Ranking Marvel's What If...? Episodes

Marvel’s animated show What If...? ended last week, so let’s go back and look at all of the different universes shown and rank each episode from worst to best!

Daleyna
Daleyna
October 12, 2021

Marvel’s animated show What If...? ended last week, leaving the door open for another season and for possible effects on the live-action movies. Now that we’re beginning to see universes collide from What If…? to Loki to Venom: Let There Be Carnage, it’s exciting to think about the future of the multiverse in the MCU. In the meantime, let’s go back and look at all of the different universes shown in What If...? and rank each episode from worst to best! Spoilers ahead!

9. What If… Captain Carter Were the First Avenger? 

A still from Marvel's What If...? of Peggy Carter as Captain Britain with her shield

Captain Carter in Marvel Studios' WHAT IF…? exclusively on Disney+. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.

I’m all for girl power, but this episode was just a shot for shot remake of Captain America: The First Avenger with a woman as Cap and an ample dose of misogyny to go along with it. The story follows the classic, done-over feminist narrative of a woman being oppressed by men in her workfield, then she fights back. It’s too formulaic. The constant misogyny Peggy faces feels forced in to make her story more compelling, but it just makes it feel like a shallow attempt at feminism for woke points. Since this episode offered nothing new or interesting, it’s the lowest on this list. 

8. What If... the World Lost Its Mightiest Heroes?

A still from Marvel's What If...? of Natasha surrounded by guards

(Far left): Brock Rumlow and (center) Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff in Marvel Studios' WHAT IF…? exclusively on Disney+. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.

This episode has a lot of crazy deaths. It suggested this show was going to take risks when it came to killing off characters. The murders of each of the Avengers were crazy to watch. However, the payoff wasn’t nearly as successful and the reveal of Hank Pym as the true villain was way out of left field given that we as an audience knew nothing about the lore of this universe, especially that Hope was dead. 

7. What If... Thor Were an Only Child?

A still from Marvel's What If...? of Thor battling an Ultron drone

Party Thor and Ultron in Marvel Studios' WHAT IF…? exclusively on Disney+. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.

This episode only ranks higher than the previous two for three reasons: 1. Chris Hemsworth. 2. Jotun Loki. 3. Captain Marvel vs. Thor. Although Thor is mildly annoying, Chris Hemsworth’s voicework saves the character. As for Loki, this episode gave the fans what we want: an emotionally stable Jotun Loki. And the third reason this episode is great is the epic battle between Captain Marvel and Thor. Neither hold back as they toss each other across countries. It’s only a shame that the writers didn’t seem to know what to do with Captain Marvel, turning her into a wet blanket for Thor. Women overall aren’t written well in this episode, from the humiliation done to Jane’s character as she practically drools over Thor to Captain Marvel as the “party pooper” to Frigga as the fun-spoiling mother.

6. What If... Killmonger Rescued Tony Stark?

A still from Marvel's What If...? of Killmonger entering Wakanda's throne room surrounded by Dora Milaje

Killmonger and the Dora Milaje in Marvel Studios' WHAT IF…? exclusively on Disney+. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.

This episode provided the perfect pairing of war profiteers: Tony Stark and Erik “Killmonger.” Their partnership is clearly destined for doom once it’s revealed that Killmonger plans to use Tony’s tech to wage a war of his own. So this is truly Killmonger’s episode, showcasing his amazing intellect and talent for manipulation. Killmonger is simply a well-written villain. However, this episode ends just as it’s picking up, making it feel as if we just watched the first thirty minutes of a movie and only reached the inciting incident at the end.

5. What If... Zombies?!

A still from Marvel's What If...? of Zombie Wanda using red magic

Zombie Scarlet Witch in Marvel Studios' WHAT IF…? exclusively on Disney+. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.

This episode was full of wonderful surprises, combining a traditionally dark zombie plot with lots of humor. Seeing superpowered zombies in the bodies of our beloved heroes was jarring but thrilling to see. The ragtag team of survivors was unexpected fun, too. Some characters were arguably better than their live action counterparts, like Hope van Dyne. This episode gave us Hope as a leader and friend, two sides to her we don’t usually see in the live action movies where she’s relegated to a supporting character for Ant-Man. (Speaking of Ant-Man, Paul Rudd’s dad jokes made me laugh out loud.) Finally, the twist that Vision had been feeding humans to zombie Wanda was disturbing and saddening. I loved seeing this twisted version of Wanda and Vision and the way their love was as powerful as we’ve seen it before. This episode reminded me how much I want more Wanda and Vision

4. What If... Ultron Won?

A still from Marvel's What If...? of Ultron biting down on a galaxy

Infinity Ultron in Marvel Studios' WHAT IF...? exclusively on Disney+. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.

This episode ranks high because of the amazing way the posed question is answered, the raised stakes, and the epic battle between the Watcher and Ultron. Ultron sensing and breaking into the Watcher’s dimension was a game-changer. Ultron sparks terror in both the Watcher and us because of his unrivaled power and the efficient way he wields it. Their battle across multiverses is a visual spectacle, with the cherry on top being Ultron’s “Galactus” moment as he chomps down on a galaxy. 

3. What If... the Watcher Broke His Oath?

A still from Marvel's What If...? of the Watcher looking over his new team in a bar

Gamora with Blade of Thanos, T'Challa, The Watcher (voiced by Jeffrey Wright), Military Special Ops Killmonger, Captain Carter, Party Thor, and Doctor Strange Supreme in Marvel Studios' WHAT IF…? exclusively on Disney+. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.

This episode feels like a mini-Avengers movie. The team up between all these different characters was fun to watch play out, though it felt like more could've been done with this team. This episode features many payoffs and references to previous episodes, bringing these character’s stories around full-circle. My only question is: what happened to the Gamora episode? Hopefully we’ll see it in season two.

2. What If... Doctor Strange Lost His Heart Instead of His Hands?

A still from Marvel's What If...? of Doctor Strange Supreme shooting magic as he tries to save his world

(L-R): Doctor Strange Supreme and Christine Palmer in Marvel Studios' WHAT IF…? exclusively on Disney+. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.

This episode is at the top because it’s so captivating. The sequence when Doctor Strange is consuming all of the demons takes the cake as the most visually arresting animation in the whole series. Watching a character’s path to corruption is always enthralling, and especially so when it’s such a powerful character like Doctor Strange. The extremely dark ending was quite a shock but a refreshing change to see Marvel take such a risk by dooming a character to eternal isolation in which he must face the consequences of his actions. My major critique of this episode is that it’s basically “Fridging: The Episode.” Fridging is the practice of harming and/or killing off female characters as motivation for the male protagonists. Christine Palmer is used as a plot device to make Strange go “evil”. Watching her die over and over is not only unbearable for Strange to watch, but also for us. Couldn’t they have given him any other reason to go “evil”?

1. What If... T'Challa Became a Star-Lord?

A still from Marvel's What If...? of T'Challa Starlord smiling

T’Challa/Star-Lord in Marvel Studios' WHAT IF…? exclusively on Disney+. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.

This episode is number one because it has a great plot, humor, surprises, and characters. It’s also special because it’s one of Chadwick Boseman’s last performances as T’Challa. It truly captures the value of Chadwick’s portrayal of the character. Seeing the way T’Challa solved everyone’s problems in a nonviolent way was admirable and put even more respect on Chadwick’s unique performance. Nebula is fantastic, and her new look and flirtation with “Cha-Cha” came as a welcome surprise. Here, the delightfully flamboyant Collector reaches his full potential as a villain; I wish he had been like this in the live action movies. The running joke about Thanos’s plans for genocide was genuinely hilarious. The episode was so well done; it definitely deserved the spin-off that was in the works. I’m sad they can’t do it, but I would never replace Boseman as the character. RIP Chadwick Boseman. 

What If...? is streaming now on DisneyPlus.