Season One of “Marvel’s ‘What If…?'” has been completed for some time; and in that time, I’ve been able to think more about each episode. And like I said in my piece on episodic reviewing, I took the time to look over the past season and rank each episode. The placement of each episode comes from how much they’ve intrigued me, entertained me, or had me thinking about Marvel’s plans in the future.
Kicking off this list right with the episode that started it all. This episode gave fans an idea of what kind of scenarios would be explored. And for a first episode, it was promising. Even as someone who hasn’t seen “Captain America: The First Avenger,” I could see the ramifications something like Peggy becoming a Super Soldier would’ve had. And without spoiling anything, it pays off by the finale.
The only reason this is at the bottom is because each episode really plays with the alternate universes. But even so, an episode this good was a strong sign of what’s to come.
After seeing T’Challa as Star-Lord, there was no way an episode after that could’ve upped the ante. And I was right; while the idea of a superhero team killed off like a horror movie is definitely a cool concept, but looking back, there wasn’t much to remember. The only thing that made it stand out was seeing the beginning of the Watcher evolving from omniscient being to an active role to kick off the new big bad post-Thanos.
This was the turning point that got my attention, even though I didn’t see “Doctor Strange.” A “Groundhog Day”-esque montage that’s a real downer and a killer magic fight makes the show, with an ending that shows the dark side of these timelines. the only thing that holds it back is the stuff explaining the magic wasn’t too immersive. It worked for the story and it’s more of a subjective note.
For the season finale, this was a fitting one. The Watcher steps up as this bizarro Nick Fury looking to quell the chaos from Ultron and brings all these variants together. The fight is on par with the Battle of New York from “Avengers” and has elements that make viewers hopeful for the next season.
This episode breaks the mold and I love it for that. Ultron was always an underwhelming villain that never interested me in the movies. But here, he’s entertaining and keeps every one of their toes. And watching how things with the Watcher and Natasha and Hawkeye reflect with the chase against Ultron’s growing strength. And the ending keeps viewers in anticipation for the finale, with Strange Supreme offering the Watcher a hand.
Out of all the scenarios presented in the promotion, this one was the most popular; and for good reason. It’s fun to see super-powered zombies chasing the heroes in a traditional zombie story. With a sadder version of “WandaVision,” intense chases and fight scenes, and an out of this world ending that I’m hoping is expanded on more.
One thing I loved about the series was how much the universes challenge audiences’ possibilities; and mine were with how much relationships have a pivotal role on characters. Seeing Loki and Thor as bros and not brothers is surreal and adds to the ticking clock when Frigga is called to Earth. And then the ending really shatters the one-off feeling some of these have. And the cherry on top of it is that this is just a fun party to break from the more dramatic episodes.
For a second episode, this was an emotional celebration of Chadwick Boseman. And the idea of T’Challa being a better Star Lord than Peter Quill had many things that made me want to see more of this universe (like the Ravagers as Robin Hood and Thanos being talked down). It also captures the heart of “Guardians of the Galaxy” and found family. As I said in the title, of all the stars that shine, Boseman shined the brightest; and this was a testament to what we’ve lost.
If the previous episode reminded me of what we’ve lost with Chadwick Boseman, it also showed how brilliant Michael B. Jordan is as an actor and how Killmonger is one of the best MCU villains. He plays a huge game of chess that has you shocked and rooting for him at the same time. It balances the tones and celebrates “Iron Man” and “Black Panther,” and encapsulates the best that this show offers.
And with that, I can bid adieu to this show (for now). And as we take a break from this show and I prepare to see “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” I can’t help but think what alternate timelines could be shared in a season two of this show.