What If…? Season 2 Review: The Perfect Holiday Gift For Marvel Fans

The MCU ends the year on a pleasant high-note after a difficult 2023.

It’s no news to Marvel fans that 2023 was a dark year for the studio, one that used to be the biggest box-office driver in Hollywood. After a slew of duds, as well as some genuinely decent movies that people overlooked, the studio may finally gain momentum again with what is easily the best project of Phase Five so far. The bar hasn’t been set incredibly high by the Multiverse Saga, but What If…? Season 2 manages to pull its weight and stand out amongst movies and shows that have cost the studio hundreds of millions of dollars without providing much return.

This latest entry into Marvel’s Disney+ television roster is by no means going to save the MCU from collapsing, but it may be the first sign that it’s back on track. Without a doubt, Season 2 capitalizes on What If…?’s incredible concept in much more satisfying ways than its first season. For those unfamiliar, the series, narrated by the omnipotent being known as The Watcher (Jeffrey Wright), takes viewers through alternate timelines to explore what might have happened if certain events throughout the MCU happened differently.

Across the series’ first nine episodes, many fans felt the writers were being kept on a leash in terms of which stories they could alter. Many of the episodes were dull compared to the potential of the series’s concept. The only real stand-out was Episode 4, “What If… Doctor Strange Lost His Heart Instead Of His Hands.” The episode was emotionally poignant, offered a vastly different look at a character fans knew and loved (unlike Party Thor…), and had real consequences hinting toward more significant MCU stories.

Even though there isn’t a particular episode in Season 2 that reaches the heights set by Strange Supreme, a few episodes come close, including a moving one that sets up an entirely original character with major potential for a transition into live-action. Episode 6, “What If… Kahhori Reshaped the World?” follows Kahhori, a Mohawk woman (Devery Jacobs), as she “ventures into the waters of the Forbidden Lake to help save her people.” It’s exciting to see Marvel conjure brand-new characters in different mediums, and it works wonderfully in the case of Kahhori. She has Captain America-like morals, undying resolve, and her powers look undeniably badass on screen.

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This season of What If..? went out of its way to give fans scenarios and action sequences that Marvel would never do in live-action, as highlighted in the next two best episodes in the season: “What If… Captain Carter Fought the Hydra Stomper?” and “What If… Hela Found the Ten Rings.” The former ends up being far more exciting than the title suggests, portraying a heartwarming friendship between Captain Carter (Hayley Atwell) and Natasha’s Black Widow (Lake Bell).

Meanwhile, Cate Blanchett blew everyone away when she debuted in the MCU as Thor’s half-sister Hela in Thor: Ragnarok. However, with how that film handled the character’s finale, many fans thought they’d never again see Blanchett in the role again. Thank God Marvel shelled out the big bucks to bring her back, as it’s hard to imagine this episode working as well as it does without Blanchett doing the voice work. On the surface, Thor and Shang Chi’s worlds don’t seem to have much to do with each other. Still, Episode 7 beautifully explores the similarities between the two worlds while providing great character depth for Hella and Xu Wenwu, otherwise known as The Mandarin. 

This coming year will be slower for superhero movies, with DC taking a complete break and Marvel slowing the content train down once Echo premieres on Disney+, which may be the surprise hit the MCU needs. With how good Season Two of What If…? turned out, Marvel fans can go into the new year with high(er) hopes that the superhero powerhouse will once again release the high-quality entertainment they were once known for creating.

All nine episodes of What If…? Season 2 are now available to stream on Disney+.

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