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Every Episode of Marvel’s “What If…?”, Ranked

It's one of the most imaginative things Marvel's ever done...and that's kinda saying something. Here's your family's binge-watching guide!

Graham Steinberg · about 2 months ago

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Marvel Studios | Disney

Based on the hit comic series, What If…? is one of the MCU’s first forays into the multiverse after it literally shattered open at the end of Loki. The animated series explores storylines and possibilities that expand the fandom's view of the MCU — everything from Marvel Zombies to beloved characters switching roles and powers.

With every episode exploring an entirely different reality, and the finale streaming on October 6, we thought it was worth a deeper look. How do the episodes stack up next to each other, and which one should your family watch first?

9. "What If...Thor Were an Only Child?"

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Marvel Studios | Disney

I love how much What If…? is using Howard the Duck. I think that’s very important to note first and foremost. This episode is definitely the most comedic of the bunch with the main premise being a cosmic banger that could leave the Earth in ashes (okay, it’s funnier when you see it). We also get a Thor v. Captain Marvel fight which is something I didn’t know I wanted so much until I saw it.

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

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Marvel Studios | Disney

This episode takes place over what has been referred to as Fury’s Big Week: his whirlwind Avengers Human Resources tour to recruit Iron Man, Thor, and the Hulk. In the films, this is spread across three movies, but in this episode, we see it take place in real time. The big twist? This time, all the mightiest heroes are killed by none other than an evil Hank Pym, who now has a version of the Wasp outfit and is avenging his daughter Hope who had previously been recruited by Fury. It's awesome to see this premise giving Pym a bigger role — now that we've seen him in action, it's hard not to wish for more.

7. "What If...Killmonger Rescued Tony Stark?"

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Marvel Studios | Disney

Here we see an unlikely duo: Our first Marvel hero and one of our favorite villains in a partnership that quickly proves to make a lot of sense (until it doesn’t). This episode is a cool world-mashup of two very unconnected movies, the first Iron Man and Black Panther. As the fan-favorite Killmonger has died in our timeline, it’s nice to see Michael B. Jordan have an opportunity to return to the role (even though I think we all would have liked to see him be less of a villain this time around). His interactions with Tony Stark show that he is more than capable of holding his own against the genius, which makes for some fun banter and an interesting plot that really shakes up the power dynamics of the MCU.

6. “What If...Ultron Won?”

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Marvel Studios | Disney

Finally, we get some continuity to the stories and an expanded role for Jeffrey Wright’s Watcher. With several plots running in tandem in this episode, there is a lot packed in. From the great post-apocalyptic heist with Hawkeye and Black Widow to seeing what an actual age of Ultron would look like, you'll be glued to the screen and ready for more. What If…? is at its best when it's exploring characters that only had limited screen time in live-action films (Peggy Carter, Killmonger) — and by turning Ultron into a much larger threat, we are in for a treat.

5. "What If...Captain Carter Were the First Avenger?"

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Marvel Studios | Disney

Our first journey into the multiverse brought back Peggy Carter — a character who truly deserves much more screen-time in the MCU — as the first super-soldier. Unlike some of the episodes, this one really just tweaks a few small moments in the Captain America story to make for very different outcomes. This episode relies very heavily on the plot of the original film but in doing so shows how certain things will always remain the same and, in a very lovely moment, this is evident of the love between Peggy and a still skinny Steve Rogers. Part of me hopes Peggy becomes our version of Captain Britain because her character is much more interesting than Brian Braddock.

4. “What If...the Watcher Broke His Oath?”

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Marvel Studios | Disney

So, full disclosure, before the finale was released I had tried to predict how it would resolve the plotlines in the series just enough to leave us hanging for what I assumed would be a second season. Instead, we got a satisfying finale that concludes just about every story thread we’ve seen so far (with the exception of maybe the Zombies episode — more on that below!). The Watcher brings together all the heroes we’ve met and forms the promised Guardians of the Multiverse. It’s a remixed Avengers, and we’re totally here for these new interactions between characters both new and old. This episode feels the most like an actual movie and is packed with several excellent battles and twists, as well as the most developed plot thanks to a full season of build-up. 

3. "What If...Zombies?!"

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Marvel Studios | Disney

As a fan of The Walking Dead (not for the whole family), I’ve been waiting a while for the introduction of the classic comic Marvel Zombies into the MCU. While it seemed unlikely that this would show up in live-action on the big screen, an animated series is the perfect venue to give an idea of what this would look like. Picking up at the start of Infinity War and changing just about everything makes for a fun retelling, and once again we see an unexpected team-up that includes Spider-Man, Bruce Banner, Wasp, Bucky Barnes, and Okoye (a super-meta nod to Danai Gurira’s famous turn as TWD’s Michonne). More than any episode, this one left me wanting more with its fantastic world-building and use of fan favorite characters.

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

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Marvel Studios | Disney

Where many of the What If…? episodes like to play around with fun ideas and inject more comedy into the MCU, Doctor Strange’s episode is a lot darker and really deals with the deep emotional trauma of a grieving man. His desperation and failure to save the life of his love, and the premise that certain things are inevitable even if you can alter the course of time, all make for a truly moving episode.

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

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Throwing the Black Panther himself into the world of the Guardians is truly a massive "what if" and that’s why it’s an absolute blast to see play out. Where Peter Quill chose to be a petty criminal, T’Challa quickly became a hero, and the writers do a good job of showing how absurdly different those two worlds would be. It’s very interesting how different this Guardians team would be with Yondu being a full member joined by the likes of Nebula and superfan Korath. But the real highlight of this episode is the reinvention of Thanos as a hero, with his ideas of universal genocide being reduced to the kooky political ideas of your awkward uncle.