‘What If…?’ Episode 7 Review – ‘What If… Thor Was an Only Child?’
Marvel’s What If…? gave us a welcome break from some dour alternate universe tales with a light and hilarious story this week.
Since the third episode, What If…? has mostly consisted of stories about the dire consequences that would happen with certain twists to the established MCU canon, recently ending with Hank Pym murdering the Avengers, Doctor Strange destroying his own universe, Killmonger killing T’Challa, Rhodey, and Tony Stark, plus a zombie apocalypse.
This week, we got a welcome break from these dour stories as the focus turned to Thor, who has been surprisingly absent from What If…? until this point. This week showed us a universe where instead of adopting Loki and raising him as an Asgardian, Odin gave him back to the king of the frost giants. Without Loki to challenge him, the God of Thunder’s arrogance is dialled up to 11, and he becomes the self-styled “party prince”.
This episode takes us through Thor’s efforts to hold a raging party on Earth, and the consequences that play out as a result. Chris Hemsworth returns as Thor and is possibly even more hilarious than I anticipated. Nearly every line of his had me doubled back in laughter, and when he wasn’t on screen, Kat Denning’s Darcy Lewis was there to keep the humor rolling.
The episode is jam-packed with cameos from characters across various MCU films, as the majority of the cast from the Guardians of the Galaxy films ends up attending Thor’s party along with some other surprising appearances. Perhaps this is teasing the Guardians’ upcoming appearance in Thor: Love and Thunder, but it seemed the episode took a lot of cues from the relationships Thor formed in Thor: Ragnarok and Avengers: Infinity War, while leaning into Hemsworth’s comedic chops.
All in all, it made for a very fun episode that will be a lot easier to rewatch than some of the darker tales told over the last month.
The stakes in this episode are fairly low, which makes it a lot easier to sit back and enjoy the comedy. Essentially, Thor goes to Earth with Lady Sif and the Warriors Three to host a raging party, inviting people from all across the galaxy to attend. The antics from the resulting party begin to cause problems across Earth; I assumed at first these were economic issues, as humans were too busy partying to go to work and keep the world working, but it soon becomes clear that these extra-terrestrial and otherwordly beings are both deliberately and accidentally vandalizing the planet.
This leads Maria Hill, now Acting Director of SHIELD after Korg accidentally incapacitated Nick Fury, to retaliate against Thor. Hill is overly agressive in this episode, but the character has been developed so little in the films that it’s difficult to say if that is inconsistent or not. It’s this aggression that fuels the episode’s conflict, as she ignores Jane Foster’s peaceful advice and opts to call in Captain Marvel (unfortunately not voiced by Brie Larson, although Alexandra Daniels does a great job), secretly priming nuclear bombs to kill Thor if she fails to beat him into submission. There’s never any risk of civilian casualties though, which keeps the conflict relatively light and fun.
The conflict is eventually brought to an end when Jane Foster (voiced by Natalie Portman, which seemed impossible a few years ago) manages to attract the attention of Heimdall (who never speaks, as Idris Elba did not reprise this role), and then alert Frigga (also not reprised by Rene Russo, though Josette Eales does well) as to Thor’s current whereabouts. Thor’s terrified reaction when he learns his mother is coming is fantastic, acting like a teenager desperate to clean up his mess before his parents find out how irresponsible he’s been.
One nice thing about this episode is that it reinforces the idea that Thor and Jane Foster are meant for each other. Jane has a “love at first sight” moment, while Thor seems instantly besotted with her, admiring her intelligence while also being physically attracted to her. Jane even uses the “L” word by accident by the end of the episode, a nod to their quickly escalating romance in the original Thor film.
However, once you think about it too much, the idea that Jane would love Thor does seem less and less believable. This is a Thor even more arrogant and irresponsible than the one she first meets in the MCU, so it seems unlikely that someone as smart and accomplished as her could really fall head over heels for him despite his handsomeness. Perhaps it’s just nicer to accept the more romantic notion of this particular situation.
I have to mention that Kat Dennings is predictably hilarious as Darcy; the writing for her character is just as brilliantly sarcastic and enthusiastic as it was in WandaVision, and her little subplot with Howard the Duck was very funny too. Also, Tom Hiddleston has a wonderful surprise appearance as Frost Giant Loki.
Growing up as the prince of Jotunheim means that Loki takes on his full frost giant appearance, and as a result, this is the most unique take on Loki we’ve seen yet (aside from the alligator). Hiddleston carries plenty of that classic Loki arrogance, but it’s less intense. This time, he’s just here to party (his plan to build the universe’s largest slingshot was a particular highlight), and plays the classic “bad influence best friend” role from old high school films.
At this point I feel the need to highlight all the wonderful cameos we get in this episode of What If…?, nearly all of which provide a source of laughs even if they don’t all get speaking roles:
- Korg (reprised by Taika Waititi)
- Nick Fury (reprised by Samuel L. Jackson)
- Agent Coulson (reprised by Clark Gregg)
- Agent Rumlow (reprised by Frank Grillo)
- Lady Sif (reprised by Jaimie Alexander)
- The Warriors Three
- Surtur (reprised by Clancy Brown)
- Nebula (reprised by Karen Gillan)
- Howard the Duck (reprised by Seth Green)
- Rocket Raccoon
- Yondu and the Ravagers
- The Sovereign (possibly Ayesha from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2)
- The Grandmaster (reprised by Jeff Goldblum)
- Topaz (reprised by Rachel House)
This week provided a necessary lift for What If…?, though it ended suddenly on a cliffhanger with an Ultron army emerging from a portal, led by Ultron seemingly wielding all the Infinity Stones like in the Marvel vs. Capcom 3 video game. This cliffhanger felt unnecessary, presumably here as an excuse to include Thor in the crossover finale. That aside, the episode was a great romp, and I’m ready to return to something more serious next week.