Marvel's "What If... Ultron Won?" Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Marvel's "What If... Ultron Won?" Review

There are no strings on Alexander Wallace.
One of the reasons I liked Avengers: Age of Ultron as much as I did was the presence of James Spader as the titular villain, who I affectionately dubbed as ‘evil robot Tony Stark.’ That film is now seen as the weakest of Marvel’s big team-up movies, but I maintain that it had its virtues. This week’s episode of What If…? now springs off from that film and asks a terrifying question: what if Ultron’s omnicidal plan had succeeded?

The world that the viewer witnesses early on is an apocalyptic hellscape reminiscent of The Road or A Canticle for Leibowitz, but with more killer robots. The story follows Hawkeye (voiced by his longtime actor Jeremy Renner) and Black Widow (voiced by Lake Bell) as they attempt to defeat the murderous tyrant once and for all.

More than any other episode in the series, this episode is bleak. Ultron (voiced by Ross Marquand) wanted to destroy all life in his titular film, and he gets pretty far along in that goal. He attacks multiple other planets besides Earth. The end result is a chill down your spine that evokes the most chilling parts of Infinity War or Endgame, showing that the franchise is absolutely capable of delivering gravitas when it is needed. Shockingly, this episode surpasses even those epic films in volume of utter despair.

Another character steps to the fore here, surprisingly. This is a character you have seen in every episode, but has only been a commentator, rather than a participant, in great events. That character is the Watcher, as voiced by Jeffrey Wright (perhaps recognizable as Felix Leiter in the Daniel Craig James Bond films). I won’t spoil too much, but he has a lot more to do in this episode than in any other. The Watcher is now forced to confront the fact that merely watching horrific events play out can have consequences. He must now question his devotion to that oath that he swore, and the end results are surprising.

As the episode goes on, it gets steadily more metatextual. The premise of the show is self-referential in regards to the franchise, but this one ends up treading intriguingly close to the fourth wall. Perhaps more interestingly, the series is now beginning to show signs of an arc, as strange as that is for an anthology series. Having watched the other episodes will benefit you here, and the arc that is now implied has certainly made me want to finish off the series.

This episode is odd, tonally and structurally. It hints to me that the writers behind this show have had plans even more ambitious than I had initially thought, and for that must commend them. The seeds they have planted suggest intriguing flowers to bloom later, and I am eager to smell them.

Alexander Wallace is an alternate historian, reader, and writer who moderates the Alternate History Online group on Facebook and the Alternate Timelines Forum on Proboards. He writes regularly for the Sea Lion Press blog and for NeverWas magazine, and also appears regularly on the Alternate History Show with Ben Kearns. He is a member of several alternate history fora under the name 'SpanishSpy.'

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