What If…? – Season 1, Episode 1

FULL SPOILERS AHEAD

A few weeks have passed since Loki wrapped up, so it’s about time for a new Disney+ Marvel Cinematic Universe show! But the formula is getting changed up a bit; instead of a series that overtly builds up to another show or movie (like WandaVision setting up Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness), What If…? is Marvel’s version of The Twilight Zone. Taking its premise from the comic series of the same name, What If…? does exactly what its title suggests, asking what if the characters and events you know deviated from what was “supposed” to happen? In this particular case, “What If Captain Carter Were the First Avenger?”

This story starts out just like things happened in Captain America: The First Avenger; Steve Rogers (newly voiced by Mr. Josh Keaton) volunteers for the super soldier program to get all buff and shit. But things change when Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) tries to stop the Hydra bomber as he sets off his explosion. The bomber is killed, but Steve is wounded to the point where he can’t receive the serum. Against direct orders, Peggy enters the machine and becomes the first buff as hell super soldier. But she’s a woman, so Colonel John Flynn (Bradley Whitford) flaunts his casual sexism and won’t let her out into the field. Meanwhile, the threat of the Red Skull (Ross Marquand, reprising voicing the character from Avengers: Infinity War) is still out there getting his Nazi hands on the Tesseract, which forces Peggy to take action. With a little help from Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper), Peggy becomes Captain Carter–take Captain America’s red white and blue costume and slap the Union Jack on it–and steals the Tesseract before Hydra can experiment with it. Having proved herself, she rescues the captured 107th Infantry Regiment before Hydra can experiment on Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan). Hell, Howard even makes Steve an early Iron Man suit powered by the Tesseract! But tragedy strikes when attacking Hydra’s train, and Steve is presumed dead. He’s actually fine, as it turns out; Hydra really wanted the Tesseract for their new project, summoning a being from another dimension to conquer the world. Captain Carter, the Howling Commandos, and Howard Stark manage to rescue Steve, but fail to stop Red Skull from summoning… Shuma-Gorath? That’s certainly a reference if so, but at the very least it was a betentacled nightmare monster. Red Skull immediately gets crushed to death, but the day is saved when Captain Carter sacrifices her life to send the beast back to its dimension. Jump cut to decades later when SHIELD’s experimenting with the Tesseract frees her. Welcome to the present, Captain Carter! Hope you survive the experience!

Whether it be a narrative device or the idea that events in the universe tends to flow in a particular way, it’s pretty obvious to see how much of Captain Carter’s adventures mirror those of Captain America in the proper MCU timeline. Rescuing Bucky, the disaster on Hydra’s train, sacrificing herself to save the world… That’s more or less how a lot of the What If? comics work. For example, “What if Phoenix fell in love with Wolverine?” from What If…? #60 (1994), sees Jean Grey choose Logan over Scott Summers. But not having the same strong connection like she had with Cyclops, The Dark Phoenix Saga (1980)–an event that happened both in this alternate timeline as well as the regular comic universe–ends very differently. In this particular case, the entire universe is destroyed. Yeah, normally in the comics, What If? stories have a darker ending than what actually happened, so it’s interesting to see the first episode of this series end on a bittersweet note: Steve is most likely already dead, but Captain Carter is here to lead the Avengers in their future missions.

Will we see more of Captain Carter? The trailer for What If…? suggests the answer is yes, as it appears she has a conversation with some version of Doctor Strange. The most likely answer is that Stephen Strange uses his mystic powers to travel to a parallel world. I mean, what can’t the Sorcerer Supreme do? However, wouldn’t it be kind of fun if all the stories from the first season happen in the same world? What if Steve Rogers not being Captain America creates a chain reaction that ripples down the timeline, creating events like Erik Killmonger saving Tony Stark from getting shrapnel to the heart, or Prince T’Challa being abducted by Yondu and the Ravagers instead of Peter Quill? I suppose we’ll find out if these stories connect in the following weeks.

As for the first episode itself, I felt like it was rushed. Yes, we already know a lot of the story beats before they unfold, but the whole thing felt like the original script was for an hour long episode that got cut in half. It’s not bad, per say, but taking the plot of a 2 hour movie and condensing it to a 30 minute episode left little room for anything but the essentials. The art style also initially left me feeling lukewarm, but I got into it as the episode progressed. I dunno, maybe it was just Thor’s face in the trailer that just seemed… off. But the episode as a whole was good, and it’s nice to see Agent Carter some of the “main character spotlight.” You know, maybe she should have her own TV show! Yup, that’s certainly a thing that should’ve happened but never did, at least if you go by Disney+’s interpretation of what’s canon and what’s not!

Next: What If T’Challa Became a Star-Lord?


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8 thoughts on “What If…? – Season 1, Episode 1

  1. I didn’t understand this first episode. Rogers was picked because of his physical ailments. As far as I can tell Peggy Carter is in tip top shape and thus the serum wouldn’t work on her. Kind of defeats the entire purpose.

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    • Other people were in the running to get the serum, but Steve showed the heart that Erskine was looking for. Didn’t hurt he was willing to jump on a grenade when the rest of the recruits ran. So Peggy would still get a strength boost, but she had the added benefit of agent training, making her potentially more effective than Steve was at first!

      Liked by 1 person

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