What If...?: …The Watcher Broke His Oath?
October 6, 2021 7:22 AM - Season 1, Episode 9 - Subscribe

The Uatcher gathers heroes all across the multiverse for one final battle against "Ultra-Vison"

We open on Captain Carter following the events of the Winter Soldier opening but is interrupted in her tussle with Batroc as the Watcher informs her she has been Chosen. The Watcher then grabs StarLord T'Challa from interrupting Ego at the DQ, followed by a Gamora we've never met before who is in the process of destroying the Infinity Stones with Iron Man (presumably after winning Infinity War and pre-empting Endgame) and then Killmonger Black Panther as he is about to face Shuri's wrath. Party Thor is having so much fun smashing Ultron drones that it takes a moment for Uatu to get his attention, but he, too, is finally Chosen and brought to the meeting of the chosen heroes. Doctor Strange Supreme and the Watcher read everyone in and Gamora notes she brought along the Infinity Stone Crusher, surely the solution to this problem. Using a universe devioid of life as a staging point, the "Guardians of the Multiverse" assemble, protected by a spell from Strange strong enough to keep VUltron from just snapping them away. T'Challa manages to pickpocket (pickchestplate?) the Soul Stone and the team decamps to VUltron's origin universe while Strange hauls in Zombie Scarlet Witch to slow down pursuit. Lone Survivor Black Widow interrupts their destruction of the Soul Stone, having no idea who all these people are, but it turns out not to matter because War Gamora's device was tuned to her universe's stones and is not sufficient to the task. Natasha fires the USB arrow carrying the Zola payload right into VUltron's eye and Killmonger takes his chance to use a makeshift Infinity Stone Holder made from a drone head to claim the stones for himself. Zola ascends and it becomes a battle of wills between Killmonger and Zola for the gems. Realizing the actual plan, Strange locks the two in a pocket dimension forever locked evenly balanced struggle, while Strange will Watch them. The Watcher then sends everyone back to their home realities at the moment they left, except for Lone Survivor Black Widow, who he sends to the aftermath of "What If...?: …the World Lost Its Mightiest Heroes?" because he's already on a break with his Oath and he may be an a-hole but he's not 100% a dick. There is a mid-credits scene for Captain Carter.
posted by Karmakaze (40 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Y'all can thank the rescued kittens in our house for needing to be fed every four hours for me having seen this early enough in the day to recap. Is it day when its only 3am? Pre-dawn, let's call it. Anyway. Also, wow, that was a lot to decant into one paragraph for a half-hour episode.

Anyone having Mercedes Lackey/Valdemar flashbacks every time someone is decreed Chosen and look around for a telepathic white horse. Just me? OK.

I will never not see Strange Supreme and think of pizza, and also that even at Pizza Hut I don't think the Supreme comes with squid.

At least Tony "Hey I survived this time" Stark was pitching his Ultron idea after the mulching, so we won't all be back here next week with the same problem. Maybe someone can introduce him to the Thanos from StarLord T'Challa's universe and they can share drinks over discussion of their terrible terrible ideas.

Natasha from the last episode didn't have a cute epithet so I gave her one. She's the only living thing left in her universe. She deserves it. I hope after the Battle of the Helicarrier they let Last Survivor Widow finally have a shower. She's really been through it. Maybe she can borrow Falcon's hair irons again.

KillPanther's sudden but inevitable betrayal was well foreshadowed, the tinkering with the done head echoing Tony's trick in Endgame and then the lampshading with characters being all "do we even trust this guy?" No, no you don't.

I guess War Gamora's story wasn't interesting to get its own episode, though I am very interested in how one goes about mulching an Infinity Stone. Do they scatter back around the galaxy à la Dragon Balls? Does Reality just go "meh, never really needed those in the first place"? Do the Celestials sigh and make new ones?

I'm also trying to parse how VUltron's Stones work fine wherever he goes but the mulcher is only good for its source universe. Strange also seemed to be able to draw on his own copy of the Eye of Agamotto at one point. In fact, has he frozen time in the snowglobe prison and is thus affecting a Time Stone with a Time Stone or are we just to think Zola and Eric are perfectly matched in the tug-o-stones? I think the rules for Multiversal Infinity Stones is officially in "It's just a show; I should really just relax." territory at this point.
posted by Karmakaze at 8:17 AM on October 6 [6 favorites]

I guess War Gamora's story wasn't interesting to get its own episode

I'm assuming her episode was cut? But it was distracting without any explanation. I paused and went through the episode list to try and figure out what I had forgotten. It was late so had to stop myself from scrubbing through the Star Lord T'Challa episode. But that episode didn't have Tony in what looks like the Hulkbuster Armor.

Spoilers for the cut(?) episode: There's a lego set based on that Armor and the link has a description of what the premise might have been.

For a moment I thought this whole series was a way to bring Black Widow back into the MCU. But I guess Earth-199999 doesn't need her as much as the Episode 3 universe.
posted by Gary at 10:40 AM on October 6 [1 favorite]

Gamoras episode was moved to season 2 due to covid reasons, according to reddit.

I thought this episode was... ok. They clearly wanted a central emotional arc for the episode, so they chose captain carter to centre it. But the problem is that Carters story is basically a beat for beat emotional retelling of the captain america story but with a role reversal, so it was... fine, but completely a story wed seen before.

I honestly think evil strange would have been a more interesting character to follow, and doing so might have justified his apparent happiness to be contained for the rest of eternity watching a different bubble which was also contained for eternity.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 11:03 AM on October 6 [1 favorite]

Yeah honestly if I were Evil Strange I wouldn't have been content to return to my bubble prison with a new smaller bubble prison. And if I were the Watcher I certainly wouldn't trust him in there with an imprisoned godlike entity after he's perfected the technique of absorbing the power of other entities. That's just begging for him to figure out a way to siphon off the power of vUltron in a controlled manner and using that in turn to try and undo the destruction he wrought on his own universe. Maybe he learned his lesson but once a power-mad sorcerer always a power-mad sorcerer. Also, I assume that time is essentially stopped in the tiny prison bubble, and KillPanther and Zola are just trapped in that exact moment of struggle rather than trapped in a hellish endless tug of war.

Captain Carter, why do you keep pining for your lost Steve when your perfect partner has been next to you the whole time? I didn't expect to immediately ship Carter and her Natasha but here we are. Oh well, maybe she gets her Steve back, but she DOES have two hands, after all...

It's unclear what effect two stones have on each other, or why a stone might be usable in an alternate universe but a machine that grinds them up is not. In any case, good on the Watcher for having Eric's inevitable betrayal as part of the plan. Also accidentally (intentionally?) helps his home universe by removing him from the equation permanently. Anyway, having Evil Strange and his one stone at their disposal does make me wonder why not pull heroes from universes where a good guy won with the stones in their possession? Why not say, grab good Thanos from Starlord T'challa's world and give him a full gauntlet that smells suspiciously like rotten meat?

I still don't understand why everyone assumed Zola would be able to defeat Ultron, or even why that ended up being true. I would have expected the two of them to end up fighting to stalemate eternally inside Vison's body, or even just be enough of a distraction to vUltron to separate him from his stones while he's fighting that internal struggle (Which, IIRC, is similar to how Thanos was defeated in the original Infinity Gauntlet comic arc).

"Let me take you to a universe that lost their Widow" was a terrible, terrible tease. Yeah, I get it, they're not going to bring Black Widow back (And I'll be happy for Florence Pugh to be her replacement) to the MCU because of something that happened in a cartoon, but introducing her into any other world seems an awful lot like interference beyond the scope of the Watcher fixing vUltron's meddling.

I assume the Watcher took Party Thor because having a Thor would be handy and his universe happened to be one that was already influenced by vUltron. He doesn't seem, uh, especially noteworthy, as Thors go.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 11:42 AM on October 6 [4 favorites]

I was fully in "It's just a show; I should really just relax" mode watching this. When I started to realize they were going to try to replicate Endgame, but with infinitely higher stakes, using characters who are effectively brand new, in just 30 minutes, I decided not to try to judge it on the same level. So I had fun watching it with my No-Prize detector switched firmly off.

I liked how they tied in all the previous episodes, especially Evil Strange dumping a flood of zombies onto Ultron. Either Strange just made things a lot easier for that universe's Spider-Man, Ant-Man, and T'Challa, or they were somewhere in that flood. Whoopsie!

Sure, the Watcher selected his Guardians of the Universe for very specific reasons—I liked that they each played their specific role—but if I were him, I would have also collected about 1,000 Captain Marvels from neighboring realities for support.

Loved the meta moment when Nat called out the Watcher, and by extension us, for getting our jollies watching her and her friends suffer and die. And then the meta way the Watcher trolled us by bringing Nat "back to life," just not in the Sacred Timeline. He should have sent her into our universe, so she could read up on the Black Widow Death Discourse.

I was looking forward to Phase 3 being the end of the Infinity Stones, a stake which both Loki and Shang-Chi seemed to be claiming. I wouldn't mind if after this episode, we never see an Infinity Stone again. With one exception…

…I hope we get to see the Iron Man/Gamora episode in season 2. (That Infinity Stone Mulcher was crazy cute.) I heard it on good authority (the AV Club comments) that the What-If premise of that episode is that Iron Man gets stuck on the other side of the portal while delivering the cruise missile to the Chitauri mothership at the end of Avengers, rather than just taking off for space at the end of Age of Ultron, as the Lego article posits.

See all y'all in November for Eternals and Hawkeye!
posted by ejs at 2:23 PM on October 6 [1 favorite]

Captain Carter, why do you keep pining for your lost Steve when your perfect partner has been next to you the whole time? I didn't expect to immediately ship Carter and her Natasha but here we are. Oh well, maybe she gets her Steve back, but she DOES have two hands, after all...

Peggy/Howard/Steve was practically a MCU canon thruple. Maybe Peggy is poly here, too?
posted by Karmakaze at 2:54 PM on October 6 [4 favorites]


I am giving this finale a solid Meh.

it was an ending but ::shrug::.
posted by Faintdreams at 3:33 PM on October 6

Yes, very meh, but Captain Carter and Black Widow banter/interaction almost redeemed it.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:01 PM on October 6 [1 favorite]

More and more I feel like I follow the MCU for the Tumblr art and fanfiction (well some of it). The main storylines are almost always going to go to expected places. The one exception has been Wandavision, which is just a truly weird concept that was really well done, and will be extremely difficult to build on in any MCU movie, so I'm not getting my hopes up.

Anyway, I bet there wil be some good stuff come out of this episode, but almost none of it will depend on the plot of this episode.
posted by emjaybee at 7:45 PM on October 6



Captain Widow
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:48 PM on October 6 [1 favorite]

I got the impression that Extra Strange was shooting for a roommate situation with The Watcher.
posted by jordemort at 8:02 PM on October 6

I thought it was great! Redeemed the series for me and gave it a point. Happy with the Peggy ending. I enjoy her and Natasha together. Glad Natasha went elsewhere, though I concur I want her back in IRL continuity.

I do not get why the AV Club review bitched so hard about this series not being all standalones. The overall continuing stories is what I like best about MCU. This episode made it all worth watching for me.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:19 PM on October 6

I do not get why the AV Club review bitched so hard about this series not being all standalones. The overall continuing stories is what I like best about MCU.

It is a grand experiment, the way for which was paved by HBO and the rise of serialized drama on television. A generation ago, studios assumed everyone had an attention span that ran about two hours and ten minutes tops. You would get the occasional Berlin Alexanderplatz or the like, but these were confined to the arthouse archipelago, not the mainland. You’d get serial films, sure, but the Republic serials and the like had pretty much vanished by mid-century, and what we in Gen-X and later got were things like Star Wars or the Star Trek II-III-IV story that gave you six hours or so of continued narrative but spaced over maybe five years. Or you’d get series like the James Bond quasi-annuity that told self-contained stories with only the tiniest gestures towards continuity.

I think it is things like The Sopranos and The Wire (along with a score of Oz/Deadwood/Rome) that suggested people might watch longer stories. Note that I am blithely omitting soap operas in this, as they often play kind of fast and loose with their own continuity and verisimilitude. How many weddings was Susan Lucci’s character the bride at?

The idea of giving a bunch of characters their own individual movies and then combining them was a risky strategy on paper, I am sure, but it manifestly was successful. I know someone whose childhood love of comics is at odds with his professional training as an actor and dramaturge. His purism disdains the idea that a narrative should overflow beyond the piece he is watching but... he kind of digs the scope of the project.

Anyway, it taught people a kind of new way to watch movies. I think if someone had been in a coma for twenty-five years and awoke, then watched the first season of this show, they’d find it nearly incomprehensible. The point from ejs above that they pulled the climax of this together in thirty minute of screen time is dizzying.

Also, unless I am mistaken, this is the first episode with a mid-credits scene?
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:58 PM on October 6 [4 favorites]

things like The Sopranos and The Wire

Don't forget the Galactica reboot. It pressed the Gen-x nostalgia buttons just like this source material does and was a long plot that me and many of my cohort could not stop trying to figure out.

Liked this episode, would want to rewatch before I delve deeper. Sure hope there is a season 2.

Worried that the Eternals movie won't be good, cuz I love me some Sersi.
posted by vrakatar at 10:46 PM on October 6

From what I can tell, this show had two goals: to provide intermittent entertainment, and to provide the Disney Corporation with material to resell dozens of existing action figures with minor modifications to millions of children and adults who already bought them once or more previously. I have to say, they did it.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 3:09 AM on October 7 [1 favorite]

Overall, the series was very hit and miss for me, story and plot. The sometimes beat for beat reenactments from the main universe often came across as unimaginative storytelling that relied too much on the original stories.

The best stories were of party guy Thor and Starlord T'challa, because they changed things not just for main character but also for and ensemble of characters, so things felt really different and fresh. Relaxed party guy Loki and good guy but creepy Thanos was amazing changes that were a lot of fun to see.

More of those ensemble casts please!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:19 AM on October 7 [5 favorites]

Oh and the animation has consistently been excellent and amazing, the visuals are a whole other level of enjoyment.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:23 AM on October 7

I do not get why the AV Club review bitched so hard about this series not being all standalones.

They (and the io9 section of Gizmodo) have been hitting the clickbaity hot takes pretty hard for a while.
posted by Halloween Jack at 4:45 AM on October 7 [3 favorites]

I thought it was fitting that the only contribution from the zombie episode was a big poop of zombies.
posted by Fleebnork at 9:11 AM on October 7 [1 favorite]

That was still too much zombies.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:18 AM on October 7 [6 favorites]

I'm not the AV Club reviewer, but I can understand wanting this show, especially given its foundation comic, to be standalone episodes that don't necessarily have to tie into each other. The whole idea behind What If...? was that it could present bizarre, stupid, or unimaginable stories that didn't affect anything else. Think of it as a bit of a palate cleanser you could pick up whenever the latest ongoing, multi-issue Spider-man/Avengers/Daredevil/whoever storyline was starting to drag on with seemingly no end in sight.
posted by sardonyx at 10:17 AM on October 7 [4 favorites]

I love Captain Carter and her interaction with the Natashas was a sheer delight. I'm also STILL SO MAD about what happened to canon MCU Natasha that I was moved to tears to see any universe at all that had lost one get a new one. I want our Natasha back, dammit.
posted by merriment at 10:42 AM on October 7 [5 favorites]

Also, unless I am mistaken, this is the first episode with a mid-credits scene?

Dammit, there was??? I clicked away when the credits started, I'mma have to go back...
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:50 AM on October 7 [1 favorite]

I'm mostly just suspending all disbelief and enjoying the show, which is fun.

I have to say though -- the Ultimate Fight being decided in part by Natasha doing a cool motorcycle trick then shooting an arrow was kinda stupid.

I mean, the asymmetry between Multi-Dimensional Celestial Superbeing with Max Infinity Stone Powers versus....a really good spy on a motorcycle was just like...oh give me a break.
posted by lazaruslong at 11:15 AM on October 7 [5 favorites]

lazaruslong, suspend harder! Harder!!
posted by ejs at 4:04 PM on October 7 [8 favorites]

My problem with that scene was the sheer accuracy needed, which was more of a Hawkeye trait than Nat's.

But Ultron ate a galaxy and I thought that was cool, so I gave'em a pass on the arrow shot.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:13 PM on October 7 [5 favorites]

Loved it.
The final(ish) fight scene, with everybody dogpiling vUltron as a team was very well done. Being able to function as a team is a recurring theme in any team-based super-heroe media, frequently referenced as the reason that the good guys beat the bad ones (e.g.: X-Men, Avengers, &c.), and this was probably the best motion-based representation of this I've seen.
Makes me wish they forget about bring the X-Men into the M.C.U. and just go the 3d-animation route.
posted by signal at 4:41 PM on October 7 [1 favorite]

But Ultron ate a galaxy and I thought that was cool, so I gave'em a pass on the arrow shot.

hell yeah that shit was dope.

overall for the series i give it 4 out of 5 bong rips, silly arrows aside
posted by lazaruslong at 5:13 PM on October 7 [5 favorites]

lazaruslong: "the Ultimate Fight being decided in part by Natasha doing a cool motorcycle trick then shooting an arrow was kinda stupid."
Sorry, but I'm invoking the Rule of Cool, so your criticism is hereby invalidated.

…the Rule of Cool means giving your players the chance to perform ridiculous stunts or bend the rules a little bit in the sake of an awesome scene.
posted by signal at 5:47 PM on October 7 [2 favorites]

Keep in mind that the Black Widows trained on all of the weapons, and that Prime-Nat fought the Taskmaster, who knew all of her moves and Clint's. So, it's possible that Nat's archery skills were on the order of Clint's, and she let him have the arrow thing because it was his thing.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:30 PM on October 7

I started to realize they were going to try to replicate Endgame

I kinda liked that we were getting what we didn't get in Endgame or Infinity War - a battle against a villain who has all of the Infinity Stones.

why not pull heroes from universes where a good guy won with the stones in their possession?

I'm not sure he counts as a good guy, but that's kinda who Strange Supreme is, given that he's eaten all the magical power of his entire universe. That much power was a pretty good excuse for why the team was able to fight VUltron at all.

What I didn't understand is why the Watcher last episode was powerful enough to single-handedly hold his own against VUltron and then this episode sits back and lets everybody else do all the work. It seemed like he and Strange could have grabbed the Zola arrow and defeated VUltron just the two of them. Surely either the Watcher or Strange would have a much better shot of getting that flash drive into VUltron's face than a bow and arrow.
posted by straight at 9:54 PM on October 7

Blah. Count me among the crowd who prefers the stand alones to remain stand alones. This kind of ruins the other episodes, so I will forget it. They didn't end up using the characters, they just wanted to have them to have them. Kinda pointless, and sad that the MCU is now leaning into 'pointless crossover'.

In the comics, we have pointless crossovers like, twice a year now, so I really don't want the movies to turn into that. The spirit of "What If" comics was directly opposed to such hackery, in favor of stories, so that's why comics fans may not like this turn.

But crossovers sell comics, so obviously people like them.

Is "groaning while taking an infinity VUltron blast" What If's version of the Fox X men's "constipated telekinesis face"?
posted by eustatic at 5:06 AM on October 8

I am giving this finale a solid Meh.

Yeah. Entertaining-ish but I didn't feel much. The shower of zombies was pretty amusing though, and I'd happily watch a Captain Carter/Natasha series.
posted by Foosnark at 5:56 AM on October 8

This was worth it for the Sphere of Mjolnirs alone. (Damn that was awesome.)

Captain America: The Winter Soldier is probably my favorite MCU film, so opening with a Captain Carter take on that (WITH BATROC FIGHT) was exactly my kind of thing.

I also really loved the choosing of Thor, Hemsworth was having so much fun. "Have at you! And you! And you! And YOU!"
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 9:46 AM on October 8 [2 favorites]

I liked this crossover, but do worry it means every season will think it needs to have a season-long arc. Then those season arcs become larger every year trying to out do the previous year. Each individual episode suffering because instead of telling a great self-contained story they have to cram in some unrelated scenes to advance the arc. Characters doing dumb things because the writers are trying to hide some stupid twist they aren't going to reveal until the last episode. I like to call this "The Problem with Doctor Who".
posted by Gary at 2:20 PM on October 8 [2 favorites]

Then those season arcs become larger every year trying to out do the previous year.

Tall order when the first season was saving the multiverse.

But yeah, I’d be happier with standalone episodes or at least ones that may have some peripheral crossover here and there. Though I lauded it above, we need not recreate the meta-arc of Phase 1 every time.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 2:57 PM on October 8

VUltron's power levels seemed awfully random. I'd have to go back and see, but didn't the Thanos he one-shotted have several stones? And then despite being powered primarily by a set of Infinity stones, which we've seen are pretty much just gewgaws outside their home universe, he can beat up a multiversal creature like Uatu on his home ground. And then suddenly he's having trouble with a handful of Avengers. Sure, they've got Supreme Strange's shields, but presumable if you can take a literal bite out of a galaxy you can atomize the whole planet they are standing on, not just drop some rocks on them.
posted by tavella at 7:26 PM on October 10 [1 favorite]

Season 2 trailer.

Hawkeye starts 24th November. Hopefully without the other Avengers it won't be so much like Angel Summoner and BMX Bandit.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 1:53 AM on October 18 [2 favorites]

That wasn't a trailer, it was fan made. They cut together a bunch of scenes from Season 1.
posted by Fleebnork at 4:47 AM on October 18 [2 favorites]

VUltron's power levels seemed awfully random. I'd have to go back and see, but didn't the Thanos he one-shotted have several stones?

The Thanos he one-shotted had every stone save the Mind Stone, which put him at the same power level as Thanos when he walked up on Vision in Infinity War. Which is why I said "gee I wish Vision had thought of that." It is a bit odd that they never even made an attempt to use the mind stone against Thanos, and instead insisted blowing it up was the only way. A properly wielded mind stone could have affected Thanos from a vector none of the other stones could counter, and he was already pretty mentally shook up by having just sacrificed his daughter.

It was pretty obviously comedic shorthand to get VUltron to "full Infinity Stone set" but it's always fun to see Thanos sucker-punched and dropped like a chump.

Infinity stones, which we've seen are pretty much just gewgaws outside their home universe

This really isn't explicitly clear. All we know is that magic and the Infinity Stones don't work inside the TVA, which as far as I know doesn't exist within any other universe. "Why didn't Loki pocket an infinity stone then use it as soon as he was outside the TVA?" is a good question, of course, but that belongs in a different discussion. Anyway, the answer is because Loki was holding the idiot ball for most if not all of his series.

We also know that a stone-muncher from one universe doesn't work on stones from another universe, but that's also not the same thing as "stones from one universe don't work in another universe." Remember, the stones the Avengers gathered in Endgame are technically from alternate universes, albeit ones very close to their own. They made a big point of how taking a stone away permanently would be bad for that stone's home universe, and they made a big point of returning the stones and Mjolnir when they were done with them. I maintain they were allowed to do all this by the TVA because it was a part of the Sacred Timeline, and the TVA was still going around behind them cleaning up their messes.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 4:30 PM on October 26 [1 favorite]

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