“What If” flips the script of the MCU, reimagining famous events from the films in unexpected ways. It focuses on different heroes and features a voice cast with various stars reprising their roles.
Rotten Tomatoes: 94%
It’s Review Time (Season 2): 6
Genre: Animation, Action, Adventure
Maturity Rating: 13+
Episodes and Runtime: 9 Episodes, 30 minutes
Cast & Crew:
Directed by Stephan Franck and Bryan Andrews
Written by Matthew Chauncey, A.C. Bradley and Ryan Little
Karen Gillan as Nebula
Jude Law as Yon-Rogg
Michael Rooker as Yondu
Seth Green as Howard the Duck
Taika Waititi as Korg
Michael Douglas as Hank Pym / Ant-Man
Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter / Captain Carter
John Slattery as Howard Stark
Kurt Russell as Ego
Chris Hemsworth as Thor
Laurence Fishburne as Dr. Bill Foster / Goliath
Sebastian Stan as Bucky Barnes / Winter Soldier
Atandwa Kani as King T’Chaka / Black Panther
Jon Favreau as Happy Hogan / The Freak
Kat Dennings as Darcy Lewis
Cobie Smulders as Maria Hill
Sam Rockwell as Justin Hammer
Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner / Hulk
Jeremy Renner as Clint Barton / Hawkeye
Jeff Goldblum as The Grandmaster
Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie
Josh Brolin as Thanos
Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury
Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda-Merlin
Devery Jacobs as Kahhori
Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange Supreme
Cate Blanchett as Hela
Idris Elba as Heimdal
Tom Hiddleston as Loki
Paul Rudd as Scott Lang / Ant-Man
Marvel Studios presents one of the best series streamed on Disney Plus as a Christmas gift for this year. Continuing with 9 episodes per series, delaying 1 episode for the next season, they reintroduce the world of infinite possibilities.
We begin with Nebula working at Nova Corp, where Yondu has been shot dead in an alley. We end with Captain Carter fighting with Doctor Strange Supreme, and Watcher shows Peggy the Yggdrasil Tree of Multiverse, built by Loki in the last and second season of Loki.
It was a fun series to watch. Perhaps not reaching the level of excitement we experienced in Loki Season 2, but it entertains us more than other recent Marvel projects. I would still argue that the previous or the first season of What If was much better, providing a more satisfying culmination to its entire season. The second season was more of a continuation, narrating the story of Captain Carter based on what had happened earlier.
The narratives served up this time weren’t quite as gripping as the first season, but credit where it’s due as the writer and director skillfully bringing these stories to life.
There were many things that I liked and disliked about this series, which we will be continuing further in the sections below.
7 things I liked about What If – Season 2:
- Marvel has brought back accomplished writers, and we’re already witnessing a return to a more serious tone in storytelling. Post Avengers Endgame, Marvel seemed to lose the gravity in their narratives, opting for a lighter tone to attract a younger audience. However, this shift caused them to lose the dedicated fanbase cultivated over the years, particularly with movies crafted by the Russo Brothers. Whether it’s She-Hulk or other projects, they faced box-office setbacks. Recognizing this, Kevin Feige addressed the issue, initiating changes after Phase 4. Now, we’re beginning to see the results as audiences are reconnecting with Marvel projects.
- The animation quality has undergone a substantial improvement in this season. The characters exhibit meticulous detailing, and the background scenes offer a visually stunning experience. The intricacies of the animation can be appreciated by examining the images I’ve included in this blog.
- Marvel nailed it this season with their casting choices for voice actors. Almost all the original actors returned to lend their voices to the characters, except for actors like Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, and Chris Evans, who retired from their roles. Having the original actors back to voice their characters significantly enhanced the viewing experience for fans.
- The music selection in this season was remarkably fitting for each scene. When a character experiences a significant moment, the background music from that character’s movie plays, elevating the scene. In the season finale, during the intense battle between Doctor Strange Supreme, Kahhori, and Captain Carter, the use of the background music from the Doctor Strange movie added an extra layer of intensity to the moment.
- The episodes featuring Kahhori, Hela, and 1602 were masterfully crafted and executed.
Marvel introduced a compelling new character, Kahhori, exclusively created for the MCU. Kahhori’s narrative unfolds in an era predating and during the invasion of Spain and other European forces. Her source of power comes from the Tesseract, which was sent to Midgard by Odin, as Asgard faced destruction from Surtur. Marvel Studios invested over 3 years in developing this character and storyline, and the meticulous effort shines through in her episode. Regrettably, Kahhori didn’t receive a dedicated movie or special presentation, given the depth of her character.
On the flip side, the episode featuring Hela was intriguing. Banished and sent to Midgard by Odin, she embarks on a journey parallel to Thor’s on Earth. However, a unique twist occurs as her crown lands in China, where she encounters Wenwu and Jiang Li. Their guidance steers Hela towards a path of self-improvement and compassion, urging her to consider others rather than solely embracing her role as the Goddess of Death. The storyline adds a captivating layer to Hela’s character development.
Finally, in the 1602 episodes, Captain Carter is transported from the year 2018 of her universe to the year 1602 by Wanda-Merlin. Her mission is to aid in saving the universe from a mysterious storm that engulfs people. In this timeline, she encounters Thor, Loki, Sir Nicholas Fury, Steve Rogers Hood, and various other characters, adding an exciting dynamic to the storyline.
- Finally, we get to witness more of the actual Hulk in this season as he clashes with Freak Hogan, a version of Happy Hogan who inadvertently received an injection of Hulk’s radioactive blood. The main 616 Universe of the MCU seems to have been severely depowered, leaving us with various versions and variants of the Hulk. Marvel’s attempt to introduce She-Hulk was marred by disastrous story writing and direction, failing to resonate with the audience. On the contrary, Freak Hogan’s character was crafted much more effectively. Looking forward, the MCU is set to introduce Red Hulk in the form of Thaddeus Ross, with Harrison Ford slated to portray the character following the passing of William Hurt in upcoming movies – Thunderbolts and Captain America: Brave New World.
- The ultimate showdown between Captain Carter and Doctor Strange Supreme stands out as one of the most gripping fights we’ve witnessed since the events of Avengers: Endgame. Surprisingly, we didn’t experience such intense fight scenes from Doctor Strange in Doctor Strange: Multiverse of Madness, despite high expectations. However, in the final episode, Doctor Strange Supreme unleashed havoc on Captain Carter and Kahhori. Fueled by his desire to reunite with Christine Palmer and resurrect his universe, he went to extremes, sacrificing universe killers and saviours from different universes into the Forge he had constructed.
7 things I disliked about What If – Season 2:
- The series kicks off at a slow pace, which dampens the initial excitement for what could be a great show. The stories unfold gradually, making the audience wait until the Christmas episode for the pace to pick up and connections between the narratives to become apparent. A more effective approach could have involved hastening the process of interconnecting the episodes or improving the overall episode structure for a more engaging and dynamic experience from the start.
- My primary grievance with Marvel/Disney is the series being exclusively available only in English. Considering the sizable young audience, many of whom may not be proficient in languages beyond their mother tongue, there’s a missed opportunity for them to fully engage with the show’s content. I earnestly hope Marvel takes this concern into serious consideration and extends the same language accessibility to their animation projects as they do with their live-action counterparts. It’s essential that this show receives the same inclusive treatment, allowing a broader audience to enjoy it in their preferred language.
- One commendable aspect that Loki: Season 2 introduced was the clear marking and highlighting of the universes visited by the characters. ‘What If’ could have greatly benefited from adopting a similar approach, providing names and clear indicators for the universes, timelines, and years the characters traverse. Throughout the entire series, there’s a lack of clarity regarding the specific universe and the timeline, leaving viewers somewhat in the dark about the context of each scenario. Implementing a system to identify these elements would have enhanced the overall viewing experience.
- Despite the massive battles and intense character fights, there’s a noticeable absence of impactful blows or even a hint of blood. This is a departure from the realism portrayed in movies directed by the Russo Brothers, such as the memorable clash between Captain America and the Winter Soldier on a crashing SHIELD Heli-Carrier. Many viewers, myself included, miss the level of realistic storytelling that was a hallmark of Marvel’s earlier movies. Bringing back that attention to detail could significantly enhance the overall viewing experience.
- Marvel consistently introduces powerful superheroes in each new project they release, from She-Hulk and Adam Warlock to Captain Marvel, Giah, Eternals, and numerous others across Phases 4 and 5. However, there’s a certain charm in the comics where Hulk and Thor stand as the two most formidable characters in the entire universe. The dynamic of having these two powerhouses as the pinnacle adds a unique appeal that some fans, myself included, appreciate.
- As pointed out in point number 3, confusion arises when we witness Captain Carter as a member of the Illuminati, meeting her demise at the hands of Wanda. The perplexity intensifies when we realize that Captain Carter is alive in this series. Marvel should have addressed this by providing clear references to timelines and universes to help the audience better understand and navigate the intricate narrative web. Providing such contextual information would have added clarity to the overall storytelling.
- The series is riddled with unexplained and seemingly illogical occurrences that the writers and directors overlook, leaving the audience puzzled. These issues often surface abruptly, only to be resolved within a few seconds without any thorough explanation. The sheer number of such instances is so overwhelming that it’s challenging to pinpoint specific examples. The lack of attention to detail in addressing and clarifying these issues contributes to a sense of confusion and inconsistency throughout the series.