What If…? Is A Really Fun Marvel Show


What If…? Ask Questions With Great Plot Potential

I’m late to the Marvel’s What If…? party. But now that I’m here, it turns out I’ve been missing out. I love anthologies and especially considering some of the lackluster Marvel entries in the main canon lately, it’s a ton of fun to see the cast play out these alternative stories. You can tell the writers enjoyed tinkering with the established continuity, and they thought through the consequences of making these changes to the timeline.

But, because this is an anthology, I can’t do much of a normal review. Each of the three episodes of What If…? I watched had little to do with one another, besides the obvious. The connecting factors were a very wonky animation style (do not pay close attention to the facial animation), an extreme overreliance on quips in dialog, and a blistering storytelling pace. Beyond that, each part of What If…? should be evaluated on their own merits.

So, let’s do that.

“What If…Captain Carter Were The First Avenger?”

What If...?

The answer to the first question the series poses is that it would make for a campy, action-packed, blast of an episode. We get to see Captain Carter make misogynist eat their words, beat up Nazis, and win fights by—among other awesome stunts—flinging a vehicle at someone. By the time the music started playing over the action scenes, I already knew I should’ve watched this series sooner.

We even get an adorable romance between her and Steve starting up. And they did an excellent job showing that these two, regardless of who has the powers, or the weapons, or anything, do what they do because it’s the right thing to do. It’s not complicated character writing, but it was effective.

The main issue with this one is the ending. I won’t spoil it, but somehow it felt like it got too campy and then wasn’t campy at all. It goes full magic, while also messing with its established tone, leading to a rushed, awkward conclusion. It’s not enough to spoil this wonderful first episode—but it’s also not the only time this happens in the series.

“What If…T’Challa Became a Star-Lord?”

What If...?

This one made me emotional, but not because of the actual story. It’s because this was recorded before Chadwick Boseman’s passing. In this, like everything I’ve seen him in, he did an incredible job. T’Challa and Yondu have a delightful friendship. His romance with Nebula is not a pairing I would’ve expected, but it works in this story. It’s a great showcase of the character.

This is also, arguably, the most creative of the three episodes I watched. T’Challa is way more competent than Peter Quill, and that leads to a lot of ripple effects over a large timescale. I don’t want to spoil things here, either, but this episode revolves around a heist, and which characters are around for that heist is completely unexpected. There are fights between characters who I’d never even thought about having to fight with one another. Even the background details—like what’s in a particular weapons case—pose far-reaching questions about what’s changed in this timeline.

Now, my biggest complaint about this episode is that there’s very little conflict. Arguments are resolved quickly. Fights are too easy. A plot line involving a spaceship has very little foreshadowing. I didn’t mind much because I was enjoying seeing T’Challa doing cool stuff, but it appears to be a common issue with this thirty-minute format.

“What If…The World Lost Its Mightiest Heroes?”

What If...?

First, we had an action piece, then a heist, and now a murder mystery. A really interesting murder mystery, too. Someone or something is killing the original Avengers team without anyone spotting how.

And while I did figure out (partially) what was happening before the episode revealed it, they really do commit to having this episode be a murder mystery. There are clues. Characters embark on investigations. There’s very little actual fighting happening, instead being mostly about Agent Fury’s exploits.

But a murder mystery can be considered a failure when the solution feels off. And the solution absolutely feels off. It has been a long, long time since I’ve seen the related media for it, but I can’t imagine it justifies it well. I understand this is an alternative world, with technically all-new characters, but for all the buildup, and all the creative scenes, I was expecting a better resolution. I also wasn’t expecting morbid jokes about what a corpse smells like, a rushed second conflict, and a surprisingly brutal treatment of Black Widow. Of the three episodes, it had the most fun first half—and failed the most to stick the landing.   

So, as you can tell from my closing nitpicks for each section, none of these episodes are holistically spectacular. But they’re all good in different ways. I was never having a bad time. The beauty of anthologies is that each episode can be something different, and can take risks. If you’re someone who knows their way around the canon, What If…? was made for you. It rewards people who’ve seen all the movies and has moments of great fight choreography. That’s sort of the main two appeals of the whole MCU, and it still works.

Possibly Related Posts:

Leave a Comment