The third episode ‘What If…?’ episode is a real Christmas treat, one that saw Happy Hogan fight Justin Hammer as he attempts to take Avengers Tower when Jarvis is down and the Avengers are frolicking for Christmas. It’s an episode reminiscent of ‘Die Hard’, proving that those who work at Marvel Studios think that it’s a Christmas classic. But there is a sufficient Marvel twist to the take that makes it all the more compelling, Happy has accidentally injected himself with Hulk blood, and is turning into a purple rage monster.
First, it’s nice to hear that the Watcher has a bit of a festive cheer in his dialogue and demeanor, and not just his usual booming self. It sets this monologue apart, and, by the time the series is over there will be 18 of them, so it’s a helpful differentiation. Upon rewatches it might not be something that fits, but that’s always the danger of doing a Christmas-orientated take.
Sam Rockwell makes a welcome return as Justin Hammer, and while the dialogue is a bit more generic than when he was first introduced in ‘Iron Man 2’ and doesn’t have the same humorous touch, he still carries that wannabe Tony Stark energy about him, one that demands other people take him seriously. Rockwell fulls this jealousy off perfectly, and hopefully, this is the prelude to a grander return in live action.
His latest get-rich-quick scheme is to hack his way through Avengers Tower and steal a vial of the Hulk’s blood, thinking that he could combine his brains with the Hulk’s brawn. Luckily, the tower’s security is managed by Happy, who hilariously bumbles about and then, in the middle of a fight, gives himself the muscles of the monster. It results in some impressive action where Happy gets to wreck some robots.
Darcy Lewis, again voiced by Kat Dennings makes a return and is a delightful eternal intern, who thinks she’s helping Happy but is really just making him Stressed. This comes to a head when she attempts to reboot J.A.R.V.I.S. with the backup A.I. called W.E.R.N.E.R. who, while it does sound like Werner Herzog himself is doing the voice, is actually Ross Marquand, and it’s very convincing.
Happy and Hammer end up fighting each other, as Hammer takes control of the Hulkbuster suit, in a fight scene that conveys how both combatants are out of their depth with what they’re doing. Happy is not fit enough, even a Hulk version of him, and Hammer is someone who has to hire muscle to get the job done.
The Avengers, after coming back from their Christmas obligations and activities, think the purple rage monster that’s Happy is the threat, and hilariously pummel him about until they realize that Hammer is the real bad guy. Once they catch him, Tony praises his security guard for all the work he does, an adorable moment that shows he does appreciate Happy, even if in the MCU films he doesn’t show it.
This episode of ‘What If…?’ is a great Christmas gift for fans of the MCU, giving one of the franchise’s longest-running characters a chance to prove his worth and have a chance to glow in the spotlight. It does justice to the party concept that one of the previous episodes of ‘What If…?’ tried in season one, but improves in every conceivable way.