Comedic Thor-centric 'What If' hits like a breath of fresh air
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While there were some laughs early on, the last few episodes of What If…? haven’t exactly been big on levity. In recent weeks we’ve had to contend with the deaths of multiple fan-favourite heroes along with the extinction of an entire reality. In other words… s***’s been dark, people. That makes this week’s seventh chapter — easily the most comedy-infused instalment of the series so far — hit like a breath of fresh air.
The Thor and Loki relationship was a pillar of the MCU’s first three phases, so much so that they brought Tom Hiddleston’s trickster God back even after he had seemingly perished on screen. That makes the premise of this episode – entitled What If… Thor Were an Only Child? – an especially intriguing alternate reality to dive into. The answer to said question? He’d become a party animal, apparently.
On the one hand, I don’t fully buy this. We haven’t seen enough of Thor and Loki’s early years to have all the changes in this reality be a logical outcome of Loki’s absence (in this reality, Odin returned baby Loki to the Frost Giants instead of raising him on Asgard), and The Watcher’s explanation is flimsy.
Also, Thor talked in a more Shakespearean dialect for years in the MCU before switching things up in Thor: Ragnarok, a change attributed to hanging out with Tony Stark and the Avengers on Earth. There’s very little of that language in this version of Thor, despite this being his first visit to Midgard.
But these are forgivable qualms when it’s in service of fun, and this episode is FUN. When Odin takes his customary rejuvenating nap, Thor decides to host an impromptu party on Midgard rather than hit the books as instructed, and shenanigans quickly ensue.
That’s not surprising considering his guest list, which includes MCU celebrities like Drax, Korg, Yondu, Skurge, Howard the Duck, Nebula, Skrulls, and more. Even Jeff Goldblum, Rachel House, and Clancy Brown return to voice a couple of lines as Grandmaster, Topaz, and Surtur respectively. The most surprising appearance of all is Loki himself in Frost Giant form, and his easy banter with Thor is a consistent highlight.
Someone who is not invited to said party is Captain Marvel, but her arrival certainly enlivens proceedings. When it comes to mystical voodoo, Doctor Strange and Wanda are not to be trifled with. But if we’re talking pure brawn, then Captain Marvel and Thor are the heaviest hitting heroes in the MCU.
In that respect, it’s cool to watch these two powerhouses trade blows with each other in this episode’s action centrepiece, and both of their skillsets are impressively animated. It helps that Alexandra Daniels – who showed up briefly at the end of episode 3 – has more real estate here to voice her version of Carol Danvers, and she acquits herself well.
In fact, the voice acting is strong across the board. Kat Dennings’ Darcy remains a witty and exuberant screen presence in animated form, while Chris Hemsworth is clearly having a blast voicing an almost carefree God of Thunder.
The cute chemistry he shares with Jane Foster is endearing as ever, which bodes well for Thor: Love and Thunder. Natalie Portman is on great form throughout the episode too, even though she’s not able to give voice to huge character beats like first-time interstellar travel because of What If…?’s hurried pacing.
Speaking of that little trip through the realms, Foster calls Thor’s Mum on him when the party starts to get out of hand, which in turn leads to Thor and his guests quickly cleaning up all the damage they’ve caused before Frigga arrives.
It’s a fun beat in an episode that’s full to the brim with them, but What If…? can’t help but end even this episode on an ominous note, as an Ultron/Vision hybrid infused with the power of the infinity gems appears, taking even The Watcher by surprise.
It was always going to take something dire to inspire the heroic team-up of multiverse heroes we glimpsed in the mid-season trailer. The arrival of Ultron/Vision definitely fits the bill, and sets the stage for an exciting finale.
If you want some idea of how scary an Ultron/Vision hybrid is, have a read of the Age of Ultron comic.
While we’re talking about Ultron, it’s also worth checking out the episodes of Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes (also on Disney+) that he appears in, most notably ‘Ultron-5’ and ‘The Ultron Imperative’. A better version of the character than the Age of Ultron movie managed, in my opinion.
Thor vs. Captain Marvel, no holds barred fight to the death… who you got?