The first episode of What If goes back to the origin story of Marvel’s First Avenger. And it’s not Captain America but Captain Carter.
What if Peggy Carter took the Super Soldier serum instead of Steve Rogers? This is the question that the first episode of Marvel Studios’ What If aims to show. How would things be with Captain Carter? Here’s a review (not spoiler-free though).
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In this universe, the explosion, that occurs after the experiment of Steve Rogers in Captain America: The First Avenger, takes place before the experiment and ends in Steve taking a bullet. Peggy decides to take his place as it is “now or never.” She thus undergoes the experiment to become Captain Carter.
Peggy is Captain Carter
From a universe POV, that Peggy Carter is Captain America changes everything. The whole storyline of MCU changes from its inception. Furthermore, a woman shall become the leader of the Avengers. All the characters remain the same e.g. Red Skull, Arnim Zola, Bucky, and even the friends of Steve from the movie.
Throwing bikes, blasting through doors, throwing the shield; the creators used all these sequences intentionally to remind us of Steve, and how Captain Carter is “pretty” much equal to him in all respects. Steve’s words, “Let’s hear it for Captain Carter,” are the same as Bucky’s in Captain America: The First Avenger, “…let’s hear it for Captain America,” both followed by cheers and applause.
A long fight sequence showcasing Captain Carter’s expertise in fighting uses dance music in the background. In a way, it compares the art of combat with the art of dancing, since both require swiftness and precision. Furthermore, it seems to pay homage to the dance that Steve and Peggy always wanted to have, both, in the films and here.
Steve in an Iron Suit
Steve may have taken a bullet but he didn’t die. Instead, he got to drive the HYDRA Stomper which resembles the Iron Monger suit from Iron-Man (2008). Howard Stark’s creation, the suit uses the power of the Tesseract to power itself.
Bucky’s Arm and Steve’s Death
“You almost ripped my arm off,” says Bucky when Peggy pulls him up right after he slips while on top of the train. This is again a reference, this time to Bucky’s metal arm from the MCU movies. While Bucky had died in the same sequence in Captain America: The First Avenger, here Steve dies in the explosion. Both times, it is the person closest to Captain who loses his life. But in the end, we realize that Steve is alive just as we found out in the movies that Bucky was alive. In such ways, the first episode has sewn multiple aspects from different movies together.
After 70 years
A very nicely down alteration is to show how Peggy Carter sacrificed herself in fighting what appears to be Shuma-Gorath. This is just like Steve, who, in Captain America: The First Avenger, sacrificed his life by maneuvering the plane towards a crash that wouldn’t cost a single life. However, Peggy went into the portal only to return 70 years later with Nicky Fury and Clint Barton in front of her. While 70 years is what Steve took to wake up from his sleep in Captain America: The First Avenger, the appearance from the portal reminds us of someone else. Remember how Loki arrived in The Avengers (2012)? Exactly.
All in all, the first episode does just what it promised and nothing more. We do not see much other than what we would expect if Peggy became Captain America. Nothing else is explored and to add more, we have an open ending. This although makes sense provided that What If takes place in a different reality with multiple possibilities depending on how we see and deduce it.
The next episode of Marvel Studios’ What If comes out on August 18, 2021.