Marvel Studios recently brought the debut season of its first animated project to a close with What If...?'s multiversal team-up finale. Despite having initially been believed to be entirely made up of standalone stories, the animated heroes eventually had to band together to take on an Infinity Stone-powered Ultron.
Along the way, fans were introduced to a team of interesting new heroes through a series of unique alternate reality scenarios that flipped the script on the MCU by making one simple change to the timeline.
From weird and whacky to tragic love stories, What If...? told nine drastically different stories, but there were plenty of ups and downs along the way. With the first season now at a close, The Direct ranks all nine episodes from worst to best.
9.) What If... Captain Carter Were The First Avenger?
Despite not necessarily being a bad episode per se, Captain Carter's MCU debut sticks out as the weakest of What If...?'s first season as it fails to stray far enough from Captain America: The First Avenger to tell an interesting story.
Aside from replacing Steve Rogers with Peggy Carter and throwing an Iron Man suit into the mix, much of the series premiere hits awfully similar story beats to its source material. The only severe departures come in the ending as Red Skull summons a champion from across the stars into the main timeline, although the episode still concludes with Captain Carter appearing in the modern-day just as Chris Evans' hero once did.
As a hero in her own right, Captain Carter stands out as one of What If...?'s strongest as she feels ahead of her time, trying to become a superhero in an age of male dominance. Additionally, Hayley Atwell returns to provide a stellar performance once again as her classic World War ll agent.
Nonetheless, the episode is a fitting premiere for the series as it eases audiences into the concept of What If...? with a simplistic story that introduces a new hero who is set to play a role in future seasons and other MCU projects.
8.) What If... Killmonger Rescued Tony Stark?
Throwing two totally disconnected characters like Tony Stark and Killmonger together may sound like a perfect What If...? storyline, but it sadly results in what is arguably the series' dullest episode with little to make it memorable.
On a positive note, Michael B. Jordan's Killmonger is just as spectacular a villain as ever as he tries to drive a war between the U.S. and Wakanda from both sides, killing Tony Stark and even becoming the Black Panther in the process.
Possibly the most intriguing element of this story is the margining of Black Panther and Iron Man's corners of the Marvel universe into one while still remaining cohesive, logical, and giving every character a role to play.
While this episode does little necessarily wrong, it comes off as relatively unremarkable and fairly forgettable in comparison to everything else What If...? has to offer.
7.) What If... The Watcher Broke His Oath?
Even though What If...? had always been marketed as an anthology series, each of the standalone alternate-reality stories eventually came together in classic Marvel fashion for a climactic finale that unites the Guardians of the Multiverse.
Sadly, this episode will be bittersweet for many viewers as it serves as Chadwick Boseman's final recorded material as T'Challa and possibly the last work of his career to release.
One glaring flaw of the season finale comes in the inclusion of a Thanos-slaying Gamora who has just left Sakaar with Tony Stark's Iron Man. As her introductory story was pushed into the series' second season, Gamora is the only Guardian of the Multiverse to debut in the finale.
Gamora's sudden introduction not only somewhat spoils her own Season 2 episode but also prevents viewers from being as invested in her character by comparison to the many other heroes present. She also brings with her one of the most nonsensical plot devices in MCU history with the Infinity Crusher, a machine designed to destroy an Infinity Stone which still ends up failing in the end.
On a more positive note, the Guardians of the Multiverse bounce off each other excellently in a way that sometimes feels reminiscent of the Avengers' first team-up in 2012. Those who watch the entire series ought to enjoy the climactic installment for all the callbacks it offers and how it sets up these characters to return down the line.
6.) What If... Zombies!?
Possibly the most anticipated episode of the series ever since the first trailer hit the internet has been the post-apocalyptic Marvel Zombies story. However, many viewers will probably be left somewhat conflicted by the undead epic as it certainly delivers on undead action but often lacks tonal consistency.
As would be expected, the episode defiantly has its tragic moments with plenty of heroes biting the dust along the way. Although many of these tragedies are either played off as jokes or fail to receive the attention they deserve, such as Happy Hogan who comically makes gun sounds as he is dragged toward his death.
Despite Tom Holland's absence, Peter Parker proves to be a standout in the zombie blockbuster as Hudson Thames makes for a fitting replacement. Offering fans a motivational speech that truly feels like Spider-Man, even including the MCU's first Uncle Ben namedrop, What If...? arguably offers some of the best Peter Parker put to screen in years.
In terms of the ending, seeing the efforts Vision makes to protect the zombie-infected Wanda in many ways makes their relationship in the main timeline stronger than ever. WandaVision went a long way to showcase Wanda's love for the synthezoid but seeing him go to similar lengths to keep her alive only further strengthens their dynamic.
While it's undeniable that the highly-anticipated zombie episode could've been stronger, there's still plenty to enjoy and all the undead superhero action a fan could hope for.
5.) What If... Thor Were an Only Child?
Even in the weirdness and chaos that is What If...?, the Party Thor episode certainly stands out as the wackiest of the bunch with a story that feels out of place in the MCU. Granted, the versions of Thor, Loki, and other characters who are introduced here are clearly not the same ones fans are used to but even taking that into account, it can feel a little hard to believe any change of events could create this reality.
Notably, Party Thor's introductory epic is the only cliffhanger of the series to see a direct resolution as it hypes up a blockbuster finale with the debut of an Infinity Stone-powered Ultron invading the multiverse.
However, What If...? makes one key mistake with this episode in diminishing Natalie Portman's genius scientist Jane Foster. While it's fun to see a little more of her relationship with Thor before Love and Thunder hits theaters, watching her fall for the drunken party animal Asgardian feels rather out of character for her.
Putting aside the crazy and unbelievable nature of this episode, it's ultimately some of the most fun What If...? has to offer with an Easter egg-packed extravaganza that pulls characters from across the Marvel universe.
4.) What If... Ultron Won?
Black Widow and Hawkeye's adventure through an Ultron-dominated post-apocalyptic world makes for a thrilling ride that tells an action-packed story and sets up an even bigger finale to come.
Jeffrey Wright's Watcher stands out more than ever in the penultimate episode as he finally steps into the fray to take on the Infinity Stone-powered Ultron and ultimately assemble the Guardians of the Multiverse. As one of the few brand-new characters introduced in What If...?, it's exciting to see him finally given some development of his own and even a memorable action sequence.
With Avengers: Age of Ultron having been heavily criticized for its handling of Ultron, What If...? rectifies that mistake by making the robot villain the MCU's strongest yet and a threat beyond that of even Thanos.
Despite occasionally feeling like a setup for bigger things to come, What If...?'s penultimate chapter establishes high stakes and develops Ultron as enough of a threat to push the Watcher to break his vow, preparing viewers for a huge finale.
3.) What If... Doctor Strange Lost His Heart Instead of His Hands?
Doctor Strange Supreme's MCU introduction is undeniably one of the series' strongest as it offers a tragic and emotional tale of a man driven crazy by love. Benedict Cumberbatch offers a standout vocal performance as he portrays multiple versions of his sorcerer, balancing romance, villainy, and heroism to perfection.
Exploring the origin of this psychotic Sorcerer Supreme makes for one of What If...?'s strongest and most intriguing stories with all the magical insanity that would be expected from Doctor Strange.
Fans are treated to new details about the MCU's Multiverse rules as some events are revealed to be unchangeable in the timeline, and it turns out universes can even be split into two by a sorcerer powerful enough. While these new roles are confined to this episode, for now, it wouldn't be shocking to see them utilized in future MCU projects.
As a whole, What If...?'s fourth installment delivers on characters, acting, storyline, and feels like a key piece of the MCU moving forward with a tragic cliffhanger that may leave some viewers in tears.
2.) What If... T'Challa Became a Star-Lord?
After a relatively lackluster premiere, What If...? quickly picks up the pace with a second installment that feels like a Guardians of the Galaxy story but with a drastically different line-up of characters, including Thanos himself.
Every character in the episode, but most notably Chadwick Boseman's T'Challa, is voice acted to perfection with a clear sense of enthusiasm and love for the story being told. As expected, there are plenty of surprise appearances along the way, and fans of the Guardians' world ought to be smiling from beginning to end.
“What If... T'Challa Became a Star-Lord?” encapsulates a perfect episode for the animated series as it manages to tell a story that feels like it belongs in the MCU but with a few bonkers changes to make things play out in a totally different way.
1.) What If... the World Lost Its Mightiest Heroes?
While much of What If...? explores minor changes to a single character or movie, the series' third episode flips the script on the entirety of Phase 1 as each of the Avengers are killed off one by one in an MCU murder mystery.
Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury is finally given the opportunity to lead a story of his own, and he carries the episode to glory alongside Lake Bell's Black Widow, who does a stellar job of filling in for Scarlett Johansson.
As the Avengers are gradually killed off before they can ever assemble, fans will see plenty of clues toward the mystery killer before they are revealed in the climactic moments. The revelation of Hank Pym's murderous plot will defiantly prove to be a surprise for many, although the writers do an excellent job delivering on the explanation with strong motivations and emotional depth.
Since the murder mystery genre is something the MCU has never properly touched upon in the past, this episode stands out as a unique piece of Marvel storytelling that lives up to the What If...? name better than any other.
Lessons Learned for What If...? Season 2
Overall, What If...? is a solid but unremarkable entry in the MCU which delivers on everything it promises but often tends to either play things too safe or to go a little over the line of weirdness. With Season 2 already in production, hopefully, the Marvel Studios team will be able to deliver a more consistent line-up of stories for the follow-up.
So far, it appears the upcoming episodes will be a mix of Season 1 sequels and totally new universes, which is undeniably the right decision. Heroes like Captain Carter and Doctor Strange Supreme certainly have the potential for plenty more stories to come in both animation and live-action down the line.
What If...? Season 2 has yet to set a premiere date, but for now, all nine episodes of Season 1 are available on Disney+.