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What If…? Episode 8 Review

Episode 8 of Marvel’s What If…?  follows up on Episode 7’s cliffhanger by focusing on Ultron, but the end result is rushed and underwhelming.

For the first time in the short history of the series, Marvel’s What If…? followed up on one of its cliffhangers. Episode 7 ended with a brief but intriguing plot thread of introducing a new version of James Spader’s Ultron from another universe. What If…? ‘s Episode 8 explains to the audience how this version of the character came to be, and positions him squarely in the role of antagonist of next week’s finale episode. The problem is, the episode feels almost entirely like a rushed set up for what is to come in Episode 9, and is quite underwhelming.

Episode 8 of What If…? sees Uatu, also known as The Watcher (Jeffrey Wright), present audiences with a world in which Ultron manages to transfer his consciousness into the synthetic body that once belonged to Paul Bettany’s Vision. This also means that Ultron has an infinity stone (the Mind stone) at his disposal, which he promptly defeats the Avengers with. After fulfilling his purpose of “peace” and leaving the world destroyed, Ultron learns there are other worlds in his universe and sets out to bring his meaning of “peace” to them. Meanwhile, Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Lake Bell) and Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), the last remaining Avengers, set out to find a way to stop Ultron once and for all.

One of the major problems with this episode is that Ultron isn’t voiced by James Spader, who portrayed him in Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015). The difference is very noticeable in What If…? ‘s Episode 8. Spader’s voice is gravely and intimidating, while Ross Marquand’s voice in Episode 8, simply put, isn’t. Marquand’s Ultron voice is more of a whisper. For an Ultron that appears to be the big bad of this season, he isn’t all that terrifying. Yes, Marquand’s Ultron does some horrible things in Episode 8, but it doesn’t have the same impact or strike the same fear. Perhaps another reason for that is that audiences have only seen this version of Ultron twice before what I presume will be the final battle. There’s no real depth to his character unless you’ve already seen 2015’s Age of Ultron, and, even then, his level of depth is shaky. This Ultron is a Thanos level threat, but he hasn’t been built up like Thanos was prior to battling the Avengers in Avengers: Infinity War (2018). It would’ve been nice if Ultron had been more of a presence throughout the series, thus giving him more depth in the world of What If…? and building anticipation for the battle against him that will likely take place in Episode 9.

Jeremy Renner/Hawkeye in Episode 8 of Marvel Studios’ WHAT IF…?, exclusively on Disney+. (© Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.)

The writing in Episode 8 isn’t all that great. It feels very much like a quick set up for next week’s big season finale. That is why Ultron’s actions don’t hold the same weight, because this version of the character has little depth and his actions are breezed through without much regard. There’s one moment in particular that should’ve been an epic battle between him and another character, but it ends so quickly that it feels like a joke. This is the first case of the action sequences in What If…? being a lot better than the actual story. The action sequences are so cool and filled with colors and awesome animation. The story is mostly bland, save for the sequences involving The Watcher, and feels incredibly rushed.

Speaking of The Watcher, without giving too much away, I can tell you that Episode 8 of What If…? focuses a lot on Jeffrey Wright’s character. The time we spend with him is the best part of the episode by far. That is thanks to Wright’s great performance, the depth that the character has been given thus far by the series writers, and some beautiful animation during these sequences with The Watcher. I’d argue that more depth has been given to The Watcher throughout the series, and the overarching story would’ve been better if they had given the new version of Ultron that same depth. We’ve continued to learn more about The Watcher throughout What If…?, and Episode 8 features well-earned character development moments for him.

Finally, there’s one final issue that I have with What If…? ‘s Episode 8. Most of the main players in Episode 8 are not voiced by their MCU actors, which is (mostly) fine outside of Marquand’s Ultron. However, it should be noted one of the two MCU actors that do return in Episode 8 gives a questionable performance. Jeremy Renner has shown he can be a good actor, but voice acting is not his strong suit. The animation of Clint Barton/Hawkeye’s face is far more expressive than Renner’s voice whenever he’s delivering a line of dialogue.

The rushed nature of What If…? ‘s Episode 8 doesn’t give a new version of Ultron any depth, which makes the story feel a bit underwhelming and will likely cause the battle it seems to be building towards in Episode 9 to lack a bit of a punch. Combine that with the disappointing vocal performances of Marquand as Ultron and Jeremy Renner as Clint Barton, and you get an episode that doesn’t really leave me begging to see next week’s finale. Yes, I want to see what ends up happening with Jeffery Wright’s The Watcher, but that’s about all I’m interested in, which is a shame.

What If…? (Episode 9 Review): A New Team of Heroes Rises – Loud And Clear Reviews
Thanks to a great story, characters, and tons of action, Episode 9 of Marvel’s What If…? is a satisfying conclusion to the season, despite its subpar villain.

What If…?‘s Episode 8 is now available to watch on Disney Plus.

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