What If…? Episode 1 Review: Captain Carter

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Marvel's What If...?

What makes a hero? Is it having powers or something that’s inside along? That’s the question posed on the premiere episode of What If…? starring Captain Carter.

What If…? is Marvel’s new animated anthology show that explores alternate versions of famous events in the MCU.

The premise and structure of the series are fairly straightforward with the Watcher (voiced by Jeffrey Wright) giving an overview on each episode of what should have happened and what choice is made instead to change the events of the MCU. This cosmic being sees all and is our guide into the multiverse. 

The premiere focuses on Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) and what would have happened if she had taken the Super Soldier serum instead of Steve Rogers (voiced here by Josh Keaton). When Peggy chooses to stay on the floor during Steve’s transfusion and go after the Hydra attackers, it changes everything.

The installment is a condensed version of Captain America: The First Avenger with some twists thrown in along the way to keep things from being too predictable.

Marvel's What If...?

A Hero is Born

You’ll cheer as Captain Carter fights to take down Hydra with the help of Steve Rogers, Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper), and the Howling Commandos. The realistic animation blended with the “bam, smack, pow” moments of classic comic books adds a nice retro feel to the action without being overly nostalgic or hokey. 

Equally as satisfying as watching Captain Carter smash the Nazis is watching her smash the patriarchy as she proves General Flynn’s (Bradley Whitford) doubts about her wrong. Steve had to endure a lot, but the sexism Peggy encounters adds a whole new layer to the Super Soldier mythology of overcoming adversity that will resonate with audiences. 

Although grounded by the drama of wartime, this is also a heroic story full of romance and humor. The story makes the most of wisecrackers like Howard and Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) to ensure there are plenty of jokes. 

Peggy’s relationship with Steve is just as endearing as in the film even with their roles reversed. Seeing how supportive he is and how much he believes in her is in some ways even more romantic than the original film.

Instead of resenting Peggy for taking his chance at being a Super Solider, he’s happy for her that she gets to be the superhero he always knew she was on the inside. (He does get an awesome ”Hydra Stomper” suit designed by Howard Stark that looks like Iron Man met the Iron Giant, so he gets to play his part in the war).

Marvel's What If...?

Making Sacrifices

The ending of the episode packs the same emotional punch as the film it’s inspired by.

Red Skull is still the main villain, but in this version, his plans lead Captain Carter and the team to face off with an inter-dimensional creature he tries to unleash to be Hydra’s weapon. 

Peggy makes the ultimate sacrifice by pushing the creature back into the portal and is trapped there when it’s closed.

This ending is a prime example of how What If…? repurposes dialogue from the films in an effective way. Steve and Peggy planning a date that will never happen breaks your heart.

“You owe me a dance lesson.” – Steve Rogers

“Yes, Saturday night.” – Peggy Carter

Despite all the #Steggy feels I was left with, watching it did also make me yearn for the days of Agent Carter when Peggy got to be a hero completely independent of Steve Rogers. Captain Carter’s friendship with Howard is especially reminiscent of the duo’s rapport on Agent Carter. Her battles with sexism are equally poignant on that series.

With the change to the main timeline implied by Avengers: Endgame that would put Agent Carter on another branch of the timelinethis episode ends up feeling like Peggy’s second “What if?” story. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s just hard to watch this episode without thinking back to her other adventures. 

Captain Carter’s story is a solid first entry into the What If…? canon and will be beloved by Peggy Carter fans. Even though the idea behind this particular story is a little on the basic side it will still leave fans excited to see how much further Marvel can stretch the show’s premise in the rest of the season. 

Additional Thoughts:

  • Captain Carter’s “That was brilliant!” line had big 13th Doctor energy.
  • I know we’re used to Winter Soldier Bucky now but Sebastian Stan’s voice acting as regular Bucky was not great… Hopefully they bring him back for another What If…? and he gets a do-over. 
  • Dominic Cooper on the other hand definitely understood the assignment. If only we could have thrown James D’Arcy’s Jarvis in there too.
  • When Red Skull is planning to get a champion for Hydra was anyone else initially thinking about Hive from Agents of SHIELD or just me? 
  • The fact we never got more of the Howling Commandos in the MCU is a crime. I’m glad What If…? remedies that. 

What did you think of this episode? Do you want to see more Captain Carter? Let us know in the comments.

New episodes of What If…? premiere on Wednesdays on Disney Plus.

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