Sometimes, things need to be lighter. And after three straight episodes of trademark What If…? doom and gloom, Episode 7 offers a wonderful tonic.
This week’s “What if Thor were an only child?” leads to something more interesting than a rote retelling of the first Thor picture with, say, Mangog or Gorr subbing in for Loki. Instead, it sees a version of the title character the producers referred as “Party Thor” (Chris Hemsworth) getting his first lesson in adulting via a trip to Midgard and a chance meeting with Jane Foster (Natalie Portman, making her MCU return). That premise could lead to a handful of expected things, particularly in light of the last few What If…? episodes, but Party Thor’s enthusiasm suffuses the whole thing with a jovial — and welcome — vibe.
Fun cameos from the likes of Howard the Duck (Seth Green), Nebula (Karen Gillan), and Korg (Taika Waititi, although we don’t recall Korg saying anything) reveal what might happen with an only-child Thor keeping the Asgardian party going across the Nine Realms. As in Episode 2, the removal of Loki as Thor’s brother offers a reality which produces a more fundamental change than a viewer might think from the start of the episode. Thor’s friendship with Jotun Prince Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is just one example. Surtur’s (Clancy Brown) willingness to accept an invitation to an Asgardian party is another.
But beyond those things, we also enjoyed watching the frisson between Jane and Thor deployed in a more successful way than depicted in the original Thor. Sure, it still places Jane in a romantic role, but it comes off way more successful here. It is possible both actors, having had a chance to play their characters in at least one subsequent production, relished the chance to try this again and the results are measurably better. So much so, that it is remarkable to think how much of it is carried in their voices. Not that the animation is slouching, though. This week’s brighter tone also allowed for the animation team to do some great work, sight gags, and downright lovely character animation.
Also, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention Darcy (Kat Dennings), who manages to steal every scene with a good quip and an immediate rapport with Howard. That’s a team-up we need to see again, although we don’t necessarily need Darcy to be MCU Howard’s Beverly. Also, shout-out to Alexandra Daniels as Carol Danvers. It’s a fun performance even as Captain Marvel is forced into the role of the party pooper.
Indeed, her addition to the story illustrates one of the great ways What If…? can function. Getting Carol, Jane, Darcy and Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) into one scene is something you would hardly expect to happen under any conditions. But here, we get a handful of scenes in which their need to poop the party comes off as reasonable while still creating a framework for humor among the quartet.
And, yes, the episode tries to end on a sour note — this is still What If…? after all — but we’re willing to accept the notion of an Infinity Stone-encrusted Ultron as one last gag at Party Thor’s expense.
What If…? streams Wednesdays on Disney+