What If…? Season 1 created a new Marvel TV show that feels just as action-packed and character-driven as many of the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies. The series further proves that Marvel has a clear understanding of its brand and knows how to tell compelling stories in any format. What If…? concluded its first season in October 2021, setting up a potentially epic Season 2. Before What If...? Season 2 arrives, let’s discuss the best episodes from What If…? Season 1.
It takes the series only 30 minutes to attach the audience to these characters, establish worlds, and create a riveting hero’s journey--something that many nearly three-hour movies struggle to accomplish. I based my ranking of the best What If…? episodes on the stories as standalone episodes, and how they connect with the overall themes of What If…? and the multiverse.
Let’s rank the best episodes of What If…? Season 1.
Warning: Minor spoilers ahead about What If…? Season 1.
9. What If Season 1, Episode 6, “What If...Killmonger Rescued Tony Stark?”
The “What If...Killmonger Rescued Tony Stark '' episode's strongest idea is that of Tony and Killmonger’s bond due to both being orphans. It’s not an immediate connection I draw upon, but it works and helps show the similarities between these men, despite Killmonger’s belief in their differences mattering more.
In Black Panther, Killmonger is a sympathetic villain. He doesn’t come across this way in this What If…? Episode. He’s more of a power-driven monster than a man motivated by his pain from being a castaway of two worlds. In my opinion, that’s always what made Killmonger a compelling character.
8. What If Season 1, Episode 7, “What If...Thor Were An Only Child?”
This episode of What If…? shows what could have happened if Odin (Anthony Hopkins) decides to return Loki (voiced by Tom Hiddleston) to the Frost Giants, his birth family. What results is Thor as a party prince with no regard for other planets. A cool thing to note about this episode is that it features many characters from all the Thor movies, including possible Thor: Love and Thunder characters.
The Thor movies are my favorite in the Marvel franchise, and the ones I’ve seen the most. So I adore the bond between Loki and Thor, but I had a hard time believing that Thor would lose any sense of maturity without Loki. Yes, in the first Thor movie, we saw a spoiled prince, but he wasn’t a complete dunce.
7. What If Season 1, Episode 1, “What If… Captain Carter Were The First Avenger?”
This episode deals with the idea that something goes wrong when Steve Rogers (voiced by Josh Keaton) starts the Captain America process, so Peggy Carter (voiced by Hayley Atwell) steps in and becomes the Captain.
“What If..? Captain Carter Were the First Avenger” is a strong start to What If...? because Peggy as the Captain is a really cool concept. I also thought showing Steve still becoming a hero helped communicate that Peggy and Steve are natural born heroes. By no means do I think this was a bad episode, I just think there were six episodes that were a bit stronger in concept and execution.
6. What If Season 1, Episode 3, “What If...The World Lost Its Mightiest Heroes?”
This What If…? episode explores what happens if the Avengers never existed, and not only that, what if someone started killing them off. The episode mainly focuses on Nick Fury (voiced by Samuel L. Jackson) and Natasha's (voiced by Lake Bell) journey to find the killer before all the future original Avengers die.
The mystery of who killed the Avengers grabs your attention, but I think the answer falls flat. Though it’s interesting that the killer wasn’t someone we expected, and how they did it was fascinating, the motives behind it weren’t that gripping. A great thing about the episode was that it set the tone that sometimes What If…? episodes have dark conclusions.
5. What If Season 1, Episode 5, “What If...Zombies?!”
This is the What If episode with the strangest concept, but maybe one of the most fun. It works with the idea that somehow a zombie infection takes over and only a few survive, mainly Avengers who joined during Captain America: Civil War.
As “Zombies” continues, things escalate from slightly crazy to full-on bonkers. The episode smartly had cinephile and ray of sunshine Peter Parker (voiced by Hudson Thames) as the lead of this episode. It kept things hopeful even when they got really hopeless, which is one of the overall major themes of What If…?
4. What If Season 1, Episode 8, “What If... Ultron Won?”
As the title suggests, What If…? explores what happens if Ultron defeats the Avengers. And it’s definitely not unicorns and rainbows. Instead, we have total destruction of multiple worlds. This episode sets up what becomes a two-part season finale. The episode’s consequences force The Watcher (voiced by Jeffrey Wright) to become more proactive with what's happening in the multiverse.
This What If…? episode, in my opinion, ended the debate about who is the most powerful/scariest villain in the MCU universe. It’s clearly Ultron (voiced by Ross Marquand), at least according to the What If multiverse. It felt the most like a Marvel movie, and it helped set up the dramatic conclusion to What If…? Season 1.
3. What If Season 1, Episode 9, “What If... The Watcher Broke His Oath?”
The first season of What If makes it pretty clear that The Watcher is only there to observe these stories. He took an oath not to interfere. However, with Ultron basically destroying every universe, it may be time for The Watcher to do something. This results in him selecting a few heroes (and a villain) from the universes to help take down Ultron.
“The Guardians of the Multiverse” consists mainly of characters that we have seen over in the previous eight episodes, with one new additional character from an unseen universe. This episode brings everything together: all the worlds, characters, challenges, and personalities. All these episodes felt unconnected until this episode, which shows how important each universe is in the grand scheme of things.
2. What If Season 1, Episode 2, “What If T’Challa Became A Star-Lord?”
Yondu (voiced by Michael Rooker) hires some men to kidnap Peter Quill (voiced by Brian T. Delaney), but they accidentally grab T’Challa (voiced by Chadwick Boseman). I never knew I needed a Yondu and T’Challa combo, but now I wish we got to see it in the movies. This episode is a great tribute to the late Chadwick Boseman.
Unlike Peter Quill’s Star-Lord, T’Challa actually turns the Ravagers into respected Robin Hood types. This completely fits with the T’Challa persona, while making him also work as a Star-Lord. This episode also has some really fun changes, including Thanos (Josh Brolin) being a good guy, who everyone keeps telling to cool it with the genocide talk, and Korath (voiced by Djimon Hounsou) being a T’Challa fanboy. This episode is one of What If’s most entertaining episodes and the one I would have loved to have seen as a movie.
1. What If Season 1, Episode 4, “What If... Doctor Strange Lost His Heart Instead Of His Hand?”
Stephen Strange (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) and his girlfriend Christine (voiced by Rachel McAdams) are on their way to an event honoring him for his achievements when a car accident leads to her death. Strange spends years mastering the mystic arts. He then uses his power of time travel to try to prevent her death.
Clearly, things aren’t going to go as planned. This sets up Doctor Strange on a journey that takes him down a really dark and dangerous path. Like with WandaVision, “What If Doctor Strange Lost His Heart Instead of His Hand,” shows how grief can push someone to the brink of insanity. It also can push them to make selfish decisions that lead to chaos and destruction. A great story combined with stellar, emotional voice acting makes this the best episode of What If..? so far. You feel every moment of Strange’s pain and you’re also transformed because of it.
What If…? Is one of the Marvel TV shows that leaves a lasting impression. It’s animated in a distinct style, while telling stories that capture your attention and make you think about the endless possibilities of different choices.
Spent most of my life in various parts of Illinois, including attending college in Evanston. I have been a life long lover of pop culture, especially television, turned that passion into writing about all things entertainment related. When I'm not writing about pop culture, I can be found channeling Gordon Ramsay by kicking people out the kitchen.
Your Daily Blend of Entertainment News
Thank you for signing up to CinemaBlend. You will receive a verification email shortly.
There was a problem. Please refresh the page and try again.