Marvel Studios’ latest TV offering is a Marvel project like no other. As its first ever animated production as well as its first anthology series, ‘What If…?’ truly has Marvel exploring new territories yet again. However, the first episode is a pleasing and satisfactory start, that should leave fans in eager anticipation for future episodes.
The show opens with a brilliantly rendered version of Marvel’s iconic opening sequence transitioning into an animated version (a variant, if you get the reference) of itself; and promptly introduces viewers to the premise of the entire series: “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 the Watcher. I am your guide through these vast new realities. Follow me and ponder the question, ‘What if?”
This series encompasses a very simple idea, as The Watcher so eloquently puts, and at face value, it is easy to understand just why Marvel chose to pursue such a project, given its potential and fan-appeal – after all, this series is essentially a compilation of a whole host of fan theories and outlandish comic stories.
In terms of actual substance, the first episode is commendable in the manner in which it fuses the story of how Hayley Atwell’s Peggy Carter becomes the world’s first super soldier; in a cleverly written plot that mirrors Captain America: The First Avenger and yet feels fresh with interesting twists and deviations from the movie’s storyline, as well as some references that will bring out your inner Leo DiCaprio meme. Josh Keaton’s Steve Rogers too receives a fun and creative new role alongside his paramour. Captain Carter navigates the challenge of beating HYDRA and copes with the era’s prevalent sexism and misogyny in a commendable manner. The action sequences are brilliant – one particular scene featuring Captain Carter and Steve Rogers vs Nazis will leave you absolutely giddy with excitement.
However, the episode falls short of truly blowing you away due to some unfortunate problems. Despite boasting a fantastic voice-acting cast, some of the dialogue feel flat and uninspired (particularly in the case of Sebastian Stan’s Bucky Barnes and Dominic Cooper’s Howard Stark). The animation style, while new and unique, is something that might not appeal to a large number of fans. And the biggest issue with the opening episode of “What If…?” is how rushed the entire story was. While the script is very well written, it attempts to convey an impactful story in just 25 minutes of runtime, sacrificing character and plot development in the process.
On a whole, “What If…?” has started strong, and the series can only get better as it delves into even more creative and wacky storylines in future episodes (think Zombie Avengers). The further the stories deviate from the established MCU canon, the more this series will flourish. Marvel fans are most certainly looking forward to certain performances, especially with the late Chadwick Boseman reprising his role as T’Challa in a future episode. “What If…?” will air eight more episodes in its debut season, and we look forward to everything that is to come in this intriguing anthology.