What If Season 2 Reveals the Unfortunate State of the MCU

Where’s the excitement gone?

Tony Stark wears a Santa suit in 'What If...?' Season 2
Marvel Studios

It’s been almost three years since Marvel Studios’ Disney+ initiative began back in January 2021. Throughout that time, Marvel’s TV efforts have been met with increasing scrutiny and criticism. Shows like She-Hulk: Attorney at Law, Moon Knight, and Secret Invasion have all forced fans to question the state of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and wonder whether or not the franchise has fully lost the kind of quality control that originally made it so popular and noteworthy.

Now, Marvel is set to cap off 2023 with the release of What If…? Season 2. The animated anthology series’ long-awaited sophomore season comes well over two years after its first premiered in August 2021. Unlike What If…? Season 1, which unfurled weekly, the show’s newest episodes are set to be released across nine consecutive days. In case that wasn’t strange enough, Marvel’s promotion of What If…? Season 2 has also been strangely minimal.

In fact, you could be forgiven for not even knowing What If…? returns this week. The show’s second season has been promoted so little that its forthcoming release has just reiterated one unfortunate truth about the current state of the MCU.

What If...? Season 2 doesn’t look like it’ll be any less fun than the show’s first, so why is Marvel treating the series so differently this time around?

Marvel Studios

When What If…? Season 1 premiered in 2021, Marvel didn’t try to separate the series from its live-action Disney+ predecessors. On the contrary, the studio promoted What If…? as if it was just as noteworthy and important as WandaVision, Falcon and the Winter Soldier, and Loki. Fans’ investment in the animated series’ first season paid off, too, when Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness introduced variants of Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) and Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) that were, at the very least, reminiscent of characters featured prominently in What If…? Season 1.

Marvel made What If…?’s contributions to its wider franchise seem important, and the studio encouraged fans to engage with its episodes just as deeply as they would any other MCU entry. Over two years later, Marvel hasn’t adopted the same approach for What If…? Season 2. The studio has put very little effort into hyping up the forthcoming season and has greatly truncated its release schedule. In doing so, Marvel has signaled to fans that What If…? Season 2 not only isn’t a must-see addition to the MCU, but also one that the studio itself doesn’t seem particularly proud of or interested in supporting.

Whether it was Marvel’s intention or not, the studio’s marketing strategy for What If…? Season 2 has primed it to come and go without much fanfare this December. Its treatment of the new season stands in stark contrast to its handling of What If…?’s 2021 debut.

What If...? Season 2 promises to bring the year to a zany, if quiet, end for Marvel.

Marvel Studios

Over the past two years, the general excitement surrounding the MCU has noticeably faded. Nowadays, it seems like Marvel is having an increasingly hard time convincing audiences to check out every one of its new efforts. Not only does the studio’s apparent attitude toward the release of What If…? Season 2 just further highlight that fact, but it also makes it seem like Marvel itself has lost confidence in its output as of late.

Unfortunately, with the studio set to release fewer new titles in 2024 than it has in years, it may be a long time before fans get the impression that Marvel is, once again, as excited about its own shows and movies as it should be.

What If…? Season 2 is airing now on Disney+, through December 30.

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