Marvel’s What If…? makes great use of the wider cinematic universe, bringing back beloved characters and plopping them into entirely new situations. The joy of the show is getting to see the likes of Peggy Carter or Prince T’Challa, changed by their circumstances and, in turn, altering the world around them. All the while, the show pokes fun at the reality we once knew — like fun jokes about Bucky’s arm getting torn off.
What If…? takes all that’s become familiar and makes it fresh. But that doesn’t mean the show is completely devoid of anything brand new.
Among all the familiar faces (in their freshly animated form), is the unfamiliar Uatu, better known as The Watcher. Jeffrey Wright‘s character serves as a narrator for the series, watching along as events unfold while acting as a guide through the multiverse. In his introduction, Uatu avoids any talk of himself, merely saying, “As for me? These are my stories. I observe all that transpires here but I do not, cannot, will not interfere.”
Marvel fans know better than anyone how easily one can get invested in these stories. If Uatu is a viewer just like us, then he surely cheered along as Captain Carter wrecked Hydra with her shield. But going by his words, The Watcher seems determined to hang back on the sidelines. And yet, the voice behind the character has already hinted that things may not work out how Uatu intended. Wright told ComicBook.com, “We’ll see where he goes. We’ll see how dispassionate he is about all of this.”
Wright expanded by referencing his Marvel knowledge, pointing to the character’s history throughout the comics. He said:
“The first time we see him [in the comics] on the moon in Fantastic Four, he finds himself in the middle of this Cold War, east versus west, proxy battle. And he kicks some ass, he’s awesome, man. I mean, he’s not to be toyed with, The Watcher. Don’t get it twisted, I’m observing until I’m not, at least in that instance. So yeah. There’s some fun stuff to be had with him. We’ll see where it goes.”
Who is The Watcher?
In the comics, Uatu comes from an ancient race called The Watchers. One of the most advanced in the Cosmos, his species each have gifts of flight, telepathy, energy manipulation, and much more. Along with their powers, The Watchers are extremely technologically advanced.
Billions of years before the events we’ve seen in the MCU, they opted to share these gifts with the wider cosmos. But technology in the hands of a less advanced race resulted in destruction — the first species they shared with destroyed themselves through nuclear warfare. From then on, The Watchers vowed only to observe, without ever getting involved.
So begins the tale of Uatu, a Watcher assigned to Earth. But in the comics, he isn’t the spectator he makes himself out to be. As Wright referenced, he grew close to the Fantastic Four and broke his vow of passivity to help them in battle. After that, he found a steady rhythm of observing until he felt the need to interfere. In fact, Uatu got involved so often that he was eventually put on trial by The Watchers.
If his comic book history is anything to go by, Wright’s Watcher can only go so long without getting involved. For now, we’ll have to pay close attention to his narration — just how attached to these stories is Uatu getting?
New episodes of Marvel’s What If…? premiere weekly Wednesdays on Disney+.
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