Disney+’s What If…? is both Marvel’s first attempt at playing in the multiverse sandbox, and the first animated show set fully in the MCU. But What If…? doesn’t seem interested in being a placeholder for the live-action shows, it’s got stories to tell, and some of them might end up being as interesting as the ones we originally saw. Episode 1×09 “What If…The Watcher Broke His Oath?” focuses on the Guardians of the Universe joining forces to take down Ultron.
A show with so many characters and perspectives felt like it required more than one voice. So, I’m teaming up with my friends Lizzie and Lynnie to review What If…? Join us each week as we rejoice, commiserate, and hopefully enjoy the show. Let’s do this!
Lyra: This continuation of last week’s episode is the culmination of the universes that we have encountered so far. We got to see Captain Carter, Thor, Star-Lord: T’Challa, and more come together to fight Ultron. And honestly, I liked it more than expected. Captain Carter and Black Widow were giving me vibes, T’Challa proved that he is the GOAT, and I felt emotionally invested in the fight that they were in. What did you guys think? What were your favorite parts?
Lizzie: I enjoyed the fight, and seeing a lot of characters again. Marvel does this shared universe thing very well, when it remembers to do it. I just think the show wasn’t really good about that — it set up something very disconnected, and then it wasn’t, and I don’t know that my brain fully went from A to B properly. We complain about heavy-handed foreshadowing, but I just think What If did too little of it. That being said, I’ll take it for what we got, for T’Challa, for Natasha as a character getting probably the send-off that she deserved, and for Captain Carter.
Lynnie: I suppose I should have expected them to bring it all together like this, but I didn’t. So, it was cool to see that the point of looking at all of our favorite heroes’ worlds throughout the season was because we were searching for the ones that would save the multiverse from faux-Vision and Killmonger. It all came together beautifully, and they did a good job of bringing together the best heroes.
I did like Peggy in this episode a great deal, and T’Challa is always a favorite, but Thor kind of stole the show for me. He was hilarious and a lot of fun to watch against the backdrop of such serious storytelling and world-ending stakes. I also really enjoyed that everyone got to have their happiness restored to them at the end (save for Strange, who ruined his happy ending a long time ago).
My absolute favorite part was Thor trying to leave the bar and everyone’s reaction to him.
Lyra: Captain Carter did what Captain America couldn’t do aka leave the past behind and not risk changing the timeline, destroying it, or creating an alternate one. She let her love rest and said goodbye to Steve because she knew that there were people who needed her in her time. That makes a hero and I’ll forever be bitter about the way that the MCU has made me side-eye movie Steve and how his move made Peggy an accomplice in his tomfoolery. Are you guys Team Carter? Team Rogers?
Lizzie: I’ve enjoyed Captain Carter much more than I expected to, especially considering I just wasn’t ever as big a fan of the Captain America movies as I was of other MCU properties. I also really appreciate Steve, but I do that because I ignore the ending, so honestly, that the show had Peggy make what was objectively the right choice, even if it was the harder choice for her (not as much time had passed), was good to see. Not surprising, though …she’s always seemed like the type.
Lynnie: They did two things with her in the episode. The first is that they reinforced the truth that going back isn’t the way forward. Sometimes you sacrifice a great deal, live as a soldier in a war that never stops, and you still have to find your joy in the present. Looking back is a prison, yet they ignored that in Endgame for shoddy storytelling and a moment that didn’t fit with the journey we went through with Steve. The second is that they proved by accident – yet again! – that the person who came forward into the present timeline is meant to be a love interest for the Captain at large. Every time they do it, I get mad they ignored the Stucky of it all, but I appreciated that they didn’t leave Captain Carter hanging without hope. They gave her the chance at happiness in the present, in new ways, with the arrival of (potentially) Steve.
So, in the end, I think I’m simply Team Write It Better, Please.
Lyra: I have to say that I’m disappointed with the lack of Scarlet Witch in this finale. She is a powerful being that could’ve ended Thanos like nothing. And here we are again with her power being ignored or squandered for Ultron 2.0. Sure, they brought her zombie version for a hot second but there was no emotional resonance before she died too. Were you guys disappointed as I was? Did you wish we saw someone else make an appearance?
Lizzie: I think What If …? and the MCU in general, is guilty of thinking that they can only focus on one person or one very powerful individual? I wanted more for Wanda, particularly after WandaVision made me truly care for her, but I kinda get the idea behind choosing who was getting focus. The problem is that …these are professional writers getting a lot of money, so can’t they find a way to balance?
Lynnie: It felt a bit cheap. Like, oh, Wanda-zombie doing Scarlet Witch things for ten seconds! Yay? It was a good distraction for the heroes to do other things, but it didn’t ultimately add to the storytelling, so I wasn’t really invested in it beyond thinking that the animation looked cool. Which was definitely an underselling of her potential and the way she could mess things up and interact with faux-Vision.
As far as wishing someone else had made an appearance, I suppose not. They did a good job with the characters they had there. There was a good mixture of laughter, seriousness, and budding friendship, and throwing in anyone else into an already crowded episode would have probably taken away from these moments.
Lyra: The What If…? Series has been an absolute delight despite its ups and downs. It’s made me see Doctor Strange with new eyes, appreciate the love between Thor and Loki even more, and showed me how essential Black Widow is to the MCU. The big question is…what’s next? Will we see these heroes again? Will we eventually Captain Carter and Captain America meet? Will Black Widow keep kicking butt and form a new family? And will at some point will we get some LGBTQ representation in the series? The possibilities are endless! What do you guys think should be next?
Lizzie: I don’t think the series has been as strong, writing wise, as it could have been, but I have still enjoyed it a lot. I’ve enjoyed different version of characters I knew, and I’ve enjoyed the fanfic setup of hey, what if this went wrong. I think the series clearly identified some characters who are stronger than others, though, and if we go forward, I don’t think we need to carry over the ones that aren’t really as strong. And hey, you know what I really want to see? An all-female team up that lasts. I shouldn’t only be able to dream about that on a What If…? series, but if this one cannot give it to me, then who will?
Lynnie: I’d like to see new characters, honestly. I think it’d be cool to have the Young Avengers getting things done in multiple universes. I’d also like to see more of the Watcher battling the need to stay neutral against the need to act. I really enjoyed that dichotomy. His oath was a good villain for him, and I’m eager to see if it potentially comes back to play in any other seasons they might have.
But I would be very, very happy if they showed universes where LGBTQ+ love, stories, and characters flourished, universes like Thor’s that were full of fun and parties, and universes maybe where there are no heroes and they all get to be normal humans until something weird or wonderful shakes up their reality.
Mostly, I just want to see some good storytelling, some fun adventures, and hope. Hope is the point of superhero movies and shows for me, and I’d be really happy if more writers remembered it, explored it, and leaned into it without thinking that darkness has to thrive or win in order for a story to be told well.