What/If Season 1 is unforgiving and unashamed in its story and style, with an excellent supporting performance from Renée Zellweger in the neo-noir Netflix series.
Netflix series What/If Season 1 has all the foundations of a unique neo-noir thriller, but the key ingredient in the steamy story was a formidable character pulling strings. Renée Zellweger absorbs the audience from the first episode, managing to weave and curb your intrigue from the offset, in a drama about making choices, and settling your fate at any cost. What/If is sold as an anthological series, making us assume the next season will be an entirely different story. The first season is wild, outrageous, fun and oddly dark in its unique way.
It’s a mountainous story to discuss without spoiling, but to provide general context, young entrepreneur Lisa (Jane Levy) has developed groundbreaking scientific technology that involves gene sequencing, and despite her best efforts to pitch the solution to fellow investors, there is no money offered in the pot. Lisa has a husband (Blake Jenner), who is loyally devoted and committed to his wife, with his own goals in joining the fire academy. The couple also has friends with their unique challenges, which What/If Season 1 tackles slyly on the sidelines, while the core story runs its course. Their entire world changes when they decide to put their trust on the line when Anne, played by Renée Zellweger, an ambitious but famously cruel CEO and business investor, offers to fund her start-up company in exchange for one night with Lisa’s husband.
The stage is set with the opening scene, thunder and lightning gracing the night sky and Anne, who makes classy and sexy look effortless and desirable as she delivers a monology about seizing and landing your fate with certainty, and at any cost. Anne’s purpose is to test Lisa and Sean, and the constructs of their marriage, but as What/If Season 1 absorbs its viewers, more secrets and slithers of information are added to create greater depth to the neo-noir story. The Netflix series is unashamedly proud of its darker, often on-the-nose style, but it works in its way.
Once Netflix series What/If delivers the central premise, you are shunned into a mysterious world of corrupt minds, with characters going against their processes. The story is steamy, promiscuous-feeling and smooth-looking for good measure. Going full circle, the casting of Renée Zellweger was a well-played card, as the actress buys into her role, but Jane Levy and Blake Jenner manage to immerse themselves into the social thriller with ease, dedicating themselves to Anne’s world.
I get the sense that What/If Season 1 will be divisive for some, with the style and story highly adventurous, but if Netflix has proved anything, with series’ like this, it will be tough to knock them off the top of the streaming market.
As an FYI, I did recap every single episode of What/If Season 1. The coverage does not stop here. You can read my recap of Episode 1 by clicking these words.
Daniel Hart is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has operated as Editor-in-Chief since 2017.