Going On the Account: An Alternative Approach…

Okay, WHAT IF…? Number 9

For a while, I was offering a few takes on the Marvel series WHAT IF…? airing on Disney+ on Facebook. It made sense, as AltHis is within my wheelhouse, and I’d been doing reviews over at REBEAT until recently.

So, with the site updated, it made sense to bring the observations to this page for the last one, to get things moving again over here. If anything, there should be more content over here soon as things go on.

And if you’re looking for what was said about prior episodes, they should be easy to find in my Facebook feed.

And, as I warned there, there will be spoilers in the post

“I’m a pretty convenient spoiler for a lot of people.”

               -attributed to Kevin Costner

plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose

Karr’s quote is great if you’re trying to deal with a life that goes too fast. If you were rooting for WHAT IF…? before it aired, not so much…

For a start, there’s the episode title, “What If… The Watcher Broke His Oath?” This is a major misnomer, as it’s not a hypothetical; during the show, Uatu is actually doing just that. Which is kind of a sell-out if you think too much about it. (You don’t have to, I can do the work for all of us; go on, clock out early, I got you covered…)

There’s also the frustration of the episode being the culmination of what we assumed were going to be a set of self-contained stories in an anthology into essentially a mini-MCU Phase. The idea of giving each character a stand-alone episode so that they can all come together in one major team-up was disappointing. It shows a certain formulaic thinking that’s not a good long term investment to gain anyone’s loyalty.

We get to see characters from prior episodes, both new and re-imagined, gathered by the Watcher to fight the Infinity Stone-enhanced version of Ultron we saw last time, in order to prevent it from wiping out all life in every universe. (At least Thanos wanted to leave a few things alive as part of his plan…) To that end, we see Captain Carter, T’Challa the Star Lord, Thor Bratinson (the version that didn’t have Loki as a kid brother), the Killmonger Panther, the Doctor Strange form Earth-it’s-gone-and-it’s-HIS-fault, and a Gamorah who-

Well, this is sometimes an issue with animated shows: The episode this character was drawn from could not be done in time (COVID-related delays), so we ended up with references that tie in with stories that were written ahead of time that couldn’t be changed that late in the production. Supposedly, her universe will be part of next season’s batch, but we’re kind of at a loss as it stands now.

Supposedly, it might have been a good one, as Lego actually released a playset around that show:

And, well…   Ooops…

Anyways, having been assembled and given the team name “the Guardians of the Multiverse,” they are now charged with finding a way to work with the Black Widow from the Infinity Ultron’s universe, the last Avenger left from its plane of existence. (For that matter, the last living things from there as well.)

There are quips, there are daring plans, there is a victory, which considering how WHAT IF…? was getting a rep as a major downer every week is somehow not a surprise, because again, it’s the formula. And there are callbacks, not only to prior episodes (the zombies get used as a good distraction) but to other MCU films, such as seeing Captain Carter in a remake of the beginning of CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER doing everything Steve Rodgers did in that film. The more invested you are with the franchise, the better your experience.

And when they got most of the MCU actors to do their animated versions of themselves, we ended up with a cast that threw themselves into their roles, especially Toby Jones, who finally gives us a Zola with a face on his torso like we had in the comic books. The vocal casting overall in the series has been worth it, with some established voice actors doing decent fill-ins in places their cinematic counterparts couldn’t do.

So all said, there are going to be times when you walk into your favorite fast food franchisee and order the same thing off the menu, and you end up at that moment enjoying it a lot. Yes, it’s the same item that you can get at just about any location that has that logo on the front of the building, but for some reason it just works right for that meal.

And while on a structural level there’s a lot to be concerned about, the show itself is enjoyable taken without considering the bigger issues. What made it worth watching was the general overall quality, which alone might have kept people invested for a bit. The call-backs and connections with prior entries will of course make it even better for those invested in the whole Disney-run Marvel works as a body, which is part of the reason you’d show up eating at this franchise in the first place.

Which may have been recognized early on in the production: Before placing the Last Widow in a different universe, the one where Hank Pym killed all the Avengers (again, a call-back), the Watcher replies to Romanov’s criticisms by noting how much he needs to watch every person in every universe, as their stories are everything to him.

Now, this could be a recognition of the hardcore fans who follow along and invest themselves in all the stories, which acknowledges and honors them for their loyalty. It could also be a cynical plea to keep watching, promising you a more rewarding experience if you just keep tuning in, geared towards people who were too young to order a Little Orphan Annie decoder pin back in the day…

So, after you save the multiverse, if you’re still watching, what are they going to do for a promised second season, beyond finally giving us the lost episode? Can that keep from experiencing the Law of Diminishing Returns that further Phases in the main MCU face?

All we can do is sit back and watch…

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