Warning: This review has spoilers for Marvel’s “What If...?” episode “What If... Thor Were an Only Child?”
The latest episode of Marvel’s “What If...?” was one of the best to date. The fun, eccentric episode brought some of the best aspects of the “Thor” series of films, and showed us a story that reminds us why we love the space-centric stories of the Marvel Cinematic Universe so much.
The latest episode — “What If... Thor Were an Only Child?” — shows us a world in which Loki is never rescued from the Frost Giants and Thor is raised alone. In this world, Thor decides to travel to Earth to host a party. Only Thor’s parties are a little too wild, and they often lead to the destruction of Earth. So, to stop Thor and his friends from destroying Earth, Jane Foster, Captain Marvel and SHIELD team up together.
During a recent rewatch of the MCU films, I realized how much I’ve enjoyed “Thor” and “Thor: The Dark World,” two of the lesser-liked Marvel films. Most MCU fans tend to like “Thor: Ragnarok” because it’s more comedic and goofy, much in the same way “Guardians of the Galaxy” uses comedy for its storytelling.
This recent episode leans into what makes “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Thor: Ragnarok” so great. We are treated to little comedic moments that aren’t necessarily laugh-out-loud funny, but they’re still entertaining enough in a lighthearted episode of “What If...?”
It’s also fun to return to the world seen in “Thor” and “Thor: The Dark World” since “Thor: Ragnarok” took place outside of Earth. Mixing the Earth-focused Thor characters of Jane Foster and Darcy Lewis with the cosmic characters such as Howard the Duck, Grandmaster and some of the Guardians of the Galaxy team members was a welcome mashup. In a way, the episode syncs the entire “Thor” franchise together.
The episode also includes Captain Marvel, who returns to Earth to stop Thor from his partying ways. I love the use of Captain Marvel here. In many ways, she’s an underdeveloped character in the MCU with overpowered skills. When she showed up in “Avengers: Endgame,” her strength didn’t necessarily feel earned because her debut movie, “Captain Marvel,” was a story about her development and didn’t show us how strong she can truly be. Any way to work Captain Marvel into the MCU is good enough for me. It’s good to see her in full form, adding more layers of context into who she is as a character and as a superhero. I’m all on board for more Captain Marvel moments.
There’s a heart to this episode, too. We see the blossoming love between Jane Foster and Thor again, and in many ways, it drives the core of this episode. Jane helps rescue Thor, as she often does, and Thor succumbs to his darker side for the sake of appeasing Jane. The two are — no matter what universe the story happens in — locked together by love. It’s one of the few, great romances of the MCU, and it’s one I hope we see more in future “Thor” movies.
I was actually going to compliment this episode for having a positive ending, too, since “What If...?” has tended to lean toward finales where, simply, the universe is left in a great spot. For the most part, this episode had a positive finish with Thor and Jane agreeing to go on a date and Earth being saved.
But Marvel decided to throw one last curveball with its ending, bringing us another hint that the world might be in trouble from someone with the Infinity Stones. And, this time, it wasn’t Thanos. What a crazy ending, and an obvious hint that this story can be explored in a second season.
“What If... Thor Were an Only Child?” ranks among the best in the show’s short run so far. It’s a welcomed return to the fun, ridiculous and fantastical story of Thor and his friends, as well as bringing us a curveball of an ending that sets up something more. It’s a great reminder of why people love Marvel so much and what has made the MCU such a great franchise in the first place — fun stories with a heart and twist endings to keep you wanting more.