In the season one finale of Marvel and Disney+’s What If…?, Jeffrey Wright’s (Westworld) character The Watcher takes on a larger role within the series predicated on the events of the eighth episode featuring Ultron breaking into the multiverse. For three consecutive episodes, What If…? has remained within the same timeline as Thor being an only child to further expand into Ultron satisfying his original goal and further combating the existence and plains of the multiverses.
“What If…The Watcher Broke His Oath?” begins with the new assembly of a unique team of avengers, each one being the featured character in the standalone episodes this season plucked to join The Watcher’s team. The team consists of Star-Lord T’Challa, Gamora, Captain Peggy Carter, Thor, evil Doctor Strange, Killmonger, and the late addition of Natasha Romanoff under the name The Guardians of the Multiverse. The ragtag group of avengers from various timelines join each other at the hip at the direction of The Watcher in many challenging, but fun animated battles against Ultron in an effort to strip him of the infinity stones and cease his existence.
This episode further saw more returns for actors to their MCU characters just as the previous eight episodes have allowed. Samuel L. Jackson (Pulp Fiction) reprises his role as Nick Fury in addition to Frank Grillo (Warrior) as Brock Rumlow, MMA fighter Georges St. Pierre as Batroc, Michael B. Jordan (Creed) as Killmonger, Chris Hemsworth (The Cabin in the Woods) as Thor, Ross Marquand (The Walking Dead) as Ultron, Toby Jones (The Hunger Games) as Arnim Zola, Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock) as Doctor Strange, Tom Hiddleson (The Night Manager) as Loki, Kurt Russell (The Thing) as Ego, and Chadwick Boseman (42) as T’Challa or Black Panther, in what is most likely his final appearance following his death in 2020.
Upon the lengthy battle, we witness Doctor Strange’s enhanced powers alongside the teamwork shown by Natasha and Captain Carter. Furthermore, the episode’s finale sees Natasha inject Ultron with a virus of Armin Zola’s being which concludes the Ultron era and leads to a double turn by Killmonger to take on the stones. However, Doctor Strange encapsulates Killmonger and Zola in a protection bubble and returns to his void universe to simply watch over them. Each avenger returns to their unique timelines at the certain junction that The Watcher pulled them from with the exception of Natasha who now simply has been placed in a universe full of Avengers, who have lost their Black Widow, in mid-fight against Loki to where she is soon recruited by Fury to join their cause. In a mid-credits scene, the viewer gets to witness Captain Carter return to defeat Batroc with the help of her version of Natasha before stumbling upon a locked up HYDRA Stomper with an individual trapped inside, presumably Steve Rogers.
“What If…The Watcher Broke His Oath?” is a fun adventure into combining these seemingly unconnected stories that the viewer has been able to watch alongside The Watcher over the past few weeks. The episode serves as a way to construct canon in the What If…? saga while also marking the returns to newly introduced characterizations of some of these MCU one-off appearances. However, the joy of What If…? has been the outrageous and alternate parallels that Marvel fans would otherwise not have explored as well as challenge the identities of these big-screen heroes. Rather, I enjoyed the one-off absurdity that was Marvel Zombies (did enjoy their brief cameo comeback in this episode), and dragging these nine episodes all under one episode to provide the anthology series continuity does come off as frustrating. Yet, pessimism aside, the season finale episode does offer the umbrella for the greater extent of The Watcher’s duties and abilities which does serve the second season well and future incarnations of the animated series. One question remains, particularly due to the credit scene, will the second season showcase the returns of these timelines or integrate different sects of the multiverse into the wider canon that has now been established?