'What If...? - Season 1' Is An Immersive Series That Needs To Figure Itself Out More
By Sal LoCicero | October 23, 2021
Marvel Studios’s first animated project arrived on Disney+ in August. After three original MCU shows, we are now presented with ‘What If...?’. Based on the ‘What If..?’ comics, this brand new show introduces us to The Watcher (Jeffrey Wright) who narrates the entire show and opens with a “Rod Serling - like” monologue for each episode.
Given the many risks Marvel Studios has taken over the years; with ‘Black Panther’, ‘Guardians Of The Galaxy’, and ‘Avengers: Infinity War’, there is one genre that the studio hasn't encountered before. They have never worked on Animation. Yes, there have been a ton of Marvel cartoons on TV, but none of them are directly associated with the studio. Kevin Feige has worked on thirty MCU projects, and not one of them has been animated.
‘What If...?’ does show how inexperienced they were developing this show, at times. Some episodes are great, some are mediocre, and others are weak. The episodes that work are either extremely fun, adventurous, or thought provoking.
Episode 1 - “What If…Captain Carter Were The First Avenger?”, is enjoyable. It welcomes fans into this alternate universe. Ep.6 - “What If…Killmonger Rescued Tony Stark?”, gives off a similar vibe as ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’, both stories containing the message of weapons in the wrong hands. It’s very thought-provoking and intense. Ep.7 - “What If…Thor Were An Only Child?” is very original, due to its wacky tone. It’s as if a 12 year old comic book fanatic wrote it - I mean it in a good way. A whole bunch of things happen yet nothing feels convoluted at all. It’s just very creative.
Ep. 2 - “What If…T’Challa Became a Star Lord?” is as weird as it sounds. It’s not without its moments, however it feels way too safe for its own good. Ep.4 - “What If…Doctor Strange Lost His Heart Instead Of His Hands?”, offers potential, but it becomes very dull rather than deep. Ep. 8 - “What If…Ultron Won?” is interesting. We are given a surprising amount of screen time with The Watcher and his reaction to the events that occur.
Ep. 3 - “What If…The World Lost Its Mightiest Heroes?” is a murder mystery that ends with a disappointment conclusion. Ep. 5 - “What If…Zombies!?!” was a bizarre concept from the beginning. Combining The Walking Dead with The Avengers does not work. The season finale - “What If…The Watcher Broke His Oath?” is not such a great finale. It doesn’t leave you eager for more to come.
One of the biggest aspects to appreciate in this show, is the fact that every episode has its own genre. Some are action and adventure, mystery and suspense, science fiction, fantasy, drama, comedy, and more. Each episode carries a different tone which allows the viewer to escape into a multitude of stories despite good or bad.
With Season 2 confirmed, hopefully this show will find a way to understand itself a little better. ‘What If..?’- Season 1 manages to keep its entertaining value despite uneven tones.