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What If…: The World Lost Its Mightiest Heroes?

“Hope. It’s all about hope.”

This episode really drives home certain things about the MCU that were never fully clear before, wrapped up in a nice little mystery.

Spoilers for the entire MCU up to this point!

Okay. Before we get into the meat and potatoes of the episode details, let me get something out of the way. I love this format. I remember picking up a few ‘What If’ titles way back when and the premise was always sound. I just didn’t really get every issue because it is very much an anthology. Sometimes the story and characters involved are just not for everyone.

This episode was neat on a number of levels, not the least of which is that it establishes a definitive timeline for Iron Man 2, The Incredible Hulk, and Thor. We always knew they were somewhat close in continuity, but to happen in the same week is kind of mind blowing. This also bought in Mark Ruffalo for a scene taking place during The Incredible Hulk, firmly cementing that movie into the MCU.

So let's start at the beginning;

Monday

We get a fun bit of dialogue as Natasha and Fury arrive at the doughnut shop to help Tony figure out the mystery of his heart. Except instead of giving him a little boost to alleviate the symptoms of the palladium poisoning, it kills him. This one event would be enough to totally derail the sacred timeline (watch Loki for an explanation of what that is).

This spirals Black Widow into a mystery to solve who framed her for his murder. Along with Fury, she is the main character for a bulk of the story, and Lake Bell, who voices this version of Natasha, does a good job, even managing to pull off some of Scarlett Johansson’s trademark voice intonations. However, it is clear someone else was doing her voicework. That being said, she had a wonderful presence and felt very powerful despite ultimately dying.

Tuesday

We start with Coulson in New Mexico and the artifact Mjolnir (mew mew). It jumps to the fight in the rain where Thor beats up a bunch of SHIELD agents to get to the hammer. We get some more wonderful dialogue, mostly from Coulson, although Barton and Fury get some nice lines too involving Thor and his hair.

Here we lose both Thor and Barton in a one two punch. This time there’s no way it could be Natasha who is on the other side of the country. Instead, the mystery ramps up as Barton’s arrow flies free and then Barton mysteriously dies in a locked room with glass for walls. So far, Fury is three for three losses and the Avengers Initiative is looking pretty thin.

Wednesday

Natasha is tracking down answers with Betty Ross, who we haven’t seen in any form since The Incredible Hulk. She determines that there was no strange pathogen but the syringe that Nat tried to use on Tony was damaged by some projectile. Betty’s father shows up like he did in the movie to take Bruce into custody, and it is really interesting to see both of Bruce’s love interests in the same room. Of course he didn’t end up with either of them, but it’s a nice bit of fan service.

The fight starts off pretty normally with the Hulk throwing tanks, but then he just explodes in a puff of green smoke. For once I’m really glad this is animated because that would’ve been gross to see in live action. Now we have four of the original Avengers gone, leaving only Natasha and Captain America (who is still buried in ice).

Meanwhile Loki and basically all of Asgard shows up and causes some chaos involving that ice box thrower thing from the first Thor movie, before Fury strikes a deal for time. Nat of course figures it out, but it’s too late and her invisible enemy kills her, but not before she leaves a message for Fury. When Hope was mentioned I realized who we were facing, but I wasn’t expecting the final reveal to happen the way it did.

Thursday

With the clock ticking we have the final showdown, and it’s glorious. Loki disguised as Fury basically messes with a Hank Pym version of Yellowjacket for a few minutes before overpowering him and taking him away. It is a bittersweet victory, because the bad guy is caught but Loki is inspired to take control of the world and now we no longer have the Avengers. Thankfully Fury was never relying on those original candidates, because for him it was always about the idea of the Avengers.

So in the end it is all about hope, this time for the future as Fury finds Captain America and calls Captain Marvel. Mjolnir is still in the desert, so we may get a new Thor (Jane Foster comes to mind) and of course in this reality, we would still have T’Challa, Coulson, War Machine, possibly Bucky being saved by Cap, Yelena might defect once she’s cured, Lady Sif and the Warrior’s three might join our side once Loki shows his true colors, Wanda and Pietro might not be so angry without Stark around, Spider-man, Doctor Strange, and the Guardians of the Galaxy would still be out there. Thanos might get lucky, but the Earth would still have defenders capable of fighting back.

Hope Remains

Bits and Pieces:

Michael Douglas was listed as Yellow Jacket, not Ant-man.

This is the earliest chronological appearance of several SHIELD agents like Crossbones.

Hope Van Dyne joined SHIELD and her death was the one thing that caused these events to spiral out of control.

I loved the appearance of the Watcher in the desert and up in the sky above the final fight against Yellowjacket.

Stanley’s Pizza Parlor is a small nod to the Incredible Hulk.

Tim Roth and William Hurt have made appearances so far. Why can’t we get Liv Tyler back for a Betty Ross appearance? Maybe in She-Hulk?

So Thor smells good even in death?

Loki’s speech to the world was taken directly from his speech in The Avengers.

Voices:

Lake Bell was Natasha Rominoff
Mick Wingert was Tony Stark
Stephanie Panisello was Betty Ross
Mike McGill was General Ross
Alexandra Daniels was Captain Marvel
Everyone else was voiced by their original actors

MVP - Sam Jackson. He carried this episode and made remember how much of a force of nature Nick Fury has always been.

Runner up - Clark Gregg. I want a reality where Coulson survived, I miss his presence in the MCU. I mean Hashtag-Steve-Steve-Steve-IHeartSteve-0704 is all you need to hear, right?

Quotes:

Natasha: "I've got General Ross, a dozen snipers, and a few tanks. What are you dealing with?"
Fury: "Space Vikings."
Natasha: "Showoff."

Fury: "Sir, I'm going to have to ask you to exit the donut." Still a good line.

Fury: "Stark may be eccentric, but he's got potential."
Natasha: "What he has is a hangover."

3 of 4 Assassinated Avengers... I guess they won't assemble after all.
---
Samantha M. Quinn spends most of her time in front of a computer typing away at one thing or another; when she has free time, she enjoys pretty much anything science fiction or fantasy-related.

6 comments:

Billie Doux said...

I think the cool stuff in this one escaped me because I don't know all of the MCU. It just depressed me, seeing most of my favorite characters die. Only Loki (and the comments about Thor's hair) made me smile.

JBA said...

I am still on the fence about the What-If series, in general. I believe the point of the show is that one thing alters the events of the universe, but in each of the three episodes we have seen, more than one change was made to set these events in motion, so it seems like the show is even less necessary. It's not so much "what if one little change was made", but more like "what if a bunch of things changed to suit our needs for this story". But on the other hand, it is a fun show to watch, so I don't want to gripe. So far, it will easily be my least favorite of the Disney+ Marvel series, but still better than most of the crap that is considered television these days.
By the way, Samantha, if you want a reality where Coulson survived, you already have one. It's called Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and it was one of the best shows ever made. I don't care if it doesn't take place in the "sacred timeline". As far as I'm concerned it's as real as it needs to be. Now I want a reality where Chloe Bennett is my girlfriend. THAT would be a great What-If episode!

Samantha M. Quinn said...

I watched the first five season of Agents, and I've always meant to finish. There are rumblings that Chloe Bennett may be coming back to the MCU in some capacity. She would be a perfect fit for one of these Marvel shows as Quake.

Okay to argue the point a little about the one thing here you go;

Ep 1: Peggy Carter stays downstairs, that causes the initial ripple.
Ep 2: Yondo decides to outsource picking up Peter.
Ep 3: Hope Van Dyne joins Shield instead of going into the private sector.

Everything else is a side effect of those singular small changes. But the purpose of the What If question isn't to explore the changes single plot point can make, it is to explore the infinite variations of story that could exist within this universe.

It exists as the Twilight Zone of the MCU, and so far it isn't my favorite but the beauty of the format is that we very well may get a masterpiece of storytelling that makes the entire effort worthwhile.

An Honest Fangirl said...

It was very nice to see Betty Ross again, even if it's in a multiverse. Poor woman is always forgotten in the MCU. I was really hoping for Loki to end up joining the Avengers instead of taking over the world, but ah well. What can you do? That's what the Sacred Timeline is for.

Every time an episodes ends, though, I'm realizing just how much I want another one in this same universe. I want to see these stories continue, whether it's Captain Carter as an Avenger, Star Lord T'Challa fighting Ego, or the two Captains fighting against an entrenched Loki. I guess that is what a second season is for?

JBA said...

Hi Samantha. I would agree with you, except that those "one little thing"s they are using have nothing to do with the other changes. For example, looking at Peggy staying in the lab instead of going into the observation room: if that were the only thing that changed and everything else went the same and it wound up differently, it would make sense. But Peggy staying in the lab should have no bearing on the rest of the observers there. Why did suddenly no one need to be in the observation room? Why did the Nazi spy decide to detonate his briefcase and shoot Dr. Erskine before his experiment instead of after? Neither of those have anything to do with where Peggy was. If the single small change was just that he detonated the briefcase before the experiment, but everything else was the same, we could have had the same story. So essentially, it wasn't one single change, it was several.
Again, though, I might be picking at nits, and I still like the show. I just don't think it's as mind-blowingly good as other people I know seem to think.
As far as finishing Agents, I think if they had ended with season 5, it would have been a great ending. Season 6 was a big mess. Season 7 was leaps and bounds better, but it still didn't hold a candle to the earlier seasons.
Finally, as much as I would love to see Chloe Bennett back in the MCU, even if they made her Quake, she would probably have to be a very different version of Quake. I've always assumed the following assumptions can always be made: 1) any person who watches the Marvel shows can be assumed to also watch the movies, and 2) the same is NOT true in reverse; just because someone watches the movies, does not mean they watch the shows. This effectively means that they would have to assume that no one would know who Quake is and they would have to go into all sorts of backstory to establish her. But because the backstory already exists in the show, they would run the risk of either losing the people who did not watch the show, because they don't know who she is, or bore the people who did watch the show by showing them stuff they already know. The bottom line is, I think Quake is too risky for them to try now. If they bring Chloe Bennett back, she would probably be a different character. I would love for her to be brought back as Quake, but I would be surprised.

Samantha M. Quinn said...

Okay, so the Peggy thing. :D

There are easy explanations for why her decision changed so much. As a woman in the 40's her male counterparts would likely feel obligated to stay below with her. This means that the assassin would need to use a different tactic for his explosive, especially when she see's him starting to act. He may have always wanted to act before the experiment but couldn't because of being stuck in the observation booth. This is established in the episode, but not explicitly explained.