WHAT IF...? (2021)
S.1, Ep.1: "What If... Captain Carter Were the First Avenger"
Of all of the MCU shows coming out, What If...? seemed like the most interesting to someone like me. Don't get me wrong: Wanda, Vision, Bucky, Sam, and Loki are all great characters, but an animated anthology series about changing up what we already know in the MCU (so far) sounded like a breath of fresh air. Especially to someone like me who has been feeling a little fatigued from superhero films lately. So was What If...? the fresh and innovative idea that I was looking for? Let's talk about it.
The premiere episode starts with a narration from "The Watcher" a mostly unseen character voiced by Jeffrey Wright as he describes the different scenarios that have played out in the MCU and how a small thing can affect and change certain storylines and characters. Our first What If...? event is all about Peggy Carter from Captain America: The First Avenger and becoming The First Avenger instead of Steve Rogers. A solid premise to start off with but my problem with this episode is that they don't do a whole lot with it. The story almost plays out exactly like the story from Captain America: The First Avenger except you switch Steve with Peggy, Bucky with Steve, and so on. It also doesn't help that the episode is too short to really capitalize on seeing these role switches for the characters.
I did, however, enjoy the action and animation of the episode. Peggy's action is a little more brutal than Steve's was in The First Avenger. You feel the weightiness of the action which is in large part to the sound design which is terrific and the animation itself. The animation is 3D but tries to replicate a comic-book art style and I think the show, so far, has nailed that look. Some of the actual animations can be wonky at times (mainly for background characters) but it's pretty smooth and nice to look at overall.
The voice acting on the other hand is a mixed bag. Most of the cast of The First Avenger reprise their roles (with the exception of Chris Evans as Steve) which is great but some of the performances sound pretty phoned-in. Sebastian Stan sticks out the most because of how awkward his dialogue was, the pointlessness of his character to this story, and because he just didn't speak as Bucky did in The First Avenger.
Also, most of the cast have such small roles that I wonder why they even bothered to get them? Example: Stanley Tucci reprises his role as Doctor Abraham Erskine who was a pivotal part of Steve's character in the original movie. With Peggy in the lead role now, his character isn't as necessary so he has maybe 2 lines and that's it. Seems like a waste of talent to me. I will say though, Haley Atwell plays Peggy Carter just as well as she always has and even added some fun back and forth between her and Steve (voiced by Josh Keaton).
While it does retread mostly the same story of The First Avenger and doesn't add anything new besides Peggy now holding the shield, I had an okay time with the premiere episode but was a little disappointed that such a fun premise was kind of wasted on a retelling of a familiar story. It's so short that it can't really explore anything interesting about the character swap of Steve for Peggy. The only thing it does try to do is add a random government agent character who is just there to be sexist towards Peggy and that's it. The things this character says are almost like what a third-grader would write down if they were trying to be misogynistic so it comes off kind of laughable. Besides that, it was a wasted premise but a good first episode in terms of setting up a tone and showing off its solid animation so it wasn't without its merits.