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When What If… was announced, there was a lot of speculation about what it would be and how wild it could get. Such a title would seem to indicate that this wasn’t going to be MCU canon and that nothing was off the table: a universe where all the heroes are frogs? Why not! A reality where all the heroes are the villains? Sure! But in the end, many of the changes weren’t as crazy as they could have been, and the different stories in this season were interconnected. For some, the latter may be disappointing. But What If…’s season 1 finale is an effective example of the fun that can be had when you combine characters from different worlds.
The ultimate recruiter of said characters is Uatu, who calls upon Captain Carter (from episode 1), Killmonger (from episode 6), Thor (from episode 7), T’Challa Star-Lord (from episode 2), Doctor Strange (from episode 4), and Gamora (from what would have been episode 9 had COVID not gotten in the way) to become the Guardians of the Multiverse and stop Ultron in his tracks before he can destroy more worlds.
Each recruitment scene has some great moments. For instance, Captain Carter’s is almost a shot for shot recreation (with similar lines too) of the opening fight scene on the Lemurian Star in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and The Watcher can barely finish saying “Thor: you have been chosen” amidst the Asgardian God’s blustering.
Indeed, the levity Thor brings is welcome in this finale, given the gravity of the stakes. It helps make the sequence where the newly formed team discuss their plan to take Ultron down that much more fun, even if it feels like they episode skips a few character beats to get the Guardians to coalesce. It’s Thor’s personality that draws the big bad’s attention so that the fight may begin.
What If… has slowly been escalating the scale of its action as the season has progressed, and in this finale they pull out all the stops. Doctor Strange’s magic combined with Thor’s hammer is just the start: once Ultron follows our heroes to the universe where a now very alone Natasha Romanoff resides, the 7 on 1 fight that ensues gets more and more impressive, with running visuals to match.
What follows once Ultron is eventually defeated via Arnim Zola’s virus is a twist everyone could see coming, as Killmonger takes the stones for himself. But the manner of his comeuppance is unexpected, as Strange traps both Killmonger and the Zola/Ultron hybrid in a pocket universe very similar to the one he trapped himself in at the end of episode 4.
It’s a neat and tidy end to a season that has sometimes had very messy storytelling. But at its best, What If…’s first season was super fun, with dazzling visuals, incredible action, and a boatload of Easter Eggs for MCU fans. When season 2 comes round, there’ll be even more characters and worlds the show can play around with. I’m looking forward to seeing what they come up with.
Laura Karpman’s done great work scoring this series, and she finds a nice balance between all the various MCU motifs in the finale.
I haven’t written about Jeffrey Wright much in these reviews, but he’s been fantastic throughout this series and especially in the later episodes as The Watcher has gotten more involved in the story. It’s just a matter of time until Uatu makes his way tolive action.
And that’s it for another MCU Disney+ season! Thanks for following along with these reviews.
Watch a trailer for the zombies episode of What If...