Marvel's animated series "What If...?" has consistently pushed the boundaries of the superhero genre, and its latest episode, What If Kahhori Reshaped the World?, is no exception. This episode stands out not only for its audacious storytelling but also for its profound cultural significance, making it a hallmark of the second season.
The episode introduces Kahhori, a new character in the Marvel Universe, portrayed with remarkable depth by Devery Jacobs. Kahhori, a young Indigenous girl from the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, is a daring addition, especially considering the show's decision to have the bulk of the episode in Mohawk, a move that pays rich dividends in terms of authenticity and immersion.
The narrative skillfully intertwines Marvel lore with Indigenous history, taking us back to pre-colonial America, where the Tesseract's arrival alters the course of history. The exploration of the relationship between Kahhori and her brother Wáhta, portrayed by Kiawentiio, adds a personal dimension to the story, grounding the fantastical elements in real, relatable emotions.
As the episode progresses, the confrontation with conquistadors led by Don Rodrigo Alphonso Gonzolo (Gabriel Romero) introduces a harsh reality of colonial aggression. The depiction of Kahhori's transportation to the Sky World after an encounter with the Tesseract showcases Marvel's imaginative storytelling, blending mythical elements with superhero themes.
The direction of this episode is commendable for its balance of action and narrative pacing. The animation particularly shines in the depiction of the Sky World, a realm infused with Tesseract energy, where Kahhori discovers her powers. The visual representation of the Sky World is both mesmerizing and meaningful, reinforcing the episode's themes of connection to land and heritage.
The episode doesn't shy away from exploring themes of colonization, cultural identity, and resistance.
Kahhori's struggle against the conquistadors and her decision to return to her people, despite the allure of the Sky World, is a powerful narrative of resilience and cultural integrity. The episode also intelligently comments on the historical and ongoing impacts of colonization, making it more than just a superhero story.
The cameo by Strange Supreme (Benedict Cumberbatch) ties the episode back to the broader Marvel universe, reminding viewers of the interconnected nature of the series. This moment serves as a bridge between the culturally specific story of Kahhori and the larger Marvel narrative.
What If Kahhori Reshaped the World? is a bold, culturally rich episode that goes beyond typical superhero fare. Its focus on an Indigenous hero, use of the Mohawk language, and engagement with complex themes make it not just an entertaining watch but a significant cultural artifact. This episode is a must-watch for fans of the Marvel Universe and those interested in seeing diverse narratives in mainstream media.