What If…? (2021) s01e09 – What If… The Watcher Broke His Oath?

During the first half of the fight scene, I felt bad this episode wouldn’t be any good because there was some genuinely inventive stuff in the fight. The creative material doesn’t last long, but there are some legitimately cool moments. The Watcher (Jeffrey Wright) has brought together a bunch of characters from throughout the season—including one who didn’t get an episode (or whose episode was cut)—and they all have to band together to fight Infinity-Ultron (Ross Marquand).

This ragtag team of big-name actors are the “Avengers of the Multiverse.” Wait, no. “Defenders of the Multiverse.” Wait, no. “DC’s Legends of the Multiverse.” Wait, wait, “Guardians of the Multiverse.”

Sigh.

The scene where Wright names them is one of those “wow, Academy Award nominations don’t mean shit,” do they, which is appropriate. There are multiple times throughout the episode the only amusing thing is wondering how episodes of “What If…?” land for all the acting coaches and drama teachers who thought they were training the good actors who’d do great things.

Not Marquand, though. He’s even worse than last time. If his old teachers stuck with “What If…?,” they’re probably just bad at their jobs.

There aren’t really any good performances. While it’s nice to hear Chadwick Boseman, he’s wasted. Ditto Michael B. Jordan. Hayley Atwill’s fine, but her part is forced—especially since her character now is just a riff on Winter Soldier Captain America who banters with Black Widow (still, not ScarJo, even with the lawsuit settling; like Marquand, Lake Bell’s worse than usual). Benedict Cumberbatch is way too comfortable phoning in his performance, and Chris Hemsworth’s wasted. It’s kind of surprising it’s Hemsworth. He gets plenty of bad lines and doesn’t bring any charm to their readings.

Though you’d need the power of the infinity stones to make the vapid dialogue charming. A.C. Bradley gets the script credit. To be fair, it’s not like it’s one of the better-directed episodes either. Bryan Andrews has the handful of good moments in the fight scene, and then it goes to pot.

But it’s actually sort of worth it when you get to the end and Wright monologues about why he’s so invested in the stories of the (animated) Marvel Cinematic Universe. He’s just a Marvel Zombie. He’s just a mindless stan. It’s super appropriate for this show, which is entirely about creating variants to sell as in-app purchases or action figures. Disney’s taken the MCU so well in hand, the comics seem soulful in comparison.

Also, did they mean to air this after “Loki,” which establishes an even greater meta-power than the multiverse? Or weren’t the “What If…?” people allowed to see the real shows.

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