Marvel is no stranger to leaving little clues in its films and TV shows to foreshadow future stories, characters or events. 2014's Captain America: The Winter Soldier was no exception to this as it foreshadowed a very big character for a future movie: Doctor Stephen Strange. If you forgot, that's OK because it was a very quick exposition from a secondary character. If you forgot, here's the scene below:
It was certainly a cool way to tease an obscure, but still popular Marvel character. However, this did raise a pretty big question for the film — and the timeline: Why was HYDRA monitoring a simple surgeon? It's not like Strange was a sorcerer at this point in the #MCU timeline — or was he?
One of the biggest mysteries of Doctor Strange was exactly how long did Strange train at Kamar-Taj with the Ancient One and Mordo? Some believe that's where he was during the events of Winter Soldier and that's why HYDRA had their eyes on him. Could that be the case? To answer that, we have to determine where both films fit into the timeline.
Where Does Captain America: Winter Soldier Fit Into The Timeline?
Ever since the release of Spider-Man: Homecoming, fans have been somewhat confused about the Marvel Cinematic Universe's timeline, and that's an understatement. Since the first Avengers film was released in 2012, fans assumed that the film took place in the same year. However, after Homecoming started with a epilogue during the aftermath of The Avengers, a flashforwad card pops up saying that the film takes place eight years later.
While much of the timeline has already been explained, let's recap about where Winter Soldier fits into the timeline. In Civil War, during the scene where Ross is debriefing the Avengers about the Sokovia Accords, he states that the team has been working independently for the past four years. The Avengers were originally founded by S.H.I.E.L.D. under the leadership of Nick Fury, but after S.H.I.E.L.D. fell after the events of Winter Soldier, The Avengers were allowed to work without supervision.
So, if Civil War takes place in 2016, eight years after the first Iron Man film (just as Vision states), then that means the events of Winter Soldier take place in 2012. While it was easy to determine where Winter Soldier fits into all of this, it's a little harder to determine where Doctor Strange fits.
Where Does Doctor Strange Fit Into The Timeline?
The end of Doctor Strange suggests the year is 2016 because we're up to date on the rest of the MCU, as Doctor Strange is helping Thor during the events of Ragnarok, but what about the beginning of the movie? Surprisingly enough, Kevin Feige answered that during a visit to the set of the film in late September last year.
Feige was asked why Strange was considered a threat to HYDRA in Winter Soldier, and he ultimately denied everyone's fan theory.
"He is very well-known as a surgeon. He has got various awards and plaques you're going to see over there; he attends various galas, might be driving at one point in this movie. He has name recognition and a talent and certain Hydra computers identified him as somebody that could cause trouble for their agendas."
That settles it then. While that doesn't give us an immediate answer as to when the opening of Doctor Strange takes place, it does take place after 2012 and the events of Winter Soldier. That leaves just one question.
Why Is HYDRA Threatened By A Surgeon?
Off of what Feige stated last September, whether or not he's a well-known surgeon with a bunch of awards or not, why would that make him a threat to HYDRA? Even though he has recognition and talent, why would HYDRA consider him as big a threat as Bruce Banner or Captain America? Maybe it's simply just because he's the best there is and he abides by a code that prevents him from harming others.
The opening of Doctor Strange shows us that Stephen Strange is one of the best surgeons around, able to point out the impossible that other trained doctors missed. This is highlighted when he saves the mystery patient with the bullet in the back of their head. Also remember his reaction to killing the henchman in his spectral form while being aided by Christine Palmer — he's not only upset, he's downright disgusted with himself.
He states that when he became a doctor that he swore to do no harm to another human being and that he simply wanted to help people. It's possible that during the algorithms that HYDRA created to pick their targets, they saw that well-known surgeon was never going to go along with their plans and decided that it was best to ice him. In all honesty, it's probably the best explanation we're going to get to this mystery. Doctor Strange was simply considered too good for HYDRA's plans, which is probably why he'll fit into the superhero role so well in future MCU films.
Why do you think Doctor Strange was targeted by HYDRA?