Marvel Cinematic Universe Phase Four Re-Watch. What If…? Part Three

It’s been a year since I last did a rewatch, ending Phase Three with Spider-Man: No Way Home. Now that the Infinity Saga is over and Thanos has turned to dust, our surviving heroes have moved on… with various degrees of success. Phase Four incorporates both cinematic releases and television programs. For the television programs, I am limiting each article to three episodes each

Episode seven

Title:  What If… Thor Were an Only Child?

Director:    Bryan Andrews.

Writer:    A.C. Bradley 

US Release Date:  September 22, 2021

Variant characters; Thor, Jane Foster, Loki, Darcy Lewis, Nick Fury,, The Grandmaster,  Maria Hill, Phil Coulson, Brock Rumlow, Korg, Nebula, Sif, Howard the Duck, Carol Danvers, Topaz, Frigga, Hogun, Volstagg, Drax, Fandral,  Surtur, Odin, Laufey, Heimdall, Valkyrie, Skurge, Rocket, Yondu Udonta, Mantis, and Ultron/Vision

Summary:  Towards the end of the Asgard—Jotunheim war, Odin finds the Frost Giant baby Loki and takes him back to his father Laufey, forming a truce with the Frost Giants. Centuries later, when Odin goes into the Odinsleep, his wife Frigga instructs their son Thor to study while she visits her sister. Thor instead travels to Las Vegas to start a party, inviting humans, Asgardians, and aliens alike. Astrophysicist Jane Foster warns the government, but upon meeting Thor, she grows close to him. S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury tries to stop Thor but is accidentally knocked out by Korg.

The next day, acting S.H.I.E.L.D. director Maria Hill confronts Foster due to her warning. As more aliens arrive, including the now-adult Prince Loki and several other Frost Giants, and Thor starts throwing destructive parties worldwide, Hill calls in Carol Danvers to persuade Thor to leave. He refuses and they fight, with Thor eventually defeating her when she avoids using her full power out of fear of causing casualties. Following this, Foster’s intern, Darcy Lewis, suggests that Danvers instead attack Thor in less populated areas.

Seeking a more peaceful solution, Foster contacts Heimdall, who helps her meet Frigga and explain the situation. As Danvers duels Thor in Siberia, Hill authorizes a nuclear strike on Thor, but both it and the fight are called off when Frigga contacts Thor and tells him that she will be returning soon. Frightened, Thor ends the parties and convinces the party-goers to help him clean up. Frigga arrives, finding Thor studying with his retinue, but sees evidence of the partying.

Before returning to Asgard, Thor visits Foster to forgive her and thank her for contacting Frigga. Thor asks Foster out for a date, however, he is suddenly confronted by an alternate reality version of Ultron in Vision’s body, who wields all six Infinity Stones.

Easter Eggs: The morning after the party, Thor can be heard mistaking Rocket Raccoon for a rabbit

Episode eight

Title:  What If… Ultron Won?

Director:    Bryan Andrews.

Writer:    Matthew Chauncey

US Release Date:  September 29, 2021

Variant characters;  Clint Barton, Natasha Romanoff, Arnim Zola, Ultron, Steve Rogers, Tony Stark, Carol Danvers, Doctor Strange Supreme, Thor, Hulk, Thaddeus Ross, Thanos, Peter Quill, Gamora, Drax, Korg, the Grandmaster, and Ego.

Summary:  Tony Stark creates the “Ultron” global defense program to keep the Earth safe and create world peace. However, Ultron goes rogue and concludes that rather than peace, the Earth needs an evolution, leading him to have the body of Vision created for himself and transfer his programming into Vision. Now with a new body, Ultron proceeds to kill Stark and most of the Avengers before launching nuclear missiles around the Earth, eradicating most of humanity.

Shortly after, Thanos arrives, seeking the Mind Stone to complete the Infinity Gauntlet, but Ultron bisects him and takes the Infinity Stones for himself, becoming aware of the wider universe. Using the Stones, Ultron builds an army of Sentries and a teleporting spaceship before proceeding to destroy several planets and kill most of the universe’s remaining life. With his mission complete, Ultron is left without a purpose until he hears the Watcher’s narration and becomes aware of the Multiverse’s existence.

Meanwhile, surviving Avengers Natasha Romanoff and Clint Barton fight to survive Ultron’s forces, though Barton is losing the will to live. Arriving in Moscow, they search KGB files in the hopes of defeating Ultron, finding one for Arnim Zola, a Hydra scientist whose consciousness was uploaded into a computer after his death.

Romanoff and Barton travel to a Siberian Hydra laboratory and coerce Zola into helping them, intending to upload him into Ultron’s programming to delete Ultron. They lure in a group of Ultron’s Sentries and upload Zola’s consciousness into one. However, Zola cannot upload himself into Ultron as Ultron had left their universe. Barton sacrifices himself so that Romanoff and Zola can escape.

Upon locating the Watcher, Ultron fights him across multiple realities and emerges victorious, but the former flees before he can be killed. Ultron assumes control of the Watcher’s observatory, now having countless universes to attack. With no other options, the Watcher meets with Doctor Strange Supreme, whom he had previously left to his fate, and requests his help in stopping Ultron.

Easter Eggs: The Siberian HYDRA base that Romanoff and Barton find Arnim Zola’s consciousness in is the exact HYDRA base found in Captain America: Civil War. Aside from the Earth, the various other worlds/beings that are shown being destroyed by Ultron and his sentries include: Asgard, Sakaar, the Sovereign planet, Ego the Living Planet, and Xandar. Steve Rogers, in one of many universes, is seen taking oath on one of the screen in Times Square, possibly as a President. This alternate timeline was shown in the 1981 comic book What If Vol 1 #26.

Natasha Romanoff adopts the shield of the Red Guardian/Alexei Shostakov from the KGB archives. It originally appeared in Black Widow. Hawkeye sacrificing himself to save Black Widow is a callback to Black Widow sacrificing herself to save Hawkeye in Avengers: Endgame. In the final fight of Black Widow and Hawkeye with Ultron’s drone, it is a detailed callback to the final fight of Captain America: Civil War.

Episode nine

Title:  What If… the Watcher Broke His Oath?

Director:    Bryan Andrews.

Writer:    A.C. Bradley 

US Release Date:  October 6, 2021

Variant characters;  Peggy Carter, Natasha Romanoff, Brock Rumlow, Georges Batroc, Star-Lord T’Challa, N’Jadaka / Erik “Killmonger” Stevens, Thor, Doctor Strange Supreme, Arnim Zola, Loki, Ego, Nick Fury, Tony Stark, Peter Quill, Gamora, Shuri, Ultron, Eitri, Pepper Potts, Steve Rogers, Sam Wilson, Clint Barton, Wanda Maximoff, and Carol Danvers.

Summary:  In Captain Peggy Carter’s universe, she duels Georges Batroc but is interrupted by the Watcher, who has chosen her for his team. In Star-Lord T’Challa’s universe, T’Challa helps Peter Quill in defeating Ego before he is recruited by the Watcher. After recruiting Carter and T’Challa, the Watcher recruits Erik “Killmonger” Stevens, Thor, and a Gamora who battled on Sakaar alongside Tony Stark and killed her version of Thanos from their respective universes. Together, they form the Guardians of the Multiverse alongside Dr. Stephen Strange Supreme to fight against Ultron, who plans to destroy the Multiverse.

The team prepares for battle in a universe lacking intelligent life, but Thor accidentally draws Ultron’s attention. A battle ensues, which ends with T’Challa stealing the Soul Stone and Strange teleporting a horde of zombies including a zombified Wanda Maximoff onto Ultron, before escaping to Ultron’s home universe. There, they meet that universe’s Natasha Romanoff before they are interrupted by a returning Ultron, who had defeated the zombies. The team manages to subdue Ultron and Gamora uses the Infinity Crusher in an attempt to destroy the Infinity Stones, but fails as the Crusher and the Stones are from different universes.

Ultron re-engages the team and begins to overpower them. Romanoff, with Carter’s help, shoots Ultron with Clint Barton’s arrow that contains Arnim Zola’s artificial intelligence. Zola’s AI destroys Ultron’s mind, but Killmonger steals Ultron’s armor and the Infinity Stones, telling the Guardians that the power may be able to “fix their worlds”, but they refuse. Zola reactivates Ultron’s Vision body and begins to fight Killmonger for the Stones. Strange and the Watcher freeze them in time and seal them inside a pocket dimension which Strange agrees to watch over.

The Watcher returns Carter, T’Challa, Thor and Gamora back to their home universes, with Romanoff (who refuses to return to her own dead universe) being brought to the universe where most of the Avengers (including that universe’s Romanoff) were assassinated by Hank Pym as she saves Nick Fury from Loki. The Watcher continues to watch over the Multiverse which he now vows to protect.

In a mid-credits scene, after returning to her universe, Carter and her universe’s Romanoff defeat Batroc before discovering the Hydra Stomper armor with someone contained inside.

Easter Eggs: Gamora is wearing armor similar to that worn by Thanos in the original time line as shown in Avengers: Infinity War. Gamora wields the sword of Thanos from Avengers: Endgame.

Starting scene is a callback to Captain America: The Winter Soldier, where Steve Rogers is replaced by Peggy Carter. Even the dialogues are contextually similar to those spoken in the movie. The dive of Captain Carter from the plane is exactly the same as that of Captain America in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Captain Carter falling on the shield is a callback to Captain America falling on his shield after the elevator scene in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

Dr. Strange giving Thor a glass of beer is a call-back to Thor: Ragnarok, when he gave Thor a stein of beer which refills itself.

My take: The purpose of the comic was to show interesting alternate stories, however I feel that the purpose of this show was to prepare audiences for the concept of the Multiverse much in the same way that Loki introduced to the idea of multiple variants of the same character. As we have seen in later films like Spider-Man: No Way Home and Doctor Strange in the Multitude of Madness and knowing that the major villain in future events is Kang the Conqueror it lends evidence to my theory that they are going to follow the “Avengers Forever” storyline from the comic which mean we could see characters who are dead in the mainstream storyline.

Next: Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings