What If… “Thor Were an Only Child?” Turns Earth Into a Party Planet

After two darkity dark dark What If…?s, it’s a giant relief to get an episode that’s purely fun. In this week’s episode, Thor is fully the frat bro we met in his first movie, and he comes to Midgard to throw a planet-wide party.

Several days later, the party’s still jumping ’cause Frigga ain’t home, and things begin to go awry.

Summary

As the title suggests, the turning point in this episode is that Odin gives Loki back to the Frost Giants, and Thor grows up the spoiled only child of the First Family of Asgard. When Odin goes into his Odinsleep, and Frigga goes off to celebrate the Solstice with some of her sisters, Thor’s supposed to stay home and study. Instead he, Lady Sif and the Partiers Three head down to Midgard for the biggest Spring Break ever.

Meanwhile, Jane and Darcy are in the desert tracking a celestial anomaly! Jane’s been trying to get in touch with S.H.I.E.L.D. to warn them of an alien invasion, but no one’s willing to listen. She sees an unidentified glowing object streak across the sky, and then Thor and his buddies land in Las Vegas.

The Party begins.

Jane and Darcy drive to the Strip, and Jane attempts to warn Thor that his actions will cause terrible destruction across the Earth! But then… well, the two of them have that undeniable chemistry that turns them both into giggling schoolgirls, and soon she’s dancing with him instead of calling S.H.I.E.L.D. again.

Oops.

But this gives us an opportunity to bask in the MCU’s second greatest montage: Darcy and Howard the Duck go on a not-date for half-price Happy Hour nachos! Loki and the Ice Bros show up, to the delight of all! Nebula’s cleaning up out on the casino floor! The Grandmaster is DJing! Oh shit, Darcy and Howard got married by an Elvis impersonator! Thor and Jane got complementary tattoos! Man, this is the best night ev—

The blaring light of morning reveals a terrifying scene. Jane, Thor, Sif, all three Warriors, and for some reason Rocket Raccoon (???) are all flung across a hotel room in various states of hangover. Rocket’s in the sink. The phones all start ringing, and of course it’s S.H.I.E.L.D., but now Jane’s fully besotted and doesn’t want to turn him in. Maria Hill has to take charge because Fury was knocked unconscious when Korg ran past him to do a cannonball into the Bellagio fountain.

What If...? Thor only child, Rocket asleep in hotel sink

Screenshot: Marvel Studios

Jane tries to plead for diplomacy, but Hill skips all that and calls in Captain Marvel. What follows is basically a beautifully violent Looney Tunes cartoon. Carol and Thor knock the crap out of each other, punching each other from Paris into Stonehenge (it falls like dominoes), from the UK into the U.S. Southwest, fighting in the clouds over the Pacific. It’s adorable.

Eventually Carol gives up and returns to Hill to do a regroup. At Darcy’s suggestion, they concoct a plan to lure Thor to a barren area and nuke him, but they’re less enthusiastic about doing it in a Dakota.

Meanwhile the party continues! We see Thor’s buddies rolling the London Eye down the Thames, Surtur melts an arm off the Statue of Liberty, and the Ice Bros add icicle facial hair to Mount Rushmore. Thor’s just about to use the Sydney Opera House as a giant playground slide when Carol swoops in and drags him off.

Jane, with some help from Dr. Selvig, manages to transmit a message to Heimdall, who zaps her over to Frigga’s (lovely!) Solstice celebration. Jane hastily explains the situation to the Queen of Asgard while downing some of her wine, and Frigga appears before Thor to yell at him just as Hill’s about to deploy the nukes. Thor insists he’s only on Midgard for an educational field trip, but Frigga’s coming to check on him, and he better not be lying to her.

This leads to the MCU’s All-Time Greatest Montage, as Thor begs his friends to help him clean up the planet. A bunch of the jerks bail (never trust the Grandmaster!), but the ones who are left run around putting the St. Louis Arch the right way up, rebuilding Stonehenge, straightening the Leaning Tower of Pisa (nooo!), and soldering the Statue of Liberty back together. It’s close, but by the time Frigga gets there the planet looks okay, and a group of Thor’s friends are sitting in a semicircle while he pretends to lecture them about Earth culture. If only Mjolnir wasn’t covered in Mardi Gras beads, he might’ve gotten away with it.

What If...? Thor only child, matching Thor and Jane tattoos

Screenshot: Marvel Studios

Captain Marvel returns with an iPad full of Earth info for him to study, and we end with him showing up to Jane’s trailer with flowers, asking if they can see each other again. Again, adorable! Even the Watcher says they’re going to live happily ever after!

But then…ULTRON APPEARS ON THE HORIZON! HE IS SPARKLING WITH INFINITY STONES!

Wait, what?

 

Commentary

Between this and the latest What We Do in the Shadows, I really want to hit a casino soon.

I love this episode because it hinges on such an interesting change to the timeline. After three episodes in a row of very dark stories, one that made the fridging of female character a fixed point in time, one that focused on flesh-eating ghouls, and one that saw the U.S. and Wakanda locked in war, this episode asks a very different type of question. What if Odin gave adorable li’l Baby Loki back to the Frost Giants, so he could grow up fully accepted in a loving family, and never developed his raging inferiority complex? What if Thor never had Loki to bounce off of, and was always simply the Prince of Asgard, where even his dearest friends were just a little bit inferior? Where despite Frigga’s best efforts, her son grew up to be spoiled, arrogant, and kind of oblivious? And how great is it to see a happy Loki??? Weird, sure, but great! He’s big and blue and just wants to have a good time—no double-crosses, no nefarious secret plot. Even when he ditches Thor in the end, he’s completely upfront about it, and he’s right: Frigga’s not his mother, why should he stay and clean up Thor’s mess?

I’m also pleased that even in this timeline, Thor is still a good person. There’s a reason Mjolnir answers his call, after all. Even when he’s being a dummy, he’s a sweet, good-natured dummy. And that basic fact allows this episode to be silly. Thor and Carol beating each other up is a superpowered version of Bug and Daffy yelling “Duck Season!” and “Rabbit Season!”—when Elmer Fudd’s gun goes off, there’s no permanent damage, and when Thor finally comes to his senses, it’s simple enough to stand Stonehenge back up and wash the graffiti off of all of Earth’s monuments.

The only element to this episode that’s a little deeper is that Thor and Jane are still a love-at-first-sight situation, which fills me with joy because, again, it would be so easy to make Thor a mean, shallow bro, and instead we see that he’s not feeding Jane a line to get her to lighten up, he’s not just stopping off in Vegas cause Midgard girls are easy—he loves her for her mind! He thinks she’s great! He agrees that she was right to narc on him, and he realizes that she only did it because she cares. And their tattoos! Her getting “Magic” for him, him getting “Science” for her, the two of them understanding that it’s the same thing, really? Ugh, it’s so cute I can’t stand it.

If I have one ding against the episode, though, I guess it’s that? That once again Hill has to be a sourpuss, Jane has to be responsible, Carol has to be even more responsible, Frigga has to cut her brunch short to Mom out—I would like to see girls having fun again instead of having to be the only adults on the planet. But honestly, I enjoyed this one so much, it’s a tiny ding? And hell, Nebula was having a fabulous time! At least there’s that.

What If...? Thor only child, Darcy and Howard get married

Screenshot: Marvel Studios

Also, and let me be clear here: DARCY MARRIED HOWARD THE DUCK. I am a simple person, with simple needs, and that one tiny moment will make me happy for years.

 

Favorite Lines

  • Thor, to Loki: “Loki I can’t believe you came, you are the absolute BEST!”
    Loki, to Thor: “You’re my brother-from-another-mother, man! I mean that!”
    Thor: “Brothers foreverrrrr.”
    Loki: “Forev-aahhhh!”
    Thor: “For. Ev. Er.”
What If...? Thor only child, Thor and Frost Giant Loki secret handshake

Screenshot: Marvel Studios

  • Thor, to Carol, during battle: “Not the hair!”
  • Darcy, to her new husband: “Ugh, not now, Howard!”
  • Thor, to Carol: “Smile a little!” (Oh, man, that is not the thing to say to Carol.)
  • Brock Rumlow (Tordotcom favorite Frank Grillo):  Aww, I never get to fire the nukes!”
  • And, greatest of all, DJ Grandmaster to his adoring crowd: “Release the foam.”

Leah Schnelbach now has two new goals: 1. Party with Thor; 2. Marry Darcy. Come help them strategize on Twitter!

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