REVIEW: ‘What If…?’ Episode 8

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What If... Episode 8 - But Why Tho

What If…?Episode 8 has perhaps one of the darkest premises of the series-and considering one episode saw Doctor Strange literally destroy the universe, that’s saying something. “What If…Ultron Won?” presents an alternate version of Avengers: Age of Ultron, where Ultron (Ross Marquand) managed to take over the Vision’s body and wiped nearly all of the human race from existence. The only survivors are Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Black Widow (Lake Bell) who travel to Russia in hopes of defeating the insane artificial intelligence. Little do they know that Ultron has gained the power of the Infinity Stones and set his sights on bringing “peace” to every universe-which forces the Watcher (Jeffery Wright) to consider the limits of his sacred oath.

It makes sense that after the wacky hijinks of “What If…Thor Was An Only Child?” that the series would return to a bleaker format. I just was not expecting it to be THIS bleak. A harrowing sequence features Ultron laying waste to multiple planets within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as well as their heroes. Thor, the Guardians of the Galaxy, and even Captain Marvel fall at Ultron’s hands. Director Bryan Andrews and writer Matthew Chauncey showcase the full terror of a genocidal machine with the power of a god, as entire worlds grow awash in flame and fade away into the cold abyss of space. They also excel at the Earthbound sequences, which feature Hawkeye and Widow fighting to stay one step ahead of Ultron’s seemingly never-ending army of drones. One battle even features Widow utilizing the Red Guardian’s shield to take down multiple Ultron drones, alongside her electroshock batons and Widow’s Bite.

The Earth sequences are perhaps the most heartbreaking, as the last two Avengers have hit the end of their rope fighting Ultron. Hawkeye especially is ready to give up; he tells Widow in a dour sequence “My will to live is flatlining.” Renner infuses his performance with melancholy, matching Hawkeye’s post-apocalyptic design which includes a repurposed Ultron arm and a more rugged version of his Avengers uniform. The rest of the voice cast also brings their A-Game, especially Bell and Marquand. Both turn in vocal performances that are dead ringers for Scarlett Johansson and James Spader respectively, and it’s a testament to how voice acting is an actual art. Voice actors don’t just speak into a mic; they have to convey a wide range of emotions using nothing but their voice. And What If…? Episode 8 is the point in the series where I feel the entire cast managed to do that.

Another welcome surprise from the episode features the Watcher’s oath being tested, especially as Ultron’s omnipotence grows. Wright’s performance as the Watcher has steadily been taking on dimension throughout each episode, and in “What If…Ultron Won?” he feels less like an all-knowing mentor and more of a real human being. This leads to a hilarious line reading: “I have seen everything that has ever happened…And yet, what the hell is this?” He even considers breaking his sacred oath to help Hawkeye and Widow-and as longtime comic book readers would tell you, the Watcher is the one member of his race who has no problem interfering. In his defense, an Infinity Stone powered Ultron is where I’d draw the line if I was an all-seeing, all-knowing being.

What If…? Episode 8 presents the series’ bleakest premise while setting the stage for a multiverse-shaking season finale. With the appearance of a surprising figure from earlier in the season, it looks like Uatu may be drawing on help from heroes across the universe to stop Ultron-and that’ll be a hell of a fight.

The Season 1 finale of What If…? will air next Wednesday on Disney+.

 


What If...? Episode 8
  • 9/10
    Rating - 9/10
9/10

TL;DR

What If…? Episode 8 presents the series’ bleakest premise while setting the stage for a multiverse-shaking season finale. With the appearance of a surprising figure from earlier in the season, it looks like Uatu may be drawing on help from heroes across the universe to stop Ultron-and that’ll be a hell of a fight.