What If...? has always felt like an outlier in the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s television sphere.
The first animated Marvel series to exist within the MCU, it’s also the first series on Disney+ not to directly address the franchise’s tangled continuity.
What If...? doesn’t appear to take place alongside WandaVision or The Falcon and the Winter Soldier — in fact, the series doesn’t even occur in the same universe. Given that, it could feel like an optional watch for Marvel fans, but a new interview with Loki star Tom Hiddleston reveals there’s more to What If...? than meets the eye.
In an interview with Comic Book Resources, Hiddleston teased his episode of What If...?, about a universe in which Odin didn’t adopt Loki and make him Thor’s adopted brother. In that alternate reality, Loki instead becomes “Party Thor.” It sounds like a hilarious premise, but what Hiddleston said next raises some eyebrows: “And then it sets up a bunch of stuff in the MCU, which I know nothing about.”
Even if Hiddleston claims ignorance when it comes to the episode’s table-setting for future events in the MCU, the idea of What If...? impacting the franchise in this way has major implications. How will these more structurally important aspects of What If... end up manifesting in the series?
Within the trailer for What If...? lies one clue to the animated series’ glorious purpose. Aside from clips from various episodes showing Captain Carter, T’Challa as Star-Lord, and the Guardians of the Galaxy as the Avengers, the trailer is narrated by someone who introduces himself as “The Watcher.”
For fans of Marvel Comics, this identified the series’ narrator as Uatu, the Watcher. Uatu acted as a Rod Serling-esque host in the What If...? comics, serving as the keeper of parallel universes bound to a vow of non-interference.
This character offered a window into other universes that remained closed-off from the main continuity in the comics. This Disney+ series, however, could find Uatu setting events in motion that impact the rest of the MCU.
If Uatu is related to the multiverse — or is perhaps a more peaceable variant of Kang the Conqueror — the narrator could introduce each episode as a variant universe in the multiverse Sylvie created by killing He Who Remains.
This could culminate in the collision of all these worlds within the main Marvel multiverse, resulting in a tangled web of variant universes that could set up incoming Marvel movies like Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.
In terms of orchestrating more multiverse chaos, given where Loki just ended, What If..? isn’t asking a question of if, but when.
What If...? premieres on Disney+ August 11.