Features and Columns · TV

Where Marvel’s Multiverse Needs to Go Next

Yes, there was supposed to be an extra Gamora episode in ‘What If…? Season 1.
What If Episode 9
Marvel Studios
By  · Published on October 7th, 2021

Marvel Explained is our ongoing series where we delve into the latest Marvel shows, movies, trailers, and news stories to divine the franchise’s future. This entry explores What If…? Episode 9 and how a need for the Guardians of the Multiverse may never end. Yes, prepare for SPOILERS.

When Thanos stood from his space chair at the end of the first Avengers, everyone in the audience (or at least, everyone who wasn’t scratching their head regarding who that bumpy chinned fellow was, waiting for the internet to fill them in later) understood the menace facing the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The big bad had arrived. He was going to need a good punching.

In the post-Endgame era, we want to point to He Who Remains (Jonathan Majors), and his multiverse doubles, as the next treachours threat. He’s got a face/faces. It/they can be punched. But the problems opposing Marvel’s Phase Four are not as simple as Captain Marvel unleashing a catastrophic uppercut or Iron Man snapping his fingers.

The universe is far larger than it once was. It’s not even one universe anymore. It’s countless. And from its endless iterations spill an equally endless stream of heroes and villains. Keeping everyone on their side will prove impossible. And it will take another three MCU phases to tidy up this mess.

If the ending of Loki creaked the multiverse door open, What If…? kicked it off its hinges. We’re ready to parade around parallel realities in SpiderMan: No Way Home and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, but do not expect this saga to end anytime soon.

What If…? assembles the Guardians of the Multiverse, and with their arrival, Marvel promises to extend this dimensional threat far beyond a couple of sequels. Season 2 of What If…? is already on the way, with at least one episode confirmed to contain specific plot points and characters.

Gamora and Her Pal, Tony Stark

In an interview with Polygon, What If…? head writer A.C. Bradley admitted Season 1 was originally meant to have one more episode centered around an alternate Gamora and Tony Stark, explaining how she received her Mad Titan armor and caught The Watcher’s attention. As we see in What If…? Episode 9, she is a vicious opponent and a critical member of the Guardians of the Multiverse. With her help, Captain Carter and the rest defeat an Infinity-enhanced Ultron, saving the many realms from his ravenous appetites.

Unfortunately, due to COVID-19 delays, the animation house tasked with completing that episode could not deliver the Gamora episode. Have no fear: Bradley promises that we will see that adventure in What If…? Season 2, and we’ll be mightily impressed by just how this Gamora reclaimed her power from Thanos. And why her relationship with Tony Stark might be something closer to what our Gamora has with Peter Quill, the Star-Lord.

What’s most significant about this vow regarding more What If…? is that it signifies the long haul we’re in for regarding multiversal tensions. The comic book series reveals a bottomless pit of ideas, where slight deviations result in radical shifts in tone and character, often much darker and doom-laden. But over the course of this first Disney+ season, we’ve grown fond of these iterations. We don’t want ruination to be their destiny.

Captain Carter Will Return and So Could Her Winter Soldier

What If…? Episode 9’s end credits scene sees Captain Carter discover her former sweetheart, skinny Steve Rogers, in stasis. After their Lemurian Star kerfuffle, S.H.I.E.L.D. unpacked the Hydra Stomper battlesuit from Red Skull’s storage, and stuck inside is the kid who missed out on becoming Captain America. This blast from the past echoes our Steve’s revelation that Bucky Barnes did not die in World War II but was resurrected as Hydra’s killing machine, the Winter Soldier.

Bradley assures us that Captain Carter will be back for What If…? Season 2, just like Gamora. Of all the characters introduced through the Watcher’s peepshow, she’s the one that has gained the most fan attention. Folks are already clamoring for a live-action appearance, hoping for a rejuvenated cinematic life for Hayley Atwell after the travesty of Agent Carter‘s cancellation.

Unlike Gamora, though, we can infer more about Carter’s future based on how closely her two appearances in What If…? have mirrored her Mjölnir-worthy counterpart. She got the serum and with it a jump along the timeline, putting her into the same Hydra-in-hiding narrative from Captain America: The Winter Soldier. And if she’s already living The Winter Soldier‘s script, she’s got to meet her title opponent. That’s not Bucky Barnes, but the dance partner she never gave a spin.

We want a happy ending for Captain Carter, as we did Steve Rogers. She may eventually get it, but this reunion with skinny Steve should come with all the same bumps and bruises that resulted in our Captain America meeting the brainwashed Bucky. Where our hope can reside is in What If…?‘s abbreviated runtimes.

Captain Carter’s animated premiere raced her through Captain America: The First Avengers‘s storyline — barely thirty minutes! With that in mind, we can cross our fingers that a confrontation between her and a twisted Steve Rogers will resolve itself with equal speed. By the end of What If…? Season 2, Carter and Rogers may have their living room whirl, too.

The Multiverse Will Never End

Our next trip into the Multiverse will arrive on December 17th with SpiderMan: No Way Home, although we could easily get another peek with Eternals (November 5th). From there, we’re definitely getting more parallel troubles in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (March 25, 2022), and He Who Remain’s Kang the Conquerer deviation is scheduled to be the nefarious presence in AntMan and the Wasp: Quantumania (February 17th, 2023).

What If…? Episode 9 gives us Guardians to defend the Multiverse and underscores the danger of what happens when certain individuals discover its existence. Ultron is merely the latest brute to cross over. He’s a pest when compared to the demon Loki and Sylvie faced during their Disney+ showdown. And if we could make The Watcher aware of any live-action character he might find of interest, we would point him toward the TVA imprisoned Loki. He’s certainly seen behind the curtain.

Right now, the animated adventures still feel relatively removed from what’s going on in the rest of the MCU. It’s honestly a little strange that the Watcher wouldn’t pull characters like our Wanda and our Loki for his Multiversal champions in What If…? Episode 9. Surely they could have offered more than Party Thor and his “Viva Las Vegas” battle cry?

What If…? Season 1’s ultimate purpose appears to have been to drown the MCU fanbase in the alternate realities concept. We got our first hint of it in SpiderMan: Far From Home (thanks to that liar Mysterio), and ever since, Marvel Studios has slowly cranked the What If…? lever toward eleven. We’re not quite there yet, but we will be.

What If…? Episode 9 is now streaming on Disney+.

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Brad Gullickson is a Weekly Columnist for Film School Rejects and Senior Curator for One Perfect Shot. When not rambling about movies here, he's rambling about comics as the co-host of Comic Book Couples Counseling. Hunt him down on Twitter: @MouthDork. (He/Him)