WHAT IF...?: SEASON ONE
Starring: Jeffrey Wright
At first, you think Marvel's What If...? is simply a dream-fulfilling anthology - no stakes or agenda, just enjoy the fan service. Then it gets real dark, complete with real stakes. It makes you want an agenda. By season's end, you're reminded that Marvel always has a plan, and if we get 50 seasons, we'll still be wide-eyed and ready for every episode. This season isn't perfect, though. Early episodes are too short and the humor doesn't always land (sorry, Party Thor). However, the final episodes deliver extremely satisfying pay-offs and maybe the MCU's best action sequences. Gimme more!
While it took me a few episodes to get onboard, What If...? eventually turned into a nice weekly distraction that will keep most Marvel diehards at least moderately entertained. Like most anthologies, some episodes are better than others, but they all provide something worthwhile. What's most impressive is that nearly every MCU star provided voice work. On the other hand, the animation can be distracting, a couple episodes end rather abruptly, and some of the dialogue is pretty cheesy (probably for a younger audience since, after all, it is animated). Ultimately, it's enjoyable enough, but not required viewing despite being canon.
From the outset, Marvel's What if...? seemed destined to be nothing more than the ultimate playground for the MCU to test its riskiest ideas, but it soon revealed itself to be taking those ideas extremely seriously and developing them with care. The medium of animation and half-hour-(ish) episodes are the perfect conduit for telling tales of endless imagination and striking maturity, particularly episodes four and six. Although some stories never feel as if they reach full conclusions, the introduction of a series like this counts as another triumph for Marvel studios and demonstrates most clearly why people still love them.