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What If... The Watcher Broke His Oath?

Blimey bloody bollocks!

Marvel does what it does best in a mind-bending conclusion to the previous episode that shattered my mind and left me wide-eyed and jumping.

This episode builds on the promise of the previous episode by pulling all of the other episodes into line, turning what many thought were a series of sometimes dark and depressing one shots into a unified story with a hefty payoff. We ended on a cliffhanger as the Watcher reluctantly fled from Ultron... to a small crystalline Universe where an infinitely more powerful version of Dr. Strange hides a tentacle and gloated as he was asked for help.

It turns out that SuperStrange was just the first. Suddenly the entire series comes into play as the Watcher searches for heroes in the Universe to become chosen to work with his Strange companion: Captain Carter, T'Challa Star Lord, Killmonger, Gamora, and Party Thor get picked up to fill the ranks. This means we get representation from Episodes One, Two, Four, Six and Seven in one place, with one slightly confusing extra – we’ll get to that later.

You are the Guardians of the Multiverse.

You'd think all this would come across as pretty plastic. It doesn't. These are solid Variants, even if they're briefly drawn. You believe it when Killmonger grins at T'Challa being a thief in another Universe, and when Party Thor taps SuperStrange for a mystic beer and Gamora cackles about the Infinity Crusher.

They bump into the Widow of the previous episode while staging the ambush in an empty Universe. (And now we get Episode Eight.) The mystic beer comes into unfortunate play – SuperStrange should know better, with Party Thor – and their trap is unfortunately sprung too soon. Not that it seems to matter: the heroes, protected by magic, work together to attack Ultron in a dizzying scene – one of my favorite moments was Captain Carter riding Thor's hammer back to the team after a hit on Ultron. T'Challa manages to steal one of Ultron's Infinity Stones, and Strange whips out another spell – pouring a world full of zombies on Ultron, along with a zombified Scarlet Witch (Hi, Episode Five!) I loved having this character return, even briefly – and looking sheepish when confronted by Ultron, who seemingly absorbs her power when she recognizes the machine under the mask.

Ultron unleashes their full power on the Guardians, and you can see SuperStrange's protective shields around the team starting to fail when Cap and Widow unleash their last-ditch plan. Widow going up and shooting Hawkeye's arrow added one last Avenger into the equation. Cap's final jump and immobilization of Ultron brings Armin Zola into play. It's almost sad how quickly Zola destroys Ultron. At this point I was screaming Get the stones! Get the stones! Get the stones! thinking Zola was going to wake up and go evil.


Then SOMEONE WENT TO GET THE STONES and it was KILLMONGER and OF COURSE WHY AM I NOT SURPRISED and general screaming in the living room. My cat blinked at me. TWICE.

Killmonger has the same riff as he always does: he wants to use his power to make the world better. His true colors come out quickly – but not before Zola stands up on metal legs behind him, ready to kill. Then it's man versus human mind in machine for a final battle... which kind of never ends. SuperStrange has a sudden realization; it's never been about winning the fight, only about separating Ultron from the stones. At this realization SuperStrange flies up and uses his power to encase the fighting pair, and the Infinity stones, in a crystal Universe like the one in which Strange had been trapped at the end of Episode Four. And, barring some sort of accident, the Universe is safe again.

What I loved about the final scenes was seeing the Watcher having become almost human and recognizing the power and impact of stories on his own self-actualization. It made me think of all of us, in the audience, each our own Watcher, being inspired by the Marvel stories we've been watching and reviewing together, and how those stories influence us, too. The Watcher intervenes yet again, this time to help the heroes return to their home universe. Captain Carter asks, and is refused, the choice to go not only back to her Universe but back in time with her Steve: a request denied, in a seemingly callous move explained by a mid-credits scene not to be missed. Even Widow, who has no world at all and rails at the Watcher for what she sees as his voyeuristic inhumanity, gets to go home (Hi, Episode Three!)

Multiversal Facets

I loved the echoing of the relationship between Cap and Widow throughout. Bernard from Accounting instead of Kristen from Statistics. BFF. I feel Widow and Cap are the backbone and heart of this episode, in addition to being the sword and shield.

Not an echo, but loved Shuri leading the attack on Killmonger which Watcher helps him evade, inadvertently.

The language in the scene where the Watcher chooses the Guardians of the Multiverse made me think of Galactus and how he chooses his Heralds in the comics.

The beer scene reminded me of Thor: Ragnarok.

But, cute wordplay. Even parallel Widows within this episode echo each other.

It made sense that Scarlet Witch's power was absorbed by Ultron. In the movies the Mind Stone is what awakens Witch's latent abilities.

Gamora. Remember the confusing extra? At first I thought they’d picked her from one of the other episodes in a twofer. Apparently this character’s episode was pushed to a future season. Probably easy to explain, with the Time Stone involved.

Overall

“The Multiverse, every single world, every story is my home and I will protect it to the end.” I loved this series when I thought it was going to be one-off episodes. This episode, and the last, upped the ante ten times higher. Where is this going next season, are these Galactus hints that keep popping up going to pay off, what's it going to mean to have an active Watcher, and will we see SuperStrange again? Five out of five Infinity Stones (T'Challa took the sixth, of course.)

2 comments:

Billie Doux said...

Joseph, thanks so much and thanks to the Agents of Doux for finishing the season!

I realized early that this series isn't my sort of thing. But the ending was indeed quite cool and I was pleased that it turned out to be an arc with an ending after all.

An Honest Fangirl said...

Finally saw this.

I love how it built on the MCU precedent of everything leading up to a big "Avengers" style finale. I adored Widow and Carter and would have very happily watched three seasons of both Carter and the Widow from episode 8 traveling the universe and maybe falling in love along the way. (No? Just me?)

But my complaint is the same one I've had every episode: it felt too fast. I wanted more. I wanted more time for them bantering. Some characters felt like they barely got any screen time or chance to explore and interact in interesting ways. But it was still very pretty animation and I liked everything that we did get. I suppose it's a good sign that I want more.