‘Marvel’s What If…?’ Episode 9 Review – Multiversal Avengers Assemble, but too Late to Redeem the Series
After weeks of disjointed stories of varying quality, What If has made good on the promises of episode 8’s cliffhanger ending – it has brought everything together into a cohesive narrative just in time for the grand finale. What If…The Watcher Broke His Oath? is the Infinity War of the series, assembling the lead characters from the universes we’ve seen and throwing them together into a team that will (hopefully) save the multiverse from the clutches of Ultron. In tying together the stories from episodes past, the frustration caused by their cliffhanger endings is largely alleviated. However, the finale still has its ups and downs.
Jeffrey Wright‘s The Watcher has so far been the only connecting thread between the series’ episodes, and it’s satisfying to see him getting some proper character development. Moments of doubt on his role in the multiverse have been sprinkled sparingly throughout the show but now, with everything under threat, his hand is forced. Wright does an excellent job of his voice work as The Watcher’s purpose transitions from uncertain observer to a passionate defender of his realm. It is he who plucks heroes from their various universes and forces them to work together to save everything.
These champions include Captain Carter, T’Challa’s Star Lord, and of course the Warlock-esque Dr Strange. Despite the sudden shock of learning of the multiverse and being forced to save it, the characters have a very good rapport with each other. The later dialogue in the episode suggests they have gotten to know each other very well over the course of their ordeal. However, with the runtime being as short as it is there is not much of an opportunity to show us this bonding time, so the writers opted to simply tell us instead. Needless to say this is much less effective in conveying their friendship, and by the end of the season they still seem more of a mish-mash of people than the multiversal Avengers.
Another member of the team is a character who we haven’t seen before – Gamora. Plucked from her universe, where she is teamed up with Tony Stark, we are told that she is the slayer of Thanos in her reality. Not only does that tale sound extremely compelling, it makes no sense to introduce her to the audience in an ensemble episode. What If..?’s first season was originally meant to be ten episodes, so perhaps this was story that was cut to make it fit into nine. However, it still makes no sense that she would be utilised here without being introduced first. We can only hope she makes an appearance in season two.
The majority of the episode’s runtime is dedicated to the team’s battle with the nigh-unstoppable Ultron. With all of the infinity stones in his grasp, the difficulty of their fight is easily comparable to the Avengers against Thanos in Infinity War. It’s so long that it sometimes feels like it has outstayed its welcome, but it is undeniably well choreographed. While petulant party animal Thor may not be the most interesting character in the group, he’s got some excellent moves in a fight. Dr Strange brings out the best of his eldritch powers as well. But no matter how good a fight is, there is only so long it can hold your attention.
What If…?’s finale has by far the most exciting concept of the series, but its main flaw is that it fails to balance battle and character development. If we are to see more of these characters in the next season, I can only hope they are given more time to grow.
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