After audiences learn of Marvel’s perception of time and the multiverse in “Avengers: Endgame” and the “Loki” Disney+ show, it’s safe to assume there’s a universe with a Captain Carter, a universe where Peggy Carter takes the supersoldier serum and NOT Steve Rogers.
The episode begins in “Captain America: The First Avenger” as Rogers is about undergo the procedure. After modifying a moment when Peggy was asked to leave the room and go to the booth, seemingly presenting it as a sexist remark instead of implying the non-scientists move away (as it was in “First Avenger”), our narrator, The Watcher (Jeffrey Wright) alerts us of the change to the timeline.
As the attack on the transformation experiment in “First Avenger” unfolds, Steve is shot and cannot undergo the treatment. Peggy reacts, jumps in Steve’s place and come out a female Arnold Schwarzenegger. Queue a sexist rant from the commanding office about “women are not soldiers,” “don’t fight on the front lines,” and they might “break a nail.”
It’s kind of a bizarre exchange considering Peggy is a respected officer in the military, not a random woman from the street.
Call backs to the “First Avenger” and the first “Avenger” film, Steve training and their budding romance prelude as Peggy becomes Union Jack and sets out to get the Tesseract. In five minutes of screen time, Peggy does what Steve took a full film to do – get the powerful cube and take down some Nazis.
Bucky and the Howling Commandos are rescued as Peggy is a quick study. The injured Steve partners with Howard Stark, who took possession of the Tesseract, to fight in a primitive Iron Man suit, nicknamed the Hydra Stomper.
The train scene in “First Avenger” takes a different turn, Bucky is safe, but Steve and the Hydra Stomper explode. Steve’s death motivates the group to organize against the Red Skull and his scheme.
Having experiments of his own, the Red Skull opens a portal to allow entry of a giant beast, a squidlike kaiju. The iron suit and Steve survived, Howard tries to control the Red Skull’s machine and Peggy pushes the creature toward the collapsing portal. Every role gets reversed as Steve and Peggy discuss the dance which never happens.
Peggy sacrifices herself, the machines explode, the tesseract remains, leaving Steve with his sadness.
Fast forward to the events of “Avengers,” where Fury and Barton stand in the room using the tesseract to open a portal, allowing Captain Carter to leap out, sword and shield in hand.
So, “What If” Captain America were a girl…the entire MCU would lead up to “Avengers” differently: no Red Skull, no Hydra and well, girl power.
Queue the critics raging about “woke Marvel,” because “What If” certainly continues the failings of “Black Widow” with this gender swap. Peggy is at least more feminine, sweet and tender towards Steve than one would have expected. She learns faster and is more efficient than Steve, ridding the world of the Nazis and Hydra in one 30-minute episode – seems a bit too neat and clean.
The animation is fine, nothing special. I don’t know if this is the normal style or they were going with a more noir look due to the era, but it was significantly less impressive than Netflix’s “He-Man: Revelations,” which looked amazing.
Trivia: “Where Eagles Dare” is a 1968 British World War II film, starring Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood.