Marvel’s What If…?: “What If….Ultron Won/The Watcher Broke His Oath” (Finale 2 Episodes) Review
With all my Toronto International Film Festival and New York Film Festival coverage, I wasn’t able to do solo reviews for the last two episode of Marvel’s What If…? So, I decided to cover the last two episodes together in one review since they kind of act as a two-part finale with “What If…Ultron Won?” building up the season’s big villain and “What If…The Watcher Broke His Oath?” building up the resistance.
Age of Ultron has always been divisive amongst fans for its portrayal of its titular villain, but “What If…Ultron Won” really does Ultron (here voiced by Ross Marquand) justice by showcasing the destruction and devastation he could cause if he won. The visual of him speaking through Vision’s body and having the Ultron armor form around him like its consuming him is very unsettling and the way he just instantly dispatches of Thanos and takes the infinity stones immediately strikes fear. This episode really does a great job showing Ultron as a powerful and calculated villain and giving him the infinity stones makes him truly all-powerful.
The montage of him literally going to every corner of the Marvel Universe and turning it to dust is absolutely breathtaking with the devastation that he leaves in his path. His unbeatability is only accented more with him killing Captain Marvel (voiced by Alexandra Daniels) and it’s no wonder that Black Widow (voiced by Lake Bell) and Hawkeye (voiced by Jeremy Renner) aren’t exactly all there while on the run. It’s kind of nice how the two have taken parts of their fallen heroes, mainly Steve’s shield and, I guess, Bucky’s robotic arm, along with them and the chemistry feels right even though its not Scarlett Johansson and Renner. Bell’s voice as Widow is definitely better this time around, but it’s baffling as to why they have Johannsson for one episode and then not the next and it just contributes to the vocal unevenness throughout this series. Their storyline works fine as rebels on the run looking for a way to beat Ultron, which leads to a fun return from Arnim Zola (voiced by Toby Jones) and an incredibly epic final battle. More importantly, it causes The Watcher (voiced by Jeffery Wright) to break from his omnipotent and non-interfering role.
The Watcher becomes more than just a narrator as he’s forced to act as Ultron not only becomes aware of his presence, but also that there are other universes to conquer. I really appreciate how this series has tried to do more with The Watcher character and break him out of just being a simple narrator. It feels like a breakthrough moment for the anthology genre and the path it leads him on trying to stop Ultron is satisfying to watch. His giddiness of anticipation in hoping that Hawkeye discovers the right file is super charming and he proves himself to be a powerful entity in fighting Ultron. Their fight, by the way, is a visual masterpiece with how each of Ultron’s punches transports them into a new universe. It’s super creative and a great showcase of the power that Ultron has acquired. Overall, this finale, both episodes, really do a lot for The Watcher character and his final speech about what their stories mean to him is very touching.
Even The Watcher isn’t powerful enough to beat Ultron though, so he’s forced to pull characters from the stories we’ve seen so far to create the Guardians of the Multiverse. Truth be told, the cats been out of the bag for a while on this one, but there was still hope that this could be an awesome finale. Not only do we get to see characters like Dark Sorcerer Supreme Strange (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch), Captain Carter (voiced by Hayley Atwell), and Killmonger (voiced by Michael B. Jordan) team up, but we even get the opportunity to hear Chadwick Boseman in his final performance. Unfortunately, the introduction of the Guardians of the Multiverse is a cobbled multiversal mess.
Outside of a budding respect between Strange and The Watcher, the finale absolutely botches the characters and worlds that this series has introduced us to. A lot of the cliffhangers that were teased, like Pepper and Shuri building a resistance against Killmonger and T’Challa reuniting with his past in Wakanda, either go nowhere or happen in the background leaving not too much room to go back to in the future. The characters are given no development whatsoever and there aren’t any interesting conflicts that play out that cause some relationship woes within the team. Like, I don’t know, wouldn’t T’Challa be suspicious of Killmonger since he killed him in his timeline or people be wary of Thor because of his partying antics. There’s even a Gamora (voiced by Cynthia Kaye McWilliams) put on the team that we’ve haven’t even seen before. She’s super tacked on and doesn’t add anything all that unique except a plan that doesn’t work. There’s barely even any dialogue between the characters and it just has them in a fight sequence that consumes most of the episode.
While visually stunning, the final fight between the Guardians and Ultron never feels like it has high stakes. It never really feels like the characters are going to lose and the twist with Killmonger trying to betray the team is super underwhelming. It doesn’t even really bring its worlds together all that well as it feels like its frantically trying to connect every episode into one and it leads to messy conclusions and connections. Worst of all, it doesn’t really feel like it lives up to its title. The Watcher “breaking his oath” doesn’t lead to anything all that conclusive or game-changing and things just kind of go back to where they left off. The idea of bringing its stories and central narrator together in one episode should be an epic bang to go out on, but in its execution it’s a total blunder.
Marvel’s What If…? ends essentially where it began as its finale sets up interesting depictions of Ultron, The Watcher, and the Marvel Multiverse that it can stick the landing on because of weak character writing. It’s final two episode certainly feel ambitious, but ambition can only get you so far.