What If...?: … Captain Carter Were the First Avenger?
August 11, 2021 11:10 AM - Season 1, Episode 1 - Subscribe

When Steve Rogers is seriously injured, Peggy Carter becomes the world's first super soldier.

Carter chooses to stay on the floor during the super soldier activation, causing a chain that leaves Steve wounded and her no choice but to jump in the chamber herself or leave the program back at step zero. No more willing to be sidelined than Rogers was in our usual timeline, she steps up as Captain Carter, assisted by Steve in a tesseract-powered preview of the Iron Man armor. In the course of fighting Hydra and the Red Skull, Carter sacrifices herself by pushing a monster through a portal back into its own universe and only emerges 70 years later, having missed her chance at that promised dance with Steve Rogers.
posted by Karmakaze (64 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Off the top of my head, important divergences include:
  • Captain Carter in place of Captain Rogers as the first Avenger (it's in the title!)
  • A powered armor suit some sixty years earlier than in the primary MCU thanks to...
  • The tesseract landing in Allied hands, both early in WWII and during the time it originally spent at the bottom of the ocean.
  • Bucky avoiding his fall and (presumably) subsequent conversion into the Winter Soldier
  • A stable activation of a tesseract portal either before or in place of Loki's arrival in The Avengers
I'm sure we'll think of more.
posted by Karmakaze at 11:19 AM on August 11, 2021 [1 favorite]

Poor Steve :(. They did take a lot of Peggy's blood, I was kinda hoping they'd use that on him.

I liked her joy at being BIG and STRONK but also I wondered how she managed to get clothes and shoes. The new uniform was probably a relief!

Personally I think the existence of Captain Peggy Carter would have inspired many more young girls to also be big and strong and I wanted to see that.
posted by emjaybee at 11:25 AM on August 11, 2021 [9 favorites]

So how many episodes before Jeffrey Wright starts interfering?
posted by 1970s Antihero at 11:55 AM on August 11, 2021 [6 favorites]

I loved this first episode.

The fact that alt-right fanboys are raging about this episode gives me also much joy.
posted by Pendragon at 12:57 PM on August 11, 2021 [11 favorites]

Only thing I didn't like was the length of the episode. Would have loved a 50+ minute journey with Captain Carter.
posted by Pendragon at 12:59 PM on August 11, 2021 [8 favorites]

So how many episodes before Jeffrey Wright starts interfering?

Given Uatu's history in the comics, the What If? should be "what if the Watcher minded his own damn business?"
posted by SPrintF at 1:02 PM on August 11, 2021 [10 favorites]

I enjoyed this quite a lot, love how quickly paced the whole thing was. This was all the story from the first Captain America movie, which is almost 20 minutes of story, in a 30 minute format. The remaining 10 minutes of jumping and punching was a good balance.

So I guess in this universe, Steve Rodgers goes on to form Shield, and Bucky goes on to brood without any super powers, which is good for him.

I thought they were going to have Steve Rodgers get lost on the train mission and have him become the Winter Soldier, which would have been really cool, but not something they could resolve in one episode.
posted by skewed at 1:48 PM on August 11, 2021 [4 favorites]

Watching Captain Carter kick the shit out of Nazis with her shield was extraordinarily cathartic and I wanted so much more of it.

The sequence where she and the HYDRA Smasher take on a flight of German bombers by crashing through the windscreen, bashing everyone and everything in sight, and then leaping from the plane's wreckage to take out a fighter? Exceedingly cool planning and action, and unrestrained by any pesky laws of physics. Just brilliant.

Wish they'd given it just a little time to breathe. But I trust this is not the last we've seen of Captain Carter.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 2:06 PM on August 11, 2021 [5 favorites]

Excellent episode to start with! I unabashedly love Cap and I love Peggy and getting to see them again like this was a surefire way to get me excited.
posted by drewbage1847 at 2:32 PM on August 11, 2021 [1 favorite]

I needed less alt version of The First Avenger and more Peggy being awesome with a shield and sword.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:11 PM on August 11, 2021 [3 favorites]

Good start to the series though!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:28 PM on August 11, 2021

So that was Cthulhu at the end, right??
posted by orrnyereg at 3:59 PM on August 11, 2021

That's Shuma-Gorath, who's Cthulhu-adjacent.
posted by Pronoiac at 4:21 PM on August 11, 2021 [8 favorites]

Marvel never met an Elder God whom they could not rip-off and claim as their own IP.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 4:22 PM on August 11, 2021 [5 favorites]


This is everything I wanted from a What If series. Loved the story, and just incredibly fantastic animation.
posted by ssmith at 5:10 PM on August 11, 2021 [1 favorite]

That was a lot of fun, even though I admit I had hoped Peggy would be Captain Britain initially, and I was impressed with how well they managed to convey the Chris Evans Steve Rogers even with a different voice actor. Glad to have Dominic Cooper as Howard Stark, he will always be the better Howard, if you ask me. There were times where Neal McDonough sounded more like Patton Oswalt than himself. I was glad to see Bucky was still his usual sassy self.

I just wish they'd given it a little more time, so that the emotional beats had some room to breathe. Especially the ending, there's just no time for Peggy's sacrifice and what it cost her, and I really dislike that. They did the same thing at the end of First Avenger, where Fury tells Steve he's been asleep for 70 years and then immediately asks if he's gonna be okay. Like, what kind of monumentally dumbass question is that? The guy just lost everything and everyone he cared about, of course he's not okay. And they did the same thing to Peggy here, and we see nothing else. Peggy's a badass, but I'd still like to see her get to have some emotional space.
posted by kitten kaboodle at 5:17 PM on August 11, 2021 [2 favorites]

Did anyone else think Hayley Atwell kinda did a different, less posh, less clipped accent than in the films/show?
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:25 PM on August 11, 2021 [3 favorites]

I was expecting this episode to be pretty charming because more Peggy, but mostly just okay because I've read enough What Ifs in my time to just be whelmed by the only slightly different ones... but damn it, it beat my expectations and cranked the charm to 11 by clearly reveling in the Fleischer Superman influence on the visuals.
posted by jason_steakums at 8:03 PM on August 11, 2021 [2 favorites]

It was great, very kinetic and just had this flow to the action that was pure fun to watch. There was even a bit of lampshading of MCU-Prime continuity with Bucky's "You nearly ripped my arm off!" I was a tiny bit disappointed that they didn't go ahead and call her Captain Britain... maybe there are some plans for Brian Braddock in the wings? Eh, still great.

It'll be interesting to see if they draw on any of the comic book What If? stories; some of them were great, but also pretty heavily dependent on comics continuity.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:07 PM on August 11, 2021 [2 favorites]

I was a tiny bit disappointed that they didn't go ahead and call her Captain Britain...

I really got my hopes up when she grabbed that random convenient sword at the end, that would be a fun way to introduce the Sword of Might and give her the title, plus Captain Britain is all wrapped up in multiversal weirdness and she's supposedly going to be in every season...
posted by jason_steakums at 8:16 PM on August 11, 2021 [3 favorites]

I wanted to like it much more than I did, but I parts of the animation distracting--mainly the close ups of people's faces, especially their mouths when they were talking. Something just seemed so off, and I can't put my finger on what it was. Maybe the movements weren't properly synced to the words.

I agree with an earlier poster that Peggy sounded very different than she did in the movies or in her own series. I had to check the end credits because I could have sworn Bucky was voice by somebody else, but apparently not. Also, I can't hear Bradley Whitford's voice and not see his face, so I was having problems with buying him as the General.

It's funny to see Roy Thomas thanked in the credits because I normally think of him as a DC guy. Yes, I know he got his start at Marvel and created a plethora of characters, but that was a bit before my heaviest comic-reading days, whereas it was common to see Roy (and Dann) Thomas credited on the DC books I was buying at the time. Anyway, let's hope he got more than an end credit and a fruit basket for his contributions.
posted by sardonyx at 8:39 PM on August 11, 2021 [2 favorites]

The other thing that jumped out at me was that some of the dialogue and references and vocabulary felt too modern to be of the time period.
posted by sardonyx at 9:02 PM on August 11, 2021 [1 favorite]

That was fun! What do people think of the Agent Carter series? I haven't watched any of it.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 2:41 AM on August 12, 2021 [1 favorite]

I thought "Agent Carter" was a lot of fun. That show got a raw deal.
posted by Ipsifendus at 3:47 AM on August 12, 2021 [26 favorites]

This was a lot of fun. The pacing was a bit relentless—I wish they'd made the episode a bit longer—and some of the dialogue a bit clunky, but in spite of that I really enjoyed it. Glad we'll get some more Captain Carter throughout the series. I wonder if she'll cross over to the live action universe by the end, in time for Multiverse of Madness?
posted by synecdoche at 4:17 AM on August 12, 2021

(One thing that confused me for a time was how Red Skull got the Tesseract. It took me a moment or two to realize that Hydra must have recovered it from the Hydra Stomper suit—I feel like the characters' reaction to Steve's fall implied that he was more or less unrecoverable, or else they would have been there trying to dig him out. I feel like there was something missing there.)
posted by synecdoche at 4:18 AM on August 12, 2021 [1 favorite]

Yeah, that confused me for a while until I realized the Tesseract must have actually been built into the suit. The big blue energy blasts were a clue, and it was vastly more powerful than in its final appearance where they try to charge it up off a generator and it kind of skips and hops around a few times and then goes dry.

Overall, I agree that this was a lot of fun, and that it was too rushed. I mean, for the most part, I felt they got away with it. But yeah, the emotional beats needed more room to breathe. That's because they were basically trying to reproduce the story of a full-length feature film in a half hour. I'm hoping that future episodes won't be so closely tied to an existing movie and can be written to better fit the half hour length.

Was also kind of amazed at how many MCU actors they got in to do voices, even for just a line. I mean Jeremy Renner is credited as Hawkeye, and I'm like, what? Where the hell was Hawkeye in this? Apparently that was him standing next to Fury at the end, giving his one line of dialog.
posted by Naberius at 5:43 AM on August 12, 2021 [2 favorites]

I wanted to like it much more than I did, but I parts of the animation distracting--mainly the close ups of people's faces, especially their mouths when they were talking. Something just seemed so off, and I can't put my finger on what it was. Maybe the movements weren't properly synced to the words.

The thing that kind of got under my skin was the Constant Smiling In Every Scene. Creepy. Unnatural.

And yeah, it's weird, during the preview a few months back I was surprised and excited that they managed to get a lot of the original actors in to do voices, and yet it felt awfully flat and generic in production.
posted by Kyol at 6:37 AM on August 12, 2021 [1 favorite]

My kid's review of the look of it had me thinking and nodding.

They said:
1) The drawing style was terrific. It was distinctly different from anything else Disney does and from the pleasant but played-out and repetitive look favored by DC animated movies. It evoked comics without looking like a direct translation.
2) The character design was great, managing to evoke the actors we know in those roles without falling into the uncanny valley.
3) BUT--that's the drawing. The animation, the kinetic quality of the motion, simulated camera movements, etc. was bad. They really seem to have cheaped out a bit there.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:33 AM on August 12, 2021 [4 favorites]

I thought maybe Sebastian Stan was trying to make himself sound younger to avoid falling into his Winter Soldier growl and just overshot a little.

As far as the voice acting cameos, you can literally get actors to phone in short parts. It's done all the time for voiceovers and podcasts, and even in live-action for small dialogue changes that can be spliced in via dubbing. In Renner's case, we know he's also in at least one other episode because we have other clips of him in the promo materials. They seem to have recorded everything at once, so having a one-liner for this episode would have been nothing to tape during the main session. It's way easier to do that when you don't need to get everyone on the right set for each scene.

I'd picked up on the tesseract as a power source just from the big deal all the Iron Man movies made about an arc reactor being the only thing powerful enough to make one of those suits possible. Lacking a power source that would not be invented for six decades, it pretty much had to be the tesseract in the Hydra Smasher. In retrospect, it was also indicated by the chest glow being square rather than round but that could also have just been a design choice.
posted by Karmakaze at 8:08 AM on August 12, 2021 [1 favorite]

Huh. I was ... pretty bored. The Cliff Notes for a movie that was never made, in an animation style that seemed stiff and clunky.
posted by kyrademon at 8:49 AM on August 12, 2021 [2 favorites]

Punching nazis never gets boring.
posted by cazoo at 9:59 AM on August 12, 2021 [24 favorites]

Also, I can't hear Bradley Whitford's voice and not see his face, so I was having problems with buying him as the General.

For me, it's as though there was a freeze-frame voiceover: "Tonight, the role of The General will be played by noted character actor Bradley Whitford, who you may remember as Josh from The West Wing, or as the bad guy from a number of teen comedies including Billy Madison and Adventures in Babysitting."

I liked the animation style, especially for the fighting scenes, but I think it would be cool if we got different styles from week to week. Based on the previews, it's consistent from episode to episode.
posted by skewed at 11:47 AM on August 12, 2021 [2 favorites]

One thing I'm not clear on - are all these episodes going to be in this same alternate timeline in which more and more things keep going differently because of this one change in 1943? That's not what I thought they were intending to do, but I'm hearing that Captain Carter is going to be recurring, so how would that work if we're continually looking into different timelines?
posted by Naberius at 12:33 PM on August 12, 2021

Per this article, she'll return in future seasons. (This is in line with the comic, which occasionally had sequels to earlier issues.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:40 PM on August 12, 2021

Huh. When the Colonel appeared on-screen I was pleasantly surprised that they had drawn him more or less like Bradley Whitford, since his voice is so recognizable that to do otherwise would have been, well, very distracting.

I thought there was something kinda low-key rebellious about the way that they still played out Peggy & Steve's romantic arc, though this time with neither of them conforming to the conventional body types, and with no real comment on it.

This was a good one to start with. Any kinks in the system that they need to work out that could be awkward in a later episode will feel more at home in the pulpy, intentionally-retro "First Avenger" story, so this smoothed over a lot of my potential nitpicks with that choice alone.
posted by Navelgazer at 12:48 PM on August 12, 2021 [6 favorites]

Bradley Whitford was reprising his role from the Agent Carter Marvel One-Shot short film.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 12:54 PM on August 12, 2021 [5 favorites]

The animation, the kinetic quality of the motion, simulated camera movements, etc. was bad. They really seem to have cheaped out a bit there.

Wow, really? Maybe you're comparing it with some other animated stuff that I haven't seen. I was surprised how much better the action scenes were than pretty much any other animated superhero show I've seen. It was more exaggerated and cartoonish than the live MCU stuff (which is also mostly animated, of course) but it still seemed more solid, less floaty and weightless than, say, any of the DC animated movies I've seen.

I thought the story was was fine, given they were starting with a simple character swap (with more ambitious and weirder stories supposedly coming in later episodes), and the script was not great, but I really enjoyed the action scenes more than I usually do in these kinds of shows.

The drawing style was terrific...The character design was great

Yes, animation aside, I thought the artwork was exceptional.
posted by straight at 1:27 PM on August 12, 2021 [3 favorites]

Sometimes when I was a kid, I'd read a "What If..." that was an alternate version of a story I hadn't read, which could get really confusing if I read a story that referenced the earlier one and I didn't know which details from the alternate story were the same and which were different.

(I read the "What If..." version of the X-men Dark Phoenix Saga (supposedly Claremont's original version of the story) before I read the published version (required by his editor's insistence that Jean Grey had to be held responsible for the billions of lives Phoenix had killed). I never did get straight who actually ended up doing what on the moon.)

I like to imagine some kids watching this and sometime later watching Captain America: The First Avenger and saying, "Hey, this sucks. Peggy hardly does anything in this movie."
posted by straight at 2:48 PM on August 12, 2021 [7 favorites]

One aspect I enjoyed was Hydra Stomper launching into the sky looking like a beefed up Rocketeer, a nice nod to Joe Johnston directing the First Avenger film. Overall this made me wish for more period settings in the MCU.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 3:40 PM on August 12, 2021 [9 favorites]

I read a ton of AU fanfic, so I was onboard with this: it's always fun seeing how far you can bend the arc of the plot from just one change.

Also great to see Peggy kicking ass and taking names.
posted by suelac at 7:57 PM on August 12, 2021 [3 favorites]

I'm really glad that Peggy was referred to as Captain Carter rather than Captain Britain. It made seem like it was about her and her journey as a hero rather than being a symbol of the Nation. I wished they spent a little bit more time about her being a woman in this role. We did have that scene with Steve but it kinda irked me that Steve piped in that he still isn't be heard. That kinda took the away the significance of Peggy processing what it means to be a woman in power, and not just a tool of those in power.
posted by wasabifooting at 5:48 AM on August 13, 2021 [1 favorite]

Loved it! The swing dance montage has given me some new desktop wallpapers.

Some answers from a comics pedant:
Why isn't she called Captain Britain?
In Marvel, the position of Captain Britain is already held by someone else. Endowed with power via magic, rather than science, they are the defender of the island. I say they, because CB is a multiversal character. In every parallel world where there is a Britain, there is a CB; sometimes a man, sometimes a woman, sometimes a cartoon rabbit, sometimes dinosaurs still rule the earth and Captain Britain is a velociraptor.
(There's another UK super-soldier Marvel character too. A masked commando-spy named Union Jack fought in both world wars, typically armed with a Webley revolver and a Sykes-Fairbairn dagger.)

This is just a recap of the first Captain America movie, with Peggy swapped in!
That's kind of the way the What If... stories have always worked. Take a narrative we already know, change something, then follow the timeline, showing how familiar events either change or don't.
Let's say we did a gender-swapped version of Arthurian legend. Queen Arthura is fun, but you don't want to miss out on her being tutored by Merlynne, and you want to see how the love triangle with Guiniver and Launcelotta plays out. You're playing around, but within the boundaries of a familiar framework, so you see what changes and what stays the same.

And to answer a question about the Agent Carter series, I enjoyed it and think it's worth a try. There's no truck-tossing superpowers on its network TV budget; but if you liked the 1940s costumes, and Peggy fighting both sexism and Hydra saboteurs with quick wit and a strong right cross, you will probably enjoy it.
Season 1 sizzle reel, season 2 preview, no real spoilers.
posted by bartleby at 11:58 AM on August 13, 2021 [7 favorites]

In the regular MCU, "Captain America" was the USO character they created to sell war bonds. Outside of that context, Steve is almost always called "Captain Rogers" or "Cap" (or "Steve"). People usually only refer to him as Captain America when they're being cheeky.

In both stories, the Super Soldier idea was considered a failure because it didn't give the allies an army of super soldiers. Rogers was a curiosity and Carter an embarrassment before they started winning battles. It wouldn't have occurred to them to parade a woman stronger than any man around the UK as "Captain Britain" to raise money, and I'm glad we didn't have to see her in some kind of 1940s USO girl costume.

So it makes sense to call her "Captain Carter," especially since "Agent Carter" is kinda already her hero name in the MCU.
posted by straight at 2:41 PM on August 13, 2021 [6 favorites]

A couple of additional thoughts on rewatch:

I wish the title didn't tell you what the change would be, though I understand that's the original comic worked.

Also, I hope now that we've got the premise explained, they cut back the narrator exposition, it was a bit overboard.
posted by skewed at 3:39 PM on August 13, 2021

I thought so too, skewed. But in the comics, the "What If..." narrator is a character ("Uatu the Watcher") who lives on the moon and watches stuff that happens on Earth from a race of aliens called "The Watchers" who watch stuff all over the universe but "never" interfere. So they may be giving him some extra lines so we notice he's there in case he has a role in some later story.
posted by straight at 6:02 PM on August 13, 2021

So they may be giving him some extra lines so we notice he's there in case he has a role in some later story.

I'm not super familiar with the Watcher, but basically as soon as he said "I must not interfere," I said to myself, "Self, that's a guy who is absolutely going to interfere."
posted by synecdoche at 6:25 PM on August 13, 2021 [27 favorites]

The Watcher comes from a long line of comics moderators (The Crypt Keeper from Tales from the Crypt, Cain from The House of Mystery) that introduce the story and often wind it up with a final "sting." (Same with Rod Serling on The Twilight Zone or Boris Karloff on Thriller.) Usually Uatu does little but provide some moral observation at the end. But it has happened that even The Watcher's patience is tested. Then, the Watcher will no longer merely observe! No! The Watcher must act!

If you think about it, that's the only story about the Watcher that is possible to tell. If he never acts, he has no story of his own. The jump from observer to participant is the only story Uatu can have.
posted by SPrintF at 6:46 PM on August 13, 2021 [4 favorites]

Chekhov's Vow Against Interference.
posted by Navelgazer at 8:11 AM on August 14, 2021 [6 favorites]

I thought it was more Kirk that kept violating the Prime Directive.
posted by straight at 3:14 PM on August 14, 2021 [1 favorite]

Now I'm imagining a Tales from the Crypt series where the Crypt Keeper gets increasingly upset and finally says, "This is too fucked up! I've got to do something!"

I could see a story where someone else decides to interfere and Uatu acts to prevent the interference, but that's still the same basic "observer becomes actor" story.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 5:15 AM on August 15, 2021 [3 favorites]

Uatu may have that rule about not interfering, but he has a robust comment history on YouTube.
posted by wabbittwax at 6:45 AM on August 15, 2021 [5 favorites]

There can also be stories about Uatu in danger because someone doesn't want to be watched, or about heroes finding and pestering him on the moon.
posted by straight at 8:38 AM on August 15, 2021 [1 favorite]

I realize we are going down a rabbit hole on the observer becomes participant thing and this won't help, but my favorite example has got to be Breakfast of Champions where Kurt Vonnegut writes himself into the story to tell a character he's fictional, to see what happens. He gets attacked by a dog who is resentful of being written out of the final draft.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:04 AM on August 15, 2021 [3 favorites]

In the She-Hulk comics, there is a moment (while She-Hulk is serving as a judge) where the Watchers are in court against an isolationist species which does not wish to be watched. Solution: that one Watcher is silenced, so he can watch, but cannot speak about what he sees. (I seem to recall it's a he.)
posted by brainwane at 10:41 PM on August 16, 2021 [1 favorite]

When my household watched it and got to the part where Captain Carter refers to Zola as "our German friend", the entire couch responded in unison: "First correction, I am Swiss."
posted by radwolf76 at 5:15 AM on August 17, 2021 [4 favorites]

Adventures in Babysitting

👀 /em adds to rewatch list
posted by tilde at 6:38 AM on August 19, 2021 [3 favorites]

My comment to spouse while watching: "I like to believe Hayley Atwell had a big grin on her face while recording her lines."

I did like the story, although the obsessive fanboy in me whimpered a little that they couldn't shoe-horn Elizabeth Braddock in at the end.
posted by Mutant Lobsters from Riverhead at 3:25 PM on August 19, 2021 [1 favorite]

I dug it, all action pulp goodness. I loved the truck smashing action, very kinetic, rewatchable
posted by eustatic at 7:21 AM on August 21, 2021

I hope at some point we see an “I Spy” match between Uatu and Heimdall.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:37 AM on August 29, 2021

👀 /em adds to rewatch list

Watched it with my daughter at some point over the past year or so. It still pretty much holds up, and is arguably part of the MCU ;)
posted by Rock Steady at 1:08 PM on September 7, 2021

I miss the Agent Carter show. Peggy Carter rocks. Being a brawny lass really appeals to me, I gotta say. It's a fantasy and was one of my NaNoWriMo novels.

I really enjoyed Peggy and IronGiantSteve together and was sad that it ended about the same as Steve's original story did with them separated by 70 years though. Waaaah.
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:16 PM on September 7, 2021

Garbage. Marvel hides toilet water gender representation inside a cartoonish asshole and expects to be crowned "progressive". According to Marvel, sexism and misogyny is only perpetrated by Snidely Wiplashes, and exists on the surface of society. The TV version of "you look prettier without make-up".

And shit one-liners. Garbage.
posted by Brocktoon at 11:51 PM on October 15, 2021

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