What If...? is something brand new for Marvel.
After three live-action shows, Disney+ will next premiere the animated anthology series exploring alternate universes where classic moments from the Marvel Cinematic Universe happened very differently.
However, it’s still unclear how these key changes will affect the show itself. Will the episodes be true to their source material, or will there be variety? A new quote from the head writer of the series hints at a surprising change of pace for Marvel fans — and possibly a return to the familiar for fans of Star Wars.
What If...? head writer A.C. Bradley told Total Film the anthology format allows every single episode of the upcoming series to vary in tone and genre.
“We have an episode that’s like a political thriller. We’ve got a dark Doctor Strange episode that’s like a tragic love story. One of them is just me wanting to goof off and relive my favourite movies as a kid,” Bradley said.
Executive producer Brad Winderbaum added the works of Agatha Christie would also inspire an episode. So far, we count a political thriller, a love story, a comedy, and a mystery — that’s a pretty diverse range of genres. This may sound like something completely new for the MCU, but it’s not new to Disney+.
The Mandalorian may be known as Star Wars’ space western or Disney+’s flagship show, but it actually shares a lot in common with anthology shows like What If...?. The Mandalorian is very episodic, meaning each “chapter” is more or less a self-contained story within the larger plot.
The Mandalorian uses wildly different tones and genres in every episode. Take, for example, the first few episodes of Season 2. Chapter 9 was a Western story down to the ghost town, shady sheriff, and dive bar saloon. Chapter 10 was a “taxi driver” story, showing Din on an escort mission with a character affectionately dubbed “Frog Lady.” Chapter 11 was set on the oceanic moon of Trask and fittingly followed Din as he assisted Bo-Katan Kryze with a piracy plot.
This “genre-of-the-week” approach is wildly successful for The Mandalorian, as it allows the creators to show just how varied their storytelling and production styles can be. It makes sense to see this approach used in What If...?, which is poised to be the most episodic MCU series yet.
By adopting this model, What If...? can be like The Mandalorian and increase its mass appeal through sheer variety: If you don’t care for one episode, you can trust the next one will be completely different.
A TV show can’t be everything for everybody, but What If...? is the closest Marvel can come to achieving that.
What If...? premieres August 11 on Disney+.