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TV Review: ‘What If…?’ Season 2

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Dr. Wendy Lawson/Mar-vell, Bill Foster/Goliath, Black Panther/King T’Chaka, and Hank Pym/Ant-Man in Marvel Studios' 'What If…?,' Season 2 exclusively on Disney+.

(L to R) Dr. Wendy Lawson/Mar-vell, Bill Foster/Goliath, Black Panther/King T’Chaka, and Hank Pym/Ant-Man in Marvel Studios’ ‘What If…?,’ Season 2 exclusively on Disney+. © 2023 Marvel.

Landing on Disney+ daily across the next nine days, the second season of Marvel’s Disney+ animated series ‘What If…?’ has plenty of treats to deliver, including a smart, clever festive episode that is the highlight of the early run.

At a time when Marvel and Disney are feeling the pinch of superhero fatigue (witness the box office collapse of ‘The Marvels’ and complaints about the sheer amount of movies and shows one must have seen to keep up with the storyline), the return of ‘What If…?’ is a pleasant one, by design untethered from the complicated continuity (albeit often rewarding fans of the various movies).

Does ‘What If…?’ Season 2 work to keep expanding the MCU?

Black Panther/King T’Chaka, Howard Stark, Bill Foster/Goliath, Peggy Carter, Dr. Wendy Lawson/Mar-vell, and Hank Pym/Ant-Man in Marvel Studios' 'What If…?,' Season 2 exclusively on Disney+.

(L to R) Black Panther/King T’Chaka, Howard Stark, Bill Foster/Goliath, Peggy Carter, Dr. Wendy Lawson/Mar-vell, and Hank Pym/Ant-Man in Marvel Studios’ ‘What If…?,’ Season 2 exclusively on Disney+. © 2023 Marvel.

Whether the implications of this season will tie directly into any future live-action stories is not really worth worrying at this point (and not something we could talk about anyway given the embargoes in place): ‘What If…?’s second run is more about enjoying the parallel universe take on some familiar stories.

Once more, the peek at different versions of characters and encounters works well as wish-fulfilment entertainment, including a chance for supporting characters to get the spotlight.

And Marvel/Disney+ are certainly experimenting with the release schedule for this one, dropping one episode a day across the festive season between December 22 and 30. The best example? Putting the ‘Die Hard’-spoofing ‘What If… Happy Hogan Saved Christmas?’ on Christmas Eve.

‘What If…?’ Season 2: Script and Direction

Hawkeye/Clint Barton, Iron Man/Tony Stark, Captain America/Steve Rogers, and Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff in Marvel Studios' 'What If…?,' Season 2 exclusively on Disney+.

(L to R) Hawkeye/Clint Barton, Iron Man/Tony Stark, Captain America/Steve Rogers, and Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff in Marvel Studios’ ‘What If…?,’ Season 2 exclusively on Disney+. © 2023 Marvel.

With direction and writing from Bryan Andrews, Stephan Franck (directors), AC Bradley, Matthew Chauncey and Ryan Little (writer/producers), ‘What If…?’s new run will feel familiar to those who watched the first season. It’s a similar mix of different looks at characters and situations.

Disney provided press with all the episodes, but there are strict embargoes in place. What can we tell you? There is some stylish, witty writing to be found here –– if you ever wanted to see Karen Gillan’s Nebula as a member of the Nova Corps investigating a situation on Xandar that comes across as a Clint Eastwood cop story meets a hard-bitten private eye future noir that has some serious ‘Blade Runner’ overtones, you’ve come to the right place.

Is every story a winner? They’re not all to the quality of, say, the Happy Hogan festive episode, but there is a high watermark for Marvel fun here. And the various little references and touches (a cuddly raccoon toy here, a nod to Hawkeye there) are welcome color rather than overloaded easter eggs.

The animation style of the show will still get mixed responses from those who believe it’s not up to the levels of big-screen output, but it works well for the stories and has seen a slight upgrade from the first season, which itself was a perfectly solid style.

Related Article: Director Nia DaCosta and Producer Mary Livonas Talk ‘The Marvels’

‘What If…?’ Season 2: Performances

Xu Wenwu and Hela in Marvel Studios' 'What If…?,' Season 2 exclusively on Disney+.

(L to R) Xu Wenwu and Hela in Marvel Studios’ ‘What If…?,’ Season 2 exclusively on Disney+. © 2023 Marvel.

Employing the same mix of original MCU voice actors (it’s fun to hear the likes of Jon Favreau, Kat Dennings, Karen Gillan, Chris Hemsworth, Michael Douglas and more lend their vocal skills to versions of their characters) and replacements for those who chose not to return (or were perhaps too pricey), the show keeps the feel of Marvel’s sprawling universe intact.

This will be something of a repeating motif in the review, but the Happy Hogan episode is certainly among the highlights, though there’s certainly something to be said for hearing Douglas, Annette Bening, Kurt Russell and Sebastian Stan playing earlier versions of their characters in a story that pits a powered Peter Quill (as a child, rather than the grown-up Chris Pratt we know) against a version of the Avengers that hews closer to the comics than movie screens.

The vocal replacements are once again a mixed bag –– that’s certainly not Glenn Close in the Nebula episode –– but the likes of Mick Wingert and Lake Bell once again prove to be reasonable stand-ins for Robert Downey Jr. and Scarlett Johansson without causing too much whiplash when their voices share the air with Mark Ruffalo and more.

‘What If…?’ Season 2: Final Thoughts

Strange-Supreme in Marvel Studios' 'What If…?,' Season 2 exclusively on Disney+.

Strange-Supreme in Marvel Studios’ ‘What If…?,’ Season 2 exclusively on Disney+. © 2023 Marvel.

‘What If…?’s second run is certainly worth checking out even if you are starting to feel the creep of superhero fatigue. It’s a fun, enjoyable dip into the MCU that doesn’t worry too much about the tapestry of everything weaving together –– it’s more a diverting dive into some fresh takes.

Comics fans will certainly appreciate the episodes that dive into versions of the characters more directly drawn from them as opposed to the adaptations (Douglas’ Hank Pym as Ant-Man, say), and of course the animated medium means that it can once more put on spectacles that even the healthily budgeted Marvel movies can only dream of.

Yet it doesn’t sacrifice character moments simply to blow stuff up or show off superpowers. While not every story works, there are enough winners (such as the big ‘Die Hard’ spoof) to make this a worthwhile watch.

‘What If…?’ Season 2 receives 8.5 out of 10 stars.

Tony Stark/Iron Man in Marvel Studios' 'What If…?,' Season 2 exclusively on Disney+.

Tony Stark/Iron Man in Marvel Studios’ ‘What If…?,’ Season 2 exclusively on Disney+. © 2023 Marvel.

What’s the story of ‘What If…?’ Season 2?

Season 2 continues the journey as The Watcher (Jeffrey Wright) guides viewers through the vast Multiverse, introducing brand-new and familiar faces from the MCU.

The series questions, revisits and twists classic Marvel Cinematic Universe moments with an incredible voice cast that includes a host of stars who reprise their iconic roles.

This new season features fan-favorite characters this season like Nebula, Hela and Happy Hogan.

Who is in ‘What If…?’ Season 2?

Alongside Wright, the cast also includes the usual blend of returning MCU actors and some voice replacements. The likes of Karen Gillan, Kat Dennings, Jon Favreau, Sam Rockwell, Michael Douglas, Annette Bening, Laurence Fishburne, Jeff Goldblum, Taika Waititi, Hayley Atwell and Elizabeth Olsen all play their characters.

A scene from Marvel Studios' 'What If…?,' Season 2 exclusively on Disney+.

A scene from Marvel Studios’ ‘What If…?,’ Season 2 exclusively on Disney+. © 2023 Marvel.

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