What If…?: What’s hidden in plain sight in episode 9

The Watcher in Marvel Studios' WHAT IF...? exclusively on Disney+. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.
The Watcher in Marvel Studios' WHAT IF...? exclusively on Disney+. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved. /
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Doctor Strange Supreme in Marvel Studios’ WHAT IF…? exclusively on Disney+. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved. /

The callbacks

Of course, there were other references towards various Marvel Studios movies in the episode besides direct nods towards Captain America: The Winter Soldier. For example, when the assembled heroes from across the multiverse arrive at the lounge created by Supreme Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), he gives Party Thor (Chris Hemsworth) a glass mug of mead which constantly fills. This, of course, echoes Doctor Strange giving Thor the same ever-filling mug in Thor: Ragnarok. 

Other callbacks include Supreme Strange replicating Mjolnir the way Doctor Strange did to himself in Avengers: Infinity War, and the Red Guardian’s shield being broken like Captain America’s shield in Avengers: Endgame. There’s also the panoramic shot of the Guardians of the Multiverse which is a shot-for-shot recreation of the panoramic shot of the Avengers in the first Avengers movie.

There’s also a few nods towards the original comics, as well. For instance, the Watcher telling each of the recruits “You have been chosen” after announcing their name is the signature line from the original three-part comic book series, Contest of Champions. Then there’s the premise of the episode itself, in that the Watcher aided alternate versions of Marvel characters from across the multiverse to save all of reality in a five-part What If…? called “Timequake.” All of the characters chosen came from previous issues of What If…?, including a Doctor Doom from a universe in which Spider-Man joined the Fantastic Four and a Wolverine who was part-vampire.

We even get some callbacks to previous episodes, particularly those involving Supreme Strange. Notice that Peggy asks about what happened to Strange the first time he manifests the Shuma-Gorath tentacles? That’s because she fought that very same monster in the very first episode of What If…? And Supreme Strange literally eating the cosmic explosion caused by Ultron? Consuming energy, or rather multi-dimensional beings, is how he became so powerful to begin with.

And remember last time how I mentioned that the comic book version of Zola downloaded his mind into a robot bod, which has his face projected on a TV screen that’s attached to his chest? Well, we sort of get that here after Zola (Toby Jones) takes over Ultron’s body, as the digital image of Zola’s face appears on the ruptured chest of Ultron.