“What If… The World Lost Its Mightiest Heroes?” feels like a weak use of the show’s premise, with none of the power and potential that last week’s episode had in spades.
This recap of What If…? season 1, episode 3, “What If… The World Lost Its Mightiest Heroes?”, contains spoilers.
If the premiere of Marvel’s What If…? was a way to ease viewers into the concept by slightly reworking a familiar event, and if last week’s excellent outing was a showcase for how one minor change can have significant unforeseen ripple effects, the latest episode, “What If… The World Lost Its Mightiest Heroes?”, has a purpose that’s difficult to identify. And that’s surprising considering it’s basing its story on what is undoubtedly one of the most significant events in the MCU canon – the original formation of the Avengers. But it takes that premise and all its rich storytelling possibilities and basically boils it down to a murder mystery.
What If…? season 1, episode 3 recap
Written down, that sounds more interesting than it ends up being. As Nick Fury, who gets a lot of focus, attempts to bring together the Avengers, each of them ends up dead, killed in mysterious fashion, often in a way that implicates the other candidates. Black Widow seems to kill Tony Stark; Hawkeye seems to kill Thor, and so on, and so forth. It’s obvious to everyone that something is amiss, and by the time Loki arrives to avenge Thor’s murder with all of Asgard’s might behind him, it seems like What If…? episode 3 is going somewhere.
But it isn’t. The eventual reveal, while unexpected, doesn’t really capitalize on the show’s potential for branching consequences, and while it allows Nick Fury his moment to be his own hero, it also neatly ties a bow around a story idea that you’d think would offer more intriguing conclusions. The relatively short runtimes of these episodes spites “What If… The World Lost Its Mightiest Heroes?” since there isn’t enough space for the story it wants to tell, let alone the ones it might have told were it a little more ambitious.
A lot of heavy-hitting names returning to provide familiar voices is obviously intended to pick up a lot of the slack, but most beyond Samuel L. Jackson get little to do. Not that AC Bradley’s script is especially introspective or requires much of the actors; there’s as little space for development as there is for the plot turns, which come so thick and fast that it’s hard to have even processed the prior one before the next rolls around. The character focus in the first two episodes – the second particularly – isn’t here, and the story feels its absence.
It’s not all bad. There are some decent visuals, a solid – and, as mentioned, unexpected – climax, and a nice subversion of expectations that plucks from several events across multiple movies, rather than just the one key change. No matter how much Jeffrey Wright’s Watcher insists on the profundity of all this, though, I’m just not seeing it, at least not in this episode. Maybe next week.