A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away — oops, we’re talking about Marvel here, but the sentiment still stands. When it comes to the all-knowing narrator of What If…?, we have a lot of questions. The Watcher, as the narrator calls himself, claims that he will not interfere, but can we trust him?
Longtime Marvel fans are often skeptical of the terms laid out to us in the beginning of any movie or series, and we have every right to be! Take Loki for instance, in which we’re told that the TVA is just neutral bureaucracy, but we quickly learn otherwise. So when What If…? introduces another “neutral” character, we can’t help but wonder if the Watcher will ever interfere in the MCU.
‘What If…?’ introduces the Watcher as an impartial guide to its alternate realities.
The Watcher, voiced by the brilliant Jeffrey Wright, opens up What If…? "I am The Watcher,” he explains. “I am your guide through these vast new realities. Follow me and ponder the question 'what if?'"
And we immediately buy into who he is, ready to follow him on the journey into the alternate realities in the MCU. However, he doesn’t interrupt or bring in his own opinions at all throughout the episode.
By the end of Episode 1, we’ve almost forgotten that the Watcher is watching until he says, “As for me, these are my stories. I observe all that transpires here, but I do not, cannot, will not interfere. For I am the Watcher.” So if he’s not actually narrating throughout and he’s not going to interfere, what’s the point of the Watcher being present in What If…?
The Watcher is part of the ‘What If…?’ comic book series.
The Marvel comic book series upon which What If…? is based includes a character named Uatu the Watcher, who plays a similar role to Jeffrey Wright’s Watcher. He simply observes and leads us through the multiverse.
In a way, the Watcher is the opposite of the TVA, whose aim is to destroy all alternate realities. Alternatively, the Watcher embraces these alternate realities as more chances to watch his favorite characters. Does that sound like anyone else? (Ahem, looking at you, Marvel fans.)
In the comic books, Uatu the Watcher is part of the Watchers, believed to be the oldest species ever. They are an alien species that has survived eons, and because of their long existence, they hold lots of knowledge and many secrets of the multiverse.
However, after the Watchers tried to help the next oldest species, the Proscilians, with some knowledge, the Proscilians essentially blew themselves to extinction in nuclear warfare. So the Watchers vowed never to interfere again.
The Watcher does sometimes interfere in the Marvel comics.
But Uatu the Watcher, whose job it is to observe and record all that happens on Earth, disagrees with this decree. He actually fights his fellow Watchers numerous times because he believes that when a Watcher sees some way they can help, they should.
And Uatu stands by his word — he meets the Fantastic Four numerous times in the comics and helps them defeat some of the worst ever villains, including Galactus and Molecule Man.
Despite helping his lovely little earthlings, Uatu is put on trial by his fellow Watchers. They basically let him off with a warning, and of course, he can’t resist the temptation to save his favorite people — the people of Earth.
This ultimately results in his death, for which Nick Fury is responsible. Thus, Nick is punished by the Watchers and forced to take over Uatu’s post. It’s a harsh punishment for a man who feels the need to solve problems.
So will the Watcher interfere in ‘What If…?’ or the MCU in general?
Not only does Uatu the Watcher interfere in the canon Marvel comics, but there are a handful of What If…? installments that center around the Watcher.
There’s an issue called What If No One Was Watching the Watcher?, and we can probably guess that the Watcher would definitely interfere in that episode. It would be interesting to see how this all-knowing being’s unabashed interference would affect the greater MCU.
There’s also What If the Watcher Saved the Universe? and What If the Watcher Had Killed Galactus?, so it’s possible we could see any of those stories in What If…? However, our introduction to the Watcher is definitely a tease that there will be more of him.
It’s not confirmed that this Watcher is actually Uatu the Watcher, but it's likely. And with the casting of Jeffrey Wright as his voice, we’re certain to see more of him in the MCU. But how will he interfere? Only the Watcher knows that.
New episodes of What If...? premiere Wednesdays on Disney Plus.