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Josh Reviews What If…? Season One!

October 20th, 2021
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What If…? is the latest Marvel TV series on Disney+, and the first animated one.  The show is an anthology, with each half-hour episode exploring an alternate timeline in which events from the MCU movies unfolded in a different way.  As with all of the other recent Disney+ Marvel shows, the series is directly tied into established MCU continuity, with many/most of the show’s characters voiced by the actual actors who played them in live-action.

I adored the classic What If comic book series as a kid.  I read the series for years in the eighties and nineties.  (For comic book geeks, this would be volume 2 of the original comic book series, which ran from 1989 to 1998.)  I loved the way the series depicted wildly different versions of familiar comic book stories; quite often including a high body-count of major characters who I knew would always survive unscathed in their regular comic book series, but who in What If often died terrible deaths.  That was mind-blowing to me as a kid!  And a great deal of fun.

I was super-excited when I first heard that What If was going to be turned into an MCU show for Disney+.  It still boggles my mind that this extremely comic-booky idea has been brought to life as a TV show!!!  I have some problems with the show, but it’s important to step back and remind myself just how wild it is that this show actually exists!  It’s very cool and I am very grateful.

The first nine-episode season of What If…? is enjoyable and fun to watch.  But it didn’t quite land with the impact that I’d been hoping for.  I don’t think the writing was quite at the level of the best MCU stuff.  There were a lot of jokes that I don’t think I found as funny as the show intended me to, and for a series whose core concept is about exploring the continuity of the MCU, the series often bungled its own continuity.  (Here’s an example: in the penultimate episode, we see Ultron leave Earth and destroy familiar MCU worlds, including Xandar… before encountering Thanos, who arrives at Earth bearing the Infinity Gauntlet as he did in Infinity War.  Except, oops: if Thanos has the Infinity Gauntlet, that means he’d already destroyed Xandar himself when he got the power stone, as established in Infinity War, so Xandar should have already been destroyed when Ultron got there… or how about how the Watcher tells the gathered heroes in the finale that he doesn’t know where Ultron is, except that Ultron was right there when the Watcher yanked away party-boy Thor at the end of episode seven… Oops again!)… [continued]