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Every What If...? Episode Ranked Worst To Best | Screen Rant

As a whole, Marvel's What If...? season 1 showcased the good and bad of the MCU, but how do the individual episodes rank? The MCU's first animated TV series, What If...? takes advantage of the Multiverse to give viewers a glimpse of how events could have played out differently across the MCU. Most of What If...? season 1 follows an anthological format, with each story showing a different branched timeline, allowing for easy ranking of the stories.

All in all, What If...? season 1 serves as an interesting experiment. It draws on a rich history of What If...? comics that follow the same format, and it shows just how much potential it has; unfortunately, it pales in comparison to a similar concept played out by Lucasfilm at the same time, Star Wars: Visions, which was far more creative in both narrative and artistic terms. Still, there's actually a pronounced character arc for the Watcher running through this, with the "Voice of God" narrator eventually breaking his oath and becoming Protector of the Multiverse. That sets up a much better What If...? season 2, in which the Watcher can be more of an actor, and things can play out in much more exciting ways.

Related: What If: What Worked & What Didn't?

What If...? may follow an anthological format, but it's worth noting some episodes are deliberately placed in order to create an overarching sense of narrative. Still, viewing the episodes individually, here's how they rank from worst to best.

What If...? episode 7 is a low-stakes adventure that comes after some pretty dramatic, downbeat episodes and right before the two-part finale. Its purpose is to remind viewers that the Multiverse isn't all doom and gloom by providing a glimpse of an entertaining world where Odin the All-Father never adopted Loki - and, bereft of his brother's influence, Thor became a hedonist rather than a hero. Unfortunately the premise is undermined by the failure to really develop Party Thor in any real way, and it's telling that the story ultimately moves to a classic superhero trope when Captain Marvel is called in to end the revels and the whole thing turns into a versus match. The plot repeats mistakes made with Jane Foster in the mainstream MCU, stripping her of all agency and identity, forgeting her status as a genius and simply turning her into a lovestruck teenager. While What If...? episode 7 is fun, it's mindless, with no particular depth to it; that's a deliberate decision in light of the season's overarching narrative, making it a pause for breath, but it means the episode doesn't really stand well on its own.

What If...? episode 6 is sadly the perfect example of the show's lack of focus, because it starts with a question nobody was asking - and, as a result, the answer simply isn't especially interesting. Killmonger lacks the nuance of Black Panther, with a literal "Voice of God" description of him as a villain courtesy of the Watcher, and the plot is rather meandering. Frustratingly, the end scenes - in which Pepper Potts and Shuri team up against Killmonger and plan to bring him down - set up a story that's far more intriguing than the actual one What If...? episode 6 told. Marvel would have been wiser to speed through the Killmonger/Tony Stark dynamic and show how the Wakandan uprising against Killmonger would have played out without T'Challa. That said, for all this is one of What If...?'s weaker episodes, there are still some remarkably strong moments - including, of course, an unforgettable scene featuring Michael B. Jordan's Killmonger and the late Chadwick Boseman's T'Challa coming face-to-face on the Ancestral Plane.

With the Multiverse now a reality in the MCU, it had to happen. The Marvel Zombies comics are a fan-favorite, tales set in a twisted dimension where humanity has been wiped out by a zombie plague. What If...? brings that story to life in a fantastically dark tale that sees Earth fall in just two weeks, with a handful of survivors battling to stay alive. What If...? episode 5 features pretty much every zombie trope imaginable played out in an MCU context, but unfortunately it lacks any real internal consistency, and consequently feels rather muddled at times. Still, the ending is one of the best in the entire season, optimistic because the heroes have figured out a way to reverse the zombie curse - and ominous because Zombie Thanos has taken Wakanda. Hopefully What If...? season 2 will revisit this timeline, because the story feels half-finished right now.

Related: Every MCU Show Releasing After What If…? (& When)

An MCU murder mystery, What If...? episode 3 is a fun riff on "Fury's Big Week," a concept that the average viewer probably isn't aware of - that The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, and Thor all happen in the same week. Unfortunately, the decision to set the murder mystery during this time-period means there actually aren't many suspects, because the MCU didn't technically have many superhumans at that point in the timeline; it's thus quite easy to deduce Hank Pym is the killer, although the reason for his murder spree is impossible to guess at because of the Multiversal nature of What If...? The final confrontation between Ant-Man and Loki is a stand-out moment, reminding viewers just how creative the premise of What If...? can be.

Captain Carter is clearly viewed as the flagship character of What If...?, and with good reason: she's a tremendous one, and the timeline she inhabits - one eerily similar to the mainstream MCU, and yet subtly different in the details - is one of the more interesting. Because the Captain Carter episode of What If...? serves as the launchpad for the whole series, it feels a little more restrained than many of the episodes that followed it, but it still works well regardless. It's worth noting that, right from the start, What If...? is up-front about the fact it won't mirror MCU continuity perfectly and viewers should be careful about reading too much into its events for implications on the main timeline; some events involving the Tesseract are deliberately switched around so the episode can tell a riff on Captain America: The First Avenger, rather than simply do a rinse-and-repeat.

Few episodes of What If...? display the sheer potential of the concept better than episode 2. This imagines a timeline where Yondu kidnapped the wrong boy from Earth, taking T'Challa of Wakanda into the stars rather than Peter Quill, and it confirms T'Challa would have been the better Star-Lord. His relentless optimism and hope transforms the entire galaxy, with the Ravagers becoming a force for good and even Thanos the Mad Titan abandoning his insane quest to rebalance the universe. Although the story riffs on Guardians of the Galaxy, because it is focused on the acquisition of the Power Stone and features a confrontation with the Collector, there are enough distinctive twists and turns to make it work well on its own. Heartbreakingly, Marvel was discussing launching an entire animated series starring Star-Lord T'Challa and exploring his universe when Chadwick Boseman tragically passed away.

What If...? episode 4 is easily the most powerful of the anthology stories, a tale in which Stephen Strange's heart was broken instead of his hands. This variant of Doctor Strange mirrors what Marvel initially planned Kaecilius to be in the first Doctor Strange film, with official tie-in comics revealing he was driven by the desire to reverse death and return to his loved ones; it's essentially a twisted story about how grief unchecked can destroy you, and in this case destroy an entire universe. The themes and ideas in play are powerful and evocative, the artwork is superb, and the central character of Doctor Strange is compelling even as he descends into darkness. The temporal mechanics don't work at all - What If...? episode 4 blatantly contradicts everything established about the nature of the Multiverse in Loki - but in truth precious few franchises handle time travel consistently, because it's a theoretical science. The MCU can be forgiven changing time travel in this case, for such a compelling story.

Related: Strange Supreme's MCU Future: Doctor Strange 2 Or What If Season 2?

The season finale, What If...? episode 9 faces the unenviable task of drawing all the different narrative threads together. It works admirably well, giving every single character from each dimension a chance to shine, and setting up permanent repercussions for the MCU in that it even gives the Watcher a character arc; by the end of What If...? episode 9 he is an observer no longer, but rather considers himself the Protector of the Multiverse. The nature of the Multiverse often gives a What If...? story a sense of low stakes, but here the entire Multiverse is in the balance, because the Guardians of the Multiverse are the last defense against Ultron. It all resolves in a manner that would have felt far too convenient if not for the presence of the Watcher, the omniscient being who would have been able to foresee the outcome the moment Ultron unwisely returned into the flow of time and space, and thus could orchestrate events as he wished. What If...? season 1 ended on a strong note.

But the best stand-alone episode of What If...? season 1 is undoubtedly the penultimate one, episode 8. At heart, What If...? episode 8 is the Observer's Paradox made manifest - that the Watcher's vow of non-interference is an empty promise, because the mere fact of watching something changes it should a being become aware of your presence. The rise of Ultron is breathtaking, there's a nicely grounded story on Earth featuring Hawkeye and Black Widow, but the real triumph here is the battle between Ultron and the Watcher. This conflicts spans the Multiverse - it even features glimpses of planets from Star Wars - and feels like a love-letter to some of the greatest comic book artists of all time; attentive viewers will even spot the famous "Kirby Krackle," a special effect Jack Kirby loved to deploy around his most powerful cosmic beings. All in all, What If...? episode 8 should be considered a masterpiece.

More: The Watcher's MCU Future After What If: Will He Be In Doctor Strange 2?

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