Marvel fans, we’re officially (following Loki) in the multiverse, baby. That’s a maddening prospect that will be further explored in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and, possibly, the Hawkeye show and beyond. For now, however, What If…? couldn’t be better placed in the timeline of interwoven films and Disney+ TV series. The animated show, which features most of MCU actors voicing their characters, is one of the most daring endeavors that we’ve seen from Marvel Studios.
Each episode will be overseen by a character called The Watcher, who will guide viewers through universes where one small change leads to significant shifts in where these characters ended up and how they identify. The premiere episode shows Peggy Carter (due to a laboratory SNAFU) stepping up to take the super-soldier serum when Steve Rogers could not. So, Peggy became The First Avenger, which would’ve changed almost everything in the MCU, if this had taken place in the universe where every movie took place. That’s a mind-boggling prospect, so it’s worth considering how that would have affected several significant events that viewers witnessed.
Let’s have a little fun with this. After all, comic book movies are only make-believe, no matter how seriously people might take them. Here are five situations to consider while wondering how they’d go down with Peggy being Captain Carter and Steve Rogers remaining an ordinary, yet honorable, scrawny dude.
1. Would Bucky have become the Winter Soldier? Clearly, this was not in the cards, at least not in the same way because (as shown in this episode), Bucky never fell off the train into an icy ravine, later to be retrieved by Arnim Zola and brainwashed, trained, and injected with super-soldier serum, too. (In fact, he’d have aged like the rest of the world, so Bucky would have never even become an Avenger.) Also, even if Bucky had fallen to his “death,” Peggy never had the same emotional (or historical) connection to Bucky as Steve Rogers did. To Peggy, he was only an acquaintance and fellow soldier. So, there would have been no propelling motivation for any sort of compelling dynamic in the subsequent film, Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
2. Would Captain Britain: Civil War have taken place? Maybe, but it would have happened very differently. If Bucky had not become the Winter Soldier, some other assassin would likely have killed Tony Stark’s parents. Yet one of the plot-driving forces was the fact that Zemo staged himself as Bucky, which caused all the governments (those behind the Sokovia Accords) to go after Bucky, and then all the Avengers took sides with Steve’s ultimate goal being to protect Bucky. And it was the emotional factor of Cap and Bucky’s friendship that set up the Civil War teams and the whole climactic battle, which would not have gone down the same way with Peggy holding the shield. Also, Tony would not have been a jealous a-hole towards Peggy, like he did because of Steve’s relationship with Howard Stark. Even if Tony was jealous of Peggy, it’s unlikely that Zemo could have effectively manipulated that rivalry because he couldn’t tug at the heartstrings without Bucky involved.
3. Would Peggy have gone back in time at the end of Avengers: Endgame? Probably. Of course, this assumes that events would have transpired to the degree that this was possible, including some timeline fixing, since the end of the premiere shows Peggy emerging from a portal 70 years into the future. Yet all other independent factors considered, yes, Peggy probably would have gone back in time to get that promised dance from Steve if Endgame ended like it did in a universe where the movies took place. Sure, she would have towered over him at that point, given that the non-super-serum-filled Steve was rendered (through some laughable CGI) to be a diminutive Chris Evans, but that didn’t stop the romantic remarks from happening throughout this first What If…? episode. She was still his best girl and all that jazz.
4. Would Sam Wilson still have the shield? Hmm, that’s a tough one. Yes, there’s all the cultural resonance of a Black man holding the shield at the end of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, but in order for Peggy to have handed the shield to Sam at the end of Endgame, they would have had the same sort of close friendship for her to know that Sam was worthy. I’m not sure that this could have happened, unless we presuppose that, yes, Bucky somehow became the Winter Soldier, which is what sent Steve and Natasha on a mission that was joined by Sam Wilson in his Falcon attire. Perhaps Peggy and Sam would have eventually grown acquainted at the VA’s office or while running near the Washington Monument (she would have smoked his ass), but ultimately, there wouldn’t have been the same trust-building highway battle and so on, given that Bucky wasn’t an unstoppable threat. This is a tough one, but no matter what, it’s pretty rad to see a woman holding the shield in What If…?
5. Would “America’s Ass” have ever been a silly MCU thing? God, I hope not, unless Ant-Man was female, too, which would have made the comment alright but still not as funny as when it was wielded against stick-in-the-mud Steve Rogers. Disney already pushed their envelope for having Steve, a character who couldn’t even handle profanity back during the Age Of Ultron film, acknowledging his on superior posterior. That was a fine moment, yet it wouldn’t have translated if a man commented about a woman’s tush, especially in a Disney flick. Besides, you know that Captain Carter would have punted anyone into the next universe after such a remark, and Ant-Man would be Dead-Man. So the answer here is a big “nope.”
Thank you for joining me in this very scientific investigation.
Disney+’s ‘What If…?’ streams new episodes on Wednesdays.