It’s safe to say that fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe got a good preview of what the multiverse could offer. After being teased in Phase 4, Marvel’s What If…? fully opened those doors. Whatever you think of the show, the possibilities are endless. Especially when Kevin Fiege confirmed that the multiverse would play a big part in Spider-Man: No Way Home and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. The finale of Marvel’s What If…? shows off the grand scale of these different worlds with the usual problems.
Marvel’s What If…? is available to stream on Disney+. If you missed it last week, you could read about the eighth episode.
Story: Assembling the Team
In retrospect, it seemed that season 1 of Ma CEO’s What If…? took a page out of the MCU Phase 1. They built up and got the audience to know each character through their own episode and brought them all together. Just like the movies, getting to watch these characters interact is so much fun to see. Every member all brings their dynamic to this team as each one serves a particular purpose. They all represent the best part of their respective episodes. Even stories that don’t have any of the members get some shoutouts and strong representation.
Unfortunately, the work they did with the heroes should have also appealed to the villain. Ultron was just introduced in the last episode and is now built up as the enemy to end all villains. It seemed that the show was teasing something since the beginning. We even got a teaser from The Watcher in episode two about Ego the Living Planet taking over. And the payoff from that is less than a minute from this story. Those supposed teases like that end up being nothing when it could have developed the Ultron threat. If you’re not going to make this a true anthology, then go all out.
Characters & Performances: Multiverse Avengers
It’s great to see some of these characters get to stand out again. Easily the MVP of this team is Captain Carter. She possesses the same qualities as Steve Rodgers and issues of being left out of time. Hayley Atwell brilliantly brings her qualities to the character without being a carbon copy. The pain of losing Steve and wanting her old life back is heartbreaking. Yet, she continues to inspire people, including her interactions with Black Widow. You could say this about many characters here, but Captain Carter deserves her spin-off, whether it’s in live-action or animation.
Star-Lord T’Challa makes a welcome return as his job of being a thief comes in handy. I wish we got more of his interactions with Killmonger, but there’s a mention or two here. It’s very bittersweet with Chadwick Boseman giving the same energy he did in episode 2. However, this is not only the final performance for this character, but for an actor that’s gone too soon.
There’s a welcome levity with Party Thor being his usual himbo self. Seeing Thor like this feels like Chris Hemsworth is just all loosened up and having fun with the role. It’s a surprise that Hemsworth hasn’t done a lot of voice-over roles because he’ll be excellent at them. Having a different version of Gamora feels a little out of whack. Initially, Gamora had her episode that would have set up why she and Tony Stark are together. However, COVID-19 caused production issues, and her story got scrapped.
Cinematography & Sound: Avengers Style Action
Another enormous joy of seeing this group together is the action. Any time we get to see some team-up sequences in the MCU is always a pleasure. Every person brings their time to shine while taking on Ultron. We finally get to see Dark Strange’s glimpse into his demon form with him basically becoming a kaiju. By far, the best moment has to go when Captain Carter uses her shield while the Black Widow from Ultron’s Earth uses the Red Guardian shield she found to take down the enemy. Then combine with Thor’s spectacular lightning for a knock-out punch, and it’s thrilling.
Not only do we get the teamwork together through the fight scenes, but their music also balances each other out. Every theme gets a spotlight that corresponds with anything epic or noteworthy they’re doing. It’s excellent little touches in those instances where you want to go back and rewatch it all over again. The usage of lighting in this episode is picturesque and possesses a cinematic quality to it. The light cast on the character’s faces and shadows feel like realistic animation, especially when the group is talking by the fire. The warm light casts them while being in the cold depths of space sticks out in the best possible way.
Editing & Pacing: A Two Parter Turned Into One
With everyone joining together, you would think that we would get to spend some time with them before they do battle. It’s only a tease as the development of the team is reduced down to one scene. This just screams of missed opportunity as seeing a little bit of everyone’s dynamic together is pretty enjoyable. Some of the episodes in this season felt like they needed a couple of more minutes, but in this case, the finale should have been pretty supersized. Imagine the chemistry building between T’Challa and Killmonger, or T’Challa and Gamora as he’s actually friends with Thanos.
We get some editing tricks that help condensed the bonding by establishing shots that feel like callbacks to either their respective episode or an MCU easter egg. It helps establish familiarity with the group if you’ve been following along with their stories. There’s even some clever foreshadowing that happens early on that explains the twists and turns of the episode. At first, it seemed a little off, but those details were in front of us the whole time.