By Janie Walenda
Full disclosure: I’ve never seen “Avengers: Age of Ultron.” I remember the Pinocchio song in the trailer, and I’ve seen maybe twenty minutes of the film total. That being said, I was excited to see Ultron return in “What If…Ultron Won?” He proves to be an intimidating villain, just as capable as Thanos of carrying more than one movie. This episode brings us a true age of Ultron, instead of the three days we got in “Age of Ultron.”
We open the episode with Natasha and Clint in a desecrated Russia fighting Ultron’s bots. This action scene is incredibly engaging and goes to show that no matter the universe, Hawkeye always gets a mohawk during the end of the world. The Watcher once again narrates the events of this universe. Instead of the Avengers stealing and vivifying Vision for themselves, Ultron successfully uploads himself into the synthetic body. With this extra power of the Mind Stone, Vision takes out the Avengers (minus Clint and Nat) and destroys Earth by triggering a nuclear holocaust.
As he’s gazing out over a now “peaceful” planet, who should show up but Thanos, with five out of the six infinity stones. In the first of the episode’s many jaw-dropping moments, Ultron lasers Thanos in half with barely a second thought. To have Thanos be dispatched so quickly ups the stakes and establishes that Ultron is not playing around. Now possessing all six infinity stones, Ultron systematically destroys all life in the known universe, including the Guardians of the Galaxy on the Sovereign, Korg and the Grandmaster on Sakaar and Captain Marvel on Xandar.
As a side note, I’m glad that Captain Marvel went out with a fight. I know some fans may not like her, but I do, and I was worried that she’d be killed as a joke like Thanos. Fortunately, her explosive last stand serves as the capstone to this montage, ending with Ultron completing his mission.
As Ultron stands alone in a lifeless universe, he oddly hears a single voice describing his situation. (Yes, the Watcher jeopardizes the multiverse by narrating). The scene is eerie, and I loved that the Watcher didn’t realize that he was the voice Ultron heard. The series has used the Watcher extremely well and has carefully transformed his role from a distant narrator to a fleshed-out character.
My favorite parts of the episode were the scenes with Clint and Nat. Clint is one of my favorite characters, and the MCU is just now capitalizing on the compelling character he is in the comic books. Comic-book Clint Barton is a sleep-deprived disaster, and this episode was just a pair of hearing aids short of being a perfect adaptation of his 2D counterpart. I can’t speak to comic-book Natasha, but this episode brought out the sarcastic playfulness that she had in the earlier MCU movies. Together they make a dynamic team, and it’s great to finally see them on a mission together.
After locating Arnim Zola, who they believe can shut down Ultron, Nat and Clint fight their way through a horde of Ultron’s bots. Clint, who earlier expressed how tired he was of fighting, sacrifices himself in an almost exact replica of the “Endgame” scene where Natasha sacrifices herself. Luckily for me, the scene is more striking than sad, with several amazing shots that look ripped straight from a comic book.
We close out the episode with an amazing fight sequence between Ultron and the Watcher. This intergalactic brawl is truly unlike anything we’ve seen before in the MCU: Ultron pulls a Galactus by eating an entire universe before punching the Watcher through multiple universes (including one where Steve Rogers is being sworn in as President in a fun easter egg). Ultimately, the Watcher escapes Ultron, who then begins his quest to bring about absolute peace by destroying all life in the multiverse.
The Watcher doesn’t give up, however. In the final scene, he visits Strange Supreme in the remnants of his destroyed universe. Strange agrees to help, but not without rubbing it in a little bit. This final interaction means that next week we will most certainly see all the heroes of “What If…?” teaming up to defeat Ultron. This series, much like the MCU itself, has put so much work into building up solo characters while subtly teasing a team-up. I am sure the next episode will be a thrilling conclusion and also hopefully set up for a live-action multiverse.
Episode eight of “What If…?” is now streaming on Disney Plus.
Janie Walenda is a freshman Global Business major and an A&E writer for Cedars. She enjoys musicals, movies, and rereading the same books ten times.