Directors: Bryan Andrews
Writers: A.C Bradley
Cast: Hayley Atwell, Josh Keaton, Sebastian Stan, Dominic Cooper, Jeffrey Wright, Toby Jones, Neal McDonough, Samuel L. Jackson
Episode: Captain Carter Were The First Avenger? Air Date: 11/08/2021
What If…? is currently available to stream on Disney+
As the first Marvel Cinematic Universe official animated series, What If…? has a lot riding on it. Does the MCU translate well into animated form? Can the MCU tell good and concise smaller stories? The premiere episode of the series leaves hope for the episodes to come but presents several key issues.
Each episode of the show will ask, ‘what if?’ and show how a slight change in a character’s decision can have significant ripple effects in the MCU at large. And, of course, after the events of the Disney+ Loki series, we can treat these as more than alternative histories; these are characters and worlds at large in the multiverse. The premiere episode introduces Captain Carter — will we ever see her show up in the MCU-main? Who’s to say, but it isn’t impossible.
In the universe introduced in the premiere episode of What If…? Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) is the one to receive the super-soldier serum simply because she chooses to stay in the room for the procedure and not move to the booth. It’s an excellent introduction to how small choices can have more considerable ripple effects. Having a Captain American-alternate story begin the season is also a relativity easy and simple episode to wrap your head around, especially for those who haven’t dabbled in Marvel Comics and multiverse storylines before.
Hayley Atwell is fantastic as Captain Carter, and you can feel that warm undertone that she delivered in live-action in both the movies and the unjustly cancelled Agent Carter tv series. Both the character of Peggy and Atwell herself is perfect superhero material.
Having the live-action actors switch to animation shows the strengths and weaknesses of some of the cast. Atwell shines; however, Sebastian Stan as Bucky Barnes, Dominic Cooper as Howard Stark, and even Neal McDonough as Dum Dum Dugan feel stiff. It’s as if someone rushed them into a small room quickly and had them record their lines with little-to-no preparation of voice-coaching work. And the thing is: voice acting is very different to being a live-action actor. You have more to work with; even in front of a green screen, you have props, other actors, and being in a cupboard-space voice recording studio, you may lose the ability to grasp your character, and this is what it sounds like has happened to several of the core cast members.
Without spoiling what happens to Steve Rodgers in this universe, Chris Evans replacement does an excellent job of exuding that same warm and courageous tone that Evans delivered in the films as Captain America. Josh Keaton voices Rodgers here, and his scenes with Peggy are fantastic and probably my favourite in the episode. I have no idea if he’s returning to play Rodgers in future episodes, but I’m hoping so as he absolutely nailed it here.