After an Infinity Stone-empowered Ultron marched across the multiverse last week, episode 9 -- the season finale -- of alternate reality Marvel Cinematic Universe animated series What If…? hit Disney Plus Wednesday. The deadly AI even beat up the all-seeing Watcher (Jeffrey Wright), revealing that the previously untouchable godlike being was vulnerable.
In the wake of that defeat, the desperate Watcher turned to the corrupted Strange Supreme to seek his help and we ask the question: What If… The Watcher Broke His Oath?
Captain Carter/Peggy (Hayley Atwell) apparently followed the same path Steve Rogers did in the mainline MCU, working as a SHIELD agent by the time Captain America: The Winter Soldier begins (shortly before Hydra is revealed to have corrupted SHIELD for decades).
T'Challa (the late Chadwick Boseman) returned to Earth to rescue Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) from his Celestial father, Ego (Kurt Russell). Thor is battling Ultron drones in Las Vegas, while bemoaning the fact that they ruined his date with Jane Foster.
The Wakanda-conquering Killmonger is grabbed as he prepares for his last stand against Shuri and Pepper Potts. This guy is a massive jerk and utterly treacherous, so the Watcher choosing him seems questionable.
We're also introduced to a new version of Gamora (voiced by Cynthia McWilliams), one who defeated Thanos, stole his armor and destroyed the Infinity Stones with the Infinity Crusher -- experience that'll seemingly be vital in defeating the empowered Ultron. This universe's Tony Stark briefly prepares to fight the Watcher, but the big guy basically says "Shut up Stark, you're not important here." Tony could probably do with hearing that more often.
Taking on Infinity Ultron
The team prepares to confront Ultron in a barren wasteland reality, and Thor accidentally summons him early (because he's a big dummy). T'Challa manages to grab the Soul Stone, and they have a wild, reality-hopping battle that briefly sees Zombie Scarlet Witch making a return as Strange summons a bunch of undead to distract Ultron.
The final confrontation takes place in the ruined Age of Ultron universe, where the heroes are joined by that reality's Black Widow (aka Natasha Romanoff, voiced by Lake Bell). The plan to destroy the stones fails because the Infinity Crusher is tailored to destroy its reality's stones.
Natasha manages to defeat Ultron by infecting him with the AI copy of Hydra scientist Arnim Zola (Toby Jones), as she and the late Hawkeye previously attempted.
The villains' betrayal
Predictably, Killmonger and Zola both make grabs for the Infinity Stones. Killmonger reasons that they can use them to fix their worlds, and prepares to slaughter the heroes when they refuse to go along with his plan.
"Oh, no no no. I am afraid that armor belongs to me," says Zola, now in control of Ultron's body.
He manifests in the torso, much like he traditionally appears in his robot form in the comics. This image always seemed a bit too weird for the live-action movies, so it's incredible that this show gave chest-Zola a chance to shine.
At this point, Strange Supreme realizes that the heroes' true purpose was to "separate the stones from the body," which gives him the chance to trap Zola-Ultron, Killmonger and the stones in a pocket dimension.
Home again, mostly
Strange Supreme agrees to watch over the trapped villains and make sure they don't escape. Since Strange is already in a pocket dimension, it's essentially a pocket dimension within a pocket dimension.
Most of the others are returned to their realities at the moment they left. Since Black Widow from the Age of Ultron reality is the last person alive there, she understandably refuses to return. Instead, she's sent to the universe where Black Widow and a bunch of other Avengers candidates were slain by Hank Pym, and defeats the world-conquering Loki.
More mid-credits, but you get it. Peggy suggests she be returned to World War II as a reward (much like Captain America went back in Avengers: Endgame), but the Watcher convinces her that she's needed in modern times. Back to the SHIELD vessel, her universe's Black Widow reveals that she's found a shipping container that'll interest Peggy.
Peering in, she sees the Hydra-Stomper armor. And there's apparently someone inside.
Presumably this is Steve Rogers, whom Peggy thought she'd left behind when she traveled to modern times after leaping into a time portal to fight Hydra's champion back in WWII (that's a complicated sentence).
It's unclear what the deal with Steve is -- it's possible he was captured by Hydra after WWII. If he aged normally, he'd be in his mid-90s by this point, but he may have been kept in cryogenic stasis (like Bucky Barnes). The Hydra-Stomper was initially powered by the Tesseract, which contained the Space Stone, so it's possible Hydra is harnessing residual energy from that.
Presumably, this plot point will be resolved in season 2.
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What were the actual consequences of the Watcher interfering? He didn't end up in his manager's office or anything (at least as far as we saw).
If Peggy was lost in time, who co-founded SHIELD in her reality?
Peggy and Natasha have an awesome rapport in the scenes riffing on the events of The Winter Soldier, and Peggy's stealth suit (with the white Union Jack) is super cool.
Natasha suggests that Bernard in accounting is interested in Peggy. She makes a similar comment about Lillian from accounting as a possible date for Steve in The Winter Soldier.
The heroes' first objective is to grab the Soul Stone and deliver it to Gamora. In the mainline MCU, Thanos sacrifices Gamora to obtain it in Avengers: Infinity War (and Natasha later sacrifices herself to get it in Endgame).
Originally, this season was supposed to have a 10th episode about Gamora and Tony. It was pushed to season 2 due to the pandemic, writer AC Bradley told Variety.
The sweeping shot of the heroes gathered during the battle with Ultron mirrors a similar moment in the first Avengers movie.
Did Peggy think Steve died in the period between WWII and her arrival in modern times?
This will apparently be our last time hearing Chadwick Boseman as T'Challa -- he voiced threedifferentversions of the character in four episodes. Before his passing, the creative team were hoping to do a Star-Lord T'Challa spinoff, they told Variey.
That's it for this season of What If …?, but season 2 is confirmed and will likely arrive in 2022 or 2023. You don't have to wait that long for your next dose of Marvel, though -- Eternals hits theaters Nov. 5, and Hawkeye kicks off on Disney Plus Nov. 24.