The Problem With All Of What If's Stories | Screen Rant – Screen Rant

Although the show presents interesting alternate scenarios for MCU characters, the events of What If…? ultimately don’t matter in the wider context.
Despite a generally positive critical reception, Marvel’s What If…? has a major problem with each of its stories. Although the show offers a welcome opportunity to gain a fresh perspective on popular MCU characters, almost every episode fails to deliver in one key area. For all the onscreen pyrotechnics of zombies, Party Thor and an evil Doctor Strange, this continued failure ultimately makes the show a pleasant distraction, rather than essential viewing for fans of the wider MCU.
One of the defining features of the show to date is its willingness to diverge from the main Marvel timeline. The show specializes in presenting alternate scenarios for some of the biggest names in the MCU. In all of What If…?’s stories to date, popular characters have had completely alien roles and acted in ways that would be completely inconsistent with their arc in the main big-screen narrative. Heroes like Tony Stark are seen still manufacturing dangerous armaments, while more minor characters like Peggy Carter take center stage as super-powered beings in their own right. The only constant across the series is the omniscient and omnipresent Watcher (played by Jeffrey Wright).
Related: Why Heimdall Is So Bad At His One Job In The MCU
The self-contained nature of every What If…? story certainly allows the showrunners creative freedom. However, it also causes a major problem for the series, since nothing that occurs has any real impact on the MCU as a whole. This ultimately means that there are no real stakes for any of the characters, undermining any emotional impact that particular stories may have and even inadvertently insulting long-established MCU narratives.
The ending of episode 7 aside, which may yet prove to have a bearing on the so-called sacred MCU timeline, each What If…? scenario can either be viewed as an interesting but ultimately pointless footnote to “official” Marvel events, or a bizarre attempt to undermine much-loved characters and narratives. For instance, Hank Pym’s plot to murder all the Avengers in episode 3 confirmed the long-held view that Scott Lang could easily have exploded Thanos from the inside-out, ending the Infinity War before it began and inadvertently confirming Ant-Man as the most powerful Avenger. Similarly, in episode 6, Tony Stark dismisses the idea of a miniature Arc reactor as “silly“, flying in the face of the original catalyst for Phase 1. Both these examples demonstrate a serious disregard for key MCU moments and ultimately subvert some of the franchise’s most impactful moments.
Beyond diminishing the wider MCU, however, What If…?’s lack of stakes also make the individual episodes themselves seem increasingly silly and pointless. Episode 7, for instance, feels more like a coming-of-age romp than a superhero story, all while simultaneously failing to tell the audience anything new about the character. In many ways, the story arc feels more like an excuse to see Thor overindulge than add another crucial layer to the MCU’s storied history.
Placing iconic Marvel characters in different situations is a potentially fascinating premise. However, by pursuing a strategy that has no bearing on other major MCU events, the show is both doing itself a disservice and failing to support the franchise as a whole. While it’s not too late to save the series, thns will only improve when What If…? really starts to matter.
More: What If…? Episode 7: 5 Unanswered Questions About The Return Of [SPOILER]
After an eclectic career incorporating scuba diving, cheffing and teaching, Tommy eventually found his calling as a writer. With an early focus on food, he now specialises in all aspects of entertainment. Despite being a Lord of the Rings and Alien obsessive, his real passion is for truly terrible movies. He loves anything with a 0% Rotten Tomatoes rating and rarely passes up an opportunity to watch The Room. Tommy is based in London and joined the Screen Rant team in 2021.


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