I’ve commented a few times that the writers on Marvel’s What If…? seem to be in a competition to make things as dark as possible. Since the first episode, there’s been a steady march toward doom and gloom as we essentially watch different versions of heroes we’ve come to know and love die horribly in different ways. Finally, there’s a break in the darkness… mostly. Things take a turn for the comedic, and we sort of get an MCU/80’s Spring Break movie mash up as the Watcher looks into “What If… Thor Were An Only Child?”
Out in the desert, Jane Foster and Darcy Lewis (voiced by the original actors, as is almost everyone in this episode), get a strange reading in their van full of equipment, as seen in the first Thor movie. They try, unsuccessfully, to pass on their concerns about what may happen to everyone from SHIELD to the Park Service (I wonder if that was a dig at the foolish politician in the real world who asked, apparently in all seriousness, if the Park Service could do something about the moon’s orbit?), but no one takes them seriously. Undeterred, they go to where their machines tell them the energy is heading… Las Vegas.
It’s not an invasion or a disaster, at least not in the conventional sense, although what comes offers elements of both. Via Bifrost, Thor arrives with his closest companions… for an epic party. This is when the Watcher steps in, outlining the major differences in this reality. Odin gave Loki back to the Frost Giants, Thor grew up alone, and, as such, turned into a spoiled party boy. We get a bit of a backstory regarding Thor’s arrival on Earth, involving the Odin-Sleep, instructions from Frigga, and an attempt to avoid parental scrutiny.
Back into the present, Thor brings in more and more familiar faces as the party grows wilder and more out of control. Jane arrives, and the two flirt and at least some of the story lines from the first Thor movie struggle to happen. Darcy gets some attention from a very unexpected direction, but then, Darcy is largely used for comic relief, especially in this series. Jane tries to find out about her concerns, but gets side-tracked by the ongoing party.
Chaos ensues, and the morning after has a slightly “The Hangover” vibe. Jane is awakened by multiple phone calls and a pounding on the hotel room door. Stepping over unconscious party-goers, Jane finds Acting Director of SHIELD Maria Hill there, along with Agent Rumlow (Winter Soldier, Civil War). Hill is very no-nonsense, and Jane isn’t really up for dealing with all this just yet. Aboard the Helicarrier, we find out why Maria is in charge, see more familiar faces (Hi, Coulson!), and see the decision is made to call for some special help. Considering this is before the formation of the Avengers, Hill really only has one option, although it isn’t an instant response kind of thing, which confuses Darcy.
The party goes on, even more people… well, beings… we know show up. Finally, Hill’s reinforcements arrive, in the person of Carol Danvers, Captain Marvel. This leads to an epic battle that ranges across two continents as Marvel and Thor duke it out. These are two of the more powerful beings in the MCU, especially ones with an interest in Earth. Things go back and forth, each are a bit surprised by the other’s assorted abilities, until the fight finally ends. Later, Maria dresses down the good Captain for how she handled things, and Darcy injects various comments.
Force really isn’t the answer here, although it seems to be all Captain Marvel and Maria Hill are interested in. Later, Darcy and Jane learn a bit more about some of their concerns, and find there isn’t as much to worry about as they thought. Another of Darcy’s flip comments sparks an idea for Jane, and she goes to some unusual lengths to try a tried-but-true approach to get control of the situation. Things kick into higher gear as tensions gather. Thor and Captain Marvel square off again, property damage mounts from the party, Jane tries to resolve the issue, and Maria Hill plots behind everyone’s backs, even her supposed ally.
With a comedic twist, Thor is confronted with a threat he doesn’t want to face, and has to deal with the repercussions of what’s happened all over Earth. We get a hint of the hero he could be, although not from heroic motivations, and there’s are some entertaining “try to fix everything fast” scenes. Finally, all is more or less well, Earth is pretty much back the way it was with nothing really irreparable. Things look good for Thor and Jane, there’s a lot of promise of things to come… and then we get the final scene. Because we can’t seem to have a wholly fun episode (even the first one ended on a rough note), the last thing we see is a terrifying hint of what might be next.
What I liked: This was a fun episode. While I prefer the heroic Thor, this one was entertaining, and the cameos by so many characters were nicely done. I’m really impressed that, barring four characters (Frigga, Drax, Captain Marvel, and Fandral), every character is voiced by the original actor. The amount of people coming back for these speaks well of what it’s like to work in the MCU. Goldblum’s Grandmaster only had two little bits, but they were funny. It was nice that the answer wasn’t hit something harder, but rather think about the actual problem. It was a bit like Doctor Who that way.
What I didn’t: The end scene bodes ill for this more fun look at the Marvel Multiverse. Darcy, while a bit of a flake, is damn smart, and shouldn’t be just comic relief. Her help with the solution was more accidental than deliberate.
Aside from those relatively minor things, this was a lot of fun. I’ll give this a 4 out of 5, which is higher than I’d usually go for something silly. But it was fun, and well done, and the amount of returning talent rally impressed me.
Two more to go until the first season wraps up. There will be a second season at the very least.