No one knows the Multiverse like Uatu the Watcher, which may be a problem for the MCU’s newest villain, who just debuted in Loki’s season finale.
WARNING: The following contains spoilers for the Season 1 finale of Loki, “For All Time. Always.,” streaming now on Disney+.
The new What If…? animated series formally introduces Uatu the Watcher to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The character is best known as the “host” of Marvel’s What If…? comics line, who revealed the stories of alternate universes without actively interfering. It allowed Marvel’s writers and artists to explore ideas that could never pass muster in the canon, and created some startling and unique stories that the MCU is clearly hoping to emulate.
However, the specifics of the MCU version invite a curious paradox for both Uatu and the Watchers themselves. This isn’t the first time they’ve appeared in the MCU, and with the recent revelations in Loki about the creation of the Multiverse, that creates a strange and intriguing interconnection. If He Who Remains and the Time Variance Authority have controlled the flow of time up until now, what is the Watchers’ role in the new reality? More importantly, how are they connected to the TVA and whatever forces lie behind it?
Uatu first appeared in Fantastic Four #13 in 1963, when he revealed himself during a battle between Reed Richards’ team and a group of Soviet supervillains led by the Red Ghost. Since then, he has aided the heroes of Earth a number of times, which goes against his race’s tenets of strict noninterference. His role in What If…? was to look past the reality where the Marvel Comics took place – called Earth-616 – and into the featured alternate reality of that particular issue.
Canonically, the Watchers are one of the oldest species in the universe. They once made an effort to help a less advanced species called the Prosilicans, who proceeded to annihilate themselves. That prompted the Watchers to swear an oath of total noninterference with other species. According to 2014’s Original Sin #0, Uatu’s father created the catastrophe by giving nuclear power to the Prosilicans, which leads Uatu to examine alternate universes – as many as he can – in hopes of finding one where the decision turned out to be the right thing. That provides justification for his status in What If…?
The Watchers first appeared in the MCU debriefing Stan Lee’s befuddled informant in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Their passive nature and commitment to noninterference likely makes them nonfactors to the TVA, which is mainly concerned with divergent timelines. But it does beg the question: are the MCU Watchers aware of the TVA, and if so, how do they interact? It’s quite likely that both sides at least know about each other and – whether by unspoken agreement or formal treaty – have decided not to meddle in each other’s affairs.
Here is where the question of their interaction merits attention. In the comics, Uatu breaks his oath of noninterference more than once, often to help the heroes of Earth counter some cosmic threat such as Galactus or the Over-mind. That, and his eagerness to observe alternate timelines, suggests he may be deemed a threat to the TVA, especially one run by Kang the Conqueror or someone of his ilk. At the very least, his understanding of how the Multiverse works and knowledge of intimate details of each make him a source of advice and wisdom for figures like Doctor Strange, who will have to navigate the landscape that he has already seen.
That’s a big leap from his traditional role as observer and narrator, which he will presumably fulfill in What If…? Before the season finale of Loki, it looked like that might be his only purpose in the MCU. But the creation of the Multiverse suggests that the animated series will have a larger hand in the events of Phase Four than previously appeared. That automatically forces the TVA to consider them. The Watchers, and Uatu in particular, have the cosmic presence to address the TVA and its controller, which gives them a stake in how the freshly minted Multiverse unfolds. What If…?’s narrator may have a much larger role to play than it appears.
Loki’s Season 1 finale premiered July 14 on Disney+. Played by Jeffrey Wright, Uatu the Watcher makes his debut in Marvel’s What If…? Aug. 11, also on Disney+.
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