Serial Consumer celebrates and interrogates Evan’s relationship to franchised media and his addiction to purchasing its licensed products.
I have mixed feelings about the penultimate episode of the first season of What If…?. The premise of the episode is the cleanest they’ve presented the entire season, a simple question of what would’ve happened had a villain’s plan succeeded. Age of Ultron is a movie I also feel very mixed about, even though I trend more positive on it than most. I think Ultron is an interesting character and his interactions with Vision, in particular, are a treasure, but the film itself is overlong and trying to do too much with too little real estate. Honestly, I don’t really like James Spader, either. I think the original plan to make Ultron based on the brainwaves of Tony Stark and Bruce Banner would’ve made the whole thing more interesting and given Tony more of an emotional connection to the villain. But I guess that would’ve also made it even more of Tony’s fault, which the movie does not want to address; at least Captain America: Civil War does … sort of.
Anyway, I think the movie at least understood the massive threat that Ultron poses and the reason why he’s the Avengers’ greatest nemesis in the comics. He’s built from their sins, and he operates with a twisted rationale that reflects the worst version of their oath to protect the world on their terms.
This episode of What If…? is best when told in montage, worst when it slows down to tell an aimless post-apocalyptic story and frustrating when it breaks the mold of the series only eight episodes into the first season.
Showing Ultron upload himself into Vision’s body and nuke the planet Earth is great. His subsequent annihilation of the known Marvel Galaxy is a lot of fun, too, filled with cameos and references. It’s funny how quickly he manages to defeat Thanos and gain the Stones, but this puts Ultron on a level he always deserved in the MCU: Had he succeeded, he would have been a Thanos-level threat to the Universe.
Like the previous episodes, Captain Marvel actually gets more to do here than she has in the MCU thus far, and it’s nice to see her used this way. She’s supposed to be the ultimate one-woman army. There’s a glimpse of that in Endgame, sure, but I think What If…? has handled her better and hope the subsequent movies do, too.
Ultron’s conquest is told in a cool montage. Frustratingly enough, the bulk of the episode features Black Widow and Hawkeye trying to find the final remnants of Arnim Zola to wage a cyber war against Ultron’s Hive Mind. It’s pretty boring and presents very little in the way of post-apocalypse worldbuilding. Widow and Hawkeye are a duo who have never been that interesting together on-screen (and Endgame’s dumb sacrifice certainly did nothing to improve it), so … whatever. It doesn’t actually end, anyway. Like the rest of the What If…? stories, we’re left with characters just hanging there, waiting.
Waiting, it seems, for the Watcher to break his oath and recruit them into a Multiversal Avengers. That’s the end of this episode: He approaches Dark Strange from the fourth episode and asks for assistance against Multiversal Conqueror Ultron. Presumably, they’ll go back and recruit Captain Carter, T’Challa Star-Lord, Party Thor and characters from the other episodes to wage war in the finale next week. It feels really, really early in this anthology series to introduce the idea of the Watcher interfering in the Multiverse. We’ve barely scratched the surface.
This isn’t a complaint about them misusing the Watcher, of course; he interferes from the very start of his presence in the comics. I only think it feels early for this story and this series. Maybe that’s because, overall, I’ve been a little disappointed by the lack of imagination seen throughout most of the episodes. It is fluffy and enjoyable, but not nearly what I’d hoped for. Case in point: One of the universes seen as Ultron and the Watcher do battle is one where Steve Rogers is taking the Oath of Office as President of the United States. That’s a character-based, very natural What If…? I’m really interested in seeing them ask.
Last question: How is it we have seen zero mention of the Time Variance Authority? Seems important.
What I Bought
My What If…? Omnibus arrived, but I have not read it yet.
What I’d Buy
I would love to buy an Armored Black Widow, as I don’t have a version of the character yet (and hate all the previous releases). I’d love Conqueror Ultron, too. One-Armed Hawkeye is also nifty!