Marvel: ‘What If…?’ Recap and Review

Screenshot of Peggy Carter as Captain Carter in episode one of Marvel’s ‘What If…?” on Disney+. Copyright goes to Marvel Studios and the Walt Disney Company.

Hey! Hallie here!

I’m a bit slow to getting out these reviews, but with ‘What If…?’ I find myself having less to say. All of the episodes have been excellent without much to criticize. The animation is eye-catching and the returning cast does an excellent job, as do the actors stepping into the roles they couldn’t get the original cast back for. Also, the point of this series is to explore an interesting idea without having to worry about plot inconsistencies or in-universe rules. Some plots are more serious than others, but none take themselves too seriously. Which is why this series is so fun to watch. It isn’t breaking new ground or anything, but it does give Marvel fans some interesting concepts or characters to think about and enjoy. Now that three out of nine episodes have aired though, there’s plenty to discuss between the three. So let’s get into this first review! SPOILERS AHEAD!

‘What If… Captain Carter Were the First Avenger?:

This episode of ‘What If…’ has stuck the most to a movie plot than any of the other episodes. The episode starts out with the exact moment in ‘The First Avenger’ movie where Steve is about to be turned into Captain America. In this version of events, however, the Hydra spies attack before the change is made to Steve, not after. Steve gets shot in the surprise attack (he lives,) and Peggy finds herself to be the only person capable of undergoing the process last minute. So she does and becomes Captain Carter. The plot follows some of the main points of ‘The First Avenger’ from this point on with a handful of changes. Peggy is still not allowed to get right into fighting, although this time it’s because she’s a woman and misogyny obviously still exists whether or not she has super powers. The next major change is her more prominent involvement in discussions surrounding the Tesseract and what kinds of power it is capable of, especially in enemy hands. It’s the reason why she first steps onto the scene as Captain Carter. Then the story asks what would happen if Howard Stark created the first Iron Man suit. Evidently, he’d give it to Steve. Steve becomes the Hydra Stomper and comes along with Peggy on a bunch of her missions, much like Bucky does for Steve. There’s even a train scene, paralleling the one from the first ‘Captain America’ film, where Peggy thinks Steve has died. Steve gets confirmed as alive though! So…no reunion for Peggy and Steve like the one Bucky and Steve got, I guess? The whole story comes to a close when Red Skull actually manages to open a portal with the Tesseract. This unleashes a giant octopus-like monster on all our good guys, and just like Steve has to sacrifice himself at the end of his movie, Peggy says a final goodbye to Steve and battles the monster through the portal. On the other side, she finds Nick Fury and Hawkeye. So instead of Loki coming through a Tesseract portal at the beginning of ‘Avengers’, Peggy does. This episode was fun and pretty much everyone but Chris Evans returned for it. I feel like if anything though, it validates a lot of people’s opinions on the romantic nature of Steve and Bucky’s relationship by having Peggy and Steve’s relationship parallel it quite a few times.

‘What If…T’Challa Became a Star-Lord?’:

This ‘What If…?’ episode takes A TON of liberties. This episode starts with the premise that the Ravagers kidnapped the wrong kid. While they were sent after Peter Quill, Yondu decided to outsource the job to some less experienced people, resulting in T’Challa being taken instead. T’Challa has the same loving family he has in the MCU and he misses them at first, but Yondu grows attached to T’Challa and convinces him that his family and all his people were wiped out. Then starts a sequence similar to the first sequence in ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’. Except T’Challa is instantly established as a more capable Star Lord, because the assailants he meets up with do know his name and are fans of him. Are we really surprised? Not only that, but he’s able to recruit them to the Ravagers. If he can recruit these guys to the Ravagers, who else can he recruit? Apparently anyone, including Thanos. One of my favorite parts of this episode was the running joke where Thanos attempted to explain his reasoning for planning to wipe out half of the population on most planets, making others ask “Isn’t that just genocide?” I’ve never bought into the whole “Thanos was right” argument so that definitely amused me. In this universe, T’Challa is also really close with Nebula, who is a much different character. She’s still a badass but she’s also flirty, has long blonde hair, and calls T’challa “Cha Cha”. After all of this is established, an entire new plot occurs in which T’Challa and Nebula plan a giant heist targeting the Collector. A lot happens. T’Challa finds a Wakandan ship in the Collector’s collection where he discovers that his family are alive and well, he faces off against Yondu, he gets captured and ends up asking Howard the Duck for directions, the Collector (Who is very buff for some reason,) puts on Hela’s headdress, Thanos saves Nebula, and they all turn the Collector’s collection against him. At the end of it all, T’Challa forgives Yondu and he takes all of the Ravagers along with him to reunite with his family in Wakanda. This episode was a bit weirder, but I loved hearing Chadwick Boseman’s voice. I’ll watch this episode over and over just for his performance.

‘What If…The World Lost Its Mightiest Heroes?’

A lot of people called this episode depressing, but I spent so much of this episode trying to figure out what the hell was happening, that I wasn’t actually sad. This episode takes place in the short amount of time that surrounded the Hulk movie Marvel is just now acknowledging, ‘Iron Man 2’, and the first ‘Thor’ film. So just before Steve Rogers was discovered in the ice. Nick Fury and Natasha go to recruit Tony Stark to the Avengers Initiative and, during their visit, he winds up poisoned. He dies instantly. Natasha is suspected to be the culprit and is arrested, but she sneaks out and tracks down Betty Ross. Meanwhile, Nick Fury is alerted to the presence of a certain God of Thunder who is attempting to get his hands on a mysterious hammer. Clint Barton is present and is told not to fire at Thor, but his grip on his prepared arrow mysteriously slips and Thor dies from an arrow to the heart. Now Clint is arrested and, while being held captive, he mysteriously dies too. And if that wasn’t bad enough, Nick Fury comes face to face with Loki and the entire Asgardian army who are looking to avenge Thor. Going back to Natasha, she finds out that Betty Ross is hiding Bruce Banner (Made to look like Mark Ruffalo and also voiced by Mark Ruffalo so no Edward Norton here,) and the two are attacked. Before turning into the Hulk, Bruce assures Natasha that he can’t die so easily. But then the Hulk explodes. Gross. Natasha decides to do some late night research to figure this thing out on her own but she gets attacked too. Before she dies, she manages to tell Nick that Hope is the key. If you’re thinking Hope van Dyne, you’d be correct. Nick goes to Hope’s grave, she died in this universe, and finds Hank Pym as Yellowjacket, the villain from the first ‘Ant-Man’. He blames the premature death of Hope on SHIELD, whom she worked for. I enjoyed seeing Hank play the part of the villain considering how awful of a guy he is in the comics. Nick manages to beat Hank with the help of Loki. Which might make Loki seem like a somewhat decent guy if he didn’t seize the opportunity to use Asgard’s army to successfully take over the world. Hey, at least Steve Rogers is still on the table and Carol Danvers does come in to help at the end. The stand out in this episode is absolutely Clark Gregg’s Agent Coulson, who’s humor and calm attitude ground the crazy plot.

I feel like these episodes get more and more insane as the series goes on. And I’m prepared for more insanity coming later as well. We haven’t even seen the Avengers zombies yet. Overall I think these small stories are fun. They’re easy to follow, and while they don’t always make sense, they make enough sense within each condensed story. A lot of people thought that Peggy showing up at the beginning of the ‘Avengers’ timeline at the end of her episode meant that the episodes were going to connect. I do think that some of the stories will connect at some point. We did see the likes of Captain Carter and T’Challa’s Star Lord teaming up in some of the trailers. But I don’t think all of the stories will connect. The point is to explore various, disconnected ideas that we only need to muse over for a short period of time. And I think the series succeeds at making that entertaining. Just don’t expect a grand impact on the rest of the MCU.

Don’t do anything fun until I get back!

Hallie

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