So far this first season, every What If? premise has been pretty. damn. dark. But this week’s What If? episode takes a breath, and gives us more than a few laughs to break all the tension that has been building up over the last six episodes.
However, the premise is a bit shaky: without the influence of Loki as a brother, Thor grows up to become an ageless frat boy whose main purpose in life is constant, irresponsible, and often destructive partying on worlds throughout the Nine Realms. In the comics, having Loki as a brother never stopped Thor from such behavior, and I see little evidence in the life of MCU Thor that Loki was a moderating influence either. Of all the “endless possibilities” and “infinite realities” the Watcher talks about in the opening monologue each week, that this concept was chosen as one of the nine for the first season is baffling. I chalk it up to the necessity for much-needed, lighthearted, comic relief.
Events are loosely based on those seen in the first Thor movie. Astrophysicist Dr. Jane Foster and assistant Darcy are monitoring the heavens, and predicting a celestial event (read: alien invasion) that they warn S.H.I.E.L.D. about. When Thor first appears in a flash from Asgard (with an entourage this time), what happens next is anything but an invasion. Instead, it’s another planetary rave to which Thor has invited alien friends from across the galaxy. Like drunken frat boys often do, they leave chaos and destruction in their wake, but in this case the level of their pranks is high enough to get the attention of S.H.I.E.L.D.
The rest of the episode is a series of comedic scenes and events that you will either love or hate, which the forces of S.H.I.E.L.D. desperately do their best to stop. Their lack of ability to talk Thor into going home and lack of firepower creates an escalation that has world-altering implications. Which perhaps can be avoided if they only had some super-powered help? Or an obvious answer on how to deal with what is essentially a disobedient teenager?
Fanboys will enjoy the extended battle sequence, which answers a meaty What If? question in itself, as well as all the Easter eggs to be found in just about every scene.
Broken Record: Once again, it seems little effort has been made to make each animated character look like the actor who reprises their MCU movie role. Especially since the MCU is under the Disney umbrella, it’s disappointing to see less-than-average character likenesses from a company that is supposed be the best in the animation business. Amateurs using DeepFake software have been showing them up online by producing far superior likenesses.
However, the voice acting is solid, and Chris Hemsworth in particular is brilliant as Party Thor. Impressively, only Captain Marvel and Frigga are voiced by alternative actors, and Brie Larson and Rene Russo are sorely missed.
Once again, another What If…? episode ends with a scene that heavy-handedly sets up a sequel, leading us to believe that season two will consist of follow-up episodes. Is this really necessary in a universe of "endless possibilities"? There should be no lack of fresh ideas to build freestanding episodes around.
The 9-episode first season of What If…? airs Wednesdays on Disney Plus.