With the first episode taking the form of an excellent WW2-set adventure, subtly twisting the events of Captain America: The First Avenger, we saw the effects of Peggy Carter stepping […]
With the first episode taking the form of an excellent WW2-set adventure, subtly twisting the events of Captain America: The First Avenger, we saw the effects of Peggy Carter stepping up to take the Super Soldier serum – and last week’s episode showed us some pretty creative spins on established characters and continuity with Peter Quill remaining on Earth and T’Challa being whisked into space by Yondu’s Ravagers in his place. Though this meant no Thanos-initiated snap or blip, the Earth was by no means safe with T’Challa as a more diplomatic and pragmatic Star-Lord.
This week, Jeffrey Wright’s Watcher casts his gaze over an Earth in which the Avengers are being picked off one by one, before they’ve even had the chance to come together. Can Nick Fury work out who’s responsible and stop the intergalactic threats that are imminent – albeit coming from a slightly different direction than we saw in the MCU’s main continuity – without the aid of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes?
One great aspect of this episode is the recreation and alteration of famous scenes from several Marvel movies, not just one. It even takes place in a scene or two from a movie that is often forgotten or ignored, yet it’s great to see this return and firmly placed within MCU continuity (even if it’s to twist it into something new).
With a whodunnit structure and clever clues leading up to the revelation of who’s taking out these big name heroes – and why, of course – it’s a very different episode in its feel, but still full of action-packed sequences. The brilliant comic-book visuals work so well here, with the numerous familiar scenes recreated perfectly before spinning off into their own alternate reality outcomes. There’s a genuine wit to the script too, which gives us some great one-liners (with Thor being the subject of a few zingers!).
If there’s a weakness, it’s only that viewers will need to be familiar with near enough every aspect of the MCU for everything here to have the intended impact. However, given that all of the films, characters and elements of continuity that are referenced can be found on Disney Plus alongside What If…? itself (aside from one notable omission), it’s very likely that fans will already be forearmed with all of the knowledge they need to keep up. At this stage, with the MCU and associated TV series being as popular as it is, it’s perhaps unlikely that anyone streaming What If…? won’t be as familiar as they need to be in any case.
The pseudo-cliffhanger climax this week is a little weak too, especially after the first two episodes gave us such intriguing endings that could so easily lead to very interesting places straight away.
It’s another great episode that really showcases the flexibility and open nature of the Multiverse concept; something that Marvel has clearly been building us up to for some time – and the Spider-Man: No Way Home trailer, released yesterday, is delving even further into this concept. It’s a hugely exciting development, to have the opportunity to explore different timelines and possibilities not just within shows like WandaVision, Loki and now What If…? – but also on the big screen. The Infinity Saga took the concept of MCU continuity about as far as it could go within one overall universe, so it makes sense that we’d have to go much, much bigger after that – and we appear to be going anywhere and everywhere all at once. It’s becoming increasingly unfriendly to newcomers, of course, but for fans invested and able to keep up, it’s a hugely satisfying tapestry that just keeps on becoming more and more engaging, with What If…? being a fascinating part of the variety of possibilities out there.
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