‘What If…?’ Episodes 1–3 Review—A Fascinating Experiment
It has been a whole four weeks since the last entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. With the cataclysmic events of the Loki season finale, this franchise has opened up a multitude of possibilities. Marvel’s newest Disney+ series is the first example of the studio having fun with this concept.
What If…? is an animated anthology series starring many of the actors from the MCU. This show takes a look at various events we’ve seen from the 24 films and explores what if they happened differently, all narrated by The Watcher (Jeffrey Wright), who observes the multiverse.
Phase Four of the MCU has had a strong start. Marvel has released three Disney+ series this year, and they have all been vastly unique and experimental. With WandaVision exploring the sitcom genre, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier serving as a political thriller, and Loki as a sci-fi crime show, every show stands out on its own.
I was able to watch the first three episodes of the show, and I would like to give my thoughts on each episode.
The first episode of What If…? revises the events of Captain America: The First Avenger, having Agent Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) take the Super Soldier Serum instead of Steve Rogers, leading her to become the new captain in the frontlines taking on Nazis in World War II.
It was a good introduction to the concept the show is going for, and Atwell is always excellent as the character. The episode does an excellent job of preserving Steve’s heroic qualities without his physical strength. While it feels like the episode is cramming too many events in half an hour, the episode ended with me wanting more of Captain Carter kicking ass.
In Chadwick Boseman’s final role, he once again portrays T’Challa in an episode that explores what would happen if he grew up to be Star-Lord instead of Black Panther. This episode has Star-Lord teaming up with a few familiar faces to take on The Collector (Benicio del Toro).
There are a few surprise appearances in this episode that I won’t spoil, but this episode really shows how the series can really have fun with the existing characters. People who never met in the MCU films get to interact here. It leads to a fascinating piece of alternate Marvel history while referencing the events we know, despite not being too memorable.
My favorite of the first three episodes, this one follows Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) during Fury’s Big Week as the events of The Incredible Hulk, Thor, and Iron Man 2 occur. However, as Fury begins to bring together a group of remarkable people to see if they could become something more, the Avengers Initiative is derailed, and Fury must discover the truth about what’s going on.
This episode uses our knowledge of the events of Phase One and flips it on its head, creating a story that would completely change the MCU as we know it today. While the eventual twist has some plausibility issues as far as a character orchestrating events a little too perfectly to be believable, it tells an amazing standalone story straight out of a comic book.
What If…? is off to a strong start. The amount of people from the live-action MCU films who have returned to reprise their roles is impressive. This is a stacked cast, and although there are moments where the voice acting can lack in necessary emotion, it’s great to see them back as these characters.
The animation is gorgeous as well. The show makes the wise choice to stray away from the standard 3D animation we’re used to but instead goes for a cel-shaded animation style that looks right out of a comic book. A few sequences look straight out of a comic panel, and it all looks impressive.
Head writer A.C. Bradley and director Bryan Andrews have done a phenomenal job taking the beloved MCU events and turning them on their head. This show is a fascinating experiment with the potential to be even better as the show progresses.
Grade: ★★★★☆ [8/10, B]
“What If…?” launches exclusively on Disney+ on August 11, 2021.