Editor’s note: The below contains spoilers for What If…? Season 2, Episode 4.
The Big Picture
- What If…? Season 2, Episode 4 continues the ongoing narrative of the Guardians of the Multiverse and explores Gamora’s rise to greatness.
- Tony Stark finds himself trapped on Sakaar after crashing into the Grandmaster’s palace, and Gamora seeks revenge on him.
- Tony and Gamora form an unlikely alliance and team up to take down Thanos, showcasing Gamora’s growth and decision to define her own identity.
Four episodes in and we’ve got our first “Previously On”! If What If…? is going to tell stories with universe-altering consequences, it’s natural that they won’t be able to satisfyingly conclude all of them in a 30-minute block. The ongoing narratives throughout this season of What If…? might be one of my bigger frustrations overall, but Episode 4, “What If…Iron Man Crashed Into the Grandmaster?” holds the strange distinction of both being a continuation of Season 1, and something wholly new as well.
Based on the Marvel Comics series of the same name, this animated anthology looks at alternate timelines in the multiverse that would happen if specific moments in the MCU occurred differently.
- Release Date
- August 11, 2021
- A. C. Bradley
- Streaming Service(s)
What Is ‘What If…?’ Season 2 Episode 4 About?
The Watcher (Jeffrey Wright) begins by reminding us about the so-called “Guardians of the Multiverse,” the band of heroes that united to stop Ultron (Ross Marquand) after he gained control of all of the Infinity Stones. This tale he wants to tell now, he says, is about how Gamora (Cynthia McWilliams) rose to greatness to become one of the aforementioned Guardians — but tells us her story began within someone else’s, namely Tony Stark’s (Mick Wingert).
In this universe, Tony is able to send the nuclear warhead aimed at New York through the wormhole on time, but the portal closes behind him, preventing him from returning home and getting shawarma with the crew. Fortunately, rather than dying alone in the cold, airless vacuum of space, Tony instead hurtles through presumably another wormhole and crash-lands in the Grandmaster’s (Jeff Goldblum) palace on Sakaar. Tony’s seen his fair share of weird stuff recently, but this takes the cake. The Grandmaster is beyond excited to see Tony, “Mr. Metal Mojo Man,” the one who defeated the Chitauri. Much like in Thor: Ragnarok, what was a few seconds for Tony has been a few days for everyone on Sakaar.
Tony is eager to return home, especially knowing that they won and that Pepper Potts is alive, but The Grandmaster insists he stay for a party, even enlisting Topaz’s (Rachel House) help, via not-so-veiled threats. The celebration in question entails a trip to the battle arena, now acting as a racecourse. Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) is one of the racers, and completely dominates the competition — that is, until her car flips over, and she’s pelted with tin cans and adorable chinchillas. The Grandmaster sets a giant, elephant-like beast on the remaining racers, including Korg (Taika Waititi), and Tony can’t stand by and watch anymore, suiting up and joining everyone down in the arena. He tries to stop the creature using his repulsors, but they malfunction. Somehow the beast explodes anyway.
Gamora Tries to Kill Tony Stark in ‘What If…?’ Season 2 Episode 4
The reason? Gamora, who has arrived specifically to seek revenge on Tony Stark. The two of them are arrested and locked up in a large room with only one bed. But this doesn’t go down romance novel trope alley for two main reasons: 1. Korg is also in there with them, and 2. Gamora is still trying to kill Tony. Read enough romance novels, and neither of these things really feel like deterrents, but I digress. Tony finally demands Gamora tell him who she is and why she wants him dead. She introduces herself as a daughter of Thanos, which seems like explanation enough, and is also reason enough for Tony to override the door and leave. Korg joins him, but they close the door, locking Gamora in before she can follow.
Korg thoroughly messes up Tony’s attempts to subtly sneak out, and their resulting argument gives Gamora enough time to catch up after all. She blows up their ride out, as well as the wall behind it, which is enough to alert the Grandmaster, who orders the people of Sakaar to track Tony down. Tony still doesn’t see why Thanos wants him dead until Gamora spells it out for him: the Chitauri were sent by Thanos as part of his plan. Tony is shocked, but then again, he didn’t have access to The Avengers‘ mid-credits scene to shed some light on things.
Tony vents his loss and frustration out on Gamora, unintentionally throwing her own trauma back in her face, until he finally overhears the Grandmaster’s message to the people, and realizes what a truly terrible, corrupt leader he is. He leaves Gamora behind, resolved to stop the Grandmaster “just to piss [her] off” before taking the fight directly to Thanos. Listen, Tony/Pepper are great, Peter/Gamora are great, but all this bitter snappy, back and forth banter? Color me Tony/Gamora curious.
Gamora is apprehended by Topaz once again — though not for long — as Tony and Korg head out to find a driver to help them with their scheme. They come across Valkyrie in the bar, and Tony appeals to her reckless, adrenaline-junkie nature. She doesn’t think he can do it, but the two form an alliance anyway. Tony builds himself a modified Iron Man suit and hijacks the Grandmaster’s hologram system to broadcast his threats to all of Sakaar. He challenges the Grandmaster to a race for control of the planet. Topaz rightfully points out that there’s no need for this, since the Grandmaster already controls the planet, but fortunately for Tony and for the plot, the Grandmaster is an idiot and accepts the challenge.
It’s Mad Max meets Mario Kart‘s Rainbow Road as the racers converge on the arena, with Gamora and Valkyrie also participating. As things get tense and fiery, Tony questions Gamora’s motivations for following her father’s orders. As far as he can see, she doesn’t have much of an identity outside of “daughter of Thanos” and no function outside what he demands of her, and he tries to convince her to choose better for herself.
Tony Stark Meets Thanos in ‘What If…?’ Season 2 Episode 4
Gamora ultimately helps Tony out of a tight spot — and finally gives him her name — but this doesn’t mean they’re friends now. The race comes down to Tony versus the Grandmaster, which Tony just barely wins. The Grandmaster declares that since he is the one to name a winner, he chooses himself. An accidental run-in with Topaz’s melting stick takes him permanently out of the running (though doesn’t kill him, as the mid-credits scene shows), and the crowd winds up crowning Valkyrie their king.
Tony turns down an offer to stay and help Valkyrie, opting to return home to Pepper instead. His plans, however, are thwarted when Gamora sneaks up on him and takes him to meet Thanos (Josh Brolin). What looks at first like a double-cross turns out to be a triple-cross when Tony and Gamora team up to take down the Mad Titan with Topaz’s melting stick.
While the title of this episode does an apt job setting up the premise, The Watcher’s claim that this is a story about Gamora becoming a Guardian of the Multiverse feels like a bit of a stretch. Yes, she has a change of heart, and claims her own identity, instead of just a connection to her father. But the most interesting parts of this shift happen off-screen. The primary point of view in this episode is, as the title suggests, Tony’s. At no point do we see Gamora wrestle with what Tony is telling her. Their most interesting heart-to-heart, concocting the plan to take down Thanos, probably happened en route to see him, and we never see that. It is a massive leap of logic to go from “don’t define yourself by your father” to “stab your father in the heart” (the Kylo Ren arc, I like to call it), and while it is believable, I don’t see how Tony’s half-shouted speech was enough to push her over that line. This was definitely a cool episode, but with all due respect to The Watcher, this wasn’t really Gamora’s story.
The first four episodes of What If…? Season 2 are streaming now on Disney+.
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