Marvel’s commitment to long-form storytelling has been met with overwhelmingly positive reception by fans. It’s an exciting opportunity for heroes who can’t sustain their own movies at the box office.
The most intriguing of all Marvel MCU TV shows has been Marvel’s What If…? series that explores what happened in alternate timelines and alternate universes within the MCU multiverse.
At the start, it seemed to be threaded together by Jeffery Wright’s Uatu (aka The Watcher) as he viewed all events within the multiverse with a vow never to interfere or intervene. Sounds like a pseudo-anthology that wouldn’t have much impact on the “real” MCU, right?
But as the series went forward, it became clear that there was a grander plot and story behind it all, one that would merge the independent universes. What If…? became a narrative that brought together a team who’d have to unite and protect the multiverse.
Here’s our take on all the episodes of Marvel’s What If…? to evaluate which ones were the best and how they made the MCU better.
9. What If… Thor Were an Only Child?
The ending to “What If…? Thor Were an Only Child” isn’t enough to save it from being the most pointless and unoriginal episode of the season.
The Watcher follows Thor in a universe where Loki wasn’t his brother. This means the God of Thunder never had any challenges in his childhood and ended up a spoiled brat looking to party. He subsequently turns Earth into a giant drinking festival and Captain Marvel is drafted to stop it.
The episode ends with Frigga arriving after Jane Foster, Darcy Lewis, and Maria Hill essentially snitch on Thor. Despite the ending—in which a version of Ultron appears armed with the Infinity Stones—the episode fails to entice in any meaningful way.
8. What If… Captain Carter Were the First Avenger?
The first episode wasn’t the most blindingly glorious start for Marvel’s What If…? series. However, it did have its good moments.
The plot follows an alternate universe where Peggy Carter became Captain Carter instead of Steve Rogers becoming Captain America. She’s deployed to stop Hydra’s plans while Rogers is built a familiar suit of armor by Howard Stark called the Hydra Stomper.
The first What If…? episode concludes with Peggy fighting an interdimensional being and getting lost inside the Tesseract portal to save everybody else, reappearing in front of Nick Fury 70 years later. The episode is solid but uninspired, all things considered.
7. What If… Killmonger Rescued Stark?
In many ways, this episode is the most sizable departure from the general plots that other episodes followed from MCU Phase 1.
The Watcher focuses on Tony Stark again being the victim of the Ten Rings organization—but this time Tony is rescued by Killmonger rather than being blown up by a missile of his own making.
Killmonger then becomes a hero and begins working for Tony, only to set an ambush, killing Rhodey, Black Panther, Tony Stark, and Klaue, then becoming the new King of Wakanda and the new Black Panther.
It’s unquestionably fun to watch and feels like this could’ve happened in the real live-action MCU universe, which makes it very enjoyable.
6. What If… The World Lost Its Mightiest Heroes?
Perhaps the darkest of all the What If…? episodes, “What If…? The World Lost Its Mightiest Heroes?” is a murder mystery centering on a plot where somebody begins picking off The Avengers one by one.
Uatu watches as Nick Fury rapidly runs out of time to find out who’s killing the ultimate team of heroes. After Hawkeye shoots Thor then dies himself, Tony is poisoned, Hulk blows up from the inside, and Romanoff is killed while investigating the case.
When the final scenes play—and Loki arrives to avenge Thor’s death—the killer’s reveal is fun and very unhinged in a Marvel way. Because of that, the episode is surprising in all the right ways.
5. What If… T’Challa Became Star Lord?
Of all the What If…? episodes, this one felt the closest to an MCU movie that might have actually happened.
Seeing an alternate universe where T’Challa (instead of Peter Quill) is taken by The Ravagers, the mighty Uatu watches as T’Challa becomes the best version of Star-Lord: noble, unselfish, yet retaining the fun.
The plot follows T’Challa and his Ravager team’s plan to steal a device from The Collector that will end hunger in the universe. Complete with Thanos, Nebula, Yondu, and Korath, they set off with noble cause.
This episode is pure MCU space delight, with Chadwick Boseman providing a brilliant Star-Lord and the rest of the original MCU cast assembled alongside him.
4. What If… Zombies!?
The powers at Marvel have not sanctioned a Marvel horror film of any form yet (although Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness could provide that imminently). For now, we only have “What If…? Zombies!?” to give us our MCU horror fix.
Following the tale of an infection from the Quantum Realm that causes a zombie apocalypse, we see a small team comprised of Spider-Man, Wasp, Kurt, Happy Hogan, Bucky, Sharon Carter, Bruce Banner, and Okoye attempt to find the cure.
Eventually, they come up against a Zombie-Wanda Maximoff, who retains her powers and nearly kills the remaining heroes until Hulk battles her to buy time for the others to escape.
The episode has become a fan favorite of the What If…? series amongst fans, but while it is a great episode, it lacks panache.
3. What If… Doctor Strange Lost His Heart Instead of His Hands?
The power wielded by Stephen Strange is put on full display with this alternate version of Doctor Strange as the sorcerer becomes Strange Supreme—by absorbing multi-dimensional beings and gaining the power to resurrect Christine Palmer.
After Strange’s accident kills Christine, Strange seeks a way to change her fate. However, no matter what he does, she can’t be saved. This leads Strange to becoming a power-hungry version of the Doctor, all to break a point in time and bring her back.
The episode is incredible as Strange becomes the first character to know of The Watcher’s presence. And when Stephen Strange Supreme causes the collapse of his universe in bringing Christine back, he begs Uatu for help, only to get none.
For anyone doubting Doctor Strange’s cosmic abilities, this episode shows that his power can be virtually unlimited.
2. What If… Ultron Won?
Here’s part one of the two-part What If…? series finale. The whole of the show is suddenly brought together as Ultron (who’s killed The Avengers and Thanos) becomes a multiversal threat.
The story follows the last two people on Earth—Clint Barton and Natasha Romanoff—as they try to find a way to bring down Ulton’s conquering of the universe. They find that Arnim Zola’s backup brain is still online and attempt to use Zola to take charge of Ultron’s hive-mind.
But the plan fails because Ultron discovers the existence of The Watcher and the multiverse. The battle between The Watcher and Ultron is epic, with The Watcher disappearing and conceding defeat. He turns to Strange Supreme, living in the last bubble of his universe alone, for help.
The episode sets up an epic finale with many of the characters we’ve seen all brought together to fight for the multiverse. Thus, giving What If…? a fully structured story.
1. What If… The Watcher Broke His Oath?
Part two of the finale is by far the most entertaining episode of the series, as The Watcher and Strange Supreme set up a team to defend the multiverse from Ultron.
They enlist Captain Carter, T’Challa’s Star-Lord, Killmonger as Black Panther, Only-Child Thor, the last Black Widow, and Gamora. After the Guardians of the Multiverse assemble, they hatch a plan to remove the Infinity Stones from Ultron.
However, when that plan fails, Black Widow uses Zola’s mind to take Ultron’s mind, which causes Killmonger, Zola, and Ultron to fight over the Stones while Strange and The Watcher seal them in a pocket dimension.
The team then go back to their own universes, with Strange watching over the pocket dimension and Black Widow transported to another universe—one where she isn’t alone.
The whole series ends on a brilliant two-part finale that brings all of the What If…? series together to fight a threat unlike any other, and it’s one of Marvel’s best moments since Iron Man debuted in 2008.