With the MCU in a rut, something has got to fill the creatively weird and zany void in our Marvel-loving hearts. What better way to fill in that dose of strange with What If…? Season 2. Heralded by the ever-present Watcher (Jeffrey Wright), the latest season re-embraces the anthology format of its predecessor and takes us through a variety of different takes on the familiar. After all, it is just a matter of asking, what if…But, with all of that said, the episodes are mixed in tone, pacing, and execution in the beginning. It isn’t until the season dives into storylines planted in the previous season that it finds its stride.
True to its nature, the first three episodes stand alone. Ranging from neo-noir to a Die Hard-esque Christmas special, viewers are allowed to explore different realms of the MCU. Each story features a twist on the familiar, which will excite both new and old fans alike. However, it isn’t until we reach Episode 4 that the anthological format shifts. Building off of the Watcher’s actions from the previous season, the ripple effect is felt across the multiverse.
Taking centerstage during this is Captain Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell). As a soldier and tool for others to use, Captain Carter is an object of pity and wonder. But with each episode she’s in, her growth and strength dazzle, and you can’t help but remember why she’s much-beloved. It’s what makes the end of her journey this season most impactful. That, and she’s a prime-time example of why our choices and decisions matter in What If…? Season 2.
Captain Peggy Carter isn’t the only hero worth watching in What If…? Season 2. The brand-new character, Kahori (Devery Jacobs), is a welcome addition to the MCU. The development of the Mohawk tribe in the MCU and how Kahori and her people come into their own power is well done. Without giving too much away, Kahori’s motivation to protect her people is something we can all relate to. And, when brought back into the overarching story later on in the season, there’s something awfully telling in how her narrative gets shifted by nefarious hands.
Regarding the storytelling, the inclusion of the 1602 storyline is adjusted particularly for the overarching narrative we’re seeing play out. For comic-book fans, this may either annoy or excite you. For the purpose of the anthological format and taking into account the whole multiverse angle of it all, how writers A. C. Bradley and Ryan Little tackled this specific episode and adapted it to make it fit is pretty spectacular. If you’re looking for comic-book accuracy, though, you’re going to be out of luck.
The animation across the board is fascinating. The movement of the characters, particularly in the fight scenes, is fluid. It almost makes you forget how much of a time filler these fight scenes generally are in the MCU. That said, they do take up a lot of time across the season. What truly takes the breath away is the detailed work put into the settings. Whether it’s the Blade Runner-evoking planet of Xandar, the speedy roadway of Sakaar, or the South Dakota Badlands of Kahori’s tribe, the backgrounds are almost like a painting.
What If…? Season 2 starts off as you’d expect an anthology to be. The first three episodes lure you into a false sense of security, with each one feeling markedly different from the next. It isn’t until Episode 4 that the series finally settles in to tackle the meat of the story. While it should be noted that Episode 4 was originally intended for the previous season, it does bring up a feeling of frustration. If What If…? Season 2 was going to build off of what it had started in Season 1, why spend the first couple of episodes with stories not otherwise connected with the overarching plot?
What If…? Season 2 should be celebrated for building on the Watcher’s actions from the previous season. Introducing Kahori to the MCU also offers us an intriguing new hero that highlights the fine line power can bring. With Captain Peggy Carter’s story played out in a satisfactory way, there’s much good here. But the first three episodes do muck with the pacing of the series, and the continued reliance on long action sequences (a criticism that can likely be directed toward many MCU projects) lessens the overall impact of the series’ storytelling.
What If…? Season 2 is now playing on Disney+, with new episodes released daily.
What If...? Season 2
What If…? Season 2 should be celebrated for building on the Watcher’s actions from the previous season. But the first three episodes do muck with the pacing of the series, and the continued reliance on long action sequences (a criticism that can likely be directed toward many MCU projects) lessens the overall impact of the series’ storytelling.