What If…?'s Biggest Problem Is It Forgot The One Thing The MCU Is Best At – Screen Rant

By constantly visiting new timelines, Marvel’s What If…? has disregarded the hard earned character and plot continuity that the MCU is best known for.
Warning: The Following Contains SPOILERS for What If…? episode 8.
Marvel’s What If…? has been a hard sell with audiences so far, and it could be because the show has consistently forgotten the element that has made the MCU so successful. Each episode of What If…? focuses on a different Sacred Timeline deviation. Fans looked forward to the endless possibilities for how the MCU could have been different, but, so far, the consensus seems to be that the show has fallen flat. One possible explanation for this lies in What If…?’s approach to characterization.
The premise of What If…? prepares audiences to see MCU characters and events in a different light, exemplifying the ways that a character is built by the circumstances of their environment. Episodes have shown many different versions of the same character in different timelines. For example, throughout the show thus far, Thanos has been a moderately friendly Ravager, a zombie, and defeated far too easily on more than one occasion. Other characters go through less noticeable alterations, making it tough to track from episode to episode.
Related: Marvel’s What If Keeps Asking The Wrong Questions
Ultimately, What If…?’s biggest problem is that it has ignored the continuity and character development for which the MCU is best known. Marvel Studios built an entire universe full of complex characters through more than 10 years of storytelling. Thirteen years and 25 movies can stand alone or operate as a cohesive storyline, which is no small feat. A crucial reason the MCU is so successful is that characters exhibit some consistency of spirit, motives, and personality. Characters have reacted to events and developed throughout the multiple movies in ways that reinforce their character arcs. It is the MCU’s dedication to complex storytelling and attention to character that has attracted so many ardent fans. By its variable nature, What If…? episodes seem to undermine the meticulous continuity established by the movies.
At times, it seemed like Marvel’s What If…? insulted its characters in the worst ways. It alters characters and events, erases them, and plays with them until they lose their shape, leaving fans with characters they no longer recognize. Tony and Thanos in particular are treated rather frivolously, as both often end up dead and not nearly as powerful as their versions from the Sacred Timeline. With no guarantee that these episodes would connect in the end (until the events of episode 8), the alterations seemed meaningless, the character development shallow at best, and the continuity that the MCU is known for non-existent. What If…? season 1, episode 8, marks a shift, as the show has finally begun to weave each of the previous timelines together to build a Guardians of the Multiverse team capable of defeating a superpowered Ultron. Still, the general impression is that this attempt at continuity comes too late in the first season to convince audiences who were not impressed with previous episodes.
What If…? could have been lighthearted fun without interconnected episodes, but having no indication prior to the penultimate episode that these characters will be connected detracts from the sense of cohesiveness that fans of the MCU have grown to expect. The show has also led to many continuity problems that threaten all that the MCU has spent so long establishing. The rules of the multiverse remain hazy at best and contradictory at worst. Can the MCU and its many interweaving storylines maintain their trademark unity in the future? Hopefully, future shows and movies dealing with the multiverse will remember the character development and continuity that Marvel’s What If…? seems to have forgotten.
Next: How Ultron Travels The Multiverse – New Powers Explained
The What If…? season 1 finale airs on Wednesday, October 6 on Disney+.
Jordan Gablaski is a Movie and TV Features writer for Screen Rant. She has a BA in English Literature from Assumption University and wrote her undergrad thesis on the Evolution of Female Superheroes in Comics and Film. Jordan has always wanted to be a writer, and loves being able to write about all things Marvel! Her favorite superhero is Captain America, and in her free time she enjoys watching movies (duh), playing softball, and building the occasional Star Wars Lego set. Jordan began writing for Screen Rant in 2021.


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