While everyone was concerned about the trajectory of Marvel post-Endgame, I tried to remain hopeful for the new episodes. I even enjoyed some of the Disney series that almost no one liked. However, as time passed and new projects emerged, I, too, lost my optimism for the MCU. Their inability to solidify the Kang storyline and the real-life imprisonment of Jonathan Majors, the actor portraying the character, set the entire universe ablaze. However, Jonathan Majors is merely an excuse. The MCU has been grappling with storytelling issues for a long time, and What If…? Season 2 became the Everest of this problem. The storytellers at MCU are at an impasse, overwhelmed by the weight of the Multiverse concept they introduced.
For me, the first season of What If…? was a failure. In my Phase 4 critiques, I constantly expressed my excitement for the Multiverse concept. The idea is truly brilliant — thousands of different universes, countless characters, and limitless story diversity. You can be as wild as you want. Despite having hundreds, thousands of unlimited options, MCU writers felt the need to tell the story of T’Challa becoming Star-Lord. A major letdown. Nonetheless, the first season did have some truly creative and impactful episodes. The Zombie episode, Strange’s efforts to save his love, Ultron’s story, and the Watcher’s reversal of his vow truly delivered what I was looking for. However, the disappointment for me was the mediocre quality of half the season.
What If…? Season 2, on the other hand, is an outright fiasco, failing to reach the quality of even the first season. Devoid of creativity and innovation, except for one episode, it falls into the pit of connecting all episodes to each other, contradicting its own logic, making it a terrible, even worse, season. I cannot convey the pain I experienced while watching some episodes. If I weren’t writing this critique, I could have done something I never do — abandon the series midway. What If…? Season 2 clearly serves as evidence that the MCU has lost its ability to tell a story and has openly forfeited all creativity.
“What If… Nebula Joined the Nova Corps?” unfolds as a neo-noir tale set in Xandar. Nebula, one of Marvel’s most successful characters, is given a dedicated episode to do justice to her. However, the story’s progression as a cheap detective narrative, with the character pretending not to know she’s being deceived, yet everything ultimately unfolding according to her plan, undermines the story. The characters’ inclination to fill the frame and say, “Look how cool we are,” is a manifestation of Marvel’s persistent lack of seriousness over the years.
“What If… Peter Quill Attacked Earth’s Mightiest Heroes?” provides enjoyable moments in terms of action, but the resolution involving characters from the ’80s coming together feels like another piece of evidence that the MCU struggles to introduce something new. Attempting to build a multiverse story fueled by clichés unfortunately falls short.
“What If… Happy Hogan Saved Christmas?” is by far the worst episode of the season. I struggled to endure it without having a crisis while watching. It’s an Avengers-themed Die Hard story. The episode’s attempt to cram in two jokes per second turns a 20-minute episode into a 2-hour ordeal.
“What If… Iron Man Crashed Into the Grandmaster?” doesn’t quite deliver the multiverse madness I was looking for, but it successfully executes a satisfying role reversal. The episode serves as a somewhat more tolerable version of the poorly received Ragnarok. While fulfilling in terms of action, it falls significantly short of expectations in the narrative department.
“What If… Captain Carter Fought the Hydra Stomper?” is the worst episode after Happy Hogan. Choosing to tell the Hydra Stomper story amid thousands of universes and possibilities is just another example of the repetitive storytelling crisis within the MCU.
“What If… Kahhori Reshaped the World?” is the only episode in the season that can be taken seriously. It presents a different, creative, and impactful story. While we can predict what will happen in the finale, Kahhori is undeniably an intriguing character when looking at the broader picture. The value and significance of Kahhori increase even more when we see that she is the last surviving character in the final episode, making her dedicated episode all the more special.
“What If… Hela Found the Ten Rings?” attempts to pack three jokes into every second, providing enjoyable action but a cringe-worthy narrative. Considering that she is Loki’s and Thor’s sister makes it possible to understand the endless jokes, but if you ask whether you can endure them, unfortunately, the answer is no.
“What If… The Avengers Assembled in 1602?” seems creative but turns out to be a dull episode. I reiterate that choosing a familiar era from hundreds of thousands of possibilities is lazy writing. Furthermore, the decision for universes to start merging betrays the multiverse concept.
“What If… Strange Supreme Intervened?” supports the idea that the main enemy constantly repeating in films is Strange. Despite the episode becoming bearable thanks to Kahhori and endless fights resembling an anime finale, it cannot save the season when viewed as a whole. I previously expressed my happiness in watching Captain Carter’s story in the first season, even expressing interest in watching her movie. However, seeing Carter in almost every episode becomes tiresome after a while. The biggest issue with the final episode is it being a mix-up of two seasons, encountering characters we’ve met before. Instead of presenting new ideas in each episode, seeing the same faces repeatedly feels like nothing more than lazy writing to me.
In summary, as someone who called the first season a failure, I cannot find the words to construct a sentence for What If…? Season 2. A colossal disappointment. In 2023, the MCU has unequivocally shown us that it has hit a creative roadblock. With the complete closure of the DCEU and Marvel’s inability to introduce anything new, the era of the superhero genre, unfortunately, seems to be losing its appeal. Looking ahead to the coming years, it doesn’t seem like they will be able to regain interest because they can no longer bring anything new to the table.
Cast & Crew
director: Bryan Andrews
USA | 2023 | 9 EPISODES |