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What If…? episode 5 recap: Fills the MCU with zombies and Hopelessness

This review contains spoilers for Marvel’s WHAT IF…? episode 5.

Marvel fans, rejoice! The animated show What If…? has finally arrived at its most anticipated episode, based on the iconic limited series Marvel Zombies.

The Quantum Virus

In this zombified MCU, Bruce Banner winds up crashing into Doctor Strange’s Sanctum Sanctorum just like he did at the beginning of Avengers: Infinity War, but a zombie apocalypse is waiting. Iron Man, Doctor Strange, and Wong have all become the living dead, but before Bruce becomes one too, Hope Van Dyne comes to his rescue.

Turns out when Hank Pym tried to save his wife, Janet Van Dyne, from the Quantum Realm she had been infected by a zombie plague that’s now spreading across the world. The plague is so bad that it’s taken down several avengers and caused Black Panther to go missing. 

Marvel Zombies

  • Iron Man
  • Doctor Strange
  • Wong
  • Ebony Maw
  • Cull Obsidian
  • Janet Van Dyne
  • Hank Pym
  • Hawkeye 
  • Falcon
  • Happy Hogan
  • Captain America
  • Sharon Carter
  • Wanda Maximoff
  • Wasp
  • Thanos

A T’Challa snack

Our surviving heroes discover Vision has found a cure through the power of the Mind Stone. He’s only managed to cure the severed head of Scott Lang, bringing welcome silliness), introducing another horror trope to the party. If they reach Wakanda, they can use the power of the Mind Stone to cure the plague.

But Vision is hiding a dark secret that Bucky discovers when he finds a weakened though still alive T’Challa in one of the labs. Vision has been keeping Black Panther alive to feed his zombie bride, because the Scarlet Witch’s powers have resisted the treatment. Vision couldn’t bring himself to kill her, so he tried to contain her. But she’s awake now, and Kurt is her first meal!

Realizing his horrific mistake, Vision helps them escape to a nearby Quadjet, but he can’t bring himself to leave his beloved. He commits suicide by pulling the Mind Stone from his head so that hope remains for a cure. But both Okoye and Bucky fall to Wanda, and soon Bruce sacrifices himself so that T’Challa, Peter, and Scott Lang can flee on the jet.   

Meet Zombie Thanos and the infinity Gauntlet

T’Challa, Peter, and Scott’s head in a jar approach Wakanda. T’Challa shares some wisdom with Peter, telling him, “In my culture, death is not the end. They are still with us, as long as we do not forget them.” Once they get the Mind Stone to Wakanda, they’re gonna save the world. 

“Even in the darkest of times, humans will give all to save their planet. Even if it might bring an end to the universe,” the Watcher says, as we see zombies clawing at the Wakanda force field, and a zombie Thanos with the Infinity Gauntlet. The only stone he is missing is the Mind Stone. 

What happens next? We don’t know, because that’s the end of the episode. Would a zombie Thanos use a full gauntlet to banish the virus? It’s unlikely. It’s hard to see a bright side here, though T’Challa still being alive helps a little. Even if they did find a way to cure the virus, half of the population would likely refuse to take it. That’s sounds familiar Dr. Fauci?

Standout Moments

  • Spider-Man’s training video includes a little drawing of a zombie walking across the screen while Peter makes zombie noises, and I would be stunned if that’s not a conscious reference to the production card for Joss Whedon’s Mutant Enemy. If it is, though, I’m stunned for different reasons.
  • Okoye slices zombie Falcon in half and apologizes to Bucky. His response: “I should be sad, but I’m not.” This does all take place before The Falcon And The Winter Soldier, so they’re not begrudging BFFs yet.
  • “My mom, dad, Uncle Ben, Mr. Stark, now Happy… I’ve lost a lot.” This episode includes the first direct reference to Peter Parker’s late Uncle Ben in the MCU. Hopefully we’ll get another in the upcoming Spider-Man: No Way Home.
  • Though Happy (unfortunately) wasn’t able to nab one of his employer’s Iron Man armors before rotting flesh hit the fan, he did swipe Tony Stark’s Iron Gauntlet, which debuted in Captain America: Civil War and spawns a powerful Iron Man-style glove from a wristwatch
  • When Peter and Kurt film Bucky Barnes taking a shower (and set Twitter alight in the process), the curtain is adorned with red, white and blue stars and stripes. It’s a patriotic nod to Bucky’s backstory and his association with Captain America..

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