Late in the fight against Thanos, Doctor Strange gives up the Time Stone in exchange for Tony Stark’s life. This is in stark (ha) contrast to his earlier assertion that he’d sooner let Iron Man or Spider-Man die than give up the Time Stone. What would drive Doctor Strange to save Iron Man’s life in exchange for giving Thanos what he wanted?
Endgame Theory: Doctor Strange’s Long-Game
Doctor Strange used the Time Stone to view 14,000,605 potential futures when the team arrived on Titan. They all resulted in Thanos’ victory over the Avengers, except for one. Strange would know from this future-scanning just what conditions led to Thanos’ eventual undoing. As he says to Tony following their loss on Titan, “We’re in the endgame now.”
In chess, the endgame is the point in the game when there are few pieces left on the board and the king becomes a very strong piece for controlling the middle of the board. An important aspect of the endgame is promoting a pawn to a stronger position, such as a queen. It seems likely that Strange knows that it will take some very specific sacrifices to beat Thanos from his incredibly strong “middlegame” position.
Scott Lang’s possession of Pym technology will likely prove pivotal in undoing Thanos. Given Strange’s adamant defense of Tony in the battle against Thanos, Stark is likely to play a big role in helping Ant Man use Pym’s technology to defeat the Mad Titan. Shuri, one of the only other people capable of understanding Hank Pym’s quantum tunneling tech, was vaporized by the Devastation.
As such, Tony might be the only person left alive who can help Scott use the Quantum Realm to time-travel and defeat Thanos. Many fans have speculated that time-travel will play a big role in Endgame, though most have assumed the Time Stone will be the catalyst for such travel.
We’re expecting, instead, that the “pawn” of Scott Lang will end up being promoted to a much more important position. Scott’s mastery of the Ant Man suit and knowledge of the Quantum Realm will likely prove pivotal in defeating Thanos.
It seems likely that the best way to beat the Mad Titan is going to be returning to a prior version of the current timeline and altering the outcome of certain events so that the heroes win back in the Battle of Wakanda. This may even involve some fan-favorite characters who died in Infinity War to return, even if they weren’t “snapped.”
This could include Loki, Gamora and Heimdall, resulting in a very different final battle against the big purple baddie.
On the Other Hand…
To be fair, this is just a theory. It’s also possible that Strange was simply saving a person he’d grown to see as a friend, and simply hoping Tony would have what it takes to defeat Thanos. Time will tell what Strange’s real plan was!
Avengers: Endgame opens April 26th, 2019. We’re counting down the days, now!