Warning: This article contains spoilers for the season finale of What If...?.
Continuing its run of success with streaming services on Disney+, Marvel Studios officially finished the first season of What If...?. This nine-episode entry is the MCU's first effort into animated storytelling as the franchise took a look into the ever-expanding Multiverse and showed alternate versions of classic tales told over the years in the movies.
One of the big mysteries that remain after Episode 9 debuted on Disney+ is exactly how this show will connect to the greater MCU, especially with the Multiverse becoming increasingly important in the Phase 4 narrative. This is particularly prevalent with some events in What If...?, specifically with key MCU characters facing brutal deaths at almost every turn.
While the Guardians of the Multiverse defeated Ultron, leading to nearly every member returning to their own timeline, Natasha Romanoff managed to find herself in the Episode 3 universe that had lost their Black Widow to Hank Pym. This led to a discussion about the idea of consequences and death within the MCU, which was the topic of discussion in a new interview with the series' director.
What If...? Director On Animated MCU Stakes
What If...? director Bryan Andrews spoke with Variety on the show's first season, specifically the idea of the deaths losing their meaning now that the Multiverse exists.
According to Andrews, the biggest challenge of the Multiverse was having so many versions of the same character play, although he explains that fans are "only still watching one story at one time." He feels that if he and the team are doing what they are supposed to, it won't matter what Variants are alive or dead in another universe, as long as the story on-screen in the moment is compelling enough:
"When it comes to the challenge of a multiverse, it’s like, ‘Oh, well, this person’s alive in a thousand different ways in different universes,’ and doesn’t that cheapen the stakes? I don’t think so, because you’re only still watching one story at one time, and hopefully we’re doing our job enough where you’re compelled by what these people on the screen are doing at that time, and surprised at what may or may not happen to them. So, if we’re doing our job and engaging the audience, it shouldn’t matter that there could be some other person that’s alive or dead in some other universe."
Andrews makes it clear that the most important part of the action is "what’s happening right there in the present" rather than how many versions of MCU characters exist elsewhere in the Multiverse. What helped, as well, was the unpredictability of what actually came to the screen with each individual story, which Andrews enjoyed immensely:
"It’s what’s happening right there in the present, right in front of your face — that adventure. And if you can connect in some way, then awesome. Then it’s always gonna work. And you never know what you’re gonna get, which I think is part of the fun, and that was one of the great things about doing the whole series. We can go dark. We can go into comedy. We can really lean into the genre, which was part of the joy."
What If...? Focused on On-Screen Action
It's absolutely true that the Multiverse opens the door for multiple versions of the same character to exist in the same place at the same time. After all, this is exactly what is exciting fans about Spider-Man: No Way Home with the potential of a web-slinger trio coming to life on the big-screen.
Even with this being a possibility, Andrews made it clear that he and the What If...? team wanted to make sure that fans' focus stayed on what took place on-screen, not about how many alternate versions of heroes existed elsewhere in the Multiverse. This is partly how four different Tony Stark death scenes made an impact on viewers, who flooded social media with discussions about events like this.
With the Multiverse now coming into play in the live-action movies by the end of 2021, fans will be paying attention to whether Marvel Studios utilizes a similar style of storytelling with constantly elevating stakes in the movies. Thanks to movies like the Spider-Man threequel and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, the MCU should jab plenty of exciting story to keep the focus on the core story while keeping potential consequences a reality.
All nine episodes of What If...? are available to stream on Disney+.