The world has finally been made aware of the newest installment to the Marvel Cinematic Universe with the introduction of Marvel Studios’ and Disney+’s What If…? streaming series. Keeping pace with its predecessors on the Marvel Studios television releases this year alongside WandaVision and Loki, What If…? presents another example of Marvel seeking out the tampering of timelines and exploring the concept of the multiverse within this new series. Its first episode, titled “What If…Captain Carter Were the First Avenger?”, takes on a multiverse animated scenario depicting the creation of Steve Rogers and Peggy Carter’s willingness to stay and witness the super-soldier serum transformation.
While the first episode began to delve deep into this new story on a separate Marvel timeline, it also serves as the first introduction of Jeffrey Wright’s (Westworld) character, The Watcher or Uatu, into the MCU. The MCU has previously engaged with the comic book characters of the Watchers, such as in a post-credit scene depicting Stan Lee conversing with a group in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 acting as a form to connect his various cameos within the films. The Watchers are a race of aliens that are not violent to any groups, but rather sit and watch over the multiverse and take in its stories. Wright’s voice acting in the narration role of The Watcher demonstrates an almost fairy-tale-like approach while also allowing for the series built on hypotheticals to gain a further embedded connection with the comics.
Obviously with a new approach to storytelling, this first installment of the What If…? anthology does go about with some misses. This is an unprecedented series format for Marvel Studios and potentially over time audiences might see more engaging storylines. This episode primarily revolved around the swapping of places of Peggy Carter and Steve Rogers during the super-soldier serum surgery (just some fun Marvel alliteration). While Peggy stands in the operating room, she notices the Hydra spy and proceeds to prevent him from destroying the whole project by eliminating him. However, this comes only after Steve is shot and thrown from the machine, and Peggy, without hesitation, takes his place and turns into Captain Carter.
The dynamic between Rogers and Peggy remains romantic with Peggy calling the shots and Steve lagging behind, with some hints of his self-pity. Regardless, the episode mirrors the development of the Captain America character with some hitches such as the shield and her subsequent outfit showing the union jack. It felt very derivative as we have witnessed both these characters within these timelines and story arcs prior. Although there were the occasional twists to the timeline, it did not reinvent the wheel as the show has seemingly advertised itself. Regardless, the animation in the series is wonderful. The episode contained flawless and striking action sequences with some great visual homages to comic book readers.
The first episode of What If…? is an enjoyable experience and opens the door for audiences to brave beyond what exists within the multiverse. I believe this episode was just to wet the audience’s beak with familiar characters and familiar settings, but also to learn to visualize the break from the norm the MCU has offered and learn to love some absurdity with beloved characters. The series proves to be an exciting adventure into the future of the MCU bundling with timelines and the remaining eight episodes might showcase some varying, yet satisfying circumstances for beloved Marvel characters that would have seemed like stretches only 24 hours before.