The Guardians of the Multiverse – Review of Marvel’s “What If… The Watcher Broke His Oath”

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With this episode, the first season of Marvel’s What If… comes to an end and what an end it was. Bringing together characters from almost all of the episodes shown during the season (with one exception), the first season’s finale pays off the build from the last episode in spectacular fashion. Filled to the brim with references to our own Sacred Timeline, the capstone episode felt like a short-form Avengers movie, which felt like just the right tone.

Spoilers ahead, obviously, don’t read if you haven’t watched the episode.

The Guardians of the Multiverse Assembled. Source

When “What If…The Watcher Broke His Oath” begins, we find each of the characters we’ve seen so far being pulled from their own universes. Captain Carter is aboard the Lemurian Star in the midst of what appears to be her version of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Thor is fighting Ultron drones in Las Vegas, Killmonger is about to be depose in a war-torn Wakanda, Star-Lord T’Challa saves Peter Quill from Ego, and Gamora is plucked from her universe after defeating Thanos and destroying the Infinity Gauntlet. Each of them is brought to a pub in a pocket dimension where Uatu explains the threat posed by Infinity Ultron.

From what I’ve been able to gather, Gamora’s episode was meant to be part of Season One but it was pushed back due to the Covid-19 pandemic halting production on the first season. Her episode should be shown in Season Two, which I’m genuinely looking forward to, but that also meant the writers didn’t give her much to do or say in the episode. The idea of a Gamora who not only conquered Sakaar but also befriended Tony Stark and managed to prevent the Infinity Gauntlet from being used is an intriguing story, one that I hope the showrunners of What If… detail in her episode next season.

The battle against Infinity Ultron is interesting to say the least. Taking place over a couple of different worlds, the genocidal AI finds itself facing more than it bargained for against the Guardians of the Multiverse. When the attempt to destroy the Infinity Stones using a device Gamora brought with her called an Infinity Crusher fails, the only hope left is the Black Widow from Ultron’s original universe, armed with the arrow holding the AI construct of Arnim Zola. In the end, it was no surprise that Killmonger betrays the group (especially given what we saw during his episode this season). Killmonger’s attempt to tempt the group into keeping the Infinity Stones is exactly what this version of the villain would do, which leaves his fate and the fate of Zola (who managed to possess Ultron’s body successfully) a beautiful paradox. Trapped in a pocket universe in the midst of struggling to control the Infinity Stones, both villains receive a deserved comeuppance, all under the watchful eye of Strange Supreme.

Infinity Ultron. Source

Strange Supreme is an interesting character in this episode precisely because of what occurred during his story. Contrite in a deeply morose way, Strange Supreme had ample opportunity to capture the stones for himself. With them, it could have been possible to restore his universe to what it once was. But there’s never a moment where Strange takes the chance, focusing instead of keeping his new allies alive long enough for Uatu’s gambit to pay off. At the end of the episode, it feels that in some measure this version of Stephen Strange has found peace serving as a guardian for Killmonger and Zola.

The ending of the episode sees everyone from the team returned to their own universe, with the exception of the Natasha Romanoff from Ultron’s original universe. The last living being in a universe bereft of life, Natasha lays into Uatu for not interfering in the events of her world. To his credit, Uatu doesn’t hold it against her. Instead, he gives her a somewhat happy ending as well, taking her to the universe where Hank Pym managed to kill most of the Avengers before they could come together. Neck deep in a fight with King Loki and the Asgardians, this version of Natasha finds her place among the new Avengers of Captain America and Captain Marvel, quickly dispatching King Loki and using his own staff against him. It’s a satisfying ending for a character that had seen her whole world be cleansed by a mad Artificial Intelligence.

And that wraps up the first season of What If…, which I found to be an enjoyable experience. While some of the episodes felt clunky in places, the finished product is well worth the time spent consuming it. Each episode has its own unique story to tell and most of them tell it extremely well. I’m excited to see what the next season of the series brings forward. There really is no end to what kind of stories can be told in this format, particularly as Marvel continues to expand the MCU over Phase 4 and Phase 5 of the movies and television shows.

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