What If…? lurched from an anthology TV series to a serialised drama in this week’s intriguing trip into the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s multiverse. Following up on the events of last week, the episode opens on a world ravaged by Ultron. In this branch of reality, Earth’s mightiest heroes were unable to stop Ultron from uploading himself to Vision’s body and using its power, the mechanical menace conquered the world.
While the team’s heavy hitters were wiped out, Black Widow and Hawkeye survive and are still doing everything they can to bring down Ultron. There’s just one problem, following his genocide of humanity, it wasn’t long before Thanos came looking for Ultron and the Mind Stone embedded in his noggin. Unfortunately for Thanos, Ultron’s no chump, and he managed to kill the ‘mad titan’ before he could get his purple sausage fingers anywhere near his forehead.
Now wielding the unlimited power of the Infinity Stones, Ultron has brought his version of peace (murdering everyone) to the wider universe wiping out all life everywhere. Just when it seems things can’t get any worse, though, Ultron manages to do the impossible. He can see The Watcher and decides to expand his mission to the entire multiverse. How will Ultron be stopped? We don’t know we’re not omniscient like The Watcher…
After the format breaking fun of ‘Party Thor’ last week, I was disappointed when I tuned into What If…? and saw we were going straight back to yet another depressing universe where everything had gone wrong. That said, though, I actually ended up really enjoying this episode for two reasons: the first is that I love Ultron as a bad guy. I think he’s a really underrated MCU villain, and it was delightful to see him in another story – I wish we’d gotten James Spader back to reprise the role, but you can’t have everything, I guess?
I’m also really impressed that, after seven episodes of watching, The Watcher has finally taken a more active role in the show. Yes, I know it goes against his vow of non-interference, but you can’t cast the consistently brilliant Jeffrey Wright in a role and not have him do something. His battle with Ultron in this episode was visually one of the coolest looking things we’ve seen in the series and felt like a Jack Kirby comic book come to life.
Kirby crackle! The best sci-fi series
Speaking of the animation, while I’ve no idea how each episode was budgeted, I can’t help but think they’ve scrimped on some episodes to make this one as pretty as possible. From the moment Black Widow’s motorcycle roars onto the screen, I was impressed by the dynamic fluid animation. It just looked leagues above some of the stiffer, jerkier movements we’ve seen in other episodes.
This episode also proved my suspicion that while it’s great that the What If…? team have brought back so many of the MCU’s actors to voice their characters in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t really matter.
Of all the episodes so far, this was the one with the least amount of MCU talent in it, and it didn’t affect my enjoyment one iota. In fact, it probably improved it as I wasn’t distracted by trying to work out if they’d brought back the actor to voice their animated counterpart.
Overall, ‘What If… Ultron Won?’ was a really strong penultimate episode that seems to set up an exciting season finale. Here’s hoping they can stick the (superhero) landing.