Warning: This article contains minor spoilers for “What If...?” Episode 9 — “What If...The Watcher Broke His Oath?”
Marvel wrapped up the first season of “What If...?” on Wednesday with a season finale that connected all of the stories told throughout the first season, giving us a massive battle between the Guardians of the Multiverse and Ultron, who had all the Infinity Stones.
The finale was a sign that Marvel had a plan all along with “What If...?” What appeared as a show with isolated, bottleneck episodes had a finale that brought all of the loose threads together, giving us a finale that felt eerily similar to “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Avengers: Endgame” mixed together.
In truth, the episode was deeply satisfying. We saw cool battle scenes that had real stakes. We saw the powers of Doctor Strange on full blast. Thor used his hammer with poise and strength. There was even powerful hand-to-hand combat from Captain Carter and, later, Black Widow. All the makings of a true MCU project were on display.
Though the ending of “What If...?” was somewhat predictable, there’s still a question hanging about where Marvel goes from here with the show, and what the finale might mean for the future of the project altogether.
Is “What If...?” really connected to the MCU?
“What If...?” gave us a massive taste of the multiverse and the power the multiverse can have on our characters. Threats from different multiverses linger behind the scenes and could attack our main MCU timeline at any point. The point of the show was likely to provide context for the multiverse talk, giving us a better understanding of what to expect in forthcoming projects like “Spider-Man: No Way Home” and “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.”
So now, Marvel fans will head into new projects with a better understanding of the dangers of the multiverse and altering timelines. Fans will know the stakes now when Doctor Strange decides to mess with Spider-Man’s timeline (as teased in the new movie trailer), or if Wanda tries to rescue her children from another timeline (a possibility fans are exploring after seeing the post-credits scene from the ”WandaVision” series finale). Thanks to “What If...?” it’s all a possibility.
But “What If...?” has its own storyline in the making, one that feels slightly separate from the main MCU story. And that’s where Marvel will face its greatest challenge.
When “What If...?” was first announced, there was speculation that the show would be filled with one-off episodes that didn’t connect. And, at the beginning of the series, that’s what we got. We saw episodes unconnected to each other. An episode about Peggy Carter becoming Captain Carter did not connect to the episode about T’Challa becoming StarLord. Everything was separated, giving us entertaining stories without the need to create theories and predictions (much like “Star Wars: Visions” has done).
But the finale of “What If...?” is a sign that “What If...?” has its own story in the making. We see a post-credits scene that hinted of a future story to come, one where Captain Carter travels down a similar road that Captain America did in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.” So there’s definitely more to come on that front. We know there will be a second season of “What If...?” and that Captain Carter will return, too. So does this mean that “What If...?” will build its own story, its own plot and its own cinematic universe? Will “What If...?” create a second MCU? Or will the second season bring us new isolated stories?
There’s a chance the second season might feature more isolated episodes that connect toward the end, as we saw in the first season. But it’s hard to imagine a better finale than the Watcher having to face an ultimate threat, like Ultron with the Infinity Stones as we saw in this finale.
What’s next for Marvel after ‘What If...?’
We’re headed toward a break for the multiverse side of things with the forthcoming “Eternals” project, which appears to be a breath of fresh air in the MCU. It’s unlikely the “Hawkeye” show deals with the multiverse either, given that it appears as more of an action story like “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.” So we won’t return to the multiverse until December with “Spider-Man: No Way Home.” But it will be even longer until we learn about the future of “What If...?”
“What If...?” didn’t end its season connecting to the wider MCU storyline. The show remains isolated. But it’s building its own culture and storyline. So Marvel faces a tough choice — make “What If...?” a series of isolated stories or wrap it up into the bigger Marvel story. And it’s unclear which choice is best. No matter what direction the show goes, there will always be someone wondering what if they went a different direction.