Marvel’s What If…? Episode 1 Review

“Time. Space. Reality. It’s more than a linear path. It’s a prism of endless possibility, where a single choice can branch out into infinite realities, creating alternate worlds from the ones you know.” These are the lines spoken by Jeffery Wright; the man perfectly cast as the “Watcher” in Marvel’s What If…? If you’re like me, then you’re still thinking about the ending of Loki. How Sylvie’s actions caused the timelines to branch out unhindered by the TVA and “He Who Remains.” What If … Captain Carter Were the First Avenger explores these ramifications, and the first episode is quite a ride.

Taking place during the events of The First Avenger, the first What If picks up just moments before Steve Rogers’ transformation. When asked to leave the room, Peggy chose to stay and was there when Erskine’s research was destroyed. In an attempt to stop the assassin, Steve is wounded, and Peggy steps inside the machine instead. The super-soldier serum works, and Peggy steps out, bigger and badder than ever. However, Colonel Flynn doesn’t seem too excited about the developments given Peggy’s gender. Frustrated about being stuck behind a desk, Howard Stark convinces her to do the USO show and “sell war bonds.” Of course, he provides her with her suit, and Captain Carter is born.

One of the best things to come out of the first episode of Marvel’s What If… is that it shows Peggy Carter the respect she deserved from the get-go. This is even acknowledged in the show during a conversation between Steve and Peggy. Peggy Carter has always been a fabulous character played by the marvelous Hayley Atwell. Hayley feels like she’s right at home, picking up the role again too. Agent Carter was canceled far too soon and left us on the edge of a cliff. With Captain Carter, fans get what they always wanted, more Peggy in a badass fashion.

While almost all of the original actors have returned to reprise their roles, Chris Evans, unfortunately, did not. However, his replacement, Josh Keaton, does a phenomenal job. It’s crazy how much he sounds like Evans. Captain American fans can also rest easy knowing that Steve Rogers isn’t just casually tossed aside either. Sure, he might still be that skinny kid from Brooklyn, but he retains a large presence in the show. Thanks to Howard Stark, Steve gets the privilege of being the first Iron Man in his part of the multiverse. The Hydra Stomper is a cool iteration of the Mark I suit. Along with Peggy, the two truly become unstoppable duo. Feel free to check out Keith’s thoughts on the Hydra Stomper as well if you love it as much as he does.

What If... Captain Carter Were the First Avenger?
Image provided by The Outerhaven

There is this one scene that stands out in particular for me. It’s a fun montage combined with an appropriate jingle that’s fitting for the time period. Steve takes to the skies with Peggy holding onto his back. They’re fighting Hydra forces in the sky, taking down planes. Peggy is leaping from plane to plane, just going in hard on the Hydra soldiers. It’s an incredibly stylish moment that really showcases how well the art style of the show works. She flips, spins, bashes, and crashes with relative ease. The whole montage is also a fun nod to their blossoming romance and the dance they’ll never get to have.

I think the only real complaint I can make about the show is that it’s rushed. It doesn’t really take any time to flesh out the Hydra side of things. It’s Hydra, and Red Skull is doing what he did in the first movie, which is searching for the tesseract. Ross Marquand returns to the role of Red Skull after taking over for Hugo Weaving in Infinity War. However, he gets little to no screen time. I think the show also missed a good opportunity to set up a new origin for the Winter Soldier. Although there is a fun Easter egg involved with Bucky Barnes.

The artwork works well for Marvel’s little one-shot stories. The characters are all well done, and it’s beautiful to look at. However, there are some moments where the animations just feel a bit stiff. One good example is in the beginning when the Hydra operative blows up the lab. There’s a couple of scenes where characters are running toward the camera, and they just look poorly done. Another thing that I would personally say hurts the show is the lack of blood. Yes, it is a show for families, but Steve gets shot. Unless being the skinny kid means you don’t bleed, it just took me out of the moment. Just a spritz of red would have carried that scene much further than none at all.

If Captain Carter is any indication of the quality we’re going to be getting from What If… then I’m in. I had a fantastic time watching the first episode. The biggest challenge it faces is stuffing all of these self-contained stories into a thirty-minute  (give or take) time slot. That’s a monolithic task when you’re giving us a zombie-hunting Spider-man and a darker Doctor Strange story. If the rumor mill is true, though, it would be excellent to get more of Captain Carter in some form later on down the road. I’d risk sitting less than six feet next to strangers to see Hayley Atwell in a live-action Captain Carter suit.

Marvel's What If... Captain Carter Were the First Avenger? review

If the quality of the first episode is anything to go by, we have a lot to be excited about. Peggy Carter gets the love she deserves and Hayley Atwell resumes the role perfectly. The only challenge Marvel faces is the length. That’s a monolithic task when you’re trying to tell us these self contained stories and doesn’t leave enough room to build the world appropriately.