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The huge mystery surrounding Marvel’s penultimate ‘What If…?’ episode

Published Sep 29th, 2021 5:21PM EDT
What If Watcher
Image: Marvel Studios

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The eighth What If…? episode is now streaming on Disney Plus, and it’s easily the most exciting from the series so far. But that’s only possible because Marvel built this story very slowly, making it seem like each episode was a standalone adventure unconnected to the rest of the MCU. But it turns out that Marvel had been weaving a brilliant overarching story for What If…?though we already knew that would be the case. Episode 7 gave us the connective tissue that we needed before Wednesday’s mind-blowing revelations. And we have a huge question about Uatu the Watcher (Jeffrey Wright) now that we know what happens in episode 8. Be warned, a few major spoilers follow below.

The big What If…? villain

We speculated last week that the massive cliffhanger in episode 7 was the herald of multiversal war. Marvel had quietly started a multiverse conflict, and it wasn’t the kind of war we expected. After all, Kang (Jonathan Majors) warned us that the multiverse war is inevitable at the end of Loki.

The Ultron variant donning all six Infinity Stones appeared at the end of episode 7, making us realize this is the show’s big villain. It’s the kind of bad guy that would prompt The Watcher to intervene, despite promising he would never do so. We said The Watcher would probably recruit all the Avengers team members that we see in the mid-season sneak peek. Together, they’ll battle this Infinity Ultron who became so powerful he can travel the multiverse on a whim.

Episode 8 delivered all that, confirming our suspicions.

What If...? Episode 7 Ultron
Infinity Ultron appears in the shocking What If…? episode 7 cliffhanger. Image source: Marvel Studios

Who is The Watcher talking to?

Uatu has been telling these multiverse stories to the audience. He guides us through each different alternate universe to show us what could have been. A tiny change in the fabric of events would have turned that reality into something else entirely. And Marvel has confirmed that all these stories are canon for the MCU. That means they’re all happening in different reality branches that evolve alongside the primary reality, likely after the Loki events.

We saw Strange Supreme (Benedict Cumberbatch) first hear Uatu talk in episode 4. That was the first time we realized that The Watcher’s voice can be heard across space and time. He’s not just addressing us. Episode 8 then makes it clear that he’s indeed talking out loud. Infinity Ultron can hear him as well. Not only that, but the villain can go after The Watcher and finding him across universes. That’s an incredible power to have.

This begs the obvious question: Why is the Watcher telling these stories out loud? Who is he talking to? Are we, the audience, an integral part of the MCU?

Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) and Korg (Taika Waititi) react to a trailer for Free Guy. Image source: Ryan Reynolds

Deadpool will not like any of this Watcher stuff

It might be sound trivial, but this is an important question. Without the Watcher describing these alternate universes to a listener, Supreme Strange and Infinity Ultron would never detect his presence. And we know the Watcher promised not to interfere in any of these universes. Why is he observing everything?

Also, the fact that the Watcher talks to us is important for a different reason. The character is the first to break the fourth wall in the MCU. It’s not going to be Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) to speak to the audience first in the MCU. And Deadpool will not like any of this.

Episode 8 is only 30-minutes long, but it’s easily one of the most exciting events in MCU Phase 4 so far. Marvel only needs half an hour to tell this impressive story because we already know what happened to Ultron in the primary reality. We have all that context, so we move straight to the action.

What If...? Trailer
Strange Supreme next to Thor in What If…? mid-season trailer. Image source: Marvel Studios

All the other significant revelations in What If…? episode 8

Aside from revealing the villain and the fact that The Watcher is talking to someone, the episode also shows us how powerful these two characters are. Rocking the Infinity Stones, Ultron obliterated his entire universe. And he realized there’s a multiverse to destroy. Separately, The Watcher is a lot meaner than we thought. The fight between the two, smashing through universes, gives us a preview of what might lie ahead.

Episode 8 also brilliantly shows how the Avengers could have defeated Thanos (Josh Brolin) in Infinity War. We see the big villain attack Ultron’s Earth while wearing five of the six Infinity Stones. But Ultron only needs the power of his Mind Stone to cut Thanos into two pieces before the Mad Titan can even react. In Infinity War, the Avengers could not use Vision in a similar manner.

The episode concludes with another brilliant revelation. The only reality where The Watcher could hide is the one that Supreme Strange destroyed. The Watcher can’t beat Infinity Ultron on its own and needs to free this incredibly dangerous sorcerer.

Finally, the last What If…? episode shows us exactly how small and insignificant one reality is. We’ve spent more than a decade exploring the MCU as it expanded. The multiverse brings another layer of complexity to everything. Kang, Strange Supreme, and Infinity Ultron are already three more dangerous villains than anything the Avengers have had to fight so far, including the main timeline’s villain.

The What If…? finale, which hits Disney Plus next Wednesday, will show the big fight the teaser trailer promised: The Watcher’s Avengers will face off against Infinity Ultron.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.