Marvel's "What If... The Watcher Broke His Oath?" Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Marvel's "What If... The Watcher Broke His Oath?" Review

Alexander Wallace reaches the end.
Here we are: the season finale of Marvel’s What If…? It’s certainly been the experience, seeing all these strange permutations of the Marvel Cinematic Universe brought to screen. But all things end, as this season has (but we’ve gotten confirmation of a second season, so that’s some relief). Due to this episode’s nature as a finale, I’m going to have to spoil some of it in a way I haven’t had to deal with as of yet. Let the reader beware.

This episode delivers on the promise of the end of the eighth episode, with the Watcher and the anguished, angst-ridden Doctor Strange having to confront the omnicidal rage of Ultron, the most recent threat to the multiverse. To defeat this threat once and for all, the duo undertake what is the panacea for such issues in the superhero genre: assemble a team.

This team is composed of familiar faces to those who have followed this series in the way I have; they are the protagonists of most of the episodes up until this point (Doctor Strange covers his episode, and the other episodes whose protagonists don’t appear are acknowledged in other ways). With this team, the logic underpinning the show begins to reveal itself: the characters that were chosen for this series were chosen because of their applicability to this episode. It makes a lot of sense; they play off each other well, with a wide range of personalities that nevertheless complement each other. Thor, as an only child, is the humor of the group, while Captain Carter provides the leadership that such a group naturally needs.

The violence here is unflinching in the way that the series has shown in its previous episodes. The series up until now has been rather dark; those who have tired of the endless death and destruction for no seeming gain by the end of the half-hour runtime will be pleased to see that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Marvel has never been a stranger to darkness, but they know well enough never to end an arc on a low note (Infinity War was dark, but it was needed to make Endgame the success that it was). The brutality here is not a trudge through endless carnage, but rather a noble crusade. Their cause is just, and you will feel the righteousness of the fight.

Of all the episodes,this is the one most hampered by its runtime. By virtue of only being about a half hour long, the assembly of the team and the conclusion of the season’s arc is necessarily compressed into a rather short amount of time. This hits the newly introduced alternate form of Gamora particularly hard; for all she was talked about, she doesn’t do all that much relative to the other characters. I’m almost tempted to say that this show should have done what The Bad Batch had done, with a special episode allowed to run up to an hour. It would have given everything room to breathe.

Overall, this season was a lot of fun. It was immensely creative, and applied the thinking of the alternate history genre to something tremendously popular (a good thing, in my mind). It blindsighted us all by putting an arc in an anthology series, and showed there is no lack of creativity at Marvel Studios.

The wait for the next season is going to be rough.

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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