Warning: SPOILERS for Marvel’s What If…? Season 1 Finale – “What If… The Watcher Broke His Oath?”
Marvel’s What If…? season 1 finale brought the heroes across the show’s various MCU timelines to stop Ultron (Ross Marquand), who threatened to destroy the Multiverse with the Infinity Stones. In “What If… The Watcher Broke His Oath?” the Watcher (Jeffrey Wright) assembled the Guardians of the Multiverse, including Captain Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell), T’Challa Star-Lord (Chadwick Boseman), and Black Widow (Lake Bell) to join Doctor Strange Supreme (Benedict Cumberbatch) and stop Ultron once and for all.
Screen Rant had the pleasure to interview What If…?’s director, Bryan Andrews, and showrunner AC Bradley, about What If…?’s finale, the overall scope of season 1, what to expect from What If…? season 2, and how different Thanos was in What If…? compared to the fearsome Mad Titan in Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame.
Screen Rant: Marvel movies have some of the best superhero action ever, but with animation, there are really no limits. What were your favorite action beats in What If…? Season 1 and were you trying to top the movies?
Bryan Andrews: I’ve done a bunch of storyboards and a bunch of action sequences for the movies over the years so I just attacked it the exact same way I did those movies. What does the story need? What does the character need? What excites me? I just leaped into it the same way I did the action in Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame, Thor, the Guardians [of the Galaxy].
Favorite ones? There’s a lot. I think Nat in the truck beating up a bunch of SHIELD guys [in What If…? episode 3] is hilarious, but I think the Captain Marvel and Thor fight [in What If…? episode 7] turned out really well. We got to get goofy with it and big and crazy, so I think that’s what’s fun. One of the differences is the fact that I have the position that I have on the show, I get to make sure the vision gets out but when you’re doing a movie, you’re just one in the cog of the machine so sometimes what you do gets on the screen and sometimes it doesn’t. But here I got to make sure what we wanted to do made it to the screen so that was pretty awesome.
The finale really brought What If…? season 1 together. The What If…? comics were one-shots that didn’t usually connect. How early in the process did you decide heroes from the various timelines would team up?
AC Bradley: When it came to talking about our first season of What If…? and picking what would be our original run of stories, I always knew that they were going to connect in the finale. The idea that the Watcher would, like he does in the comic books, say “No no no!” and eventually break his oath when the Multiverse is threatened, that was always in play.
How those characters were going to interact and how everything was going to connect was kind of a fun puzzle for me because we were mixing genres and heroes. So we had our amazing 1940s Peggy Carter with the Super Soldier Serum, we had Star-Lord T’Challa, we knew they were going to be on the team. I definitely wanted to revisit Doctor Strange in his little prison of pain. How he was going to be part of the team wasn’t clear from day one but that was the fun of figuring out these stories. The same with Killmonger [Michael B. Jordan]. He’s not your typical hero but he was going to be necessary to the Watcher’s plan.
How did you land on Ultron as the main bad guy of the season?
AC Bradley: Well, I think any comic book lover knows Ultron in the comics is absolutely terrifying. Age of Ultron is great but was only one movie and at times, to me, it didn’t seem to give that classic villain enough screen time that I would have given him. [laughs] We can only fit so much in those movies. This was our opportunity to show what Ultron is capable of. And also, now as we’re hitting Phase 4, we have the Infinity Stones in play, we have the Multiverse, so what would happen if Ultron got the Infinity Gauntlet? How bad would it get? And it’s quite easy to jump to complete devastation!
Are there characters or scenarios you wanted in season 1 that you weren’t able to include?
Bryan Andrews: You know, it’s funny, there were so many episodes we pitched to Kevin [Feige]. It was like 30 and we were supposed to choose, like, 10 but he gave us 12 or 13 because he couldn’t whittle it down. There’s a lot of great episodes we would have loved to be able to do but you gotta choose only 10, right? And it turned out to be 9. I think what’s fun is one of the episodes that was supposed to be in this season, the Gamora and Tony [Stark] episode, it couldn’t be completed because of pandemic stuff but it got moved to season 2. So that’s awesome.
And then also for time length, there are certain scenes and moments that were in a variety of the episodes that would have been fun to see but we just had no extra time. So some of these scenes had a little extra stuff that would have been fun to explore and see but we had to move a little bit quicker for time. I can’t get into any specifics [laughs] but yeah, there’s some stuff that would have been cool to see but maybe we’ll get a chance in the future.
Will we see season 1’s characters again or will season 2 be all-new timelines explored?
AC Bradley: In season 2, we get to play more with Phase 4 and those parts of the MCU Multiverse, so hopefully, you’ll see some Shang-Chi characters, some Black Widow characters, maybe an Eternal or two will pop up. As far as revisiting our season 1 heroes, I love Peggy Carter and our post-credit scene was kind of a promise. Hopefully, a promise that her story will continue in different ways.
How do you top yourselves in What If…? season 2? Will there be another Multiversal threat or will you try something different?
Bryan Andrews: We can’t tell you! [laugh]
AC Bradley: In season 2, we’ll be focusing on different characters, new heroes, new stories. For me, the fun of What If…? isn’t just the spectacle and the thrills, it’s taking these iconic characters – both the ones we’ve grown up with and the ones we’re just meeting thanks to the movies – and showing different sides of who they are. Showing who is the human behind the iconic silhouette. For me, everything starts with character. The only reason people love seeing a giant Ultron fighting a wizard and a zombie is because we know their stories. And we’re invested.
Bryan Andrews: True. I mean, just seeing Nat and Peggy interact [in the finale] is amazing, or that scene with Nat and Clint [Jeremy Renner] in the penultimate episode interacting. There are certain combinations where you just love seeing people together. You just love seeing the conversation. It’s that emotion that gets you invested so that with all the big “WHOOSH BANG” stuff, you’re free to jump out of your chair and go, “Woaaahh!” Because you have context. If it’s just all that other stuff with no connectivity, then it doesn’t have meaning. You gotta have both.
I wanted to ask about Thanos (Josh Brolin), the biggest villain in phases 1-3. Here, he’s not quite as effectual as he was in the movies. Poor Thanos. Is he ever gonna catch a break in the Multiverse?
Bryan Andrews: [laughs] Well, I think Thanos is pretty badass on his own. And I think it’s important for everyone to remember that it’s infinite possibilities. So yes, there are universes where Thanos maybe didn’t get his act together and isn’t quite as badass as we thought. Or he was on the verge and was defeated in a different way. I’m sure there’s a universe where Thor aimed for the head. And I’m sure there are probably hundreds of universes where Thanos steps out of that gate to see the Infinity Ultron and he just destroys that droid. That was one particular story that played out that one specific way to allow this certain thing to be achieved. And for that to happen, I think that particular Thanos just maybe was a little bit full of hubris. He didn’t check where he was going in advance and he was a little bit ill-prepared, but I don’t think that means that’s the only way that particular situation ever played out by a longshot.
AC Bradley: There’s definitely a universe where Thanos got to McDonald’s after they stopped serving breakfast and decided to destroy the entire world.