Written by David Holland
“What If…” has not shied away from the darkest alternate possibilities in the MCU. We have watched Killmonger murder both T’Challa and Tony Stark. We witnessed Stephen Strange bring about the end of an entire universe. Even in the mostly lighthearted episode about T’Challa becoming Star Lord, it implied that Ego would end up victorious in that reality. But this week we took a little break from all of that negativity to ask: “What if Thor was a frat bro?”
The actual episode title asks “What if Thor was an only child?”. It ponders what would have happened if Odin had returned Loki to Laufey and Thor had grown up without his brother. Essentially, it argues that Thor would ended up almost exactly the way he was at the beginning of “Thor” except worse. Without Loki scheming to usurp the throne, Thor would have come to Midgard (Earth) willingly while his father was in Odin Sleep and thrown a massive, planet wide party. That may not seem like much, but 2008 Earth was not ready to party with Asgardians. What seems like fun and games to Thor puts the planet’s population at genuine risk, as everyone from Sicarians to Nebula to even the Frost Giants hear about the party and show up like hangers-on at frat parties. When SHIELD determines that Thor presents a risk to the world, they call in the big gun.
Captain Marvel and Thor fight across the surface of Midgard, punching each other to separate continents. The first fight ends in a draw, but only because Captain Marvel insists she held back – her full power could unleash the devastation of a nuclear weapon on nearby civilians. During the second fight, Jane Foster makes a desperate plea for help to Frigga, Thor’s mother. When Thor learns that Frigga is coming to observe his “study abroad”, he quickly enlists the help of the other partygoers to clean up their mess. Frigga, impressed by her son’s work ethic, appears to buy the ploy. The Watcher concludes that this story ends happily, until a surprise steps out of a portal. And when The Watcher is surprised, you know you’re in trouble.
The last moment of this episode introduces Infinite Ultron – a version of Ultron who seems to not only have Vision’s body but also the Infinity Stones.
Most of this episode feels like a lighthearted throwaway. As I said up top, we have been through some pretty heavy stuff with “What If…”, so it was time to have some fun. As far as important lessons, we learned that growing up with Loki was a key experience that helped shape Thor into a worthy successor to Odin. My one quibble with this episode is Thor’s continued use of Mjolnir. At a certain point I assumed that fighting for his right to party on a “backward” realm would cause him to become unworthy, but the episode never went that direction.
The major reveal at the end comes in the form of Infinite Ultron. I’ll happily cosign the theory of Jason Concepcion at the “X-Ray Vision” podcast that Infinite Ultron’s arrival will be the inciting incident to gather the Guardians of the Multiverse. Of course, the different Guardians don’t know that each other exists. He Who Remains taught us in the “Loki” season finale that travel and communication across universes is rare and difficult. Perhaps the only one who can gather a team to save the multiverse from being dominated by an Ultron in control of the Infinity Stones is the only one in the show who seems to know that the multiverse exists.
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