Since expanding into TV, Marvel Studios has wasted no time shaking up the lives of its many characters. Rather than existing in solitude on Disney+, each of the new Marvel series come with major implications for the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe, including its upcoming slate of movies.
There was an easy opportunity to let WandaVision, The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, and even Loki stand alone from the rest of the universe, carrying out solo adventures that give screentime to less prominent characters. And while they’ve certainly done that — I for one am grateful for all time spent with fashionista Zemo and the chance to really dig into the mental state of Wanda Maximoff — each series has also done so much more.
Marvel’s Disney+ shows have served as launchpads back to the MCU. WandaVision plants seeds for The Marvels and leads directly into Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness, while the Falcon and The Winter Soldier set the stage for a fourth Captain America movie, lead by the new Cap himself. The aftermath of Loki is still to come, following the season finale tomorrow, but the showrunners have promised a lasting impact on the rest of the universe. Even the upcoming Hawkeye series gets a shoutout in an MCU film, implying a significant connection to come.
But there’s still another Marvel series to come, the animated What If…? And the question of the hour: what if this new series plays a bigger role in the future of the MCU than we were expecting?
How Hypothetical is Marvel’s What If…?
While appearing on an episode of The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, Loki actor Tom Hiddleston was asked about the upcoming What If…? series. Though he revealed very little, making sure to keep tight-lipped about any details, he did say the show “sets up a whole bunch of stuff in the MCU.”
This presents a surprising prospect: What If…? might not exist in isolation. We always expected the show to take from past movies, but the idea of it having an impact on the future was a lingering question. After all, the whole concept of the show is to focus solely on hypotheticals. What might the universe look like if things were different? How might this character change if we alter a single detail in their story? You can get a taste of this in the trailer for the series.
In a lot of ways, that’s also a key part of Loki. We’ve seen Loki’s story through to its “end,” at least as far as the Infinity Saga goes. We’ve seen the God of Mischief barrel through the Thor series and pop up as a villain for The Avengers. He’s had a full run, jam-packed with numerous betrayals and redemption arcs. We even saw his death — but because of the time jumping insanity of Avengers: Endgame, he gets an entirely separate reality in Loki. The show is its own “what if” scenario: what if Loki escaped capture with the Tesseract? And despite being a separate, individual adventure for the character, the show’s impact is expected to be immense.
In an interview with Empire, MCU producer Kevin Feige said:
“[Loki is] tremendously important. It perhaps will have more impact on the MCU than any of the shows thus far.”
Marvel’s Upcoming Multiverse
Since it investigates the Time Variance Authority and the idea of a “sacred timeline,” Loki cracks the door open for the possibility of a multiverse. But it’s not the only MCU project doing this work: WandaVision left hints with its post-credits scene and promises to continue that work in Multiverse of Madness. So what happens if What If..?‘s hypotheticals become reality? The events we have yet to see in the Marvel series are a glimpse into alternate universes, on alternate timelines – and maybe they won’t live in isolation.
Given WandaVision‘s post-credits scene, it wouldn’t be the first MCU example of universes colliding. Plus, rumors surrounding Spider-Man: No Way Home present the possibility of a Spiderverse-like event. If past actors Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield really do reprise their roles, then alternate universes will be blending in no time. So what’s to stop What If…? from leaking to the big screen, and bringing us different iterations of fan-favorite characters?
As Hiddleston says in the interview, “time will tell.”
Check out Tom Hiddleston’s chat with Jimmy Fallon below. Marvel’s What If…? premieres on Disney+ on August 11. The season finale of Loki hits Disney+ on July 14.
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