We finally get a detailed explanation of all the questions we keep asking ourselves.
Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) saw 14,000,605 possible outcomes in Avengers: Infinity War, and he had to live through and die in each one. After just one solo film and a brief appearance in Thor: Ragnarok, Doctor Strange received one of the most important roles in Avengers: Infinity War. As the protector of the Time Stone, he was directly in Thanos’ crosshairs and proclaimed that he would do whatever it takes to keep it safe.
That’s why the stunning sacrifice of the stone to Thanos to save Tony Stark’s life came as such a surprise. But, it wasn’t long before fans started to piece together what that meant. Earlier in Avengers: Infinity War, Strange travelled forward in time to view over 14 million possible futures before finding the one outcome that ended in Thanos’ defeat. This journey only lasts a few seconds for everyone else. But for Strange, finding out that Tony was the key to saving the universe meant experiencing each of those possible lives.
Directors Anthony and Joe Russo recently detailed Strange’s visions of the future in a Q&A with Wired. Strange previously messed with time by creating a time loop in Doctor Strange, and a similar mechanic appears to have been used in Avengers: Infinity War to see the future. Joe explained, “He has to physically live, though, and die in each of them. Before he dies, he has to reset it – as we saw at the end of Doctor Strange – and do it again.”
The idea that Strange would have to live through each of these futures independently further shows why he’s so taxed when he comes out of this state of mind. Depending on what happens in each of the 14 million futures, he may have lived lifetimes to find the one future that we saw in Avengers: Endgame. But, since The Ancient One confirmed in Doctor Strange that sorcerers cannot see past their death, this could mean that the people who were snapped didn’t die if Strange was able to see past it unless their returns are effectively loopholes to that idea.
Either way, this does raise an intriguing question: are there more possible outcomes that could’ve resulted in a similar victory that Strange wasn’t able to see? If, for instance, Strange died but not by the snap, then there may be some future outcome filled with coincidences on the same level of a rat letting Ant-Man out of the Quantum Realm that also resulted in total victory. In that scenario, Strange would remain dead like Vision or Black Widow, so he would have no way of knowing if the remaining heroes managed to save the day. At this point, every possible outcome that Strange saw is information only he knows, but maybe that will be explored in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness in a few years. After all, he did have to live through and die in over 14 million lives (after already dying countless times at the hands of Dormammu), so he could be haunted by these Avengers: Infinity War futures moving forward.