Each week, Darren from @darrenmoviereviews will be recapping the most recent episode(s) of What If…? and the show’s overall connection to the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe.
What If…? Ultron defeated the Avengers and brought peace in our time. The penultimate episode of the first season of What If…? brings back Ultron, with no strings, and gives fans one of the strongest episodes of the season so far.
What If…? has been an interesting experiment for the MCU. Aside from it being the first animated property, each episode focused on a different character and storyline in separate universes. There have been some phenomenal episodes and some fun ones, but we had been missing how they all connect together. However, building off the cliffhanger from last week’s episode and setting up for the season finale next week, we finally get answers on how all these stories tie together. And as a massive MCU fan staying up to midnight every week to watch each new episode, it was nice to see the larger plan be revealed. While it’s still unclear how the series will affect the overall MCU as an official entry in Phase 4, the show is building to an exciting finale that will hopefully close the season on a high note.
Despite being the shortest episode of the season, there is a great story featured in the episode. While it does move quickly and would have benefited from having an extra five minutes to further explore the story being developed, there are no problems with the story. It builds off elements of different films from the MCU, while also prominently featuring the Watcher in a role beyond that of being a narrator, as teased earlier in the season. Unlike previous episodes, we only see three MCU stars return to their roles. Instead, we have lots of voice actors recreating MCU characters, and while for some of the characters it’s noticeable it is not the same actors as the films, everyone of them does a good job. And as with the entire season, the animation continues to be top notch, recreating the comic book style in each scene and one stellar action sequence in the final minutes of the episode.
And into spoiler territory we go. If you have not seen this week’s episode of What If…?, stop reading now. If you have, keep on reading to find out what we learnt in this week’s episode…
Before getting into the story of the episode, the Watcher begins with an introduction to the story we are about to see. In his own words, the Watcher informs that the story you are about to witness breaks his heart as it is about an universe on the brink of destruction.
The story then begins, opening up on a post apocalyptic looking world. Black Widow is on a motorbike, informing Hawkeye over comms that they are coming in about 90 seconds. Hawkeye then launches an arrow, aiming for an Ultron drone. The pack of drones that were chasing Black Widow then turn their attention to Hawkeye, but he uses an invisible cape to trick them. The drones then divide themselves between Black Widow and Hawkeye, and despite the drones taking off Hawkeye’s robotic arm, Black Widow and Hawkeye defeat the drones before they are able to alert Ultron to their location: Moscow, where the secret to defeating Ultron lies.
The Watcher then explains how Ultron took over the world. While his origins are the same as they were in Avengers: Age of Ultron, the Avengers did not stop Ultron from using the cradle. He managed to put his consciousness into the synthetic body we know as Vision, and with Mind Stone powering him, he laid waste to the planet and defeated the Avengers. Ultron set off nuclear warheads, targeting cities around the world, and despite their best efforts in the quintet, Black Widow and Hawkeye fail at preventing world destruction.
After laying waste to Earth, Ultron receives a visitor: Thanos. Thanos opens up a portal to Earth, coming to take the Mind Stone from Vision. However, Ultron slices Thanos in half and takes the other five Infinity Stones from Thanos, melding all five of them with his suit. The power of the Infinity Stones, Ultron is able to see worlds beyond his own that he is convinced are in need of him. Using the Infinity Stones, Ultron builds his army of drones and sets off on intergalactic domination.
We see Ultron and his army visit Asgard, The Sovereign, Dakar, and Xandar. Despite the efforts of many Marvel heroes, like the Guardians of the Galaxy and Captain Marvel, Ultron easily destroyed each world he visited. In no time at all, Ultron has delivered peace in our time across the galaxy. However, by doing so, Ultron is now a program with no purpose. As the Watcher narrates this from a corridor with crystal walls through which the Watcher can see multiple universes, Ultron hears the Watcher, having reached a new level of consciousness. This startles the Watcher, as he did not see this occurring, and alerts Ultron to the existence of other universes that he can bring peace to. Panicking about the damage Ultron could cause to the multiverse, the Watcher changes his attention to Black Widow and Hawkeye to see how they are doing in stopping Ultron.
Now in the vaults beneath the Kremlin, Black Widow and Hawkeye are searching for a file containing a way to defeat Ultron. Clint jokes that the archives look like the warehouse from the final scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark, and during the search, Balck Widow finds Red Guardian’s shield. Despite hours of searching, they are not able to find the information they require and Hawkeye is ready to give up. However, the Watcher begins to panic as Hawkeye is sitting next to the box with the information they need. The Watcher then becomes conflicted, wanting to alert Black Widow and Hawkeye to the location of the file they seek, but cannot bring himself to do it because of the oath he has sworn. While debating what to do while hearing Ultron trying to break out of his universe to find him, Black Widow locates the file on Admin Zola they were looking for, relieving the Watcher from interfering in the flow of time.
Having seen Black Widow and Hawkeye find the file on Zola, the Watcher says there is still hope for the universe…but Ultron breaks free of his universe to where the Watcher is. He sees all the universes and says that he needs to silence their chaos.
Cutting back to Black Widow and Hawkeye, they have travelled to Siberia to the secret HYDRA base from Captain America: Civil War, where the final computer containing Arnim Zola exists. After booting up the computer, Zola identifies Black Widow and Hawkeye and begins his speel about HYDRA, only to be interrupted by Black Widow as she has heard all this before during the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. She and Hawkeye tell Zola that they need his help as the world is different than he knows as everyone is dead. After describing Ultron to Zola, Zola tells them that they must assume he will infiltrate the program and disable Ultron from the inside. While he is reluctant to help at first, Zola eventually agrees to their plan after Hawkeye threatens to destroy the computer and wiping out Zola’s existence.
To catch Ultron’s attention, Black Widow calls Avengers Tower looking to order some pizza. This immediately alters Ultron’s drones to their location, which sends them immediately to Siberia. However, Hawkeye has downloaded Zola to one of his electronic arrows. When the drones arrive, Hawkeye plugs his arrow into one of the drones and Zola begins downloading himself into the drone. Black Widow and Hawkeye fight off the drones to allow Zola to download his programming. Zola eventually succeeds in downloading his programming, and tries to infiltrate Ultron’s programming. However, he is unsuccessful as Ultron is out of range. With the drones closing in on them, Black Widow, Hawkeye and Zola begin their escape up the exit tunnel. However, with the drones fast approaching, they hit Hawkeye with a laser blast. As he falls, Black Widow catches him, saving him from falling into the horde of drones. The scene mirrors Black Widow’s death in Avengers: Endgame, with Clint letting go to sacrifice himself to save Black Widow. As he falls into the horder, he shoots an explosive arrow into the horde, which detonates destroying both the drones and himself.
After escaping the HYDRA base, Black Widow questions Zola why he could not connect and disable Ultron’s programming. This is when Zola tells Black Widow the frightening truth: Ultron is no longer in their universe.
The episode then cuts back to the Watcher and Ultron, who have begun their big fight. They begin throwing each other into different universes. During their fight, Ultron accuses the Watcher of watching all these universes’ suffering without doing anything. While the Watcher tells Ultron that he was not allowed to intervene in the events of the universes, Ultron tells him that he has come as the natural order and will bring peace across every universe. As the fight progresses, the Watcher upgrades his outfit to an armoured suit. As they are smashing through universes, Ultron sends the Watcher to one universe where he lands in the middle of Times Square, which features a news report with Steve Rogers being sworn in as President of the United States. As the fight is looking bleak for the Watcher, he eventually escapes into another universe and is not followed by Ultron. However, Ultorn can now see everything and believes no one can stop him.
The final scene of the episode features the Watcher. He looks broken and on the verge of crying. But he has a surprise visitor. The evil version of Doctor Strange from the season’s fourth episode. He asks the Watcher if he is ready to break his oath not to interfere in events. The Watcher, realizing that this is the only way to defeat Ultron, says he is and asks for Doctor Strange’s help.
The multiverse is about to collide, with the highly anticipated debut of the Guardians of the Multiverse. It’s sure to be an action packed and exciting episode as the Guardians of the Multiverse. Ultron’s story is not done, and next week’s finale is sure to shake up the MCU as this will be the first time we see different universes colliding for more than a matter of seconds. But what effect will this have on the future of MCU and for the show’s second season? Don’t miss my next recap of What If…? to find out the answer to these questions and what mind bending events occur in the season finale.