What If…? season one drew to an end this week with The Watcher breaking his oath and assembling a team of multiversal guardians to battle an Infinity Stone powered Ultron. Basically, the episode served as an excuse to bring together some of What If…?’s more interesting characters and have them delight us with some fun fan service and over the top action.
On that level at least, ‘What If… The Watcher broke his oath?’ succeeds. It’s an entertaining episode that took full advantage of its oddball cast to give us some visually exciting set pieces – the multiple Mjolnir storm was a highlight – and a final battle it would be difficult to pull off in live-action. We had waves of zombies, Doctor Strange turning into a hodgepodge of different monsters, and a brilliant Captain Carter and Black Widow team-up.
And yet, despite all the fun I’ve had with What If…?, I still find myself struggling to care about this series and these characters. To talk a little bit about how the sausage is made, we don’t get sent these episodes early. We have to watch them when they roll out on Disney Plus, and I’d be lying if I said that this hadn’t been a chore. With WandaVision and Loki, I was literally leaping out of bed in the morning excited to see the next chapter in the MCU, but with What If…? I’ve enjoyed it, but I’ve not been excited about it.
I think the problem is partly to do with what’s usually one of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s greatest strengths, its interconnectedness. One of the reasons I love the MCU and try to stay as up to date as possible on the movies and TV series is because I enjoy the wider narrative.
Sure the individual adventures are fun, but I like the interconnected characters and the build-up to the big crossover movies. It reminds me a lot of the comic books that inspired these action movies.
And this is where the problem with What If…? comes in. By the nature of the series, none of this matters. It’s all happening in different parts of the multiverse, so it will be difficult for any of these events to have any bearing on Marvel’s Phase 4 and beyond.
Sure there have been rumours about certain characters making the leap to the big screen, but I very much doubt we’ll get any mention of the events of What If…?, so I find it difficult to care about this series as anything more than a fun animated series.
Avengers assemble! Best action movies
I know the same could be said for any Marvel movie, things like Ant-Man don’t really tie into the wider narrative, so do I not care about them? Well, that’s different, those movies still have characters in them that I like, and the events of those movies are happening in the pocket of the multiverse that I do care about because it’s the one I’ve invested more than ten years of my life in watching.
I wish I didn’t feel this way, and I wish I could just enjoy What If…? for what it is: a bombastic series that shows us stories we’d never see in the cinema, but I can’t. Marvel Studios has programmed me at this point to look for the interconnected clues and want the next instalment in the ongoing story.
— What If…? (@whatifofficial) October 6, 2021
Clear effort has been made to make fans care about the series. They’ve recruited voice talent from across the MCU cast, beautifully animated fan favourite stories like Marvel Zombies, and even brought back fan favourite villain Ultron. So it’s a shame that after all that, the series feels fine and nothing more. The show’s creators have said that What If…? will have some bearing on the MCU moving forward, but the cynic in me is doubtful.
Maybe as the MCU continues to explore the weirder corners of the Marvel Multiverse, I’ll look back on What If…? more fondly, but we don’t live in that parallel universe yet.