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The Beauty of Marvel’s What If…? Is How It Makes Us Care About the MCU in New, Unexpected Ways

5/5 Watchers

Marvel’s What If…? is like your favorite fanfic AU brought to life – except its actual canon. That’s right, that buff queen Captain Carter is canon and so is that version of T’Challa that’s somehow more charming than he already was.

Peggy Carter in Marvel's What If...?

Now if you’re like me and have been eagerly awaiting the Multiverse ever since the phrase was uttered in the MCU, then What If…? is the series for you. “The events of What If…? are canon. It’s part of the MCU multiverse,” head writer AC Bradley told IGN. “The multiverse is here. It is real, and it is absolutely fantastic, people.”

Admittedly, I thought we’d have to wait for Doctor Strange Has Got His Work Cut Out for Him or Spider “I Still Don’t Have a Trailer” Man before we fully got the chance to see how different the Multiverse could be, but the first three episodes of What If…? immediately puts three stories that we know in a random plot generator just to see what happens.

So far, the series is unapologetically embracing the phrase “forget everything that you know.”



Because What If…? is definitely banking on you knowing these characters and their stories. You’re supposed to know the story of Captain America so the series can delight in tweaking that one little thing just to make you say, “Bwhaaaat???”

What works really well for the series is that none of the changes are the same. Sometimes, the same characters you expect to interact with each other are hanging out like they always do, it’s just that their dynamic has changed because of the new circumstances that they’re facing. In other stories, you have a completely different group of people who’ve never shared screentime before. This makes for new interactions and, at times, completely different personalities for characters you’ve come to know and love.

T'Challa Star Lord

That, to me, is truly the best part of the series. While it’s fun to see how each universe is different, it’s the characters and their chemistry with one another that makes for an amazing viewing experience. I found myself re-falling in love with characters I was already a fan of, furthermore, I was suddenly invested in characters I hadn’t been a fan of during their initial MCU adventure. Iconic heroes who I thought I knew felt like brand new OCs with different motivations and relationships. Meanwhile, villains who I’d gleefully watched fail weren’t all that bad anymore while new threats managed to be far more cunning than what the MCU had previously offered.

Basically, I was familiar with the material, but I had no idea how it was going to be used.

And then there’s The Watcher.

What If Watcher

Each episode begins with him narrating the story, reminding us that he’s only there to, well, watch, but he will never interfere with what’s happening. He makes the series feel like it’s building up to something big which, of course, led to me having a lot of questions.

Do all of these stories connect to each other?

Are we only gonna get one version of each character or will there be multiple, um, Variants, har har?

Sometimes The Watcher plays coy and tells us that a particular event is a story for “another time.” Does that mean we’ll be seeing that new story next time? Is that story building up to something that’ll continue in the MCU? Are we gonna end up combining characters from different worlds? The possibilities are literally endless. You can ask “what if” for so many scenarios, and that’s just in regards to the MCU. The comics have been doing this since the 70s so we are spoiled for choice when it comes to material for this series.

I kinda feel like a kid watching Saturday morning cartoons, trying to figure out what characters will show up next week, what their story will be, and what it all means in the grand scheme of things. My favorite Marvel television series on Disney+ have been the ones that aren’t afraid to get a little bit weird. After three episodes of What If…? I can already tell that this is gonna be a wonderfully strange journey.

As AC Bradley says, it’s absolutely fantastic.

Marvel’s What If…? will be streaming on Disney+ beginning on August 11.

What If character poster

(Image: Marvel Studios)

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Briana (she/her - bisexual) is trying her best to cosplay as a responsible adult. Her writing tends to focus on the importance of representation, whether it’s through her multiple book series or the pieces she writes. After de-transforming from her magical girl state, she indulges in an ever-growing pile of manga, marathons too much anime, and dedicates an embarrassing amount of time to her Animal Crossing pumpkin patch (it's Halloween forever, deal with it Nook)