It was the penultimate episode of What If…? this week, and it broke every boundary we thought we knew, even boundaries the series itself had set in place.
The episode centered around Ultron, and if he’d won during the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron and taken control over the organic body of Vision.
Spoilers for episode 8 of What If…? ahead!
As it turns out if Ultron won it would be even more terrifying than if Thanos did. At least Thanos left half of life alive. Ultron wiped out everyone, quite quickly. Included in those taken out by the killer robot, the Avengers minus two: Clint Barton and Natasha Romanoff.
It’s a dystopian, apocalyptic world for our remaining two heroes, but they’ve found ways to survive. Clint steps up his tech in this episode, the invisibility cloak a personal favorite touch, as well as his handy removable metal arm. Nat also gets a shield, and that is quite possibly all I’ve ever wanted. It was a perfect callback to her friendship with Cap to see her wielding the shield as well as he would have. He’d have been proud of her, and maybe a little jealous.
There were quite a few Easter Eggs in this episode, including flashbacks to the Ultron MCU source material, as well as Tony Stark’s nightmare sequence from that scene coming true with our Avengers scattered dead on the floor. Had no one challenged Tony on his request to create this “suit of armor around the world,” this would have been the reality and it was a nice touch to include that full-circle moment.
This episode also offered Ultron a more truthful take on his comic source material. Avengers: Age of Ultron absolutely underutilized one of Marvel’s greatest, and longest-standing, villains but this episode brought a bit more of Ultron’s devastation to life. What If…? has been great about revisiting some MCU moments and twisting them to be more like the comics that some viewers may think are being left to the wayside. Between the animated format and the lack of need to build entire multiple film and story arcs around these characters and plots, it gives much more freedom for the iconic pages to be brought to life.
Avengers: Endgame also got referenced, as we see Hawkeye sacrifice himself and fall to his death in place of Black Widow. Personally, I’m on team “Why do either of them have to die?” It was great to see these two team up without any of the other Avengers, something I always felt was lacking in the films, especially considering the emphasis put on their relationship. I’d hoped we’d get some more screentime for these two in Black Widow but was left disappointed. So, this was a nice substitute.
The Watcher became more than a casual observer, and he has some skills. The level of involvement he had in episode 8 was not something I anticipated seeing in the series at all. It was a great way to keep things lively, however, dragging him into whatever the finale has to offer. I loved this new level of involvement, and the little bit of snark, we got from our Multiverse guide this week. The level of fear he displayed certainly added to my emotional connection to both him as a character and to whatever way these episodes are going to connect next week. It’s going to be good.
The most exciting moment, however, was The Watcher teaming up with Dr. Strange Supreme. These two are going to be a formidable duo and I absolutely cannot wait to see them work together, or perhaps Strange will betray The Watcher for leaving him in that empty void. The possibilities are endless … right?
Benedict Cumberbatch, Toby Jones, and Jeremy Renner returned to voice their characters, with Lake Bell returning as Natasha Romanoff from episode 3, Alexandra Daniels in her third appearance as Carol Danvers, and of course, Jeffery Wright as The Watcher. Ross Marquand (Red Skull in Endgame) voiced Ultron.