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What If...? : A Wannabe Watcher's Guide

Time. Space. Reality. It's more than a linear path. It's a prism of endless possibility, where a single choice can branch out into infinite realities, creating alternate worlds from the ones you know. I am Jeremy Harrison. I am your guide through season one of Marvel's new animated series.  Follow me and ponder the question... "What if... I told you my top 5 must-watch What If episodes?

Marvel Studios just ended their first (hopefully of many) animated series: What If...?. Feels like I've been waiting forever for this as an animation fan and it was worth the wait. While many people may not be interested in the animated format this series does feel like it will have a place in the larger cinematic universe. While I think Disney has said you don't need to watch these shows for the movies. I'm not sure how true that is. It's sort of like the "Tie-ins" for comics ... while you don't need to read them. The enjoyment of the story and understanding is increased ten-fold if you do get the "Tie-ins" and I feel it'll be same with these Disney Plus shows

And "What if" should be included in those watch-ins. With this article, I want to talk about my top five "Episodic" episodes of the show. Meaning, I'm going to leave the last two out because they follow the Marvel mandate that the last two episodes need to be the big climactic battle. It's a superhero show, we end an end of the world type battle. I hope that wasn't a spoiler for you.

  1. WandaVision was building up to a battle at the final two episodes
  2. Falcon and The Winter Soldier was building up to a battle at the final two episodes
  3. Loki was building up to a battle at the final two episodes

And What If was no different... the only difference, I feel that it was kind of thrown in there (forced) because that's the Marvel formula. And yes, I have no trouble calling out a company if need be. I really don't think the big ending battle was needed for a series like this and as a comic and movie fan, I think the last episode while fun ... kinda messes up the world-building of the rules fans know about the infinity stones. But I'm not here to talk about issues with What If, I'm here to talk about what's fun!
and yes, if I included it episode 8 would be at number one! and I think 9 would probably barely make the top 5?

Which is another reason, I want to leave those two out. The show is first and foremost an anthology series. The Watcher shows us a glimpse of a different reality and how things played out. In the comics, like in the show, there's no connectivity or very little. And if you're watching the show, there's no reason to go in order. You can just watch in your favorite order. And these are my five favorite episodes! So from worst to best... here we go!

5) What If....Zombies?

Everybody loves zombies ... especially Marvel Zombies! I'm going to come clean here. I never really got zombies. I can see a lot of people ranking this higher but for me, it's all the standard zombie tropes except for the fact they have superpowers.

  • You got your hand-full of survivors
  • A video of how to survive the zombie apocalypse
  • They hear of a safe haven they can go to and there's a partial fear that it's overrun by zombies
  • They do have a good twist on it that I won't spoil for you.

I don't have too much to say on this episode but rather it's just a fun zombie episode. I'm a little mad that the zombies weren't weaponized by Kang but other than that it's a fine episode.

However, maybe next season we can see cosmic zombies like they had in the comics. They got that way by eating Galactus... but at the end, we do get possibilities. I'm not trying to spoil anything but the ending of this episodes means maybe it could be possible for season 2?

I know some fans didn't like the cosmic zombies but I believe comics and comic book shows should go for more camp if possible- which basically means ridiculous for those not in the know.

4) What If... Earth Lost Its Mightiest Heroes?

Okay, I love a good murder mystery. From Columbo to Murder She Wrote to Detective Conan (Clase Closed to my fellow American friends) and the clues are all there but you have to be a super fan to pick up on it. Which is the strength of the What If series and its drawback. I, unfortunately, can't say much about the episode without giving too much away or how I came up with my suspect list but before the killer was revealed. Me and my buddies had actually narrowed it down to three people and anyone who doesn't have extensive knowledge about the comics or the movies might think there are no clues but there was an episode of Columbo where the clue was no clues? And in a world of magic and people with powers how can the killer leave no clues? And knowing the MCU and various powersets I was able to narrow it down to three people. Yes, I'm proud of myself.

I'll also give you guys another clue. DC did a similar Murder Mystery in an epic story that you should read called "Identity Crises"

The killer might seem dumb to a casual fan, but it is 100 % correct if you know the character and his comic book history. Spider-Man once said "I can beat the Hulk but to do so ... I would have to kill him and that's something I could never do!"
And I actually believe he thinks he could do that and who knows maybe he can. I bring this up to say that the killer is nowhere near Spider-Man in terms of power level but the killer does know how to use his powers ... to lethal effects if need be and that should be enough.

So remember children, it's the person and how they use it. Not the powers!

3) What If... Killmonger Rescued Tony Stark?

Besides the character being an amazing hero... you also need a great antagonist as well.

This doesn't reach number two because ... it just doesn't have that craziness I'm looking for. It feels like a rejected regular MCU plot. I'm looking for the weird and the silly, the CAMP if you will ... with that said, you have to have just the right balance. Too silly, and it's a no and too serious it's also a no. You need that right balance. Not too hot and not too cold but just right. And this one stays too close to the vest but what saves it is Michael B. Jordan as Kilmonger! He reprises his role for this and we get more of this EXCELLENT VILLAIN! I hate Killmonger just as much as I love Black Panther (See what I did there because he's a villain) and I don't think Micheal B. Jordan gets enough praise as does Chadwick Boseman got for Black Panther.

I don't want to get too political here but with Black Panther, Kilmonger speaks to me on a cultural level that probably only African Americans can really understand. I'm not sure what it's like to be black in Great Britain. I'm not sure what it's like to be black in France. But I do know what it's like to be black in America. I also know people that share Kilmongers frustration with the system. Which is why he's a good villain. He's our negative impulses staring back at us. That anger of being felt/treated like second-class citizens for the color of our skins.

"Bury me in the ocean, with my ancestors that jumped from the ships, because they knew death was better than bondage."

It is one of the best death scenes I've ever seen and while Chadwick Boseman was a great Black Panther, he wouldn't have worked so well without Michael B. Jordan as Killmonger to play off of.

I don't ever want to see Killmonger walking around in the MCU after this death scene. But this episode and this detailed look at him was really great. If you loved Black Panther, you really do need to give this episode a watch

2) What If... T'Challa Became A Star-Lord?

Oh man, I don't have enough good things to say about this episode. I love the premise. I love how this small change makes such a huge difference. It's a true, What If premise that creates a world I want to go to and revisit. Basically, all it is... is T'Challa as Star-Lord fixes the Marvel Cinematic Universe by being a better Star-Lord than Peter Quill ever could be.

This YouTube clip will give you the perfect tone for the episode.

Marvel was going to make this a series and I believe that with Chadwick Boseman's death this idea has been discarded. I want to make a plea with the powers that be that, yes Boseman is T'Challa but at the same time these characters do need to transcend the actors. Moreover, I think Black Panther's absence in the MCU would be terrible. With that said, I do know it's a tough position Marvel is in. The actor that played the part so well died and it's going to feel wrong having someone else fill that role. But at the same time, superheroes are for kids and kids should not be deprived of an awesome black male role model such as T'Challa. An animated T'Challa as Star-Lord with a different voice actor could be that for the younger generation of comic book readers and moviegoers.

1) What if... Doctor Strange Lost His Heart Instead Of His Hands?

Hands down, this is the best of the "What If" episodic episodes. It's a complete story, it's one people can relate to no matter which culture or race. A story of love and loss! This episode also gives us a new bit of lore for the MCU- a "Fixed Point" in time! A glorious magic battle! And the ending had that touch of sadness to it. It's as close to a perfect short as one can get.

I also have the theory that it is this Dr. Strange that shows up in the latest Spider-Man movie. He could be looking for a suitable love interest. So I highly recommend watching this episode if nothing else or the T'Challa as Star-Lord one because that's almost close to perfect as well.

Anyway, until next time true believers!