top of page


 Written by

WHAT IF....? (2023)

Season 2.

Aired On: Disney+.

Release Date: 12/22/23.
Animation. Action. Adventure.

"Exploring pivotal moments from the Marvel Cinematic Universe and turning them on their head, leading the audience into uncharted territory."


That the Marvel Cinematic Universe is in a rut is something of an understatement. Over the last few months, the MCU released its first major box office dud in The Marvels, and fired the actor set to play the main villain of the next two Avengers movies. 


There was also the infamous “Crisis at Marvel” piece in Variety that detailed a laundry list of issues – from shotty VFX to half-baked scripts – that’s threatened to unravel a franchise that’s grossed $30 billion over 33 movies. 


Still, there are some notable bright spots. Season two of Loki was well received by critics and fans, and its ending could offer a way out of the Kang dilemma caused by Jonathan Majors’ legal troubles. 


Season two of What If…? also comes at a welcome time, and it should at least help ease complaints that the MCU has become too predictable and risk averse. After all, what could be more fun than throwing dozens of well-loved characters into a cosmic blender of space of time?


For those who are unfamiliar, What If…? is essentially Marvel’s take on The Twilight Zone. Loosely based on a long running comic book series of the same name, the TV adaptation takes familiar characters from the MCU and asks the question “what if” things happened a little differently?


The cel-shaded animation style mostly uses character designs from the films and evokes comic book pages come to life. It’s not quite as impressive – or frenetic – as the Spider-Verse films, but it’s effective enough. And season two looks a little more polished and fluid than the first season. 


In the season one opener, Peggy Carter became “Captain Carter” after she received the Super Soldier Serum instead of Steve Rogers. Later, Doctor Strange became twisted and evil while trying to draw enough mystical energy to resurrect his former girlfriend, Christine Palmer. Both characters teamed up in a culmination episode that introduced “The Guardians of the Multiverse” thread that also plays into the second season. 


The season two opener follows Nebula, here recast as a Nova Corps officer with one night to track down a brutal killer and potentially save the planet of Zandar. The episode is a noir thriller highly reminiscent of Blade Runner, and it features a fun team-up that includes Korg, Groot, and Howard the Duck.


Other episodes include an Avengers team-up during Christmas Time that majorly channels Die Hard, and a trip to Sakaar with Tony Stark that heavily riffs on the Mad Max films. 


A particular highlight is the sixth episode that follows a brand-new hero set in pre-colonial North America during the time when Spanish Conquistadors were searching for the Fountain of Youth. Kahhori, a member of a Mohawk tribe, must use her new powers to help save her people. The dialog is entirely in Mohawk and Spanish, and it’s refreshing to follow an original character with no history in the comics become a part of the MCU. 


A.C. Bradley executive produced and serves as head writer for both seasons. Other season two credited writers include Ryan Little and Matthew Chauncey. The writing is solid overall, with only some minor patches that drag or seem to lose momentum. 


Stephen Franck directed the season two opener, and Bryan Andrews directed episodes two-through-nine. 


It’s also notable that most of the MCU actors return to voice their characters in What If…?, including Hayley Atwell, Benedict Cumberbatch, Chris Hemsworth, Sebastian Stan, Jeremy Renner, Karen Gillan, Jude Law, Taika Waititi, Michael Douglas, Josh Brolin, Cate Blanchett, Samuel L. Jackson, Elizabeth Olsen, Jon Favreau, and Paul Rudd – among others.


The voice cast is so impressive and so thorough that it can be a little jarring to hear different voice actors for Tony Stark or Gamora. That said, the returning actors all do an excellent job embodying their characters, and newcomers like Lake Bell (Black Widow) and Mick Wingert (Tony Stark) do credible jobs. 


If there’s a loose through-line to season two, it’s Captain Carter and the “Guardians of the Multiverse” being called back into action and, like the first season, there is a culmination that leads to a final battle filled with dozens of characters and countless easter eggs to MCU and comic lore. What happens might not be as shocking and compelling as some of the twists and turns at the end of the first season, but it’s still fun to watch these new versions of recurring characters grow and expand in interesting ways. 


“Fun” is the applicable word here. At a time when many fans have complained about the MCU feeling a little stale, What If…? is at worst a welcome diversion and, at best, some of the most exciting and engaging storytelling since the Infinity Saga. 


When this show soars, it really feels like a comic book come to life, and it’s a lot of fun watching characters who never got to interact onscreen go on adventures together – or face off as adversaries. The series really goes places the films can’t and won’t. That doesn’t automatically make it better, but it does make it refreshing.

Like the name says, What If…? is exactly that — what if a franchise 30 films and a dozen TV shows in could reinvent itself, bring together interesting new character pairings, and genuinely surprise its audience. If you’re among those with gripes or hesitations about the current direction of the MCU, What If…? is a great way rediscover what made Marvel on the big screen so fun and engaging in the first place.


bottom of page