TV Show ReviewsJosh Reviews What If…? Season Two

Josh Reviews What If…? Season Two

I loved reading Marvel’s What If comics as a kid, and I thought it was a super-cool idea that Marvel was creating an animated MCU What If…? show.  I thought the first season was solid and very enjoyable to watch, though it didn’t blow me away as much as I’d hoped.  (Click here for my full review of season one.)

This second season is very much of a piece with the first.  If you enjoyed the first season, you’ll for sure dig this second one.  There are a few really stand-out episodes, and I enjoyed watching every one of these nine new episodes.

My major complaint is that I wish they would go bolder with these episodes.  I wish the What If scenarios were crazier and diverged more from the MCU films.  I wish they had more brutal fun in being willing to kill off characters and give some of the stories unhappy endings.  (Seeing those scenarios in which the heroes lost was always half the fun of reading the comics!)  And I don’t think they needed to find excuses to connect the episodes, something they couldn’t resist doing in both seasons.  It makes the world of What If…? feel too small to me.  I don’t need any recurring characters in a What If…? series.  I just want fun, crazy stand-alone stories.

The animation remains top-notch, and I continue to be impressed by how many of the MCU actors they got to do voice-work to reprise their characters in this show.  The vast majority of the characters on the show are voiced by their MCU movie actors.  (With a few notable exceptions.)  It’s very cool!!

Let’s dive into the season!  Beware light spoilers ahead:

Episode 01 — “What If… Nebula Joined the Nova Corps?” — I was not expecting the season to open with an extended Blade Runner riff!!  It’s a weird choice to kick off the season with this story focusing on Nebula and Yon-Rogg (Jude Law’s character from Captain Marvel who I bet most people don’t remember at all), but it’s fun to see Nebula (Karen Gillan) in the spotlight!  The character works great as a noir detective.  It’s fun to see Xandar again, and I loved seeing Howard the Duck!  The scenes with Howard, Korg, and Groot were a lot of fun.

Episode 02 — “What If… Peter Quill Attacked Earth’s Mightiest Heroes?” — This is one of the stronger episodes of the season.  I love this alternate 1988 version of the Avengers, featuring Peggy Carter, Howard Stark, Hank Pym (they got Michael Douglas back!), Bill Foster (Giant Man, voiced by Laurence Fishburne, as seen in Ant Man in the Wasp), the Winter Soldier, and King T’Chaka.  This is a cool concept, and this is a fun version of these characters to bounce off of one another.  (Though really it should have been the Red Guardian from Black Widow instead of the Winter Soldier, right??)  It’s funny that we see Yondu in both these first two episodes, and yet he has very little to do in either one.  I was thrilled they got Kurt Russell back to play Ego!  This is a great What If…? concept, exploring what would have happened had Yondu fulfilled his contract and given young Peter Quill to Ego…

Episode 03 — “What If… Happy Hogan Saved Christmas?” — On the one hand, I loved this episode, a super-fun Die Hard riff in which Happy Hogan has to fight off attackers in Avengers Tower.  On the other hand, this is an example of how I wish these stories were bolder, because 1) it’s the second movie parody in three episodes, and 2) this is barely a What If…? at all!  There’s really no reason this story couldn’t have happened in the main MCU continuity!!  I sort of like to believe that it did, because I enjoyed this one so much.  Jon Favreau is a delight as Happy — it’s so fun to see this character get this time in the spotlight!  I loved seeing Sam Rockwell back as Justin Hammer (reprising his role from Iron Man 2), and I was also happy to see Kat Dennings back as Darcy!  This one was a ton of fun.

Episode 04 — “What If… Iron Man Crashed into the Grandmaster?” — I’m not sure I buy the set-up, in which Tony Stark somehow winds up on Sakaar (The Grandmaster’s planet from Thor: Ragnarok) after saving Earth at the end of The Avengers, but that’s OK, it’s a fun excuse for a silly romp.  The car chase sequences are a ball and look great.  It’s a delight to have Jeff Goldblum back voicing the Grandmaster; he’s very funny in this episode!

Episode 05 — “What If… Captain Carter Fought the Hydra Stomper?” — On the one hand, I love Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter, and so any excuse to get her back is OK by me.  (I also really enjoyed her as Captain Carter in season one of What If…?, as well as her cameo in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness!)  On the other hand, as I mentioned at the top, I don’t love the idea of the show giving us sequels to earlier episodes.  They already brought back Captain Carter several times in season one, so doing it yet again here doesn’t thrill me.  That being said, it’s nice to see the Red Room and Rachel Weisz as Melina Vostokoff from Black Widow, rare post-Endgame references in this show.  I liked seeing Brock Rumlo (from Captain America: The Winter Soldier), though that got me asking all sorts of questions — was he still in Hydra?  Was he ever in Hydra in this universe??

Episode 06 — “What If… Kahhori Reshaped the World?” — Here’s another episode that is barely a What If…? story.  But, on the other hand, it’s so good that, like the Happy Hogan Die Hard episode, I’d like to believe this actually happened in mainstream MCU continuity.  This episode is cool because it introduces an entirely new character: the Native American superhero Kahhori!  (She’s voiced by Devery Jacobs, who planed Bonnie on Echo I hope she’ gets to play Kahhori in live-action before too long!)  Kahhori is a very interesting new character; this episode did a great job of establishing her and her world and background.  (The only thing I wish the show did better was giving us a better understanding of what exactly her powers are.  I get that she’s powered by the Space Stone, but she can do almost anything in this episode.)

Episode 07 — “What If… Hela Found the Ten Rings?” — This is one of my favorite concepts from this season.  I love the idea of pairing up Hela (Cate Blanchett, reprising her character from Thor: Ragnarok) and Wenwu (from Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings)!  It’s fun to see this version of Hela, who hasn’t been locked away by Odin for millennia.  I love seeing her involved with Ta Lo, a Hundun, and other concepts from Shang-Chi.  And I’m always down for some more kick-ass Ten Rings action.

Episode 08 — “What If… the Avengers Assembled in 1602?” — Neil Gaiman’s 1602 was an interesting comic book mini-series, and it’s a fun choice to adapt as a What If…? episode.  I liked the concept of the comic book more than the actual story, and that was sort of the case for me again here, watching this episode.  I wish I better understood what was going on.  How or why did these two different universes get combined?  Why does presence of an alternate-universe Steve Rogers damage the universe, but Peggy (who is ALSO from an alternate universe!) doesn’t?  I also wish the show would have better interrogated WHY the Watcher doesn’t interfere to save this dying universe.  I wish the show wrestled more with the idea that the Watcher could act to save these people, but he doesn’t.  There could have been some interesting moral debates here, but the show skips over that.  It also would have been nice for Peggy to see some negative consequences of her actions in the episode’s finale, even if she ultimately wins the day.  Because without any negative consequences, it seems to indicate that the Watcher was wrong, and he should have acted to intervene, like Peggy did.  I’d have liked the show to have given a little more weight to the Watcher’s position by showing that even when someone intervenes with the best of intentions, that could still cause negative ripple effects.  That being said, it’s fun to see these 1602 versions of the MCU characters.  Once again Jon Favreau as Happy Hogan is a lot of fun!  I also like seeing and hearing Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda, Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner, Tom Hiddleston as Loki, Sebastian Stan as Bucky, and Scott Lang as Ant-Man.  I’ve complained above about the show reusing characters, so I wasn’t wild to once again see Agent Carter and also to see the “Supreme” version of Doctor Strange back from season one… but as I wrote earlier, I do love Captain Carter, so I’m not complaining too much.

Episode 09 — “What If… Strange Supreme Intervened?” — As was the case in the first season, this season ends with a big crossover episode which was intended to be their big finish, but actually I thought it was the weakest episode of the season.  That Doctor Strange was still evil was so painfully obvious to me.  (They should have bothered to change the character’s model, so he didn’t still look so evil right from the first moment we saw him!)  (Also, I wish this evil Strange was actually the evil Strange from Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness!!  Wouldn’t that have been cool?)  I wish the plot made more sense.  There was no reason at all for Strange to summon Captain Carter in the first place, and his ultimate plan wasn’t as fleshed out as I’d have liked.  Also: Loki established that the Infinity Stones only work in their own universe… so why were the various Stones from different universes all still powerful here?  Also: once Peggy has the suit with all the stones, she’s omnipotent, right?  She shouldn’t be punching Strange — she should be able to just snap her fingers and win.  Oh well.  It was fun to see Captain Carter and Kahhori teaming up!

Overall this was a fun and enjoyable season, albeit a not spectacular one.  I continue to think What If…? is an incredible concept, and I’d love to see them push things father in season three.

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