‘Marvel’s What If…?’ Episode 8 Review – An Uneven Episode That Promises to Bring Everything Together

As we approach the finale of Marvel’s ambitious What If..? series, it is apparent that it’s been an uneven show with significant highs and lows. Often the most interesting episodes are the ones that question the nature of the multiverse and of the show’s narrator, The Watcher. Thankfully, this weeks’ instalment, What If… Ultron Won? does exactly that. When Ultron succeeds in destroying not just Earth, but the entire universe, to complete his mission, only Clint Barton and Natasha Romanov are left to stop him. Faced with a near-invincible foe, The Watcher struggles with his role as observer and longs to do something more to aid the multiverse. 

While the series has had apocalyptic episodes before, most notably What If…Zombies?!, this one goes the extra mile in displaying the kind of carnage we would expect from a completely destroyed, dystopian society. Whole cities are empty of all life, the buildings almost entirely collapsed. It doesn’t just get the settings right, it shows us whole planets being obliterated in the blink of an eye, leaving no doubt that Ultron is possibly the strongest villain that we have yet seen in this series. The remaining Avengers are a little bit too chipper and full of quips considering it’s meant to be the end times, but that’s true to form for Marvel. 

Aside from a powerful depiction of the apocalypse, this episode also does action sequences very well, and there’s a lot of them. Clint and Natasha are always outnumbered by at least ten to one, but they still kick ass in some very well choreographed scenes, some of which will have you feeling genuinely nervous for them. But that’s the catch. Ultron is established as an invincible being so early in the episode that it would be completely unfeasible for him to be beaten by two ordinary, if highly skilled, Avengers. Clint and Natasha’s odds are so hopeless that their story is made inconsequential – it is quickly overshadowed by the finale this episode dedicates most of its time to the set-up. 

The central character to this particular story is instead The Watcher. He has previously acted only as our guide to the multiverse, having sworn an oath not to intervene in any of the universes’ events. But, as in What If…Doctor Strange Lost his Heart Instead of his Hands?, he shows himself to be capable of much more than we previously thought. He also makes up a key part of the episode’s action, adding another layer of excitement as cosmic powers come into play. 

What If… Ultron Won? has the same vices as many of the other instalments in the series, but much of that can be forgiven because of the finale it promises. It moves to bring together the separate threads of the universes’ we’ve seen before. There is yet another cliffhanger ending, but unlike its’ incomplete-feeling counterparts, this episode feels as though it is promising a direct sequel. What has previously been an anthology series is starting to come together into a more cohesive project, and with an extremely powerful Ultron threatening everything, the series has found a fitting Big Bad to bring everything together. 

While much of the series’ frustrating elements are negated by the climax of this episode, it is a lot to ask of an audience to sit through the entire series, enduring unfinished stories with loose plot threads, to get to this point. It is also a shame that in an instalment starring two of the less-popular Avengers, their plot is sidelined in favour of setting up the series finale. Another hit and miss episode.

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