The second episode of ‘What If…?’ is a more straightforward affair for the series, following the consequences of what would happen if Yondu delivered Peter Quill to his father like he was originally supposed to and the young boy attacked Earth. It’s a simple premise, and one that explores the opposite effect to the one audiences are already familiar with, though the huge action scene at the end makes this a more generic addition. The voice acting remains as stellar as ever.
Peter Quill returns to Earth in the year 1988, to activate Ego’s seed so he can take over the planet. He lands in New York, and begins by laying waste to everything he sees, in some sort of Disneyfied version of ‘Brightburn’. Quill makes his way through the city, ending up at Coney Island where he takes a break from his destructive rampage to enjoy some theme park rides, a childlike joy he never had.
Meanwhile, S.H.I.E.L.D. detects Quill and has to rapidly assemble a group of heroes (not called the Avengers, as the events of Captain Marvel are yet to happen) but who are similar enough. The group consists of Hank Pym and a young Hope, Mar-vell, Bill Foster as Giant-Man, King T’Chaka, and the Winter Soldier, something that Peggy Carter and Howard Stark are unnerved by – a fantastic idea.
Thor joins in the fight as everyone battles on Coney Island – it’s impressive to see an older iteration of the Avengers fight and use their powers together – until Quill is captured and returned to the S.H.I.E.L.D. base. They all discuss what they should do with the kid next, an interesting dilemma that perhaps warrants more discussion than the episode gave it. But it’s cut short when they realize that the young Hope has bonded with Quill over the loss of their mothers, a quiet moment that is really sweet and heartfelt.
Mar-vell and Hank find Quill at his mother’s grave and convince him to help them fight Ego, who’s come to Earth to enact his plan. The Winter Soldier secretly follows to kill the kid, but a discussion with Hank brings Bucky back, which feels cliched but makes sense – he would try to appeal to his better nature after all. In the desert, Peggy, Giant-Man, and Thor fight Ego, a scene that’s not as impressive as it thinks, due to the overwhelming nature and the deviation from the episode’s central question.
Ego is stopped by his son, and everything resolves itself neatly, a bit too much so for the episode’s premise. It should have committed to the ‘Brightburn’ aesthetic, the episode’s central question of what would happen if Quill attacked Earth is solved quite quickly, swept aside in favor of a massive desert battle with Ego. The fun action scene in Coney Island aside, the consequences of Quill being handed to his father might have been more interesting to explore from the perspective of the Guardians of the Galaxy that will now never form.