[WARNING: This article contains minor SPOILERS for Doctor Strange]
In a world where each and every Marvel property is combed through to find any and all references, hints, teases, reveals or Easter Eggs pointing to any other film or TV show, results come up regardless. Even if those results are a bit unclear, half-true, or outright proposterous. But as far-fetched as some cameos or connections may seem, there’s no denying that Marvel has a plan – and where there’s a plan, there’s the chance to planting seeds early. Sometimes, very early, as is the case with Doctor Strange.
Like other Marvel films before it, Scott Derrickson’s magic adventure features one scene in which a handful of potential patients are mentioned as candidates for Dr. Stephen Strange’s next-level surgical skills. The opportunity to hint at other Marvel characters wasn’t missed, and one has emerged as the most significant riddle. While it has (somehow) been rumored as a tease of the new Captain Marvel origin story in the MCU, we think it may actually be a tease of a different villain… one who seems a no-brainer for the upcoming Netflix team-up of Marvel’s Defenders.
The Actual Easter Egg
Those who saw the film were likely to overlook the line of dialogue that’s causing all this uproar, and those who haven’t can feel free to read on without actually having the movie spoiled. As the titular Doctor Strange is making his way to a speaking engagement – prior to the accident that sends him on his journey of discovery – he takes the phone call in question from ‘Nurse Billy.’ The candidates for Strange’s next boundary-pushing surgery are: 1) an “Air Force colonel who crushed his lower spine in some kind of experimental armor,” 2) a “68-year-old female with advanced brain stem glioma,” and 3) a “22 year-old female with an electronic implant in her brain to control schizophrenia – struck by lightning.”
The third candidate, as noted by Strange himself, is interesting. Not just for the rare circumstances of the device and accident, but the fact that the attached X-Rays forward to Strange’s phone are what sends him into his car accident. That accident will likely obliterate any focus on the patient for most moviegoers, but the fact that the first candidate is obviously supposed to make a connection with the Air Force colonel who suffered a broken back in a suit of armor in Civil War, the final one demands a bit of extra attention – even if Strange hadn’t said so himself.
The Captain Marvel Rumor
It didn’t take long for the description to get some attention, with Captain Marvel mentioned as a possible candidate – a proposition that had director Scott Derrickson playing coy (read up on the whole story here). Unfortunately, there are a few problems with the rumor that tend to follow the rumor mills and questionings fueled by headline-friendly half-truths. First off: Marvel directors now know that not speaking on any possible hints or easter eggs is the company line, yet “no comment” sounds as good as a confirmation to many excited fans.
Sticking to the facts that we know and expect, the biggest problem is that the patient and scenario described in Doctor Strange isn’t just a change from the traditional origin story for Captain Marvel, but bears almost no resemblance whatsoever. Actress Brie Larson isn’t 22 years old (she’s 27), and even if a year or two pass from that point in Strange to its final scene, it’s an unnecessarily far cry from the actress who will be at 30 years old by the time her movie hits theaters. Assuming that line is intended as a nod to the armor tests in Iron Man 2, the timeline is still unclear, at best (almost decade would have passed in this single film).
But that’s not even the biggest issue.
The most problematic point is that, while a female Marvel character is coming in Captain Marvel, her origin story has nothing to do with schizophrenia, electronic implants in the brain, or lightning. Carol Danvers winds up caught in an explosion alongside the Kree hero Mar-Vell, imbuing her genetic code with the dying alien and blessing her with his powers. It’s possible that this origin story might be changed for film, but turning Carol Danvers into a college-aged, schizophrenic young woman who gets superpowers when she’s struck by lightning would go against every other Marvel movie’s commitment to the source material.
Common sense might rule here, stating that this is a completely different character altogether, if not a throwaway mention. But if it is important, there’s a Marvel character who fits the description a whole lot better… and who may be headed to Marvel’s Netflix world in the near future.
Making the assumption that Strange is referencing an existing character whose comic book form is actually suffering from schizophrenia or a mental disorder, the search gets easier, since there aren’t actually all that many to choose from. The leading candidate is a girl by the name of Mary Walker – follow us along, and see if you can spot the similarities and potential for yourself. In the comics, Mary Walker is a normal young woman caught up in the world of New York’s crime world, working in a brothel frequented by the criminal community – until a terrible accident sees her left for dead.
But Mary survives, fracturing her mind into three distinct personalities: Mary, the timid, shy product of a childhood of abuse, Typhoid, a sensual, risk-taking and violent femme fatale, and Bloody Mary, a savagely violent and man-hating woman who pushes her new telekinetic/psychic/pyromancy skills to their limits. Now, the movie mentions the girl having previously suffered from schizophrenia, not dissociative personality disorder. But the differentiation between the two can be difficult to spot and diagnose – which paints a bit of a story based purely on these tiny details offered.
If a young woman was diagnosed with schizophrenia OR dissociative personality disorder – both tied to physical or sexual abuse in childhood – and given an experimental device implanted inside her brain, there’s no real way of knowing what the device would even be designed to do. We’re stepping into the science fiction fringe based on that premise alone, so what would happen if that chip was exposed to a surge of lightning? How would it affect the brain or, more importantly, how would it affect the brain’s existing divisions between different personalities?
Assuming the (admittedly slim) details of the phone call are even meant to hint at ANY character, then a young woman suffering from schizophrenia or a similar mental disorder going through some kind of ‘inciting incident’ seems most likely. There’s also one other detail that helps explain why Typhoid Mary would be the character in question: because she was introduced to Marvel Universe during Frank Miller’s famous run on “Daredevil: The Man Without Fear”… and it was Matt Murdock who almost killed her.
The Defenders’ New Villain?
The fact that Typhoid Mary was introduced as a victim-villain during Miller’s Daredevil run has made her a top candidate among fans for a role in the hero’s Netflix series (even setting aside the fact that she’s typically one of Kingpin’s main assassins). Keep in mind, Miller’s game-changing run on “Daredevil” also saw the emergence of Elektra, Kingpin’s rise to a truly chilling nemesis, the introduction of Stick to Matt Murdock’s origin story, and even the villainous ninjas known as The Hand – all of which have now been adapted into the very DNA of the Daredevil universe. And that universe is getting bigger by the day, with other Netflix shows Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and the upcoming Iron Fist fleshing out Marvel’s version of New York City.
If Marvel movie fans were looking to finally see some connections between Marvel Television’s Netflix shows and the Marvel Cinematic Universe, then the New Yorker Doctor Stephen Strange seemed the best candidate. Especially since Marvel boss Kevin Feige has said it’s all a matter of “timing.” It’s possible that connection came without anyone noticing it – not just hinting at their shared location, but outright teasing the newest villain for Marvel’s Defenders crossover as a young woman Strange might have saved… had he not gotten in his accident.
But it isn’t just connective tissue or fan service that makes this theory compelling, but the story potential it would bring to the Defenders themselves. We now know that Sigourney Weaver will be playing the main villain for the Defenders, and rumors of a Kingpin return refuse to die. Even so, there’s the question of who the Defenders will actually be fighting in combat. Typhoid Mary wouldn’t just be up to the task, but would be uniquely-tailored to take each Netflix hero on in their own backyard.
The idea of a sexually-abused woman embracing her rage and promising that no man will ever hurt her again would be a tough foe for Jessica Jones, as her first season dealt with that exact same torment. The lightning strike means Matt Murdock is no longer responsible for creating Mary (that would be pretty difficult to work into Matt’s clearly heroic nature), but her proficiency in martial arts means she could bloody Matt up all the same. And finally, how would Luke Cage and Danny Rand fare against an out-of-control fire-bender drawing power from inside her own brain? Tough skin and magic fists may not be enough.
Only time will tell if our theory is accurate, or if Marvel really is going way – way – off the board for a new Captain Marvel origin story. And there’s always the chance that it’s a long term tease, with Typhoid Mary getting a bigger share of the spotlight in a future season of Daredevil or Jessica Jones after it. Or, of course, this reference is just in the film to sound… interesting.