Martin Carr reviews the eighth episode of Marvel’s What If….?
That this episode postulates, hypothesises and blasts a hole in the hull of multiverses everywhere is enough to recommend it. That there is a seismic cameo prior to the credits running is perhaps another more important point to make. By tying elements from Age of Ultron and Civil War into a mix which is heavily mechanoid in nature, might also prove intriguing to some. However, by putting a tag team Avengers combo in there as well, audiences at least get the human angle on what happens when Ultron makes this world burn.
What this instalment also does beyond bringing Lake Bell, Jeremy Renner and Toby Jones to the table is allow Jeffrey Wright more time on the playing field. Giving viewers a peak behind the multiverse curtain, while the Watcher does more than spectate. Bringing about a dimensional smackdown that shreds its way through realities like multiple knives through butter.
What this adds to the story of a decimated Ultron reality is scope. A tangible idea of breadth for those newbies who have either not read their comic books, or needed something more concrete to cut through those more philosophical approaches. In the main, those elements which are lifted from Marvel’s movie cannon are employed with care and consideration.
There are nods to Tony Stark, flashes of Steve Rogers as well as the more heavy handed Ultron approach writ large. With the aftermath of global genocide and universes left in ruins, there are few things left to root for in the salvation sweepstakes. Especially when this shield of armour around the world feels the need to eradicate anything with a pulse.
Moments of levity are in short supply, the Mad Titan puts in a truncated appearance, and there seems very little point carrying on come those Endgame level last five. At no juncture could this journey into Ultron be considered feelgood fare. Fates hang in the balance, AI omnipotence seems the only option and Hawkeye is made out of metal. None of those prospects are designed to fill an audience with hope during the thirty minute run time.
As we creep closer to the end of this animated adventure serial, which has literally put Marvel’s universe into a blender, it seems apt to consider the success of the idea. As a precursor to more cinematic outings this has definitely whet the appetite, but to what extent it has broadened the playing field remains to be seen. What If…? has largely felt like a way of breaking audiences into the multiverse, both literally and figuratively. With the guarantee that phase four and five will certainly lean into that element, this feels more like a tactical necessity than creative need. Either way, episode nine adds another layer to the onion as Marvel gears up for another cinematic assault on the senses to close out 2021.