Marvel's What If...? series, exclusive to Disney Plus, initially seemed content playing in the safe zone of the multiverse. The first season revisited familiar Marvel Cinematic Universe characters and stories with slight twists - a bit like reheated leftovers that still taste good but miss the zing of the first serve. Enter season 2, and the story starts off on a similar track - mildly interesting but not exactly groundbreaking.
The early episodes of season 2 toy with intriguing concepts like Nebula joining the Nova Corps and Happy Hogan hulking out to save Christmas, which, while fun, feel like creative appetizers instead of a full multiverse meal. Then we have the leftovers from season 1, as the long-awaited Guardians of the Multiverse Gamora origin story episode that didn't make the cut in the first season found a new home in season 2. But hold onto your Infinity Stones, because halfway through, season 2 finally kicks into high gear.
In this new season, we are introduced to an Indigenous character named Kahhori, whose narrative adds a new and rich layer to the MCU. It was really exciting to find out that Marvel writer Ryan Little visited the Rochester Museum & Science Center (RMSC) here in Rochester, NY, to study the Hodinöšyö:nih Confederacy and the Mohawk Nation to come up with historically accurate lore for Kahhori. That alone is ridiculously neat.
The episode “What If… Kahhori Reshaped the World?” is where What If...? truly finds its stride. It’s not just a story with a new character - it’s a powerful commentary on colonialism, showcased in the vibrancy of Mohawk culture. The episode is a gutsy move from Marvel, especially considering the studio's recent shift away from deep-message-driven stories. Kahhori’s potential continuation in the MCU is as exciting as it is significant. Her story, rich in cultural depth and powered by historical lore that resonates with folks and challenges traditional superhero tropes, marks a new era in Marvel's storytelling.
The episode's end, as well as her appearance in the second season's last episode, "What If... Strange Supreme Intervened?" could hint at further adventures for her. I would personally love to see more of Kahhori in any capacity in the MCU. Not only is she an interesting new addition to the MCU lore, her introduction is an important one, with real potential for future stories.
The Watcher does seem partial to Captain Carter, who plays an even greater role this season than she did last season. This is not a complaint - she's a peach and I personally love her. I also really enjoy how she breaks the fourth wall and says she can hear him sometimes. With Steve Rogers gone in this new Marvel age, I would love to see Captain Carter brought to the live-action world beyond the little cameo in Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness. The character has a lot of potential, and more Hayley Atwell is always a good thing.
In comparison to the first season's somewhat cautious approach, season 2 embraces the weird and wonderful potential of the multiverse. It revisits some season 1 favorites, like Captain Carter and a dark Doctor Strange, adding layers and complexities that tie into the larger MCU plot. The standout episodes "What If… Captain Carter Fought the Hydra Stomper?” and "What If... The Avengers Assembled in 1602?" are an entertaining mix of action and emotion, showcasing a love story that’s as strong as vibranium, as well as bringing my sweet Scarlet Witch back to life. Thank you, Marvel.
As a LARPer and overall Medieval Age enthusiast, the 1602 episode is probably my favorite one of the new batch. The emotional toll Peggy suffers every time she tells Steve that she "can't lose him again" is palpable and it hurts. It makes me sad every time she finally finds him and has to say goodbye because he's the key to what's going on. Makes me want to hug her.
What If...? season 2 springs from a cautious multiverse exploration to a full-blown creative extravaganza. It seamlessly combines new characters with familiar and beloved faces, telling us incredible stories that are not only entertaining but also thought-provoking. With only 9 short episodes, this second season shaped up to be a spectacle and keeps us waiting as we get more information on the upcoming third season, which promises to add even more exciting new chapters to the ever-expanding MCU.
As a series, What If...? is a testament to Marvel’s evolving storytelling skills and expanding lore, proving that the most powerful stories often lie in the question “what if...?”