“What If…?” Episode 4 Goes Fully Dark, And It’s Marvelous

SPOILERS FOR WHAT IF…? AHEAD!

Although What If…? hasn’t ignited the same level of heated discourse or enthusiastic speculation as any of Marvel’s live-action Disney+ series’ (a sad testament to the fact that animation is still viewed by many fans as somehow inherently less canon), last Wednesday’s episode had become the subject of intense scrutiny after it became widely known that it would focus on the character of Doctor Stephen Strange…specifically, a dark and twisted version of him who goes by the title of Doctor Strange Supreme (Benedict Cumberbatch).

What If...?
Doctor Strange Supreme | metro.co.uk

This was largely because, coming off the first trailer for Spider-Man: No Way Home, one of many theories given for Marvel’s inconsistent characterization of Strange was that the Master of Mystic Arts had somehow been replaced by an evil doppelgänger from the Multiverse (or by Mephisto; yep, we’re doing that again). It’s a good theory: as a Doctor Strange fan baffled by some of his actions in the No Way Home trailer, I really like it. And then lo and behold, here comes What If…? with an entire episode built upon that very concept.

Now having seen the episode in question…yeah, I’m pretty sure this is another WandaVision situation where we played ourselves. I still love the evil Doctor Strange theory, mind you, and I’m not writing it off until we see how Doctor Strange Supreme’s character arc continues across What If…? season one, but I don’t know if there’s any real connection to No Way Home. And that’s okay, because like the WandaVision finale, What If…? episode four is great storytelling first and foremost.

Some of that is perhaps attributable to length: this episode is the longest of the four by a minute or two, and it enjoys a steady pacing that feels urgent without becoming frantic. But what sets it apart from the rest of What If…?, and elevates it to a place alongside WandaVision and the most sophisticated episodes of Loki and The Falcon And The Winter Soldier, is the mature tone it’s able to capture. The episode earns and owns its darkest moments with a forcefulness that was once severely lacking from the franchise, and a sensitivity that evolves from WandaVision‘s nuanced handling of discussions about death and grief.

Usually, it’s Star Wars that’s not afraid to get bleak and depressing, even in their animated shows aimed (at least initially) at kids. But watching Doctor Strange Supreme lose his sanity, his soul, his loved ones, and ultimately his entire universe in a desperate attempt to cheat death that ends with him trapped in the crystallized remnants of what was once a timeline, begging What If…?‘s dispassionate narrator The Watcher (voiced by Jeffrey Wright) for mercy, demonstrates quite powerfully that having an anthology of self-contained short stories in which to explore risky ideas can only be a good thing creatively.

The episode doesn’t even wait that long to go fully dark. The Nexus Event that kicks off Doctor Strange Supreme’s alternate timeline is the death of his girlfriend, Doctor Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams), in the first few minutes. It’s admittedly an odd change, given that it relies so heavily on a chemistry between the two that was…never really there in Doctor Strange, but in this timeline apparently Strange really loves Palmer. The two surgeons are therefore on their way to a romantic dinner date when Strange’s car goes flying off a cliff – but in this timeline, Strange is miraculously unscathed and Palmer dies.

At first, this change doesn’t appear to have major ramifications: Doctor Strange still becomes a sorcerer and fights Dormammu (and somehow still survives that astral plane battle in the hospital where Christine saved his life in the original movie). It’s only when he gets his hands on the Time Stone that things take a turn for the worse, as Strange tries to revisit the moment of Palmer’s death and reverse it, only to discover that no matter what he changes in the past, all he does is weaken the integrity of his own universe. Christine still dies, over and over and over again.

And at a certain point, it starts to get really uncomfortable. Christine dies multiple times in the car crash, even when Strange has her drive. She dies of food poisoning the one time they actually make it to their destination. She gets shot dead in a pizza parlor when Strange picks a different location for their date. She dies in a random fire the one time he tries to abandon her for her own sake. It’s a lot, honestly. And maybe if Christine were actually a three-dimensional character, it wouldn’t be so questionable, but neither live-action nor animation did a very good job of fleshing out her personality and interests.

The problem only grows exponentially worse when the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) explains that Christine has to die…in order for Strange to become a sorcerer. It’s a textbook example of “fridging” – killing a female character solely to motivate a male character. There’s no attempt to subvert this trope, or even to comment on it. If anything, it only opens a frightening new can of worms because the Ancient One suggests that the universe itself needs Christine to die for Strange to rise. The Nexus Event caused by her death is referred to as an Absolute Point in Time that cannot be changed or undone without destroying the universe, and it’s left somewhat unclear why that is.

What If...?
The Watcher | mashable.com

Because if the whole point of Christine dying is to make sure Strange becomes a sorcerer, then it really shouldn’t matter how he gets to that point – just like it doesn’t seem to matter how Christine dies, only that she does die. I can totally get behind the idea that Doctor Strange is such a powerful mystic force that he (or some version of him) needs to exist in every universe and timeline; I don’t fully understand why his journey need be written in stone, especially since we know that other universes don’t require Christine’s death. Doesn’t that also throw out everything Sylvie and Loki did in the name of restoring free will to the Multiverse?

Interestingly, if Doctor Strange is so powerful that his universe literally balances upon him, that suggests he could be one of the MCU’s “Nexus Beings”, a group of characters in the comics who are considered the cornerstones of their respective timelines. Doctor Strange hasn’t been portrayed as a Nexus Being in the comics, but What If…? indicates that his power and influence puts him right up there alongside Kang the Conqueror, Vision, and the Scarlet Witch, all of whom are Nexus Beings in the comics and most likely in the MCU as well.

On that note, What If…? just might answer the burning question of what Scarlet Witch will be up to when we next meet her, in Doctor Strange And The Multiverse Of Madness. You’ll remember that Wanda Maximoff’s transformation into the Scarlet Witch during the WandaVision finale required her to absorb a large part of Agatha Harkness’ own magic and life-force into herself, weakening Agatha to the point of exhaustion. At the time, it seemed like a fairly simple way to incapacitate the witch. But What If…? reveals that power absorption has side effects, both good and bad. Mostly bad.

In the latest episode, Doctor Strange Supreme’s mission to bring back Christine leads him to the lost library of the ancient sorcerer Cagliostro, who was apparently one of the few people capable of undoing an Absolute Point in Time…but only by absorbing the powers of even greater mystical entities. Strange’s attempts to master this technique are not without some success (he gains the power he seeks, even if ultimately his universe implodes before he can spend more than a few moments with the resurrected Christine), but the experience transforms him into a horrible monster as he takes on the attributes of each creature he absorbs into his body: whether that’s a dragon, or the tentacled beast from episode one, or something that looks an awful lot like Mephisto.

It wasn’t until I rewatched the episode that I noticed the similarities to how Wanda’s first attempt at absorption also transformed her, albeit into a high-fashion sorceress rather than a grotesque demon. And that’s when I realized: if anyone in the main MCU timeline has reason to want to reverse an Absolute Point in Time, it’s Wanda. With the power she could gain from harvesting magical and cosmic forces far greater than herself, she could permanently undo the pain she’s experienced, and that her makeshift family suffered. She could even bring back her twin sons, whose voices she heard crying out to her in the WandaVision post-credits scene.

But first, she’d have to absorb a couple more beings – or perhaps, entire timelines and universes full of them. Good thing there’s an entire Multiverse gourmet buffet to choose from now, am I right? Maybe the demons and dark forces we once thought would be manipulating Wanda really ought to watch their backs because she could be coming to devour them. Though of course, the more powerful that Wanda grows, the more other entities will want to absorb her in turn…entities like, say, Mephisto. The possibilities are endlessly exciting, and I love how the MCU’s mystical side is developing its own complex ecosystem and food-chain.

What If...?
Doctor Strange | marvel.com

Doctor Strange Supreme’s journey in What If…?, however, acts as a cautionary tale for anyone trying to obtain that kind of ultimate power. Consumed in his personal agenda, he neglects his duties to his universe and allows it to rot and die. He does bring back Christine, but she returns only to witness the end of all things as Strange Supreme’s timeline finally collapses, leaving him trapped in a purple orb. Strange Supreme will likely return in What If…?, but it’s still unclear how he’ll be rescued from his prison, or who would want to do so anyway. My best guess is that at some point, The Watcher will finally break his no-interference policy to save the Multiverse from an interdimensional threat, bringing several timelines together so that a new team of Avengers can form.

But for now, we leave Strange Supreme right where he deserves to be – and with the tone and atmosphere of What If…? altered irrevocably by his tragic ending, I can’t wait to see what dark and ominous tale of suspense comes next.

Episode Rating: 9.5/10

“What If…?” Episode 4 Is The Coulson Content I Needed Today

SPOILERS FOR WHAT IF…? AHEAD!

I appreciate that the premise of What If…? would suggest that anything is possible if you simply let a timeline spiral out of control, but let’s be honest: there is no timeline out there where I don’t start this review by penning some kind of heartfelt tribute to Clark Gregg’s Phil Coulson. Once an Agent, always an Agent.

What If...?
Phil Coulson in What If…? | Twitter @shrutiraoart

It’s been a while since we’ve seen Coulson on our screens. The finale of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. was only last year, bringing a (temporary?) end to the adventures of Coulson and his crew after seven incredible seasons…but technically the original Phil Coulson died at the end of season five, and was then replaced by a Life Model Decoy with all of Coulson’s memories, so you could say the last time that we’ve really seen Coulson – like, the OG Coulson – was in Captain Marvel, where he showed up briefly in sequences set during the 1990’s. Until today, that had been his last appearance in the MCU proper (since Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. is still considered to be on the fringes of MCU canon).

But the MCU keeps finding creative new ways to bring Coulson back, and at this point it’s getting mighty suspicious given all the recent rumors about Clark Gregg boarding the Secret Invasion Disney+ series (he skillfully avoided an interviewer’s question on the topic just the other day, using the kind of vague language that usually means the interviewee is wary of revealing too much). The MCU proper hasn’t ever addressed his first resurrection, the one that launched him from an untimely end in Avengers to a fresh start on Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., so all of his post-Avengers appearances in the MCU have been flashbacks, but things are starting to look up.

And who could resist bringing Coulson back into the MCU proper, after watching his performance here and seeing how his character continues to connect with fans? What If…? itself didn’t trend on Twitter this morning: but Coulson did, and even cracked into the top ten trends. Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. fans like myself were just happy to see him again, and MCU fans who don’t watch the “non-canon” TV shows were enthused because they barely got to know Coulson in the movies. Clark Gregg, meanwhile, is at the top of his game in What If…?, delivering rapid-fire humor and characteristic charm.

One of the great things about Coulson’s character is that he’s constantly evolving. He’s died and been resurrected so many times he makes it look like an Olympic sport, but every time he’s been brought back to life Gregg finds something new to bring to his performance. Today’s episode of What If…?, for instance, highlights an unexpected story element that Gregg apparently had a lot of fun with – Coulson having a crush on Thor (this has led to a lot of confusion online because some fans jumped to the conclusion that he was gay. I can easily believe that Coulson is bisexual or pansexual, but I will not be accepting any erasure of his slow-burn romance with Melinda May).

Anyway, Coulson’s ability to cheat death time and time again is a quirky bit of meta-context to have going into this episode, which is centered around the subject of death, rebirth, and the encouraging thought that some hopes and dreams can never really die….even if all but one of the original Avengers are murdered in a string of killings that range from unsettling but family-friendly (like Thor being impaled by a rogue arrow) to downright freakish (I’m sorry, did The Hulk just inflate and spontaneously combust?). And in What If…?, the dead stay dead.

Based on the events of that fateful week between Iron Man 2, The Incredible Hulk, and Thor, today’s episode envisions an alternate timeline where a serial killer haunts S.H.I.E.L.D., specifically targeting each of the candidates on Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson)’s Avengers Initiative shortlist for mysterious reasons. This timeline’s Nexus Event is the sudden murder of Tony Stark (voiced by Mick Wingert).

What If...?
Loki and Nick Fury | sg.news.yahoo.com

Or at least, so you’re led to believe throughout most of the episode. The big twist is that this timeline had actually branched much earlier, but where the episode falls apart as a good whodunnit mystery is that the twist (which could have been really well-done) relies on so much information that is nowhere discernible through any previous clues that it just comes out of left field, and feels totally unearned and frustrating because how was anyone supposed to guess that in this universe Hope Van Dyne of all people was recruited by S.H.I.E.L.D. and killed on a mission, or that her father Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) went off the deep end because of it?

It’s no fun to try and play along with a mystery where the answer is designed to be totally random, but at least the lead-up to the twist is thrilling and suspenseful – largely thanks to Lake Bell voicing Black Widow with a nearly-perfect blend of the wry humor sported by Widow in her earliest MCU appearances and the nuance and depth that only crept in later. She still dies by the end, but at least that fate is shared by all of her teammates so she doesn’t feel quite as singled out in What If…?. The lack of Scarlett Johansson’s voice is noticeable, but Bell is an experienced voice-actor with a lot of flexibility and range, so it’s not egregious.

More than ScarJo, what’s missing from Bell’s Black Widow performance is a great animated action sequence that really puts you back in that 2010 headspace when Black Widow was still a lethal spy and assassin who used her wits to get the upper hand in a fight. She does break out of the back of an armored van, but we barely get to see her in action there. And her final one-on-one fight with Hank Pym in a darkly-lit library is eerie and intense, but not exactly flattering to the Widow given that she’s not able to land a single punch or kick on Pym before dying (and yet somehow in the Black Widow movie, she’s able to survive a fall from the stratosphere).

A more evenly-balanced fight ensues at the end of the episode, when Hank Pym suits up in the Yellowjacket armor to duel Nick Fury over his daughter’s grave, only to get more than he bargained for when he realizes that Nick Fury is actually Loki (Tom Hiddleston) in disguise. Out of context that probably sounds even weirder than Hank Pym turning into a serial killer (to be honest, that character regression totally tracks; it’s just poorly-handled), but the fight is well-established, allows for an interesting clash of science and magic, and highlights three characters who have never been very action-oriented in live-action.

But Fury’s alliance with Loki quickly disintegrates when the God of Mischief decides to stick around on earth and simply…take over. With no Avengers ready to challenge him, his conquest is swift and decisive, and it could have ended the episode on a really sour note were it not for another twist: Fury calls in Captain Marvel (voiced by Alexandra Daniels) as back-up. And just as things are getting really interesting, that’s where the episode ends abruptly.

Now, I know last week’s episode kind of did the same thing, but that was left a little more open to interpretation. The threat of Ego didn’t necessarily feel urgent. This plays like the first half of a two-parter, and I’m left wondering where’s the second half where Nick Fury and his new Avengers take on Loki and the entire Asgardian army. You can’t just tease the possibility of war between gods and mortals, and then not follow through with that! My desperate hope is that the episode of What If…? that was reportedly moved from season one to season two because of time-constraints is the one that picks up this story thread again.

What If...?
Nick Fury vs Loki | cinemablend.com

As is, this is a decent episode; nothing more. Seeing Coulson again made me happy, but honestly I think the people most likely to get a kick out of this episode are the three or four die-hard fans of The Incredible Hulk. Not only does What If…? recreate an iconic moment from the much-maligned Universal movie with Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner supplanting Edward Norton’s version, but the character of Betty Ross shows up for the first time in official MCU canon. Much to my dismay, Ross is not voiced by Liv Tyler (Stephanie Panisello takes the role instead), but hopefully this clears the last hurdle that prevented Tyler from returning in the She-Hulk series; her character’s disputed canonicity.

Ah, well. Perhaps, taking a page out of Coulson’s book, this storyline could pop up again somewhere down the line when we least expect it, and we might even get to see Nick Fury’s new Avengers in a future episode or season of What If…?, with Captain Marvel, Captain America, Betty Ross, and/or whoever else makes the cut. Never say never, am I right?

Episode Rating: 7.9/10

“What If…?” Episode 2 Is The Best Kind Of Marvel Storytelling

SPOILERS FOR WHAT IF…? AHEAD!

Come August 28th, it will have been a year since we mourned the sudden and shocking loss of Chadwick Boseman, the man behind the instantly-iconic character of Black Panther – and for many of us, the pain of that parting still feels raw and vulnerable. Boseman was so much more than an actor in some of our favorite movies: he made the most of every moment he had on this planet to inspire people around the world through his work and especially through Black Panther, and his full impact – particularly on the Black community – can’t be put into words by me.

What If...?
What If…? | sportskeeda.com

But while today’s episode of What If…? obviously can’t fully accomplish that gargantuan task either in just thirty minutes, it does a beautiful job of bringing Boseman’s legacy of kindness to life onscreen, assisted by luscious animation and a brilliant performance from Boseman himself, who recorded all his lines for What If…? before his death. Focusing on the repercussions of a change to the Marvel timeline that turns his T’Challa into the character known as Star-Lord, this episode is just as much a microcosm of Boseman’s own impact on the real world as it is of T’Challa’s impact within the confines of the Marvel Multiverse – a glimpse into those areas where the actor and the character overlapped on some level.

And where the two overlap is where the magic happens, and Boseman slips into the character of T’Challa so effortlessly that it doesn’t matter if he’s wearing the mantle of a Star-Lord rather than the solemn duties of Wakanda’s king: it’s T’Challa, the man underneath all the trappings, that we love. And that’s why this episode is a perfect encapsulation of what can make What If…? so rewarding to fans, because these stand-alone stories are supposed to shine a spotlight on the characters themselves, removed of their iconic gear and cool nicknames, placed in a wholly different scenario, but still themselves at their core; still making the decisions we know that character would make.

That’s exactly what the first episode of What If…? got so terribly wrong, using Peggy Carter to tiredly hit all the same plot beats as Steve Rogers did in The First Avenger. That episode could have been about almost any character in the MCU being injected with the Super-Soldier Serum, and it really wouldn’t have mattered because the writing was entirely plot-driven, leaving no room for the bold character choices we need from a What If…? scenario. It ceased to be a story about how Peggy Carter wears the mantle of Captain Carter and what she brings to the job, and became a recap of Steve Rogers’ movie, starring interchangeable action figures whose individual personalities matter less than a shield.

That’s always been a criticism of MCU movies, and I hated that the studio – which is, in fact, moving away from that mentality overall – gave its own detractors ammunition like that. This episode of What If…?, on the other hand, takes the cornerstones that make up T’Challa’s character – such as his dignity,  generosity, open-mindedness, and his desire to do good even when it requires him to upend the status quo – and uses those as the rock-solid basis for an original story that has similar vibes to Guardians Of The Galaxy, sure, but veers off in a completely different direction.

T’Challa being abducted from earth in place of Peter Quill (voiced by Brian T. Delaney) because the Ravagers were misled by Wakanda’s energy signature, him accidentally becoming the Star-Lord, and having a chance to share his kindness and pure spirit with the rest of the galaxy: that quite literally changes everything in the MCU – like, to the point where he doesn’t even form the Guardians Of The Galaxy in this timeline because he’s already averted most of the tragic events in each member’s backstories.

And the episode takes its time to reveal this, peeling back the layers so precisely that when the episode starts with T’Challa going about the exact same Power Stone heist that Peter Quill pulled off in the first Guardians Of The Galaxy movie, you might be wary that it’s a repeat of what happened with episode one. But the catch is that, while Peter Quill kicked off the events of Guardians Of The Galaxy by trying to sell the Power Stone on the black market, T’Challa plans to use it to solve an energy crisis in the Krylorian star-system.

We get to see the impacts of T’Challa’s actions everywhere he goes. For one thing, he and the Ravagers’ captain Yondu Udonta (Michael Rooker) are actually close – and while their father-son dynamic still comes with conflict, T’Challa’s maturity and wisdom helps him navigate those rough patches, and facilitates an earlier redemption for Yondu. In this timeline, Thanos (Josh Brolin) runs a bar and gardens in his spare time – having been convinced by T’Challa that his plan for randomized genocide on a universal scale as a means of resource reallocation isn’t efficient or ethical (although there’s something eerie to Thanos constantly repeating that his plan would have worked).

As for Thanos’ adopted children, we only meet this timeline’s version of Nebula (Karen Gillan) – who is still mostly humanoid, having never been hardened into a sentient killing machine for her father. Side-note: It’s very weird seeing Nebula with any hair, much less a full head of wavy platinum blonde locks like a 1940’s movie-star. She’s still not on good terms with Thanos, which I appreciate because she has legitimate reasons to be upset with him besides turning her into an android, but she’s also funny, fashionable, and even a bit flirty around T’Challa (whom she calls “Cha-Cha”), and Karen Gillan does a great job selling the whole performance.

Later it’s revealed that Drax (voiced by Fred Tatasciore, due to some kind of “miscommunication” behind the scenes) never experienced the crushing loss of his wife and daughter – which would have sent him down the dark path to vengeance – in this timeline. In a bizarre twist of fate, he’s now working at Thanos’ bar. Even Korath (Djimon Hounsou), a minor villain in Guardians Of The Galaxy, ends up joining the Ravagers team and abandoning the Kree zealot Ronan. And while some of these changes might seem over-the-top divorced from context, Boseman’s charisma makes it believable.

What If...?
T’Challa as Star-Lord | themarysue.com

Now…that’s not to say everything in the universe is magically fixed by T’Challa’s presence. Thanos retires from his life of evil, but the power vacuum he leaves behind is quickly filled by another tyrant – Benicio Del Toro’s Collector. This twist makes a lot of sense, and retroactively helps to elevate this bizarre character as a legitimate threat, something he never got to be in the movies before getting killed off. In What If…?, with the help of the Black Order, the Collector has already done pretty well for himself – nabbing a whole bunch of new trinkets to add to his collection, including Mjolnir, Captain America’s shield, and – most horrifyingly, to me – Hela’s telekinetic helmet.

Along with the fancy weaponry comes an element of action that was completely missing from the character’s previous appearances, and perhaps feels a bit jarring here because of that. He’s still drowning under several pounds of snazzy bling when we meet him, but he quickly sheds his outer layers to reveal an impressive six-pack, and show off some martial arts moves. Del Toro seems to be having a great time voicing the character and doing weird stuff with his line-readings, which totally works for the Collector.

Oh, and can we just talk about Carina (Ophelia Lovibond) for a moment? One thing I love about the Multiverse is that even the most obscure characters can return and get payback for how the films did them dirty. And Carina, the Collector’s abused servant, has deserved a second chance ever since James Gunn used her to demonstrate the destructive abilities of the Power Stone in Guardians Of The Galaxy by having her get blown to smithereens. Just as Gunn has gotten better at writing women, so too has the MCU slowly improved.

In What If…?, Carina finally gets revenge on the Collector for all the evil things he did to her, smirking as she slips on the bracelet that allows her to control his minions and turn them against him. I love how there’s no attempt to moralize about her actions, and we don’t even get to see what happens – we just hear the Collector squealing the word “Karma!” before he’s buried under the weight of his own monstrous creations. It’s so dark, it’s so powerful, and I don’t think enough people are as obsessed with this scene as I am.

Contrast that scene with Peter Quill’s non-reaction to Carina’s death in Guardians Of The Galaxy, however, and you’ll notice that this whole episode is pretty damning for Quill – whose time as Star-Lord has resulted in a lot less peace and harmony, and a lot more apocalyptic catastrophe. His swagger, braggadocio, and self-absorbed attitude have always teetered between endearing and irritating (no thanks to Chris Pratt being the absolute worst), and his casual sexism in the Guardians franchise was never cute. It’s a real shame, because we absolutely deserve the messy, dramatic, canonically bisexual disaster that is Marvel Comics Quill, and we’re probably never gonna get it from Pratt.

And that’s why I’m so intrigued by the new version of Quill we met today in What If…?, who never got off-world – and is not voiced by Chris Pratt – but instead ended up working at a Dairy Queen in Missouri while T’Challa took his place among the stars. The episode concludes with Ego the Living Planet (Kurt Russell) donning human form and reuniting with Peter, juxtaposed with scenes of T’Challa returning to Wakanda and introducing his biological family to his found family from outer space. I really hope we reconnect with Quill and Ego at some point, because that’s too big a cliffhanger to leave like that.

Across the board, this is a massive improvement on the premiere episode. The writing is more sophisticated, the action is even cleaner, the voice-acting is stellar, and even Jeffrey Wright’s The Watcher – while still a background character – gets to engage with the material a bit more, just as I’d hoped he would. Most importantly, What If…? knows, or at least I hope it knows, that at its core it has to be character-driven to work…at the very least in episodes where the central conceit is a role-swap.

What If...?
T’Challa and Yondu | insider.com

And that’s especially important with regards to characters like T’Challa, who mean so much to people because of the qualities that make them different from a lot of other superheroes, that can’t be treated as interchangeable or secondary to the plot. Hopefully, What If…? continues to keep that in mind going forward.

Rating: 10/10

“What If?” 1st Trailer Review!

Whereas the Star Wars franchise long ago learned how to span multiple mediums, with a strong foothold in the crowded field of animation thanks to series like The Clone Wars and Star Wars: Rebels, the Marvel Cinematic Universe hasn’t ever been quite as successful at that. But that’s all about to change, with the upcoming What If…? series that explores unbelievable alternate realities branching off from the main MCU timeline. What if T’Challa took Peter Quill’s place as Star Lord and traveled the stars? What if Peggy Carter, not Steve Rogers, took the Super Soldier serum and was transformed into Captain Britain? What if Stephen Strange…well, actually, I’m not entirely sure what it is we see Stephen Strange doing in this first trailer for What If…?, or how it’s much different from what he actually did in Doctor Strange, but it’s cool: whatever it is.

What If
T’Challa as Star Lord | comingsoon.net

What If…? will have episodes corresponding to each of the current MCU movies, though so far we’ve really only seen footage from a handful, particularly the Peggy Carter as Captain Britain episode (which, of course, correlates to Captain America: The First Avenger). Linking all the stories in this massive anthology is the mysterious character of The Watcher, voiced by Jeffrey Wright: a cosmic being composed of starlight. It’s unclear if The Watcher only exists in this show, or if he’ll make an appearance in the MCU movies as well. For now, though, he’s just a really cool voice.

What If
Captain America as a zombie | slashfilm.com

Speaking of voices, perhaps the most exciting thing about What If…? – apart from its intriguing premise – is the fact that it’s compiled the voice talents of almost all the actors in the MCU, even those who have since departed the franchise…or, tragically in the case of Chadwick Boseman, passed away. Boseman’s performance as an alternate Star-Lord (in either the Guardians Of The Galaxy or Black Panther episode: it’s still unclear) will quite possibly be the last of his brief but glorious career, and we hear just a snippet of his voice work in this first trailer.

I do hope that we soon find out more about this series, since thus far we still only know the basic premises of two or three episodes. There are quick shots of Iron Man, Hawkeye, Thor, Captain Marvel, and, for some reason, The Collector from Guardians Of The Galaxy – all of them just look like how we remember them from the movie. There’s also that one tantalizing clip of Bucky Barnes fighting a zombie version of Captain America that we’ve seen before, but which still looks very interesting – and which I have to assume comes from an alternate Winter Soldier where it’s Steve Rogers, instead of Bucky, who was brainwashed by HYDRA: though why he got turned into an undead corpse is anyone’s guess.

What If
Peggy Carter as Captain Britain | geektyrant.com

What If…? also seems to have beautiful 2D animation, which is pretty rare these days and gives the series a unique look – nothing like the 3D animated Star Wars shows that we’ve seen before (and which, to be fair, look stunning and are proven successes). Whether What If…? fits into the great big jigsaw puzzle that is the MCU, or whether it’s just an awesome way to explore endless possible outcomes, I can’t wait to watch it, and I would rank this among the most exciting new reveals from the Disney Investors Call.

Trailer Rating: 9/10