If you enjoy this post, consider clicking the Buy Me A Coffee button to the right. Supporters and Members get early access to posts like this one.
Someone should send a copy of this episode to Joss Whedon.
This is how you write Ultron as the great villain he should have been in Avengers: Age of Ultron. Genocidal to an extreme far beyond what even Thanos could dream up, Ultron in episode 8 of Marvel’s What If… is the most terrifying villain shown yet on the series. The events of the episode are going to lead directly into the finale next week and I cannot wait to see how this plays out.
Spoilers ahead, obviously, so don’t read if you haven’t watched the episode.
The main divergence in this episode is that unlike the Sacred Timeline, Ultron was able to download his consciousness into what would become Vision. And with the power of the Mind Stone at his disposal, Ultron was able to enact a plan to wipe out nearly all life on the planet in a nuclear holocaust. But where do you go from there when you’ve conquered the planet? Well, as fate would have it, Thanos arrives with the rest of the Infinity Stones. With all six stones, Ultron realizes the breadth of the universe, teeming with chaotic lifeforms that do not know the “peace” he can bring to them. So, he sets out to bring “peace in his time” to the universe by wiping out every civilization he can find. Sovereign, Xandar, Ego, Asgard, all of them are destroyed. Even Captain Marvel could not stand up to Ultron in his Infinity form.
The only hope for this pocket in the multiverse is Clint Barton and Natasha Romanov, the last of the Avengers (and the last human beings on Earth). The scenes between the two of them are just as good as from the movies, showing the steady friendship the two developed over their time together. Clint’s sacrifice was a given once he expressed his fatigue at fighting what he felt was a losing battle. I think it’s also a mea culpa to the fanbase for Natasha’s death in Avengers: Endgame as well, though. The reintroduction of Arnim Zola was a nice touch, and something that I think was a well-placed easter egg. It would make sense that there were multiple copies of Zola’s mind stored around the world, in case HYDRA needed his twisted brilliance.
The main course of this episode, though, is the moment when Infinity Ultron realized Uatu’s presence and broke through into the multiverse. For those in the fanbase that complained about how the Infinity Stones were treated in Loki, this is a reminder that in the wrong hands, the Infinity Stones are a level of power beyond comprehension. Utilizing the stones, Ultron is able to go toe-to-toe with arguably one of the most powerful beings in Uatu. Their fight was magnificent to behold, stretching across multiple realities and timelines. While the Watcher gave as good as he got, it was inevitable that Infinity Ultron would gain the upper hand.
Which sets the stage for the ending and the finale of What If…: Uatu finds himself in the small sliver of a universe housing Strange Supreme. The repentant sorcerer has been stuck in his bubble since destroying his own universe in a mad desire to break a fixed point in time. Uatu, who has refused to intervene in the events of the previous episodes including Strange Supreme’s universe, now has to accept that Infinity Ultron is too powerful a threat to keep his vow of non-interference intact.
Uatu the Watcher is one of my favorite characters in Marvel Comics, mainly because when the Watcher makes an appearance, you know as a reader something serious is about to go down. Interfering in events is kind of Uatu’s main calling card, despite his species’ insistence that they do not intervene in the events of the multiverse. The gradual progression of Uatu’s physical presence has been a nifty trick on the part of the animators. In the first episode, he was barely an outline. Over each of the subsequent episodes, Uatu’s form has become more and more defined, with the most direct moment being in the Strange Supreme episode. And it was established during the Strange Supreme episode that Uatu could be perceived by those with the ability to sense the multiverse. I give credit to the writers for laying enough breadcrumbs across the series to make this episode feel like a natural progression rather than an out-of-the-blue moment.
The team-up episode that has been teased since the beginning of the series is going to take shape. Some of the players are already apparent: Captain Carter, Star-Lord T’Challa, and Strange Supreme. Who else might make an appearance is still unconfirmed but it’s going to be a hell of a finale.