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‘Doctor Strange 2’ credits scene explained: Yes, [spoiler] really is playing [spoiler]

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Warning: This article contains spoilers for the credits scenes in Marvel Studios’ “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” and is intended for those who have seen the film. For less spoiler-y “Strange” content check out our review and a report from the world premiere on the movie’s connections to “WandaVision.”

The cameo-heavy “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” features appearances from several characters previously depicted in live-action Marvel projects over the years, but it also introduces one unfamiliar new character during its mid-credits scene.

The scene features the good doctor (Benedict Cumberbatch) walking down a New York City street before a disembodied voice calls out his name. As he turns around, a woman sporting long white hair and a purple battle suit is revealed, played by Oscar winner Charlize Theron. “You caused an incursion and we’re going to fix it … unless you’re afraid?” she says before ripping open a portal leading to the Dark Dimension. Strange, of course, takes the leap with her.

Before Theron was revealed in the role, there had been fan speculation that either “Harry Potter” alum Emma Watson or “Strange” co-star Rachel McAdams (who plays Dr. Christine Palmer in the film) would take on the iconic part. Theron, whose blockbuster credits include “Mad Max: Fury Road” and recent entries in the “Fast & Furious” franchise, also had been rumored to be joining the MCU. She headlined Netflix’s comics-inspired “The Old Guard,” which is in line for a sequel of its own.

Theron’s character is Clea, a powerful sorceress from the Dark Dimension and the niece of Dormammu, its ruler and the villain of the first “Doctor Strange” film. Created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, Clea was introduced in “Strange Tales #126″ (1964). She spent her early years as a captive of Dormammu and his sister Umar, her mother. After being freed by Strange, the two fall in love and eventually marry, although the marriage is short-lived.

Clea remains an ally of Strange until his death in 2021’s “The Death of Doctor Strange,” where she succeeds him as Sorcerer Supreme (the comic series “Strange” follows her adventures as the master of the mystic arts). Clea’s entry into the MCU presumably sets up a major plot point of the inevitable “Doctor Strange” sequel or whichever Marvel Studios offshoot we next see him in.

As established earlier in the film, an incursion is a breach in reality in which parallel universes collide. This could mean the MCU is setting up for an adaptation of the “Secret Wars” storyline introduced in Jonathan Hickman’s 2015 series. It also could mean that the integration or a reboot of previously non-MCU superhero teams like the X-Men and Fantastic 4 is imminent, particularly after cameos from Professor X (Patrick Stewart) and Mr. Fantastic (John Krasinski). (A MCU “Fantastic Four” is officially in development, although it recently lost “Spider-Man” director Jon Watts.)

In any event, the scene marks the second consecutive entry in the MCU to introduce a new character after the film has ended, as November’s “Eternals” introduced both Harry Styles’ Starfox and Mahershala Ali’s Blade (or at least his voice).

There is also a post-credits scene in “Multiverse,” but it doesn’t appear to tease anything else about the future of the franchise, instead revisiting the street vendor played by director Sam Raimi’s muse and “Evil Dead” star Bruce Campbell to demonstrate more of Campbell’s singular skill with physical comedy and end on a gag.

While the film’s credits end on the promise “Doctor Strange will return,” a third film has yet to be announced.

Perhaps more will be revealed when the next film in Marvel’s Phase 4, “Thor: Love and Thunder,” is released on July 8.

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