Title: What If…?
Watch it on: Disney Plus
Debut: December 22, 2023
Synopsis: Jeffrey Wright voices The Watcher as we journey through an anthology of episodes featuring new and returning characters from the first episodes.
At a What If…? Season one press conference I attended in 2021, the creators assured us that the second season would match the entertainment value and even surpass the excitement of the first. Regrettably, in my view, the eagerly awaited series fell short of expectations. This sentiment is echoed by a Rotten Tomatoes score of 83% for this season compared to the impressive 94% of the first season. While the second season wasn’t outright disappointing, the lack of compelling stories, the introduction of memorable characters, and the integration of connective elements for a climactic season-ending story arc left much to be desired.
There were a few episodes that I enjoyed, which included episode one, “What If…Nebula Joined the Nova Corps?”, episode four, “What If…Iron Man Crashed Into the Grandmaster?” and episode six, “What If… Kahhori Reshaped the World?”. The other episodes featured decent characters from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) that I liked but lacked the same appeal overall.
Episode one, “What If…Nebula Joined the Nova Corps?” featured a Nebula with her usual viciousness and fighting prowess, just with a different moral code than she normally goes by. The episode features Howard the Duck (voiced by Seth Green), Krug (voiced by Taika Waititi), Yon-Rogg (voiced by Jude Law), and Yondu (voiced by Micheal Rooker). It was cool seeing these various characters interact with each other, especially when more serious characters like Nebula engaged in conversations with personalities like Howard the Duck.
“What If…Iron Man Crashed Into the Grand Master?” gave me a few chuckles, with one of the most beloved personalities, Jeff Goldblum, voicing the egotistical and self-absorbed Grandmaster facing off against the arrogant, brilliant, and most popular MCU Tony Stark (voiced by Mick Wingert, sorry no Robert Downey Jr.). With Korg and Valkyrie (voiced by Tessa Thompson), this was a fun episode. It would’ve been interesting to see the Grandmaster square off against Tony Stark in the live-action version (the conversations would’ve been out of this world), but given the storyline and the end of Downey’s Iron Man, we won’t be able to see this happen. Luckily, this episode exists.
My favorite episode, “What If… Kahhori Reshaped the World?” is a captivating narrative introducing the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, an Iroquoian-speaking Native American group. Captured, enslaved, and mistreated by Spanish Conquistadors on a quest for the fountain of youth, Kahhori (voiced by Devery Jacobs) discovers a world of wonder when she becomes ‘lost’ in the fountain. Meeting fellow natives who acquire superpowers, the episode unfolds into a beautiful story of redemption and sacrifice for the resilient Kahhori, whose power limits are remarkably formidable. The sheer strength portrayed suggests that, in a hypothetical face-off against Captain Marvel, Kahhori would likely emerge victorious, judging by the impressive feats showcased in the episode. A heads-up for viewers: this episode includes subtitles due to the diverse languages spoken.
What Is Missing
What’s lacking are more engaging story arcs. For example, in season one, we had “What If…Dr. Strange Lost His Heart Instead of His Hands”, a standout episode in the franchise that nearly brought tears to my eyes. My investment in the character was not solely due to the excellent voice acting but also because of what the character lost and the extraordinary lengths he went to reclaim it. Similarly, “What If…Zombies” delivered an intense episode featuring elements from a beloved MCU zombies comic storyline. And of course, “What If…T’Challa Became Starlord”, a heartwarming and memorable episode, especially poignant as one of the last performances by Chadwick Boseman. The writing was superb, and I was thoroughly immersed in the narrative.
I believe the series could have benefited from stronger narrative arcs, often relying heavily on the appeal of popular MCU characters such as Korg, Happy Hogan, Captain Carter (Haley Atwell), and Strange Supreme (Benedict Cumberbatch). Speaking of Strange Supreme, the character’s impact could have been much stronger this season despite the extensive build-up and careful development. It was disappointing to see him utilized merely as a villain without the same depth of motivation. Additionally, this treatment also downplayed Thanos’ significance, rendering him seemingly disposable in multiple episodes, akin to how the agents of the Time Variance Authority (TVA) in Loki treated Infinity Stones as mere paperweights.
Although I’m not the biggest fan of this season, it is okay and something to binge-watch if you are a fan of the MCU or a fan of certain characters like Iron Man, Korg, or Captain Carter. The production, editing, and style of the series are still applaudable, but I think the series won’t be trending (at least for the right reasons) on social media. There may be talks of a third season of “What If…?”, but I think they should wait until the next phase of the MCU before attempting to do another season in order to have more stories to build off of and more characters to utilize. I give “What If…?” Season two a 6.5 out of 10.