Plot summary: With his father entering the Odin-Sleep and his mother away, ‘The Party Thor’ embarks on an epic bender for the ages.
Episode Title: ‘What If… Thor Were an Only Child?’
Air Date: September 22nd, 2021
Directed: Bryan Andrews (7)
Written: A.C. Bradley (4)
The Elvis impersonator in Vegas says “Holy Moley”, which was the catchphrase of DC’s Captain Marvel (aka Shazam), who The King has stated he based his flamboyant costumes after.
Jane has clear knowledge of S.H.I.E.L.D. here, whereas at the equivalent point in Thor, she had never heard of them.
The fake Infinity Gauntlet in the Asgardian vault is left-handed here, whereas it is right-handed in the Thor series.
Doctors Jane Foster and Darcy Lewis observe freaky astrological phenomenon and try to warn S.H.I.E.L.D. that it could mean an alien invasion. Sure enough, the Bifrost beams down Thor and his contingent to Las Vegas… where they begin partying.
The Watcher explains that in this reality Odin returned baby Loki to the Frost Giants, so the Prince of Asgard instead grew up trouble free. Thus when his father entered the Odinsleep and Frigga went away with her sisters, Thor elected to head to Midgard for a bender.
Jane and Darcy follow Thor’s signal to find dozens of aliens mingling with the locals. Jane introduces herself, asking him if he was responsible for the destruction of a planet two years ago based on similar readings.
Thor hand-waves the incident, claiming the planet was already dying when they arrived, which is good enough for Jane to join the revelry.
The next morning, Janes is awoken by S.H.I.E.L.D. hammering on the door of the penthouse suite, with Maria Hill temporarily in charge because Nick Fury was hospitalised trying to break up the party.
Agent Coulson reports the retinue have gone international. Hill has no time for any of this, so calls Captain Marvel using Fury’s beeper.
Carol arrives in Paris, demanding Thor clean up the mess and leave Earth. He refuses, so they fight their way across the globe, causing more damage than the partying. Thor gets the better of the exchange, as Carol fears the collateral damage of unleashing her full power.
Hill instructs her to lure him to a more remote location so she can really cut loose. Jane isn’t a fan of this idea so uses her equipment to signal Heimdall. Frigga contacts her son, who lies that he’s on a cultural exchange. She doesn’t buy it, informing him she’ll be there soon.
Thus, Thor hurries to clean up after himself, scaring the alien folk into helping. Frigga remains dubious of his charade, but Carol takes pity on him to help seal the deal. Sort of.
Thor thanks Jane for doing the right thing and asks her on a date… but then an Ultron-Vision hybrid wielding the complete set of Infinity Stones arrives…
A recurring complaint of mine is the hypothetical scenarios most episodes have presented haven’t really been substantial enough. To my mind they should be cautionary tales and/or centred around pivotal moments in characters’ journeys. Uncle Ben’s death. Bucky killing Tony’s parents. Those kinds of things that the character wishes every day they could take back, only for the story to reveal their life may have ended up worse without those moments. This episode adheres as closely to that ideology as any have so far, with Loki’s name frequently cursed and Thor left as his sole defender because no matter what, he loves his brother.
Therefore, I was stunned to see Marvel take a stance that Thor’s life would be arguably better without Loki after all. Sure, he’s a little less responsible, but that maturity is a relatively recent occurrence in the MCU anyway, and clearly it does nothing to affect his worthiness or battle prowess. Still a warrior with his heart in the right place. Gets a crash course in morality. Gets the girl. What’s the real downside? This stance is especially strange given how Loki went through two separate redemption stories in Ragnarok and his own show, with the latter in particular really getting to the heart of the character and deciding he may just be a good boy after all.
That aside, this felt like 10 minutes from an anthology stretched to a full 30-minute episode. You get the idea with the ragers quickly, and all of the Jane/Darcy/Maria Hill stuff could have been massively truncated. The highlight was it turning into anime for 5 minutes as two of Marvel’s heaviest hitters unleashing the fury on each other in a visually exciting fashion that is far more engaging than the live action equivalent of CGI action figures slamming into each other against a grey/brown/orange backdrop that’s clearly not a real place.
Normally the stakes being low is a good thing, as world-ending stories get tiresome, but I think they went too far the other way and it ended up feeling like a big pile of nothing. Thor parties too hard. Captain Marvel tries to make him stop. Jane calls his mother. He cleans up like he’s in a teen comedy. Yawn.
Most Marvellous Player
It’s a soft week again, with Chris Hemsworth stumbling backwards into top honours by virtue of being the only performer to make any kind of memorable impact. There are some bad line reads here and there, but for the most part he’s able to imbue Thor with similar charisma as in live action. I enjoyed him struggling to spell his own name.
Tom Hiddleston joins the ranks of good actors who are very bad at voice work, which is surprising to me. It might just be that he struggled to engage with the material in a way that doesn’t sound completely cringe.
Most of the rest of the gang are here, including Natalie Portman, Kat Dennings, Cobie Smulders, Samuel L. Jackson, Karen Gillen, Jaimie Alexander, Jeff Goldblum, Rachel House, Taika Waititi and Clancy Brown. Most of their roles are incredibly brief. Portman is fine. I feel like Dennings was trying her best (and has done more voice work than the others), but the writing of Darcy’s usual quippy asides is simply inferior to what we’re accustomed to, so by no fault of her own, she sometimes sounds cringey. In fact I’d say that’s a recurring theme for Hemsworth, Hiddleston and Portman as well.
Alexandra Daniels had a single line as Captain Marvel in episode three, so we get to hear her properly for the first time here and she’s… okay. I was more impressed with Josette Eales, who gives Frigga an entirely more playful energy than Rene Russo, which suited the story.
Arguably the episode has no villain until the final stinger, with the conflict arising between two heroes who have a minor disagreement. Party Thor may be the cause of the turmoil, but aside from being a little reckless, he’s still portrayed as generally virtuous and worthy and ends up being the voice of reason at the end.
If you’re one of those weirdos who hates Captain Marvelon sight then I guess you can put together one of those stretched arguments that she’s a horrible nag trying to ruin the vibes, but come on…
Loki, Surtur, Nebula and the Grandmaster turn up briefly and are… not villains.
That just leaves the Ultron/Vision hybrid wielding the Infinity Stones, the ostensible big bad for the season finale. Hard to really rule on the character given it doesn’t speak, but as an Ultron Defender, I’m tentatively pleased.
Check out The Matt Signal Beyond, in which I recap episodes of Batman Beyond every Saturday and Sunday. This weekend Mr. Freeze returns and Batman teams up with some Fantastic Four knock-offs.
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