Each week, Darren from @darrenmoviereviews has recapped the most recent episode(s) of What If…? and the show’s overall connection to the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe.
What If…? the Watcher interfered to stop Ultron from taking over the multiverse? The season one finale of Marvel’s What If…? delivers the team up that the season has been building towards in a crowd pleasing episode.
What If…? has been a first on many fronts for the MCU: first animated show, first show with different stories each episode that did not at first glance seem interconnected, and the first show to play with the multiverse beyond Loki which just sent the Sacred Timeline into chaos in the show’s final minutes. The season has had its ups and downs, but for the most part the show has kept the Marvel spirit alive and featured some wonderful animation and unique storylines. The finale feels like the third act of a Marvel film, it is very much a big fight for the most part. But after all the different characters explored in each episode, the fight sequence seems like a big payoff for all the storytelling that has been happening this season. Voice performances across the board were great. It was a treat to have Hayley Atwell return as Captain Carter, once again bringing her infectious energy to the character. Then there is the goodbye to Chadwick Boseman. Not only will this episode mark his final appearance as T’Challa, it is also his final performance of all time. While his spotlight episode was the season’s second episode, which worked as a beautiful send off to both his character and him as an actor, it was wonderful to experience one last performance from such a talented actor.
And into spoiler territory we go. If you have not seen the season finale of What If…?, stop reading now. If you have, keep on reading to find out what we learnt in the season finale…
The episode begins with the Watcher assembling heroes from across the multiverse to stand against Ultron’s conquest for “peace” across the multiverse. We first see Captain Carter circa 2014 boarding the Lemurian Star and fighting Batroc. The scene is right out of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, with Black Widow even trying to set up Peggy with Bernard from accounting. The Watcher appears after Peggy beats Batroc and tells her that she has been chosen, before removing her from her universe. The same happens to T’Challa Star-Lord who is in the Dairy Queen saving Peter Quill from Ego, who was last seen at the end T’Challa’s episode.
We see a version of Gamora and Tony on Nidavelir, destroying the Infinity Gauntlet in a pool of molten lava. The Watcher appears and recruits Gamora for his mission. He then goes to the version of Killmonger we saw in episode 6 in Wakanda. Wakanda is being invaded with the help of Pepper and Shuri, with their goal to stop Killmonger and remove him from power after being responsible for both the death of Tony and T’Challa in that universe. However, before they can get to Killmonger, the Watcher chooses him for his team and removes Killmonger from that universe.
Last but not least, we’re back in Vegas where Party Thor is fighting all the Ultron drones that appeared at the end of episode 7. The Watcher attempts to recruit Thor, but Thor is too busy fighting the drones to listen to the Watcher. However, after first being taken back by being ignored, the Watcher picks up Thor and removes him from that universe.
The Watcher brings his recruits to a bar that the evil Doctor Strange has created. Strange has tried to make the place feel comfortable for the recruits, and as such has a picture of Steve Rogers on the wall for Peggy and beer for Party Thor. The lights flicker and the Watcher appears, telling the heroes he has assembled of the necessary mission he has for them to ensure that life continues across the multiverse. The Watcher tells them that he thought he could defeat Ultron on his own, but after failing to, he realized he needed a team to save all the universes. He needed the Guardians of the Multiverse. However, Thor thinks that this is all a trick setup by Loki. Thinking he’s calling Loki’s bluff, Thor goes to exit the bar, but is nearly sucked through a multiversal portal. Clearly, not a trick by Loki. Taking on the role of team captain, Peggy tells the Watcher for the team that they are all in.
With their agreement to help the Watcher, the Watcher further details the plan to stop Ultron. As Ultron has all the Infinity Stones, the Watcher has determined that they need to separate Ultron from one, if not all, of the Stones, to defeat him. Gamore has a device capable of destroying the Stones, and with Thor’s ability to attract unwanted attention, they should be able to get one Stone away from Ultron. With their plan set to steal the Soul Stone from Ultron, the Watcher opens a portal and wishes the Guardians of the Multiverse good luck.
The Guardians of the Multiverse are setting up camp on the side of a cliff, with Strange setting up protective barriers. While setting up the protective barriers, Strange and Peggy discuss why the two of them are here, fighting to protect the multiverse. It turns out, they are both there because of love. Strange then tells Peggy about his universe, how it was Steve Rogers who became Captain America and was out of time. The team then gathers for a toast, and while Strange begins going on about how facing death is to conquer the greatest fear of the unknown, etc., T’Challa interrupts and exclaims “to the Guardians of the Multiverse!” Truly in the celebratory moment, Thor uses Mjilnor and summons a bolt of lightning. Unfortunately, this attracts Ultron to their location before they are ready to take him on.
Gamora and Killmonger jump through a portal, going to the location where they will use Gamora’s device to destroy the Soul Stone. As Strange attempts to initiate the plan, Thor throws the plan out the window and begins summoning lightning strikes on Ultron. Unfortunately, the lightning strikes have no effect on Ultron and he collapses the mountain on the remaining Guardians. Luckily, Strange’s protective barriers protect the Guardians from any injury and they begin their attack. T’Challa manages to steal the Soul Stone off of Ultron’s armour, and Strange opens a portal above Ultron which dumps the zombie horde from episode 5 on him. The remaining Guardians jump through a portal with the Soul Stone, leaving Ultron to fight the zombies and Zombie Wanda.
As the Guardians exit the portal and are about to give Gamora the Soul Stone, Black Widow appears and takes it. They have portaled to the universe that saw the creation of Ultron back in episode 8, with Black Widow and the Zola Drone being the only two survivors in that universe. However, Peggy recognizes Natasha from her own universe, and begins to explain to Natasha that they need to destroy the Soul Stone to defeat Ultron. She tells Natasha of the Natasha she knows from her universe, giving her details that Natasha would only tell her close friends. Natasha recognizes that Peggy must know another version of her, and remarks that they must have been close in Peggy’s universe. Peggy says that they are more than close, that they are in fact best friends. However, Ultron portals to this universe and tries to take the Soul Stone from Natasha, which continues the fight between them.
As the fight rages on, Ultron eventually uses the Time Stone to freeze time so he can reclaim the Soul Stone from the Guardians. However, Strange also possesses a Time Stone and uses it to counteract Ultron’s. Strange then transforms due to the dark energy and unleashes his squid arms on Ultron, trying to restrict Ultron from making a move. With Ultron distracted, Gamora steals the Soul Stone back from Ultron and puts it in her machine, and uses her machine to take all of the Infinity Stones from Ultron. Within seconds, her machine lets out a burst of energy. However, Ultron begins laughing and is not defeated by the Stones being destroyed. In fact, he informs the Guardians that the Watcher did not warn them that because each universe is unique, that Gamora’s device would not work on destroying the Infinity Stones from his universe. He then uses the Infinity Stones to attack the Guardians, intent on destroying Strange as then the rest of them will fall.
With this attack, Natash is sent flying off to the side. However, she lands next to the arrow with Zola’s programming downloaded to it. She then asks Pegy for her help. Peggy leaps through the air at Ultron as Natasha fires off the arrow. Peggy manages to rip off Ultron’s helmet so that the arrow hits him directly in the eye. Zola begins uploading himself to Ultron before Ultron rips the arrow out of his eye. With Zola in Ultron’s body, Ultron questions him as to what his objective is. Zola tells Ultron, as he is no longer on H.Y.D.R.A.’s mission, his new mission is to end Ultron. Zola succeeds in taking over Ultron, causing Ultron’s body to drop to the ground. Lifeless.
Killmonger approaches Ultron’s lifeless body, and using the head of an Ultron drone, causes Ultron’s body to begin disintegrating. As it does this, Killmonger’s suit absorbs Ultron’s and the Infinity Stones. Erik then reveals to the rest of the Guardians that he wants to use the Infinity Stones to save the world. He begins reasoning with what everyone wants, telling them that the Stones are their only chance to get what they want. Erik begins to use the Stones, but Zola brings Ultron’s body back to life and begins to reclaim the armour and Infinity Stones from Erik. Strange then tells Erik that they were never meant to win, but to only separate the Infinity Stones from Ultron’s body. Strange then casts a spell on the Stones as they are transporting back to Ultron’s body, unleashing a blast of white light.
The Watcher then appears and captures both Ultron controlled by Zola and Killmonger, imprisoning them in a pocket dimension. He then tasks Strange with watching them and to ensure that the pocket dimension does not collapse. The Watcher then addresses the Guardians as a whole back at the bar, telling them that the multiverse owes them a debt of gratitude, but that the universes will never know what the Guardians did for them. He informs them that he will return each of them to the exact moment they were removed from their universe, making it like they never left.
However, this is not what everyone wants. Peggy looks at Steve’s photo on the wall. Noticing this, the Watcher asks Peggy if she desires to return to another time, to be back with Steve again. Peggy questions the Watcher, saying that hasn’t she earned her happy ending because of all the good she’s done. The Watcher responds by saying no, telling her that the world she left still needs her. He then sends her back to her universe, followed by Gamora, Thor and T’Challa. This only leaves Natash behind. She informs the Watcher that she won’t return to the universe she was pulled from, as her world is gone. The Watcher tells Natasha that stories are everything to him, to which Natasha responds, begging him to fix her world. The Watcher says he can’t, forcing Natash to refuse to walk through the portal back to her world. The Watcher tells Natasha that the portal was more of a metaphor, and transports her out of the bar.
Natasha is taken to a S.H.I.E.L.D. aircraft carrier in the sky, under attack by Loki and his army. There, Captain America, Iron Man, Captain Marvel, and Nick Fury among others are fighting against Loki. The Watcher tells Natasha that this world lost their Black Widow, and that she can replace her. Natasha then sees an opportunity to pin down Loki as he knocks Nick Fury to the ground. After overpowering Loki, she turns his staff on him, immobilizing him. Watching this happen, Fury recognizes that this is not the Black Widow he knows, but tells Natasha that she has the same spirit as his Black Widow.
We then see a montage of the rest of the Guardians returning to their world, as the Watcher gives his final voiceover of the season. During the voiceover, the Watcher tells the audience that every story is his home, and that he will protect each and every one until the end.
But there’s more! We get our only credit scene of the season. We are back with Peggy and the Natasha from Peggy’s universe, still on board the Lemurian Star. Peggy is still fighting Batroc, and with the confusion of being transported back mid fight, Batroc knocks her down. Natasha stuns Batroc, knocking him out. Overcome with joy, Peggy hugs Natasha and tells her that she has never been more happy to see her. They then move to the cargo hold, where NAtasha tells Peggy that she found what Batroc and his pirates were looking for. Looking into the cargo container, Peggy sees the Hydra Stomper suit. And Black Widow tells Peggy that there is someone inside, before the episode cuts. As this last moment happens, we hear the Captain America theme begin playing, teasing that Steve Rogers is about to make his return to the MCU.
With the season finale, peace is restored across the multiverse thanks to the Guardians of the Multiverse. While this peace is probably short lived given what happened at the end of the first season of Loki, and with what is expected to happen in Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness, the episode wraps up the season’s story well. There are still tons of stories to be explored throughout the multiverse, and we get a nice tease to the continuation of Captain Carter’s story. While the effect of the season’s overall story may be limited on the larger story taking being built up over Phase 4 of the MCU, I think it’s safe to say that we will see these characters pop up again, whether it be in the show’s second season or in a live action project.
Thank you for tuning in each week for my recaps of What If…? And don’t worry, it’s only a matter of weeks until Eternals is released, marking the next MCU film. And shortly after that, we will have another trailer for Spider-Man: No Way Home to get the theories flying across the internet, all before Hawkeye premieres on Disney+ on Wednesday November 24! And don’t forget to check back for recaps for Hawkeye in November, as I will once again be diving deep into the show and its effect on the future of the MCU.