What If…? this week explores a version of the Marvel universe where Odin never adopted young Loki from the Ice Giants. This leaves Thor as an only child and growing up not learning a lot of the important lessons he learnt during his life in the timeline with which we are the most familiar.
This episode certainly feels like the shows first full on comedy. The T'Challa as Star Lord story had its obvious comedy elements but the central plot was one of a heist film rather than a comedy. To be fair though, that's a genre that can become very tongue in cheek, which was the case for that episode. The story here however of Thor gathering the entire population of the universe, including many familiar faces, to have a massive party on planet Earth is not something that could ever really be taken seriously.
This tone is not a bad thing, in fact it's quite a breath of fresh air to have a Hangover style comedy in this universe whose idea of comedy is simply quips and one liners. It's definitely the most fun episode of the series so far, which is mainly due to the voice casts performances.
Recently, Chris Hemsworth has been travelling down a road of just playing an ignorant buffoon character in everything. Thanks in part to Taika Waititi, Thor turned from a stoic but ambivalent god into a bit of an arrogant clown. The same goes for his characters in Men In Black: International and Ghostbusters. The lessons he's learnt from this career change have certainly paid off for this episode as a lot of jokes land well solely based off his delivery.
This does lead into a slight issue with this episode which has been occurring throughout the run of this show. Captain Marvel makes a significant appearance in this episode, and she's very noticeably not played by Brie Larson. It's becoming tedious listening to people try and do impressions of these actors with quite uncharacteristic voices. What makes Larson's absence all the more baffling is the sheer amount of actors who do return to their characters for this episode. Natalie Portman, who has previously been quite open about her dislike for Marvel (though presumably she has now changed her tune) does indeed play Jane Foster here. Jeff Goldblum and Taika Waititi also make appearances, the former having one line, the latter simply having one grunt. So why couldn't Brie Larson say a few lines here? It's possibly because she clearly isn't at all friends with Hemsworth, but that can be easily solved by having separate recording times.
Despite the recurrent issue of bad voice casting, this episode definitely has lots of fun with its concept. There's an argument to be made that maybe the world would be a better place had Thor and Loki not grown up together, though this idea is squandered at the end with the appearance of (spoilers). This, again, like the T'Challa/Star Lord episode, sets up a much more interesting and dark alternate universe that will hopefully be explored in a future episode.
What If…? Is streaming weekly on Disney+