Recap: What If … The Watcher Broke His Oath?
Please note the following article contains significant spoilers and plot points from episode nine of What If…?
Following eight episodes filled with heroic triumphs and earth-shattering losses, episode 9 of What If…?, entitled “What If… The Watcher Broke His Oath?,” wrapped up the first season with a high-stakes, action-packed episode.
For the first time ever, heroes from the multiverse were drawn together to save their worlds. Uatu, in a dynamic shift from his role as a passive observer, recognizes the importance of becoming an active participant in saving the universes he cares for so deeply. His mission to recruit those who can defend the multiverse begins.
“You have been chosen.”
One universe finds Captain Carter on a mission all but identical to Steve Rogers’ at the beginning of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Right down to the stealth suit, the assured leadership skills, and the friendly, teasing banter with Natasha, this moment not only lets viewers know where Peggy is temporally, but also puts a touching and bittersweet spotlight on just how similar Peggy and Steve are in this universe as well.
Setting aside her shield, exactly as Steve once did, Captain Carter rises to the challenge from Georges Batroc aboard the Lemurian Star. She is interrupted, however, when the Watcher makes a direct, unprecedented, and surprising appearance in the sky, telling Peggy, “Captain Carter, the soldier lost in time, you have been chosen.”
From there, the Watcher’s recruitment efforts continue. T’Challa the Star-Lord, with his consistently pure heart and courage, is recruited as he saves Peter Quill from Ego. Gamora, as determined as every previous iteration of Gamora, has apparently survived Sakaar and defeated Thanos. She is brought into the fold after she turns the Infinity Gauntlet into something else entirely with the help of Tony Stark and Eitri.
As Shuri and Pepper hurry through the Wakandan palace to arrest Killmonger, he is whisked away by the Watcher just in time to avoid paying for his crimes. Finally, Party Thor, in his innate immaturity, takes no notice of Uatu and continues to fight Ultron sentinels in Las Vegas until he is plucked up by the Watcher to fulfill his greater purpose.
The chosen heroes find themselves in a pub of sorts, with Peggy quickly recognizing where she is once she spots a photo of Steve. Doctor Strange, in his first appearance of the episode, tells her that he modeled it after a photo he saw. Although he had been so woefully misguided that it destroyed everything in his universe beyond himself earlier in the season, Doctor Strange seems to have been humbled. How he appears more similar to the Doctor Strange of the Sacred Timeline, albeit at a much higher cost than just his hands.
The Watcher appears to explain everything to the group he has assembled, telling them, “At first, I scoured eternity for one true hero. Then I saw the bigger picture. This mission requires a team. The perfect combination of skills and experience that alone will triumph.” With the help of Doctor Strange, Uatu stresses the urgency and importance of their mission, explaining that they are the last hope for every universe and telling them that they are now the Guardians of the Multiverse.
True to form and much like Steve, Peggy immediately recognizes how important the mission is and is the first to agree to serve whatever role is needed. Following a more detailed rundown on the situation at hand by Uatu and Doctor Strange, T’Challa’s innate confidence in his abilities are highlighted when he says he will be able to get the Soul Stone. Gamora, consistently one step ahead like her Sacred Timeline counterpart, comes prepared with the weapon she had been making when she was recruited. She describes it as an Infinity Crusher designed to destroy the Infinity Stones. Peggy, always ready to lead, reviews the plan: get the Soul Stone, “hold the line,” and deliver the stone to Gamora to destroy.
The group convenes on a planet devoid of intelligent life to prepare themselves to face Ultron. Peggy witnesses Doctor Strange struggling to control one of the beasts he has absorbed, and asks him what happened. The two have a tender moment of connection, as Doctor Strange tells her that, much like Peggy, his life took a strange turn because of love. He goes on to tell her that in his universe, Steve got the super soldier serum, and Peggy fondly says that that would have been something wonderful to see. In this moment, two unlikely allies, demonstrate their similarities to their previously seen MCU counterparts, despite facing vastly different circumstances. In spite of his arrogance, Doctor Strange is still capable of self-reflection and wisdom, and in spite of being separated by time, Peggy still feels a profound connection to and admiration for Steve Rogers.
While Doctor Strange and Captain Carter bond over their shared experience with love and loss, Killmonger studies an Ultron sentinel helmet. Inherently perceptive, Gamora notes his behavior and expresses distrust in his motives. The group gathers and Doctor Strange conjures drinks, offering a rambling toast before everyone clinks their glasses. Unfortunately, this version of Thor had never been tempered and challenged by his brother Loki, and therefore never learned to think things through. In his excitement, he impulsively causes a lightning storm and inadvertently attracts the attention of Ultron before the group is fully ready.
The plan gets fast-tracked: Doctor Strange places protection wards around his allies and Killmonger and Gamora leap through a portal conjured by the Watcher. Once again not thinking, and with a battle cry of “Viva Las Vegas!” that was so ridiculous even Ultron had to make note of its absurdity, Thor unleashes a powerful lightning attack on Ultron that has no effect. Ultron strikes back violently, and is confused when the Guardians of the Multiverse survive his assault.
What follows is an action-packed and thrilling battle against Ultron as beloved Marvel heroes that had never fought together before team up in an impressive show of power. Mjolnir is multiplied by Doctor Strange as Thor launches it toward Ultron, Captain Carter hitches a ride on T’Challa’s back as he flies through the air, and her shield is further empowered to pack an impressive punch by Doctor Strange.
T’Challa is successful in snagging the Soul Stone without Ultron noticing, and Peggy and T’Challa make their way through the Watcher’s portal. When Ultron realizes the Soul Stone is gone, Doctor Strange summons the zombies from episode 5, including zombie Scarlet Witch, to serve as a distraction while the Guardians regroup in another universe.
The rest of the team meets up with Gamora and Killmonger in a familiar looking apocalyptic universe. Just as Peggy tosses Gamora the stone, the Black Widow from episode 8 zooms past and intercepts. She warily greets the newcomers to her otherwise empty universe, but is ultimately won over by Captain Carter’s knowledge about Natasha as well as her explanation that in her universe, they’re “BFFs.”
Ultron follows the Guardians to the desolated universe, and an all-out battle over the Soul Stone ensues. The Guardians are ultimately successful in acquiring the Soul Stone, using it to power the Infinity Crusher to confiscate the remaining Infinity Stones from Ultron and destroy them. As the screen swivels to highlight each Guardian in a moment reminiscent of the Avengers in the Battle of New York, Gamora realizes that the Infinity Crusher had been specifically calibrated to destroy the Infinity Stones of her universe and would therefore not work on these ones. Ultron triumphantly unleashes an unbridled assault on the Guardians, focused most heavily on Doctor Strange.
With her inalienable resourcefulness, Natasha remembers the arrow Hawkeye had uploaded Zola to. Natasha, armed with Hawkeye’s bow and arrow, launches her motorcycle into the air. Quietly saying, “This one’s for you, Clint,” Natasha looses the arrow just as Captain Carter lands on Ultron’s back and flips his helmet up to reveal his eyes. The arrow pierces his eye and as Natasha predicted, Zola is able to override Ultron’s code.
The moment of victory takes a dark turn as Killmonger, opportunistic to the last, takes the Infinity Stones for his own. His plan to use their power for his own purposes is foiled, however, as Zola rises in Ultron’s body and attempts to take the Stones for his own. As the two engage in a power struggle for the Infinity Stones, Doctor Strange quickly realizes that the goal all along had been to separate the Stones from Ultron’s body. Rising into the air, he creates a pocket universe around Zola and Killmonger, encapsulating them along with the Stones and the threat they posed to the multiverse.
The Guardians Return Home
After the battle, Doctor Strange and Uatu look into the pocket universe. Uatu charges Doctor Strange with being the pocket universe’s keeper to protect the multiverse. Now possessing the humility he sorely lacked in his own universe, Doctor Strange tells the Watcher, “I’ll watch. I have nothing but time.” The Watcher then returns to the pub they had gathered in before, thanking the Guardians for their heroism and telling them they are to return to their own universes. All walk through the door except Captain Carter, who hesitates and tells the Watcher that she wishes she could have a happy ending with Steve. Uatu tells her that her world needs her, and ever dutiful, Peggy returns to her own time.
Natasha, however, has no one to return to. In her unwavering stubbornness, Natasha refuses to go back to her universe. She accuses Uatu of not caring about any universe or the people in it beyond entertainment, and in a moment that likely resonated on a personal level with an audience that counts these characters among their loved ones, Uatu tells Natasha, “You are more than that to me. You, your stories, they are everything to me.”
Instead of sending her back to her own world, Uatu brings her to a Helicarrier where Nick Fury, Captain America, and Captain Marvel fight Asgardian soldiers. As Natasha takes in the battle of this world, which is likely the same one from “What If… Earth Lost Its Mightiest Heroes?,” Uatu tells Natasha that they are “on a world that lost their Widow.” Shrewd and discerning in this universe as well, Nick Fury recognizes that it is not his Natasha, but sensing that she has the same spirit, welcomes her to the fold.
As the Watcher bids the audience farewell, he demonstrates his own change of heart and personal growth. For so long, he had only observed the heroics of others as he witnessed stories outside of space and time. Instead of saying that he cannot intervene in the multiverse as he had asserted time and time again, he says he “will protect it to the end.”
What If … There Were More?
Just as the multiverse appears to be saved and the stories told seem to have concluded, What If…? does what Marvel does best and tees up another story in the after credits. Back in her own universe, Captain Carter reunites with her Black Widow. As they walk through the Lemurian Star, Natasha tells Peggy that she figured out what the pirates were after. Peering into a heavy-duty vault, Peggy is bewildered to find the Hydra Stomper. Natasha tells her, as a soft piano rendition of Captain America’s theme plays, that there is someone inside.
Over the course of nine episodes and throughout a multiverse of possibilities, the first season of What If…? took its audience on an emotional journey that explored characters that we know and love in different circumstances. The core traits that make characters who they are in every universe were tested by circumstance, bringing out either the best or worst in them. With its powerful storytelling and its gripping after credits scene, Marvel fans will likely be looking forward to season two and the endless stories that await throughout the multiverse.
What was your favorite moment of the What If…? finale? Let us know in the comments, and don’t forget to Let Your Geek Sideshow!