Monday, July 15, 2024

What If…?’s Season 1 Finale Tackles the Ultron Problem

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Wrapping up what was certainly an interesting first season, the final episode of What If…? did its best to tie everything together, but it would be untruthful to say that it was completely successful in its attempt. There were a lot of different threads that had to come together at the end of season one, and while there were certain things that were resolved in a satisfying way, there were plenty of elements that didn’t get the ending that they deserved.

From Left to Right: Killmonger, Gamora, Star-Lord T'Challa, Captain Carter, and Party Thor in What If...? S01E09
From Left to Right: Killmonger, Gamora, Star-Lord T’Challa, Captain Carter, and Party Thor in What If…? S01E09

What If Uatu Had Someone Else To Do His Dirty Work?

What if…The Watcher Broke His Oath? begins in Captain Carter’s universe with a parallel beginning to Captain America: The Winter Soldier. As Peggy is fighting Batroc’s team on the Leumerian Star, Uatu appears in the sky, telling her that she has “been chosen.” This same event happens to other characters from previous episodes; Star-Lord T’Challa, Killmonger Black Panther, and Party Thor are all summoned, along with a version of Gamora who is seen melting down the Infinity Gauntlet with Tony Stark.

Strange Supreme and Uatu explain that these heroes have been pulled out of their universes with the intention to stop Ultron from destroying life across the entire multiverse. Uatu dubs them the Guardians of the Multiverse, and the group forms a plan to defeat Ultron and keep the parts of the multiverse he hasn’t destroyed intact. 

Gamora seemingly defeated Thanos in her universe with the help of a device called the Infinity Crusher, which is able to break the Infinity Stones down to atoms and destroy them. Despite Thor’s antics speeding up the timeline of their plan, the group manages to steal the Soul Stone from him and escape to Ultron’s original universe, only to be stopped by Natasha, who is understandably hostile towards the group as she’s supposedly the only person on the planet who is still alive.

Natasha Romanoff, Ultron, and Captain Carter in  What If...? S01E09
Natasha Romanoff, Ultron, and Captain Carter in What If…? S01E09

What If We Girlbossed Ultron To Death?

Peggy manages to convince Natasha that they’re on her side, but the delay in the team’s initial plans allows Ultron to find them, and a battle for the Soul Stone ensues. The group manages to subdue him for long enough to set the Infinity Crusher on him, but despite their initial assumption that Ultron was finally done for, he manages to survive the Crusher’s attack because it was only designed to destroy the Infinity Stones that were from its own universe.

After attempting to kill the Guardians with a blast from all the stones and failing, Ultron realizes that Strange Supreme is the one who is keeping everyone alive and decides to focus all of his power on destroying him. While Ultron’s focus is on Strange, Natasha and Peggy launch another final attack on Ultron, with Peggy managing to pull his mask back so that Natasha could shoot Clint’s arrow containing Arnim Zola’s AI into Ultron’s eye. 

Zola manages to download into Ultron before the arrow is removed, and takes over Ultron’s body, killing him. The battle still isn’t over though, because Killmonger decides to use the Sub-Ultron head he’s been messing with all episode to take the Infinity Stones for himself. He tells the other Guardians that The Watcher owes them all the chance to fix their universes and save their homes, but when he tries to unleash the power of the Stones, Ultron’s old body — which still has the Mind Stone by the way — stands back up, with Zola in control and claiming that the stones truly belong to him.

Killmonger and Zola trap themselves in a stand-still battle for the stones, allowing Strange Supreme and Uatu to trap them in a dimensional prison almost identical to the one that Strange Supreme trapped himself in during episode four. Uatu then asks Strange to watch over Zola and Killmonger’s prison to make sure that they don’t escape, and Strange accepts, leaving Uatu with the comment “What are friends for?”

Uatu and Strange Supreme What If...? S01E09
Uatu and Strange Supreme What If…? S01E09


Leaving Strange in the pocket universe, Uatu returns to the rest of the Guardians, and sends them back to the exact moment he pulled them from. Peggy, T’Challa, Thor, and Gamora all return willingly, but Natasha refuses to go back to her universe and be forced to be the only life form in existence there. She goes on to accuse Uatu of not caring about the universe he watches over due to his refusal to fix her world, but he tells her that the universes and stories he watches over mean everything to him.

Uatu also tells Natasha that she has no choice but to leave the extra-multiversal dimension they are in, but instead of taking her back to her lifeless world, he instead brings her to the universe from episode three of What If…?, where all of the original Avengers barring Captain America were murdered.

Nick Fury’s war with Loki is going strong at the point where Uatu drops her off, but Natasha quickly stops Loki from using his scepter on Fury and instead uses it to stop him. Fury immediately knows that this Natasha is not the same as the one who died in his universe, but he immediately trusts her and it seems like she’s set to be on his new Avengers roster with Steve Rogers and Carol Danvers.

This episode of What If…? is the first of the show to contain a mid-credits scene, which takes place in Captain Carter’s universe. She is reunited with her Natasha on the Lemurian Star who tells her what the pirates attacking the boat were after: The Hydra Stomper. Not only is the suit of armor on the boat, but it has someone inside of it, which leaves the door open for yet another continuation of Captain Carter’s story.

Natasha Romanoff and Captain Carter in  What If...? S01E09
Natasha Romanoff and Captain Carter in What If…? S01E09

Wrapping Up What If…?

All in all, the What If…? finale was a nice way to tie things up after introducing a lot of different elements throughout the season. A lot of the endings from previous episodes like Ego’s appearance on Earth or Shuri and Pepper’s attempt to overthrow Killmonger appeared at the beginning of the episode, and it was nice to see Uatu pull his chosen Guardians out of moments that specifically connected to their episodes instead of him just randomly showing up at some other point.

The one character that didn’t feel fully fleshed out was Gamora, who appears with a version of Tony Stark who wears Sakarrian armor before Uatu takes her, but this lack of development is an unfortunate result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The episode that introduced her was originally supposed to be the fourth episode of a ten-episode season, but lockdowns stopped the episode from being completed in time. Despite its place in the narrative in season one being lost, it will still be airing in season two of What If…?, so we’ll still see what Tony and Gamora were up to on Sakar after all.

In terms of the rest of the group, it seems like Peggy and Natasha were the ones who got the majority of the character-based moments in the episode. This isn’t inherently a bad thing, but it would’ve been nice to get a little more out of Gamora, since she was the only hero without an episode behind her, or see Killmonger and T’Challa get a moment together that isn’t as charged as every other time they’ve met.

Ultron and Killmonger battle for the Infinity Stones

There is also the matter of Ultron’s defeat, because as cool as the end of episode eight was, it showed Ultron being far more powerful than he was shown to be in the finale. He has the ability to chomp down on entire galaxies, but can barely hold his own against a group of 7 heroes that are far less powerful than he is? It’s not unreasonable to ask the audience to suspend their disbelief, but since Ultron and Uatu had such an insane showdown, it can be a little hard to believe.

It also feels like there is something missing from the Zombie episode of What If…?. Even though there’s a small callback to the show’s fifth episode, it is the only one (besides the episode where all of the Avengers are dead) to not have a hero as a part of the Guardians of the Multiverse. Spider-Man would’ve been a good addition to the team, and that would’ve added another level of challenge to Ultron’s fight with the Guardians that was missing.

The question of Uatu’s true motives behind his oath and when he interferes and doesn’t is also at hand. People who are well versed in comics likely know how he and the other Watchers work, but none of that is explained in What If…?, and that lack of knowledge leaves a gap that will hopefully be filled in the next season of the show, or in another one of the MCU’s multiversal projects.

In the end, the What If…? finale really just needed to have a longer runtime to include a little more depth with some of the characters. The episode holds its own, but an extra ten minutes could have made it even stronger. Still, it’s great to see all of these characters from different universes come together to save the multiverse, and we can only hope that season two expands on the concept even more.

Images Courtesy of Marvel Studios

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