September 26, 2021

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Travel Finishes First

How The MCU’s New Time Travel Works (& What It Means For Phase 4)

3 min read

Marvel’s What If…? episode 1 introduced a new method of time travel – here’s how it works in the MCU, and what it could mean for Phase 4.

Warning: Contains SPOILERS for What If…? episode 1.

Marvel’s What If…? episode 1 introduced a new method of time travel in the MCU – and here’s how it works. Time travel was inevitably going to become part of the MCU sooner or later; the comics have exploited time travel tropes on countless different occasions. They haven’t always been consistent, of course, in spite of the best efforts of some comic book editors.

Amusingly enough, the same has been the case in the MCU as well. Avengers: Endgame‘s time travel was more than a little contradictory, probably because Marvel changed the rules during production. Marvel used the Loki series to tighten up the rules and formally introduce the Multiverse, but they’re still adding new elements into the mix. Marvel’s What If…? episode 1 introduced another method of time travel, with Captain Carter transported forward 70 years through a wormhole opened by the Tesseract. But how does this work?


Related: The MCU Finally Remembered The Tesseract’s Most Impressive Power

There is actually a real-world pseudo-scientific explanation for this; according to Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity, space and time are closely bound together. A wormhole is a tunnel through them both, linking two points in spacetime, binding them together. Thus, it is theoretically possible to use a wormhole to travel through time.

In the case of Marvel’s What If…?‘s time travel, it’s likely the wormhole travels through a dimensional plane where time passes more slowly than in the real world. That would explain why 70 years have passed for the real world, but it looks as though only a few moments have for Captain Carter – notice she doesn’t emerge from the portal in exactly the same posture as when she jumped in, meaning she has had some sort of experience of time, albeit very different to the world she left behind. This fits with Marvel’s general model of the Multiverse, where there are other dimensions such as the Quantum Realm where time doesn’t work the same way.

It remains to be seen whether the Tesseract can be used to travel backwards in time as well – or whether the Tesseract’s portals can transcend the Multiverse, allowing a person to move from one branched timeline to another. If it can, then it is possible timelines with a Tesseract will be able to explore other dimensions, perhaps initiating the Multiversal conflict He Who Remains warned about in Loki episode 6. The Tesseract may have been destroyed in the mainstream MCU, but there are no doubt countless timelines where that never happened, so this new form of time travel could be a crucial addition to the franchise’s lore.

More: Every Captain America & MCU Easter Egg In What If? Episode 1

Marvel’s What If…? releases new episodes Wednesdays on Disney+.

  • Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021)Release date: Sep 03, 2021
  • Eternals (2021)Release date: Nov 05, 2021
  • Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)Release date: Dec 17, 2021
  • Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022)Release date: Mar 25, 2022
  • Thor: Love and Thunder (2022)Release date: May 06, 2022
  • Black Panther: Wakanda Forever/Black Panther 2 (2022)Release date: Jul 08, 2022
  • The Marvels/Captain Marvel 2 (2022)Release date: Nov 11, 2022
  • Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (2023)Release date: Feb 17, 2023
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (2023)Release date: May 05, 2023

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