‘What If…?’ Is Trying to Repair the Crappier Parts of the MCU
On the penultimate episode of season one of Marvel’s What If…? we were reintroduced to everyone’s favorite creepy robot who wasn’t designed by either Skynet or Amazon: Ultron. We haven’t seen Tony Stark’s rogue A.I. villain since way back in 2015’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, and here he was the real star of the show, and basically becomes the biggest badass in the universe, thanks to a fresh new Vision body; so much so that he penetrates the multiverse and even brawls with Uatu the Watcher -- which in anthology TV show terms, is a little like if an episode of The Twilight Zone ended with a character randomly sucker-punching Rod Serling.
One can’t help but see this as an, ultimately pretty successful, attempt to retroactively improve our collective impression of the MCU’s take on Ultron. It’s no secret that Age of Ultron isn’t the most fondly remembered film in the MCU, not least of which because the villain was basically a CGI Transformer who inexplicably sounds like Robert California. But in What If…? we get to see Ultron live up to his full potential. Suddenly one of the more regrettable cinematic villains has become the most formidable opponent of the entire franchise. Hell, he even laser-slices Thanos in half!
“Should have aimed for the-- Wait, no, you got me good.”
In many ways, the first season of What If…? has endeavored to rehabilitate some of the arguably weaker facets of the MCU that need servicing; Agent Peggy Carter, whose show was unceremoniously canceled, was turned into a full-fledged superhero. Betty Ross, a remnant from generally-derided The Incredible Hulk, reappeared for the first time in over a decade. And even Doctor Strange’s romance with Christine Palmer, a person who he supposedly loves dearly yet has never bothered to mention once since the year 2016, became the focus of an entire episode. If this trend continues, What If…? could become a kind of narrative fix-it shop for those pieces of the MCU that have been left in disarray. Maybe in the future, we’ll get a whole What If…? episode about how Peter Parker eats a sketchy burrito and fever-dreamed the entirety of Iron Fist.
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Top Image: Marvel Studios