‘What If…?’ episode 9 review: The Watcher offers one last hope

This What If…? episode 9 review is a spoiler-filled discussion of the finale and its wider implications for the MCU.

Here we are. It’s the What If…? season 1 finale. I’ve spent the last eight weeks covering this series on Hypable (check out my What If…? episode 8 review), and now I’m here on Subjectify for its conclusion.

Last week, we saw what happened when Ultron not only gained Jarvis’ body, but also the Infinity Stones. The repercussions of his success not only affected his entire universe, but multiple other universes as well.

The Watcher was forced to make a decision—does he let this play out as it should, or does he intervene? In episode 9, we find out what happens when he breaks his oath for the first time.

‘What If…?’ episode 9 review:

Introducing the Guardians of the Multiverse

The opening of the episode mirrors the opening to Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and it was fun to see Peggy barrel her way through Batroc and the other men on the ship. Until the Watcher went off script.

The Watcher tells Captain Carter that he needs her to help him fight an even bigger threat. He also goes around collecting some other heroes—T’Challa, who’s in the middle of saving Peter Quill from Ego; Gamora, who has destroyed her father, Thanos, and melted down his gauntlet; Killmonger, who was seconds away from fending off an attack from Shuri and the others; Party Thor, who was having a little too much fun defending himself against Ultron’s drones; and Strange Supreme, who recreated Peggy and Steve’s pub for their secret meeting.

It was nice to see the show go full circle, bringing us back to Captain Carter after introducing her in episode 1. It’s also nice to see that all those other stories we’ve experienced throughout this season haven’t been just for fun. Ultimately, they served the same purpose The First Avenger, Iron Man, and Thor did as a prelude to The Avengers.

We’ve gotten to know all of these characters, seen their backstories, and made up our minds about them. Now, it’s time to bring them all together for their most important mission yet. But they don’t stand before us as a warped version of the Avengers. No, they are the Guardians of the Multiverse.

Sure, I miss the alliteration that the name Guardians of the Galaxy provided, but you can’t deny this has a ring to it. And even though this episode was tied as the longest of season 1, I think we could’ve used a little more time seeing these vastly different characters interact with each other.

But as the episode moved through the pleasantries, so will this What If…? episode 9 review. Gamora—who I wish we’d gotten a full episode for—introduces the Infinity Crusher, which is designed to destroy the Infinity Stones.

We have our team. We have our mission. We have our weapon. It’s time to take down Ultron once and for all.

An impossible battle

what if episode 9 guardians of the multiverse

This was always going to be a difficult battle because of Ultron’s power. Luckily, Dr. Strange has a few tricks up his sleeves, and his protection spells work overtime to keep everyone alive.

It seems Thor’s superpower is attracting unwanted attention, which tracks with everything we’ve seen of him so far, in his universe and our own. Despite jumping the gun a little bit, the Guardians of the Multiverse work together seamlessly.

Again, what happens in episode 9 could essentially be the plot of an entire movie, much like The Avengers, and yet we only have 35 minutes to work through it all. This is a shame, as I would’ve loved to see the Guardians stumble and fall a bit more, get on each other’s nerves, push back, and ultimately find common ground.

But we don’t have time for that. T’Challa snatches the Soul Stone, and Strange unleashes a horde of zombies on Ultron. He survives, of course, but that was never the point. This was all about Scarlet Witch, and her entrance is one to be remembered.

Unfortunately for us, Ultron makes quick work of her. This is probably not going to be the last time I say it in this What If…? episode 9 review, but I would’ve liked to see these two battle it out for a little longer. Wanda’s surprise and recognition was interesting, and there’s no telling how much her zombie brain might’ve understood of the situation.

Instead, we catch up with the Guardians, who have landed in the place where it all began, just in time for Natasha to sweep in and snatch the Soul Stone from them. This is the same Natasha who had just lost Clint and was looking for a way to destroy Ultron. After thinking she was the last one left alive, it must’ve been such a trip to come across a group of people—especially a group like this one.

Even more interesting was Peggy’s declaration that not only did they know each other in her universe, but they were BFFs. This was the first (but not the last time) this episode made me cry. I didn’t think I needed a Peggy and Natasha friendship this badly, but now that we’ve gotten a glimpse, I want more.

But there’s no time for that, Natasha takes a chance on them since it seems as though they’re all on the same side. For his part, Ultron can’t quite wrap his head around the idea—“I can destroy galaxies with a thought. Why won’t you die?”

As Strange swallows Ultron’s power, we’re once again reminded of his own ambitions. Strange Supreme might’ve had a rocky start, but I think the good doctor is just that—a good person whose power-hungry nature took him down a path he regrets. Unlike Killmonger, he seems to have learned his lesson and found a new purpose.

Thankfully, he’s on our side.

Ultron tried to get the upper hand with the Time Stone, but Strange has his own version. They battle it out as titans, with Strange seemingly evolving into his final form. Ultron is pinned down, but the team realizes too late that they’ve made a grave error.

Each Stone is unique to its universe, which means the Infinity Crusher cannot take away Ultron’s powersource. They’re back at square one.

A single choice

Ultron figures out if Strange dies, then they’ll all fall. Natasha, in her infinite badassery, grabs Clint’s arrow with the Zola virus and has Peggy create an opening. That shot of Peggy making sure the arrow hits its mark into Ultron’s eye was fantastic, and the tears may have been streaming down my face again. This What If…? episode 9 review is noting if not honest.

Thankfully, Zola takes Ultron out of the equation, even if that doesn’t ultimately fix their problem. Killmonger takes the suit and offers them the opportunity to fix their worlds—but they all seem to recognize that the Infinity Stones are too powerful to play with.

While Zola and Killmonger battle it out for ultimate power, Strange realizes they were never meant to win. They were simply there to separate the stones from the body. The Watcher intervenes, once again, and puts them in their own pocket dimension, which now sits inside Strange’s pocket dimension.

Strange says he’ll keep an eye on them, and while it feels safe for now, I worry that the threat is not gone, just contained. I have bigger questions about the possibility that they could be unleashed again—either in What If…? season 2 or the live-actions films, but that’s speculation for another day.

As the other characters return to their times, some more reluctantly than others, Natasha is the only one to truly put her foot down.

“We’re just stories to you,” she tells the Watcher. “We’re not real. You watch us fight, win, lose. Tell me, did you make popcorn while Ultron murdered my friends and burned my world to the ground?”
“You’re more than that to me,” the Watcher says.
“Are we?”
“You, your stories, they are everything to me.”

Is it just me, or does this feel like a personal attack? For those of us who live and breathe Marvel, it does sometimes feel like our connections with these characters are real. And yes, I probably was eating popcorn at some point while Ultron murdered people. But like the Watcher, the MCU is more than just a collection of stories. It provides a lens through which we can view our own world. These stories are everything to me, too.

So, I guess I can’t blame the Watcher for sending Natasha to a new reality where her counterpart was killed. In this universe, once Hank Pym was arrested, Loki took over. Fury and Carol are doing their best, but they don’t get the upper hand until Nat arrives.

While it’s a heartwarming ending to the show, it also begs many questions. How will the Watcher’s interference affect the multiverse? Will Natasha’s presence in the wrong reality cause further complications? And, most importantly, does this mean there’s a chance some dead-and-gone characters could pop back up in the MCU in a post-Doctor Strange 2 universe?

What If…? episode 9 has already proven it’s possible, but now we need to see how likely it is to happen again.

“All creatures are searching for a place to belong,” the Watcher says. “Every story is my home, and I will protect it to the end.”

With a single choice, the Watcher has abandoned his oath, changed the course of the future, and altered the reality of at least one universe. In the after credits scene, Carter returns to her time with nothing but love for her BFF. But then Widow shows her what she’s found on the ship. On the other side of a metal door, the Hydra Stomper sits, as though waiting for her to free it. Better yet? There’s someone inside the suit.

As we know What If…? season 2 is definitely happening, we will get a resolution to this cliffhanger. Thankfully, director Bryan Andrews has said next season will be a little less apocalyptic.

Do you agree with our ‘What If…?’ episode 9 review?

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