What If…? Season two episode seven review

In this episode of ‘What If…?’ the Watcher presents audiences with a hopeful and surprising tale. The episode focuses on Hela (Cate Blanchett) finding the Ten Rings but shows that just because that conjures up an expectation of how that might play out doesn’t mean there are different ways to showcase a different idea. It successfully subverts audience expectations and shows that anyone can change for the better, even if they are the Goddess of Death.

The central divergence for this episode follows Odin’s conquest of the nine realms with his first daughter. When her ambition outstripped his own, instead of banishing her to Hel, Odin takes Hela’s power and ties it to her helmet, saying that whoever wears the spiky hat if they know mercy will have the power of the Goddess of Death. It’s a moment reminiscent of Thor’s banishment, but that’s the only similarity it bears to Thor.

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Once on Earth, Hela is quickly found by Xu Wenwu, with the Ten Rings adorning his forearms. The episode’s title leads viewers to expect Hela to take the Ten Rings off him, but this never happens. Instead, Wenwu imprisons Hela, and while she naturally takes an interest in the shiny bracelets around his arms, he takes a rather creepy interest in dating Hela. There’s another alternate story at play here and it’s what if Wenwu never met Jiang Li.


Hela escapes the clutches of Wenwu with the help of Morris, the chicken nugget-looking creature from ‘Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings’ and flees to Ta Lo. Heimdall, voiced by Idris Elba, who makes his surprising but welcome return, warns Odin that he can no longer see Hela, inadvertently altering his boss to the presence of the Ten Rings, which Odin fears. Odin begins to prepare an army to attack Wenwu.

In Ta Lo, Hela undertakes meditative training, learns the ways of martial arts, and does some soul-searching about her motivation. Drilling down to it, Hela wants freedom from Odin’s control. Odin after all shaped her into the tip of his spear for his conquest, and when he was finished he denied Hela the opportunity to leave. It further recontextualizes Odin as an imperialistic and dictatorial brute, who only loved his children for what they could provide him. He also ripped Hela’s dog Fenris away from her as a young girl, cementing him as an all-time bad guy.

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It sets the stage for the blowout fight, where Wenwu and Hela defeat Odin and his armies, and Hela learns the value of mercy and freedom from oppression. This is a standalone episode that delves deep into the motivations of one of its villains, and it uses that exploration to pull them through to the other side and make them a hero in their own right. It’s a fantastic idea executed well, weaving character growth and action seamlessly together.

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Kieran Burt

My name is Kieran and I am based in the UK. I love writing about all things science fiction and fantasy, particularly Star Wars and Marvel. When I’m not writing or watching anything sci-fi related, you can probably find me exploring the open worlds of alternate lands through my Xbox.

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