WHAT IF...?: Here's How Every Episode Of Marvel Studios First Animated Series Ranks Ahead Of The Season Finale

WHAT IF...?: Here's How Every Episode Of Marvel Studios First Animated Series Ranks Ahead Of The Season Finale

The Season 1 finale of Marvel's What If...? is set to hit Disney+ in less than a week, and in anticipation, we take a look back at the road so far and rank each episodic outing of the "anthology" series.

After nearly 30 live-action projects into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the studio has broken new ground with their first canonized animated series, What If...? The anthology-adjacent series takes a look at a different universe in every episode through the eyes of Uatu, The Watcher.

Much like the films from Marvel Studios, What If...? doesn't contain itself to a single genre. Instead, each episode explores how one decision can change the course of the universe in separate worlds, allowing for a multitude of ranging tones.

With the penultimate episode behind us, it is clear that at least a number of these separate universes will collide in next week's finale. However, before we get to that point, we look back at the eight episodes that led us here and rank them each in order of quality, starting with the least impressive.

#8 - What If... Captain Carter Were The First Avenger? 6/10

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It pains us to say that the first episode of What If...? is also the least impressive. A bland pilot is never good for a series, but each episode focuses on different universes managed to save this particular animation.

A retelling of Captain America: The First Avenger explores a universe in which Peggy Carter stayed in the room with Steve Rogers during his transformation to a Super Soldier. However, in this particular scenario, Steve's process is interrupted, and Peggy takes the serum instead, causing her to become Captain Carter.

Because of this, several differences come into play. For example, Steve stays skinny and pilots an Iron Man suit for Howard Stark 70 years before Tony would have done so, Bucky survives his train fall and never becomes the Winter Soldier, and Red Skull summons Shuma Gorath(?) from a portal, causing him to become crushed. The portal, meanwhile, teleports Captain Carter to the future, and the heroine winds up in a room with Nick Fury and Hawkeye in place of Loki's descent to Earth. 

There are some fun montages in this episode, but of all the outings, this one is the most similar to the movie it is based on and just swaps out the title character for a slightly different story. It could be argued that it was meant to ease viewers into the series and help establish the premise slowly. Still, ultimately the episode lacks what many of the other entries deliver - an exciting and different tale.

#7 - What If... Killmonger Rescued Tony Stark? - 6.5/10

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Coming in at number 7 is a more recent episode, What If... Killmonger Rescued Tony Stark? First of all, it's important to note that although this is the second to last on our list, it is vastly better than the Captain Carter outing. Michael B. Jordan returns to the role of Killmonger and brings the swag with him.

After saving Tony Stark from the Ten Rings kidnapping, which took place in the first Iron Man film, he manipulates the playboy, billionaire, and philanthropist into creating an army of anime-styled drones, which he utilizes to wage war on Wakanda. This allows the villain to murder his way into Wakanda, killing Tony Stark, James Rhodes, T'challa, and even Ulysses Klaue. Playing the armies against each other an exciting battle sequence ensures which ultimately sees Wakanda claim victory and Killmonger "earn" the powers of the purple herb.

There are many incredible parts to this episode, with some killer dialogue from Killmonger. "The difference between you and me is that you can't see the difference between you and me." The messages about race and class shine in the episode just as they did in Black Panther. Seeing T'challa as a panther on the ancestral plane is a treasure that continues to honor the legacy of the late Chadwick Boseman.

Ultimately, the episode wasn't too exciting despite these scenes. While it was a fun adventure for anyone who enjoys the MCU and is vastly better than the pilot, it just doesn't stack up to some of the others.

#6 - What If... The World Lost Its Mightiest Heroes? - 7/10

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Coming in at number 6 on our list is What If... The World Lost Its Mightiest Heroes?, which adapts the events of Fury's Big Week, AKA Iron Man 2, Thor, and The Incredible Hulk. The episode focuses on a universe in which Hope Van Dyne is killed in action as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent causing Hank Pym to embrace the mantle and suit of the villainous Yellowjacket.

Seeing Hank Pym as a villain was a treat for the many comic book fans that were disappointed in Old Man Hank in the Ant-Man films, and Michael Douglas absolutely owned the maniacal role. The episode plays out as a mystery, with Tony Stark, Thor, Hawkeye, Hulk, and Black Widow being murdered one by one which is something we would never see on screen and is definitely worth tuning in to.

A Nick Fury/Loki team-up is one of the best parts of the episode, with the two combining their "powers" to toy with Yellowjacket and embarrass him while kicking the daylight out of him. In addition, the episode embraces pieces of The Incredible Hulk that have been all but omitted in the mainline MCU, even going so far as to utilizing Mark Ruffalo's likeness and voice in place of Edward Norton. These are only a few reasons why this episode edges out the previous entries in our ranking, and What If... The World Lost Its Mightiest Heroes is well worth the animated adventure.

#5 - What If... Thor Were An Only Child? - 8/10

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An episode that explores a universe in which Odin returned baby Loki to the Frost Giants of Jotunheim, What If... Thor Were An Only Child? may not be essential viewing, but the quality of the episode is spectacular and the adventure is almost as fun if not equal to the antics in Thor: Ragnarok, which is universally embraced as the best in the God of Thunder's franchise.

Without the antics of Loki, Thor is no longer the good brother, but rather a spoiled Asgardian who acts like a 1500-year-old child and goes by the nickname of "The Party Prince." Set roughly during the same time as Thor, instead of being banished to Earth/Midgard, he chooses to go to "the backwater planet" so that no one, including Heimdall, the babysitter, would notice his absence and antics.

The episode fully embraces its wacky concept and is chock full of cameos, including Howard The Duck, Korg, The Grandmaster, Valkyrie, Sif, Fandral, Hogun, Volstagg, Surtur, Nebula, Topaz, Drax, Jane, Darcy, and more, with Nick Fury, Crossbones, Maria Hill, Phil Coulson, and others rounding out the party in what is one of the most fantastical adventures yet. Oh, and Loki the Frost Giant is Thor's "brother from another mother," and his Ice Bros come with him to revel with the God of Thunder.

There is also action involved as Captain Marvel shows up to poop the party, causing a battle between the powerful cosmic forces that spread across the entire Earth, and what ensues is essentially a Dragon Ball Z fight full of quips from Thor. Some fans were disappointed with the humor in the episode, but in truth, the adventure was exactly what it was supposed to be - fun.

#4 - What If... Zombies?! - 8.5/10

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One of the most unique stories in Marvel comics in recent years is Marvel Zombies, which is understandably written by The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman. The extreme visuals and the outlandish premise of the story is one that not only needs an animated medium for adaptation, but more so, it deserves one.

What If... Zombies?! might sound like a bleak and serious title, and the episode is filled with dark imagery and scary versions of Earth's Mightiest Heroes. Zombie versions of Iron Man, Captain America, Hawkeye, Doctor Strange, Scarlet Witch, Wong, Ebony Maw, Cull Obsidian, Falcon, and more are incredible to experience, and the team of unlikely heroes that tries to escape them includes Spidey, Bruce Banner, a one-legged T'challa, Doctor Strange's cape, Happy Hogan, Kurt from Ant-Man, Wasp, and Winter Soldier.

Vision feeding pieces of T'challa to Scarlet Witch to contain her hunger is one of the darkest moments in the series, and with Chadwick Boseman once again voicing the character, it adds even more levity to the scene. Seeing Hulk face-off with Scarlet Witch was a treat since it's unlikely we will see it in live-action, and a giant zombie Wasp evoked the image of giant zombie Ant-Man from the comic run in the best way.

There are those that didn't enjoy the humor in the episode, but we argue that it balanced the dark elements in a great way. Not to mention there are incredible interactions between Peter Parker and characters he hasn't much interacted with like Bruce Banner and Hope Van Dyne. Oh, and did we mention Scott Lang's head in a jar? 

#3 - What If... Ultron Won? - 9/10

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The penultimate episode of Marvel's What If...? Season 1 is incredible for a multitude of reasons, but one of the biggest ones is that audiences actually got to experience the true Age of Ultron. Events of the second Avengers film are slightly altered in this universe as Helen Cho never pulls the plug on Vision, allowing Ultron to obtain his final form and bring about the extinction of the Earth's Mightiest Heroes, and, well, the Earth in general.

After conquering Earth, Ultron is approached by a Thanos with the five other Infinity Stones, and Ultron dispatches the villain with ease, slicing him in half in a hilarious nod to the Mad Titan's wish for all things to be perfectly balanced. With the power of all six stones and no mortal body necessary to withstand the energy, the robot moves onto the galaxy and destroys every corner of the MCU in a sequence that shows the destruction of Xandar, Ego, The Sovereign, Asgard, and any and everything else. 

That would have been the end of this tale if the nearly omnipotent being hadn't become aware of The Watcher, but the episode quickly shows that Ultron is able to locate Uatu and chase him across worlds into the Nexus of the Multiverse. The visuals in this episode were outstanding with a lengthy battle between the two entities crashing through one universe after another, even evoking the image of Galactus while chomping down on one and ultimately causing the main character of What If...? to turn to his last resort and intervene using a particular variant from Episode 4.

#2 - What If... Doctor Strange Lost His Heart Instead Of His Hands? - 10/10

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Speaking of Episode 4, What If... Doctor Strange Lost His Heart Instead Of His Hands comes next, and it ties for first on our list with a perfect score. The episode was the first to show The Watcher interact with one of his heroes, a variant of Stephen Strange who turned to the dark side in an attempt to save his lost love, Christine Palmer.

It's interesting that Christine's death is considered an "absolute point" in this universe. According to the Ancient One, without the loss of his heart, Stephen would never seek out the mystic arts and follow the path to Sorceror Supreme. While that is definitely a different case than the events of Doctor Strange from 2016, the episode utilizes this plot point as a vehicle to view Strange turn back time again and again with Christine dying no matter his decision.

Finally accepting that he can't break reality on his own Strange seeks out the lost library of Cagliostro and spends centuries absorbing other entities from different dimensions, including tentacles from Shuma Gorath(?), the same beast that appeared in What If... Captain Carter Were The First Avenger? This version of Strange succumbs to the darkness, ultimately overcoming the spell The Ancient One used to split his soul and absorbing the good half of himself.

In an extremely bleak ending, Strange Supreme turns to The Watcher for help, only to be placed in time-out, in a prison of his own making with his universe having imploded upon itself. If the incredible plot and art weren't enough to make this episode spectacular, the entire voice cast returning cemented the outing as one of the best in this season.

#1 - What If... T'Challa Became A Star-Lord? - 10/10

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As we already stated, our top two rated episodes both clock in at a perfect 10/10 score and actually tie one another, but we chose to save this particularly special episode for last on the list. What If... T'challa Became A Star-Lord? is a self-explanatory title that sees T'challa join Yondu as a kid and explore the stars.

The big difference in this universe is that T'challa's kindness and compassion causes a ripple of goodness across the cosmic universe. As opposed to the pirate renegade group the Ravagers were with A-Hole Peter Quill on the roster, this universe sees a team of Ravagers that seeks to help the universe. Yondu and Kraglin still have all of their teeth, Nebula isn't a science experiment, Drax's family lives, and most importantly, T'challa convinced Thanos that he was wrong and that there are other ways to save the universe, causing the Mad Titan to follow him as a member of the team.

"T'challa, if you are out there, you're one bright burning light in a night sky of billions, and we will search every last one of them until we find you - on this plane or the next." John Kani returns as T'chaka to share a sentiment for T'challa which transcends to real life as a memorial to Chadwick Boseman himself, who posthumously performed as the Black Panther turned Star-Lord in this episode.

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The power vacuum left by Thanos is filled by The Collector, and fans are treated to an incredibly fun heist ride that sees Yondu and T'challa face off against the Elder of the Universe, even pitting Thanos against what would have been his own Black Order. Embers of Genesis are established as something that can revive whole planets and intriguingly spreads through Knowhere, which is a severed head of a Celestial, begging the question of whether or not it will re-animate the being itself.

The biggest thing about the episode is the incredible performance delivered by Boseman. Even if he hadn't passed, it would have been praised, with the thespian delivering his lines as if he was a professional voice talent. Tears are tough to choke back during some of the scenes, but the episode is light-hearted through and through, bringing about a happy ending in which T'challa unites his Ravager and Wakandan families together in a blended union that no one realized we needed. Even if this is the last time we see this universe, it was a perfect send-off to the beloved heroes, both T'challa and Boseman.

The question is - what do you guys think? Do you agree with our assessment that What If... Doctor Strange Lost His Heart Instead Of His Hands? and What If... T'challa Became A Star-Lord? are the best episodes of the season, or would you argue that perfect scores rate them too highly? Regardless of your thoughts, be sure to sound off in the usual spot!

Enter the multiverse of unlimited possibilities. Marvel Studios' first animated series, What If...?, starts streaming August 11 with new episodes Wednesdays on Disney+. “What If… ?” features fan-favorite characters, including Peggy Carter, T’Challa, Doctor Strange, Killmonger, Thor and more. The new series, directed by Bryan Andrews with AC Bradley as head writer, features signature MCU action with a curious twist.

Marvel Studios' What If...? premieres new episodes each Wednesday, only on Disney+.

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