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Existential Binge-Watching: Ranking the first season of ‘What If…?’

Marvel’s What If…? just wrapped up its first season this week, and holistically, it delivered on the premise of the series. The animation was a blast to watch, the voice acting was solid - even for those who were filling in for certain characters - and the storylines spanned numerous scenarios with unique twists on pivotal moments in the previously established MCU.

Due to the chaotic nature of the show and the runtime of the episodes, each entry did have a bit of a trailer-esque feel to it with quicker pacing that sometimes played like a plot outline. All in all, though, it just made the series that much more easy to dive into and get lost in the questions of altering the Marvel multiverse.

Now that the lovely narration of Jeffrey Wright’s The Watcher has come to an end for this season, it only felt right to rank the stories that came out of this experimental stop in the MCU.

1. What If… Doctor Strange Lost His Heart Instead of His Hands?

This was easily the most complete and fully realized story of the entire bunch. Well constructed, tragically heartbreaking, this took the already great character of Doctor Strange and put an immensely powerful, yet broken, twist on him. He would be a fantastic character to bring back somewhere else down the line. It is also the first instance of The Watcher becoming more involved, which really helped in creating intrigue moving forward in the series.

2. What If… Ultron Won?

While the Strange episode reigned supreme, What If… Ultron Won? gave it a run for its money. Serving as the Infinity War of the first season, a catastrophic reality was showcased in this episode. It’s truly when the series became more than just pocket dimensions and individual episodes, essentially serving as a mini animated Avengers movie set to the backdrop of a multiverse on the brink of destruction.

3. What If… The Watcher Broke His Oath?

If the outstanding penultimate episode was Infinity War, this episode was Endgame. After wondering if the show would build to some overarching story all season long, the finale delivered in every way imaginable. It’s hard to assume these characters, in particular, were the best across the entire multiverse to beat this threat, but it wraps up the episodes that had come before it perfectly. There are plenty of callbacks and some interesting questions moving forward that could potentially impact the larger MCU.

Oh, and for those wondering, we will be getting an explanation on the Gamora variant showcased here in season two.

4. What If… The World Lost Its Mightiest Heroes?

The episode had a very Captain America: The Winter Soldier vibe to it. Acting as a murder mystery with the original Avengers dropping like flies, the entire episode builds up to a satisfying conclusion in an expertly crafted way. Fun idea, great execution and it fit the series extremely well.

5. What If… Zombies?!

One of the more chaotic entries of What If…?, for sure, but it was an undeniable joyride to watch the MCU tackle The Walking Dead-like scenarios coupled with Zombieland stylistic notes to boot. So many ideas were thrown in and this may be the one that deserves a season two sequel the most. After all, it’d be rude to leave viewers with that ending cliffhanger.

6. What If… T’Challa Became a Star-Lord?

Due to the presence of the late Chadwick Boseman, this was just a charming and heartwarming storyline to watch play out. The core idea is a bit difficult to rationalize, but it’s undeniably beautiful to sit through by the time Boseman’s tribute is displayed at the end. Plus, there’s a couple of fun happy takes on typically dark and brooding villains.

7. What If… Captain Carter Was the First Avenger?

The premiere did exactly what it needed to do. It wasn’t anything too crazy, but it served as a solid opener that was similar in tone to early MCU origin films. With the multiverse opening up, it would definitely be easy to see Captain Carter popping up again in some capacity further down the line. 

8. What If… Killmonger Rescued Tony Stark?

This is another more random change to a story, and it’s harder to empathize with Killmonger here, but the episode is one of the best in terms of structure. It moves fast, but with purpose, and flows naturally. The ending is also pretty abrupt, but it does get a tiny bit of extra time in the last episode to make up for it.

9. What If… Thor Was an Only Child?

It was cute, it was funny, but that was about it. The episode played more like a children’s cartoon type of episode, but it owned up to what it was really well. Not to mention, it gets a couple bonus points for the hint of the finale at the very end.

Jackson Horvat is a senior studying journalism at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnist do not reflect those of The Post. Do you agree? Tell Jackson by tweeting him at @horvatjackson.

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