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What If…?

Marvel’s “What If…?” Episodes 7-9

There are spoilers for the end of the season ahead. If you need to catch up, here’s my post covering Episodes 1-3 and Nancy’s post covering Episodes 4-6.

The audience continues exploring the Multiverse with the Watcher here, but the last 3 episodes tie each one together:

  • Episode 7 shows us what Thor would have been like if he had been an only child. He arrives on Earth just as he did in our universe – but he’s here to PAR-TAY! His father has fallen into the Odin Sleep and Frigga is on a trip, so it’s the perfect time to have a galactic shindig right here on Midgard. Though Jane Foster and Darcy Lewis try to reason with him (his parties have ended planets before), they can’t help but to give in to his charms. S.H.I.E.L.D. director Maria Hill’s attention has also been attracted by Thor – but in a much more negative light. She calls Carol Danvers to take care of him, but things don’t go as planned.
  • Episode 8 explains what would have happened if Ultron had won. Taking over the Mind Infinity Stone and Vision’s body, he defeats the Avengers, killing all but Clint and Natasha. When Thanos arrives, Ultron kills him as well and takes control of the Infinity Gauntlet. In order to fulfill his purpose and bring peace, Ultron and his army begin to murder their way across the galaxy. Upon hearing the Watcher, Ultron learns of the multiverse, and thus starts crossing realities to continue his twisted quest. He crosses into Party Thor’s universe as Clint and Natasha attempt to upload a virus with Arnim Zola’s mind into Ultron’s hive mind. Defeated by Ultron, the Watcher retreats to the pocket universe of Episode 4’s Doctor Strange to ask him for help.
  • Episode 9 sees the Watcher break his oath by recruiting Captain Carter, Star-Lord T’Challa, Party Thor, Killmonger as the Black Panther, and a Gamora who defeated her universes’ Thanos, along with Strange Supreme, to end the threat of Ultron. They lure him to a dead planet where Strange summons the zombie hoard from Episode 5, including Zombie Wanda, to distract him while they travel to Ultron’s home universe to find Natasha and the Zola virus. As the only survivor of her universe, Natasha is reluctant to trust them. After a moment with Captain Carter, Natasha agrees to help, and shoots an arrow with the Zola virus into Ultron’s eye. While Killmonger and the newly-embodied Zola fight over the Infinity Stones, Strange and the Watcher seal them in a pocket dimension, where Strange will watch over them.

Additional scenes with Ultron’s Natasha and a mid-credits scene with Captain Carter and her universe’s Natasha set this series up nicely for a second season, which has been confirmed.

From a story-telling standpoint, this series started out strong for me, kinda sagged in the middle, and picked up again at the end. It seemed as if some of the stories were trope-y and played out, especially the zombie episode. We have seen any and all scenarios involving zombies played out in the early 2010’s… where they can stay, in my opinion. The episodes involving Star-Lord T’Challa and Black Panther Killmonger were the best for me, because they actually did something different. Their universes felt fresh and unlike anything we had seen before. It also allowed for a different look at or expansions of the characters. In a classic Marvel move of undermining their women characters, the taking back of Wakanda spearheaded by Shuri and Pepper was left out – let me watch that or more of Star Lord T’Challa instead of boring zombies!

I also highly enjoyed the Thor episode, because it was everything you would have expected – yet was still fun. The way the worldwide party is ultimately stopped is hilarious and touching, in a way. Also, it was very satisfying to see at least one universe peg Carol Danvers as the resident party pooper.

It was nice to get everything ultimately wrapped up. The first few episodes don’t seem related at all, but these last 3-4 had been hinting. It may be worth a rewatch to see what hints were missed from early episodes.

I never really warmed up to the animation style. Something about it was just too uncanny for me. The action scenes were punchy and fluid, but the lip syncing and facial expressions never seemed to quite match what was going on. Scenes that were supposed to be emotional fell flat for me for this reason – I was too distracted by how weird their faces looked!

Overall, the series is an enjoyable watch. You start out with what you think is a series of fun, unrelated one-shots and by the end, you’ve gotten a big showdown with a different big bad with a different group of Avengers. The animation works for what the series is, but it’s not a personal favorite. I’m hoping that the ending scenes are setting up a real Marvel Women Power Hour in the next season.

– Kathleen

Andrews, Brian. What If…? 2021.

Marvel’s “What If…?” Episodes 1-3

The latest Marvel TV show, What If…?, premiered last month. The episodes are self-contained story arcs narrated by a being called The Watcher, who takes the viewer through different universes. In these alternate realities, we see familiar events occur differently.

Episode 1 shows us a universe where Peggy Carter took the Super Soldier serum instead of Steve Rogers. While she is now stronger than most men, she still encounters the same barriers as before… just because she’s a woman. When a dangerous mission comes up, she knows she has to go. She’s the only one who can carry it out. She takes up the shield and becomes Captain Carter, with the help of Howard Stark and Steve himself. A strong start to the series where Peggy shows how strong she really is!

Episode 2 shows us a universe where T’challa became Star Lord instead of Black Panther. The Ravagers abduct him instead of Peter Quill! Yondu, his adoptive father, tells him that Wakanda was destroyed. Viewers follow Star Lord and the Ravagers as they attempt to steal the Embers of Genesis (a powerful artifact that creates plant life, and therefore can end hunger across the galaxy) from Taneleer Tivan: the Collector, and the most powerful man in the universe. This was unfortunately Chadwick Bosewick’s last performance before his passing. It was a very emotional episode for me and is easily my favorite so far not only for him, but the high stakes heist!

Episode 3 shows us a universe where the Avengers never assembled. Nick Fury tries to call them together, but they all die under mysterious circumstances. The injection that Natasha Romanov gives Tony Stark is accidentally fatal. Thor is shot dead by Clint Barton, who maintains he didn’t shoot before dying himself in S.H.I.E.L.D. custody. In her final voicemail to Fury, Natasha declares, “It’s all about hope!” Can Fury deduce what she meant before it’s too late for him, too? This one might be the most thought-provoking one of the three, speculating what the world would be like without the heroes that have defined the series.

Of the Marvel TV shows to come out in the last year, this one is up there on my favorites list. It certainly is fun to ponder “What If…?” and explore other possibilities for the universe. Since it appears they are setting up other multiverses in other shows, it’s a nice, easy way to explain to viewers unfamiliar with the concept. It’s also easier viewing in the sense that, as mentioned above, each episode is it’s own self-contained story. The only overarching element (so far) is the Watcher himself. Unless there is a big reveal at the end where everything becomes connected, you may be able to watch any one episode that seems interesting to you.

They’ve got most of the cast to reprise their roles for this series. Chadwick Boseman reprised his role as T’challa, as mentioned above. Haley Atwell, Sebastian Stan, Samuel L. Jackson, Jeremy Renner, and Mark Ruffalo reprise their roles, among others that I won’t spoil 😉 It adds a lovely layer of immersion and truly feels part of the universe. If they had used different voice actors for everyone instead of a few, it would feel like more of a spin off.

However, I feel something is off with the animation. A still is nice to look at. Movement seems a little jerky to me, and facial expressions don’t quite capture the intended emotions. Husband compared it to watching a Telltale video game, but I feel as if Telltale animations are smoother than this. Telltale games are more graphic (with the thick lines and blocky coloring) in style; the show seems to be trying to emulate a moving comic book. I appreciate the attempt, but it’s falling a little flat for me =(

Overall, I’m looking forward to more of the series! Even if the animation is falling flat for me, the writing is thought-provoking, action-packed, and funny. My biggest hope is seeing a Thor episode! New episodes premiere on Disney+ every Wednesday. Look for Nancy’s post soon on episodes 4-6!

– Kathleen

Andrews, Bryan. What If…? 2021.

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