.
Diandra: Or Loki, if we're already going full fan headcanon.
Emilio: Or the ones where she's with the other Sherlock.
Diandra: Gah, I keep forgetting she's Irene Adler.
Chrissy: You? Forgetting something? Shocker. Especially since you still can't seem to tell her from Amy Adams.
Diandra: Meh, I'm getting a little better at that the more I see her face.

He says something that probably boils down to an excuse that he's afraid of commitments or - assuming anyone remembers her describing them in the first movie as "barely even lovers" past tense - maybe fear of endangering people close to him with the insanity that is this new career path. She steps closer and cups his cheek and tells him to "face your fears."
Chrissy: Go sweep her off her feet in the middle of a rainstorm. Or see if you can figure out another way to time travel and go back to some other time in your relationship.
Diandra: Or just, like, spend one day together every year until she dies?
Chrissy: [heavy sigh] Points for at least figuring out that I was trying to reference Rachel's movies there, but I'm pretty sure the one you're describing had Anne Hathaway.
Diandra: It did not. [checks IMDb] Oh. Yeah, I'm starting to think the problem is that I don't really remember any of these movies and they're all blurring together into a romcom sludge. Which one was in the one with Harrison Ford that was like a female "How to Stop Time"? Was that Amy?
Emilio: Blake Lively.
Chrissy: Yeah, I'm giving up at this point. You're hopeless.

So back in the partly destroyed Kamar Taj of the Prime Universe sometime later, Stephen and Wong walk through a group of students practicing magic. America is between Rintrah and the guy Wanda mind controlled, complaining that this is MUCH harder than making multiverse portals. Stephen notes to Wong that the problem is she is being impatient and going too fast. Wong smirks that yeah, she reminds him of someone else he knew once.
Chrissy: Although since this one is an actual child, we will have to come up with a different way to teach her to "submit" to her power. Which is the actual phrasing The Ancient One used if I remember.
Diandra: Yeah, you would remember that, wouldn't you?

Wong asks if Stephen is okay. Y'know since he used the Darkhold to dreamwalk into his doppleganger's corpse and all. Stephen just smirks and insists he's fine. "But I do want to ask you something. Are you happy?" Wong is confused by the question. Stephen says you would THINK saving the world would "get you there, but it doesn't."
Chrissy: Are you asking me to help you "get there" or just generally propositioning me?
Actually, Wong says he wonders about the other lives he might be living somewhere sometimes, but he's grateful for this one. "Even with it's tribulations."
Chrissy: And you are definitely the biggest one of those.
Diandra: I love you too, man.
Stephen gives him a significant look and says "at least we don't have to go through it alone, huh?" Wong agrees that they don't and Stephen pointedly bows to him.
Emilio: I now pronounce you officially a couple.
Chrissy: We already were, but apparently he's finally accepting his place as my sub.
Diandra: You know, this reminds me that I saw a video recently of "out of context" snippets of Benedict's interviews. I swear I heard him say "the spanking paddles of [something]" somewhere in there and I was going to find it to mention somewhere in this recap, but I'm afraid of what searching for "Benedict Cumberbatch + spanking paddles" will do to my search history.
Chrissy: Challenge accepted.

[ETA: "I couldn't find the actual video, but I figured out it was from the first "Doctor Strange" press tour and he called these ping pong paddles used to play a game the "spanking paddles of awakedness". Also, of course, I found some interesting fanfics." - Chrissy]

[ETA2: I found the out of context video in my watch history: here it is]

America wanders over and stops Stephen before he can escape through a portal back to his sanctum. Except she doesn't really have anything to say and just shyly notes that she has successfully made a few sparks in that class down there.
Emilio: It's been a long time since I've been able to fish for parental approval. Am I doing it right?
Stephen assures her that her parents would definitely be proud and hopefully she will be able to show them her new abilities one day.
Emilio: Eh. Close enough.

She calls him Stephen, which I guess he doesn't find as weird as he did when Peter did it and says she's glad she fell into his universe in particular. He says he is too and leaves, accompanied by some sappy drivel that the closed captioner calls "sentimental music".
Chrissy: This movie is a chaotic mix of horror comedy and Disney superhero fluff.
Diandra: Yeah, the second one was always intended to be a horror movie. That was why the original director was the guy who was better known FOR his horror movies. But the switch to Sam Raimi changed the tone of it because the other guy took himself WAY more seriously.
Chrissy: Kind of like how "Ragnarok" became a completely different movie when they handed the reigns to a comedian.
Diandra: Pretty much. Except to a completely opposite effect as far as the fanboys are concerned because they are convinced "Ragnarok" was a masterpiece and "Love and Thunder" was a disaster despite descriptions that make them sound like exactly the same movie.
If I had to see this, then so do you
Stephen puts a new face on the broken watch and puts it back in a jewelry case. Then he goes out for a stroll and doesn't even make it through the first intersection before falling over yelling and grabbing his head. The camera spins around him while he screams hysterically and a third eye pops open in his forehead.

Midway through the credits, he's walking down the street again in a different, less 70s inspired outfit, looking totally normal again. And then Charlize Theron appears behind him in an elaborate purple and black costume and calls his name. She produces a dagger from nowhere and starts marching toward him like she's going to take his head off, snarling that he caused an incursion with his bullshit. He just skitters back a couple steps and doesn't try to defend himself at all. Luckily, she just wants him to fix the mess he made. She slices the air behind her and what looks like the technicolor world where Stephen fought Dormammu appears through the slit. Although I might just be making that connection because I know who the Clea from the comics is. "Unless you're afraid," she taunts. Not being able to take THAT sort of challenge to his pride, he rips off the scarf he's wearing, which turns into the cloak and does the quick magic wardrobe change. He steps beside her and somebody probably hastily slapped the third eye on his forehead here in post when they realized this was going to be a thing now and they jump through the tear.
Chrissy: I just realized she never says her name, but literally everyone including the closed captioner knows this is Clea. Is her outfit that comics accurate?
Emilio: Yes.
Diandra: Also because this was the spoiler leak I never questioned. Mostly because it didn't produce the same sort of insane fan chatter that the Tom Cruise thing did. Just 'by the way, Charlize is playing Clea now' while they were actually filming that scene.

Someone noted that the last two movies in a row have had the end card stating that "Doctor Strange will return", which...I mean, obviously he has a planned trilogy, but now that we know the guy writing those cards doesn't always verify them first...

And after the credits we return very briefly to Bruce in the 838 universe as the spell to punch himself repeatedly runs out. Apparently there were at least a couple different versions of his reaction to this. The one that was put in with the deleted scenes had him vowing to get revenge on Doctor Strange for this. This one just has him laughing giddly, looking at the camera and probably reflecting the relief of some Marvel fanboys as he says "it's over!"
Chrissy: Yeah, that was...something.
Diandra: Okay, so the reason I wanted to open this recap with a transcript of my discussion with Emilio is because I kept hearing people a) describe THIS movie as "bonkers" and "unhinged" and b) swear up and down that "Everything Everywhere All At Once" is MUCH BETTER AND YOU SHOULD DEFINITELY SEE IT OMG!! Once I got to the part where they were slinging a Pomeranian and shoving things up their asses I started wondering if the people recommending it were either stoners or frat boys. Basically, it rearranged my sense of reality in a sense of I found myself asking "what the FUCK did I just watch?!" and allowed me to approach this recap with a lot more patience because at least the plot of this one is coherent to a sober person. Does it have eye rolling moments? Yes. But I'm not sure that isn't just a product of it being a chaotic mess of a production where - as Benedict noted in basically every interview - everything changed but the title by the time it was released. I'm not saying I thought "Everything Everywhere" was BAD, it's just...deliberately ridiculous. And bonkers and unhinged. Like the B side of this movie that doesn't even care if people question the writers' mental stability.
Emilio: This recap is going to break a word count record, isn't it?
Diandra: Thank you again for saying I need to shut up in the politest way possible, Emilio.

Chrissy: So...I think we may have discussed this before, but...why is it Peter's variants - despite being all white guys - all have different faces and are at different stages of their life, Loki's variants are SO wildly different that one of them is a goddamn alligator and yet Stephen's all have the same fucking face.
Emilio: Seniority.
Diandra: Oh [blows raspberry]. It wasn't just Stephen. The only character played by a completely different actor here was Reed. I would assume again that this is a product of things being out of order now. This was supposed to be the introduction to the multiverse, followed immediately (or simultaneously) by "Loki" and then we would have been hearing complaints about how "No Way Home" didn't go far enough as we're hearing about "Multiverse" now. It's also messing up our understanding of the rules, I'm sure, because multiversal travel is more limited here than "No Way Home" led us to believe.
Chrissy: So do you want to take a break from the MCU for a while and go back to "Star Trek" or do you want to take a break from Benedict?
Diandra: [long suffering sigh] You know, I started recapping this series because I thought it would be fun. I also thought it would take a finite amount of my time, which turns out to have been highly optimistic.
Emilio: So "Star Trek" it is then.
Diandra: [groan]

[ETA: "Infinity War" still holds the record at 27,500 words, but at 26,200 this recap officially beats "Endgame" to hold second place]