What If Season 2: 5 Ways to Improve the Disney+ Show - VRGyani News and Media

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Thursday, October 14, 2021

What If Season 2: 5 Ways to Improve the Disney+ Show

The Marvel Cinematic Universe’s first foray into animated storytelling, the Disney+ TV show Marvel's What If…?, has come to a close. For nine episodes, the show managed to deliver everything from zombies to evil versions of familiar superheroes to a marriage involving the Howard the Duck. A lot was going on here, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement. While certain details, like Jeffrey Wright’s vocal performance as The Watcher, were sublime, there were several critical parts of What If…? that never felt like they living up to their fullest potential.

Conceptually, this series offers up the biggest and most freeing canvas ever in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, one not just unbound by the obligations to tie directly into movies, but even encouraged to contradict those features. Often, though, What If…? got bogged down in familiar storytelling and visuals that seemed more creatively restrained than properties in this franchise that can’t bounce all across the multiverse.

Given that the key creative participants of this show are already divulging details regarding what Season 2 of What If…? will entail, there’s no time like the present to explore five critical things we need from this show’s sophomore season. Delivering on these needs could allow What If…? to finally reach its maximum potential in exploring all the alternate realities in the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s multiverse.

1. More Animation Styles

The possibilities in the Marvel Cinematic Universe embracing fully animated storytelling for the first time in What If…? can stagger the mind. No longer tethered to the restrictions of inhabiting “the real world,” these larger-than-life figures could truly soar like never before. Unfortunately, the show itself didn’t do as much with the opportunities afforded by animation as one would hope. Most disappointing, there was no variety in the visual aesthetic of individual installments. This program traveled across the multiverse, yet characters from World War II had the same design style as aliens living on the planet Knowhere.

It feels like such a waste to not deliver a greater level of variety in animation styles across the season, especially since it’s not like that level of variation is totally foreign to Marvel Studios on the small screen. WandaVision embraced referencing eras of sitcom history through its camerawork, production design, costumes, and even color palette. In the process, each episode conjured up its own distinct identity while taking advantage of all the unique possibilities of doing a show firmly aware of the history of sitcoms.

This isn’t to say What If…? should’ve utilized a greater array of animation aesthetics simply to chase WandaVision’s coattails. Rather, that earlier Marvel Studios series just demonstrates what happens if your TV show is willing to revel in distinct visual approaches for each episode rather than just deliver uniformity. A second season of What If…? should correct this shortcoming of the first season by differentiating further alternate universes through unique animation styles. Maybe one is done in the style of classic anime, perhaps another resembles old Hanna-Barbera cartoons. Going down these kinds of routes could finally allow What If…? to deliver both on the potential of doing animated Marvel Cinematic Universe storytelling and also just enjoyably distinct episodes of television.

2. More Supporting Characters

Looking over the first season of What If…? as a whole, it’s strange to realize that the show has, thus far, solely focused on people who’ve already occupied the role of protagonist in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Black Widow got three separate episodes where she was a focal point of the plot, and Thor and Doctor Strange each get their own installments. Even the series premiere focusing on Peggy Carter getting the super-soldier serum came on the heels of that same character headlining her own ABC TV show for two seasons. Though taking place in unfamiliar realities, the individual What If…? episodes have so far focused on people we’re used to seeing in the spotlight.

Now, nobody went into this TV show expecting an episode concentrated on Adam Pally’s excitable Gary the cameraman from Iron Man 3. But the next season of What If…? should start using the possibilities of alternate realities to focus on characters who haven’t gotten to headline movies or TV shows before. Where’s the Rocket Raccoon episode? What about ones centered on Trevor Slattery or Maria Rambeau? Through 25 movies and a handful of TV shows, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has established a deep bench of memorable supporting figures who could totally headline a half-hour-long installment of What If…? Put simply, going forward this show needs to expand its definition of whose capable of being a protagonist.

RELATED: 'What If...?' Season 2 to Include a Gamora and Tony Stark Team-Up Episode

3. Greater Variety in Tone

Midway through the first season of What If…?, even the show’s creators acknowledged that the program was generating a lot of controversy for how grim many episodes were. So many installments ended with the promise or even full-on depiction of that universe ending, accompanied by the on-screen slaughter of beloved superheroes. It’s not inherently bad to chase such bleak aspects, especially in the realm of theoretical storytelling. But to have it constantly be around just dilutes the impact of individual grim storylines. When everything is supposed to be brutally dark, nothing is brutally dark.

Given that only one What If…? episode, concerning Thor partying through Midgard, deviated from the darker action-packed tone of this inaugural season, the episodes in Season 2 of What If…? could really use some variety in tone. It’s not even like all the episodes need to be 100 percent happy all the time. Maybe there are episodes centered more on romance, or melancholy, or even more complicated tonal mixtures. There are so many different tones to explore than just rampant darkness when exploring alternate scenarios for Marvel superheroes. It’s high time What If…? embraced that for its next season.

4. Not Everything Has to Be Action-Oriented

Towards the end of its first season, What If…? delivered an episode centered on Thor that was largely inhabiting the formula of 1980s teen/college party films, complete with a climactic ticking clock revolving around the impending arrival of the protagonist’s mother. Unfortunately, the amusement of seeing Marvel Cinematic Universe fixtures juxtaposed against the staples of this subgenre got undercut by a mid-episode detour involving an extended fight scene between Thor and Captain Marvel. I haven’t seen every party movie from the '80s, but I’m pretty sure none of them involved fistfights across continents.

Having to indulge in the obligatory hallmarks of a superhero action film hampered this episode and a similar problem of defaulting to a derivative skirmish plagued other episodes of the program. A lot of modern superhero media is action-oriented, but that isn’t the only way to tell these stories. The very first Marvel Studios TV show for Disney+, WandaVision, got a lot of mileage in its earliest episodes out of eschewing fight scenes altogether in favor of focusing on an eerie atmosphere and classic sitcom tropes. Season 2 of What If…? could stand to take a cue from that program and realize that not every one of its alternative scenarios needs an elaborate fight scene to keep the audience’s attention.

5. Let the Characters Be Totally Different From Their MCU Counterparts

The strangest part about What If…? is how rarely the personalities of recognizable superheroes vary from one universe to another. Black Widow is usually the same dry and matter-of-fact superspy she’s always been in the movies and Tony Stark is especially constant as a snarky wise guy. Even Peter Quill, as seen in the Season 1 finale, remains basically the same even after he’s spent his life working for Dairy Queen rather than being a legendary outlaw among the stars.

Though likely intended to appease longtime fans of the franchise, rigidly adhering to the established personalities of these Marvel Cinematic Universe characters just comes off as a missed opportunity. This is especially apparent in how this shortcoming already undercut the drama in several individual Season 1 episodes. Most notably, an installment that envisions Erik Kilmonger saving Tony Stark’s life in Afghanistan tries to play with suspense over whether or not Kilmonger can be trusted. But since What If…? firmly plays within the established personalities of the preceding movies, it’s obvious from the get-go Kilmonger will have a hidden nefarious agenda, sucking the tension out of the episode.

For Season 2, it’s time to expand the kind of personalities that these characters can inhabit. Why couldn’t Vision be someone who works from the heart rather than logic in one universe? How about a universe where Ant-Man is a comedic caricature of classic brooding anti-heroes? These are just two of the limitless concepts one could deliver if What If…? embraced the idea that alternate universes can house drastically different versions of familiar superheroes. Where's the fun in traveling to wholly new dimensions only to be confronted with discernible familiar versions of famous superheroes? The multiverse is full of possibilities, and What If…? could realize the full potential of one of the most enticing of those opportunities if it learns to deviate from established superhero personalities.

Marvel's What If...? Season 1 is streaming now on Disney+.

KEEP READING: Marvel Had Hoped to Make a 'What If...?' Star-Lord T'Challa Spinoff



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