I can’t remember the last time I finished such a ridiculous show.
At many points throughout What/If‘s ten-episode first season, I debated if I should stop watching this laughable “drama”. But I continued because I wanted to see how this train-wreck would end. I wanted to see if the ending would make it all worthwhile. And it really really doesn’t.
What/If is the story of Lisa Donavan, the founder of a bio startup who gets entangled in a twisted web of deceit courtesy of a cutthroat CEO played by none other than Renée Zellweger. Yes, the Oscar-winning actress is finally back in the spotlight and it’s shocking to me that she chose this project for her big comeback. Yes it makes sense that she’d choose a Netflix show (nothing “trends” like a Netflix show after all), but does her performance have to be so absurd? Of course the script does her no favors, but Zellweger is so over the top and distracting here, delivering her lines without an ounce of subtlety and constantly over-exaggerating every single expression. It’s just so silly but admittedly entertaining.
And what of the rest of the cast? They’re all fine performers, but the various subplots they have to contend with are just abysmal. While I loved Jane Levy on Suburgatory (a very underrated comedy), she’s saddled with the most annoying character of all time. Her Lisa is a whiny and irritating protagonist who makes illogical choices at every turn. Brothers and Sisters‘ Dave Annable gets to play against type as a slimy villain, but there’s absolutely no complexity here in his motivations which is a real shame.
It’s also worth nothing that the show’s creator, Mike Kelley, famously created another soapy thriller: Revenge. In fact, he basically rips himself off in What/If down to Anne’s backstory (which is insanely similar to Victoria Grayson’s). Why not explore something new? Particularly if you don’t have Madeleine Stowe to ground your character.
Again, it must be reiterated that I did watch the entire season. What/If is bad, but it’s definitely not boring. It succeeds in sustaining the narrative’s momentum thanks to increasingly nutty twists at every turn (there’s huge bombshell in the last two hours that I definitely didn’t see coming).
What/If is an enormously ludicrous show packed with cringeworthy dialogue and idiotic plotting. But it’s also extremely entertaining. What are your priorities?