Jean Grey lies on the ground in the middle of a pentagram, while Dr. Strange finishes the preparations for the magical ritual and soliloquizes about Netflix shows. An ensemble cast that large wouldn’t have worked in the past, he opines. It took the better part of a season to get to know everyone. Including the loathsome shrinking violet protagonist. But then, here he sits three weeks and three seasons later. Chomping at the bits for more. He supposes the true test comes when he runs out of backlog and has to wait six months for season five.
Annoyed, Jean suggests he take the ritual thing more seriously. He retorts that, with magic in its current weakened state, he takes it all very seriously. She complains it doesn’t seem like it with the chatting and the snacking. So she expects theatrics? Strange complies. Seamstress of the Sauromandi! he booms. Unstitch this soul from her corporeal vessel. He lectures that theatrics aren’t necessary. Charlatans use them to make their victims believe they get their money’s worth.
Jean sees her spirit rising. Strange’s astral form is expecting her. As this is strictly pro bono, he didn’t bother, he adds. She assures him it’s cool. Now let’s see if they can find that chatty spirit of hers.
They are suddenly surrounded by a column of fire as they begin to travel to other realms. Jean asks what it’s for. Strange admits it is not his doing. Her visitor seems to be more powerful than expected. This is not the work of a garden variety poltergeist.
Jean is somewhat confused, as he seems to enjoy all of this. Because he believes in sincerity of spirit, he replies. And he does so love his work.
They travel through the psychedelic cosmos. Dr. Strange warns her they are getting close. He can feel a presence en route. Dejected, Jean figures it’s going to be the Phoenix. They turn around to find Dark Phoenix standing behind them. She opens her mouth and swallows them.
What they see next is a scene from the past. Jean’s first birthday celebration at Xavier’s. The boys sing for her and she telekinetically passes them slices of cake.
Jean explains to Strange that she remember this. Her awkward birthday party right after she moved into the mansion. None of the other X-Men knew how to act around her yet. What are they doing here? she wonders. Strange suggests the spirit will make itself known in time.
Look at them, Jean scoffs. She remembered the awkward but forgot how happy they all were. Perfect little idiot lives… not a care in the world. Not yet. Ignorance is bliss, Strange supposes.
The Jean from the memory turns around and eyeballs them. Maybe that’s why she brought Jean here, Strange suggests, to remind her of a simpler time. What’s the point? Jean scoffs. Look, life used to be so easy and great, but now—
Great - is she kidding? the Jean from the memory suddenly shouts at them. She’s an omega level telekinetic, using her gift to slice and divide cake to a roomful of wildly insecure boys who can’t decide if her role on the team should be damsel in distress, sex kitten, housekeeper or mascot! If any of them had any idea how powerful she is…
They don’t know because she doesn’t tell them, real Jean points out. She never gave them enough credit. She just assumed they couldn’t handle it and played girlie. And who even cares? The indignity of that crap doesn’t hold a candle to what came later. Knowing what she knows now.
She knows nothing! Memory Jean screams and uses her telekinesis to lash out at her and Strange.
Guess she pissed her off, Jean groans. She and Strange find themselves lying in ruins. They see Gambit nearby and Jean figures those are the X-Men from after her time. Nearby the X-Men, among them adult Jean in her gold and blue outfit, are battling the Acolytes. Strange points out these aren’t Jean’s memories but those of the ghost. Jean figures this is about the Phoenix. Strange doesn’t think so.
Adult Jean has dispatched of her foe and hurries to help Wolverine.
Strange continues this doesn’t feel like an immortal fire god. This is flesh and blood. He believes her spirit is Jean Grey. Adult Jean Grey. The… Jean interrupts. She swears to God if he says “real,” she’s going to…
She’s going to what, little girl? Adult Jean snaps while still battling. People call her real because they knew her. For years and years. Young Jean confuses them. She doesn’t belong. Deal with it!
She now turns to Jean and addresses her directly. She’s been trying to help her for weeks. It’s infuriating! She’s infuriating? Young Jean replies in disbelief. Adult Jean continues that all she’s doing is bellyaching about how she’s not ready. How she’s not her. Young Jean snaps back she didn’t even tell her who she was. She thought she was losing her mind! How does she think she became ready? adult Jean points out. How does she think she became who she is? She doesn’t want to be her! young Jean shouts back. Why would anybody ever want to be her?
“Jeanie, look out!” the beaten Wolverine moans from the ground and they are momentarily taken aback. The next moment, adult Jean is hit by Frenzy. Even while she takes a brutal beating, she keeps on talking to her younger self. She has herself convinced that adult Jean is her nightmare. That her life, which she has only seen glimpses of in other people’s heads, was some kind of dark tragedy. Because there was pain. Because it ended in death. Because it wasn’t the life she envisioned. Well, she hates to be the bearer but that’s just life, princess. Grow up!
As the Acolytes get ready to kill her, young Jean intervenes or tries to as she and Strange already travel on. Why does she hate her so much? Jean fumes. He does not think she will enjoy the answer to that question, Strange warns her. They are in a garden and hear arguing voices. Is it her fault, Ms. Marvelous Milquetoast turned absentee wife? a voice demands. Or is it Scott’s? The speaker turns out to be Emma Frost, arguing with adult Jean Grey over a very uncomfortable Scott Summers.
Not this horror show again, teenage Jean mutters.
No, it’s Jean’s, Emma continues confidently. Scott suggests everyone simmer down a bit. Oh no, “nearly naked” over there wants to dig in, adult Jean snarls. Grab a shovel, hubby! Let’s dig! Scott sighs as Emma threatens, with pleasure.
Strange warns Jean that her older self is goading her. Ignoring him, she protests that her older self is hell-bent on Ghost-of-Christmas Pasting her. That’s fine. But they are skipping this. She can’t do humiliation right now.
She doesn’t like humiliation? Adult Jean asks and her eyes burn. She doesn’t like shame? She begins to be surrounded by flames as she grabs Cyclops’ throat. She can’t stomach the telltale crackle of hopes and dreams on an open flame? she asks and burns Cyclops to everyone’s horror.
Young Jean begins to protest and wants to attack. Strange warns her it isn’t real. She will only feed her fire. Jean shouts Scott’s name and jumps toward him but passes through.
Was she really that foolish once? adult Jean chuckles, as she is surrounded by flames. Has she not been paying attention? What does she think will happen when she meets the bird?
Suddenly, Jean and Strange find themselves sitting in a classroom, where adult burning Jean lectures them that the Phoenix is equal parts good and evil. Pleasure and pain. Both sides, the whole coin. If Jean shies away from her own darkness or hides from dark truths, it won’t just charbroil her lily white butt. It won’t just kill her. It will feed on her ignorant hubris and consume her.
Strange whispers that this is it. This is her test. What test? Jean asks. Burning adult Jean moves closer. Young Jean calls her her nightmare, her monster, she reminds her younger self. As if she’s some godforsaken other. Marvel Girl suggests she look in the mirror. That is exactly who she is. Adult Jean chuckles. “Look in the mirror,” she repeats. Choice words. What does she want from her? Young Jean demands. She wants her to say it, is the reply. She wants to hear it out loud. The unspoken truth her younger self refuses to accept.
Jean Grey is Jean Grey is Jean Grey, young Jean finally admits. Yes, adult Jean agrees. And who is she? “I am you,” Jean finally concedes. “I’m just you.”
The Phoenix raptor rises destroying the room. Is this good or bad? Jean asks Strange. It’s both, the Phoenix announces. It is always both.
The Phoenix explodes. Cool, Strange reacts but Jean disagrees, demanding to know what happened. Why doesn’t she ever understand what’s going on? That is, in his experience, the way of things, he points out. The both return to their bodies.
Is it over now? Jean asks. Strange isn’t sure but points out Jean seems to have passed her older self’s test. One would hope her spirit is at peace. Jean reminds him she exploded. She turned into a big fireball and blew up. Each spirit experiences peace in their own way, he retorts. So long as she’s done hearing voices. Jean figures good riddance. Quite literally in that case, Strange agrees, as he grabs a broom and cleans away the pentacle on the ground.
Jean turns around and swears. Please tell her she isn’t going to stand here and listen to him “Strangesplain” all night, a voice remarks, a voice Strange clearly doesn’t hear, as he asks Jean what’s the matter. What does she see? Time’s a wasting, the ghost of adult Jean Grey remarks.
Nothing, Jean lies tight-lipped and thanks Dr. Strange for his help.