Each week, Darren from @darrenmoviereviews will be recapping the most recent episode(s) of What If…? and the show’s overall connection to the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe.
What If…? there was a universe in which the Avengers were hunted by a serial killer. This week’s episode of What If…? is a dark spin on the events from the Phase 1 films of the MCU.
Marvel went dark this week with telling a story they could never get away with telling on the big screen. When Marvel had half of the Avengers and the world turned to dust in Infinity War, we didn’t think we would see something that dark again or our heroes be defeated so greatly. But What If…? kicks it up a notch, giving an episode dedicated to Nick Fury trying to stop an assassin targeting the Avengers. While it was originally teased as a Loki centric episode, it is infact a dark episode that retells key events from Iron Man 2, The Incredible Hulk and Thor. It’s thrilling as viewers try and figure out who is targeting the Avengers, with Marvel’s signature humour laced throughout the screenplay to lighten the mood. Without a doubt, this was the strongest episode of the series to date (though last week’s episode will remain a favourite of mine due to its beautiful tribute to Chadwick Boseman), mixing humour, darkness and action into one compelling story. It’s the perfect example of what this series can do, and I hope that the rest of the episodes follow in its footsteps with such a daring take on the MCU. Samuel L. Jackson, Mark Ruffalo, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston, Frank Grillo, Jamie Alexander and more MCU stars reprise their roles from the films. While each of them only gets a few minutes of dialogue, they are all great in capturing the spirit of these characters that they have been playing for years. Lake Bell steps into the role of Natasha/Black Widow, and she is a great actress to take over from Scarlett Johansson, easily capturing the intensity and heart that Johansson brought to the role. Though, you do miss Johansson in the role because there is no one who can play Black Widow after her ten year performance in the films.
The easter eggs this week are purely related to Iron Man 2, The Incredible Hulk, and Thor. There are lots of small references to those films, whether it be a setting, a line, or an object in the show’s background. It’s a nice homage to the past of the MCU. But, unlike previous episodes of What If…?, this episode ends on a cliffhanger that sets up another episode of the show to conclude the story. While the Captain Carter and T’Challa/Star Lord episodes left the door open for future adventures for those two characters, this episode leaves unanswered questions that I hope we get to see answered during this season or the show’s next.
And into spoiler territory we go. If you have not seen this week’s episode of What If…?, stop reading now. If you have, keep on reading to find out what we learnt in this week’s episode…
After the opening credits with the Watcher’s voice over, the episode begins with Black Widow and Nick Fury paying Tony Stark a visit. The scene is from Iron Man 2 with Tony sitting in the doughnut on top of the coffee shop. Natasha questions Fury betting the future of the Avengers initiative on Stark as he is clearly hungover. The scene plays out with the same dialogue both outside and inside the coffee shop. Natasha gives Tony the antidote as expected…but Tony seems to have a reaction and falls on the floor. Natasha rolls him over quickly, only to discover the shocking truth: Tony Stark is dead.
The Watcher then introduces the episode and talks about the Avengers coming together as a team in one universe. He mentions three stories happening over the same week, with those stories being Iron Man 2, The Incredible Hulk and Thor. But in this universe, something very different happened.
We then cut to New Mexico. Coulson has found Mjolnir in the desert and phones Fury to tell him this, but Fury says he’s in the middle of something. He is escorting Natasha to an armored vehicle for her to be transported to S.H.I.E.L.D.’s office in New York for her questioning due to her involvement in the death of Tony Stark. As he walks her to the armoured vehicle, Fury tells Natasha that he believes someone inside of S.H.I.E.L.D. compromised Stark’s antidote. However, he does not trust S.H.I.E.L.D. to find out who, and therefore he needs someone on the outside to find out the truth. He expects that Natasha will break out of S.H.I.E.L.D. custody. Which is exactly what happens next. After being put in the back of the vehicle, Natasha slips out her handcuffs, hands them to one of the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, and neutralizes them all and escapes S.H.I.E.L.D.’s custody.
Back in New Mexico, Coulson and Clint have set up the S.H.I.E.L.D. facility around Mjolnir. Fury expects that with such a powerful object (because even Jackson who does crossfit could not lift Mjolnir), someone will come looking for it. Fury just hopes that that individual will be an ally. At that moment, Coulson spots Thor taking out the S.H.I.E.L.D. guards, noting that Thor is both “gorgeous” and has “really great hair.” Fury orders Coulson to stand down and Thor makes his way to Mjolnir. Just like in the first Thor film, Clint has the shot to take out Thor, but Fury orders Clint to stand down to see what happens. While Clint is clearly not going to fire his arrow, the suddenly arrow leaves his bow and strikes Thor in the chest, killing him. With it looking like Clint killed Thor, Clint is taken into S.H.I.E.L.D. custody and locked away in a cell.
Fury enters Clint’s cell to find out what happened and get to the bottom of this, as this is the second high value S.H.I.E.L.D. target he has lost this week. However, upon entering the cell and nudging Clint to get him to speak, Clint falls over dead. Immediately, Fury yells at the guards to find out who entered the cell. But they respond with nothing, as no one but Fury has entered the cell since Clint was put in there.
After examining both Clint’s and Thor’s bodies, Fury is certain they were both murdered, as he knows Clint would not take his own life as Coulson suggested due to his family. Further, there was no sign of a struggle, which is an obstacle for Fury’s theory of murder.
While on the run from S.H.I.E.L.D., Natasha has made her way to Culver University to seek out Betty Ross. While Betty assumes Natasha has sought her out to question her about Bruce Banner, Natasha has actually come for Betty’s help. Natasha needs someone not under S.H.I.E.L.D.’s control to examine the antidote that killed Stark as she believes that Tony was murdered. After Betty examines the antidote vial, Betty notes that it was not anything biological that killed Stark. She discovers that the antidote never left the vial, but that a projectile was fired from the needle was the cause of Stark’s death. Natasha asks whether it could have been nano technology, but as Betty does not know about nanotech, she refuses to comment on it and tells Natasha that it’s time for her to leave.
As Natasha is leaving, she notices a Tony’s Pizza uniform on the table, and asks Betty if she has a second job delivering pizza. Betty says it’s not hers and that it must have been left by a student. Fury then calls Natasha to inform her that Clint is dead, and that there appears to be a serial killer targeting Avengers. He warns her that she and Bruce Banner are most likely the next targets, and orders her to find Banner. Natasha tells Fury that she already has and goes to open the closet in Betty’s lab. Betty tries to stop her, but Banner lets himself out of the closet and agrees to leave with Natasha at the sound of helicopters outside of the building.
Coulson is driving across the desert in New Mexico, as the outline of the Watcher is visible in the sky. As Coulson is driving, the Bifrost opens up a portal and sends Loki and his army down to Earth. They are quickly surrounded by Fury and his S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, but Loki requests that they all kneel before him. Fury tells Loki that is not something they do, and Loki gets into his big speech about his glorious purpose… only to be interrupted by Fury’s cell phone ringing. After stopping to ask Fury if he is going to answer that, Fury picks up the call. It’s Natasha. She is in the glass walkway at Culver University with Banner, and she’s phoning Fury to tell him that General Ross and the Army have shown up. Fury tells her to deal with, as he is a little preoccupied with Loki at the moment.
Loki continues his speech and tells Fury that he has come to Earth to avenge Thor’s death…sure, let’s believe that. While giving his speech, Loki is holding the Tesseract, and it begins glowing. Fury asks what it is, and Loki uses the Tesseract to attack the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents. Fury manages to get through to Loki, by telling him that this attack on S.H.I.E.L.D. agents won’t bring Thor back, and that they share a common enemy: Thor’s killer. Hearing this, Loki comes to an agreement with Fury: Fury has until sunrise the next morning to bring him the individual responsible for killing Thor or else he will reduce the planet to ash and ice.
Meanwhile, back at Culver University…someone shoots Banner. He is hit and goes down, however this makes him mad and turns him into the Hulk. Hulk then attacks Ross and his soldiers, who open fire on him. Betty runs towards her father, trying to call off the attack, but Natasha stops her. As she stops Betty, Hulk continues to grow and grow and grow… until he explodes. Another Avenger is dead.
Later that night, Natasha is in a public library in Virginia. She is trying to get into the S.H.I.E.L.D. database. Coulson is on the phone, not wanting to give her his password, but eventually Natasha persuades him. The password: #SteveSteveSteveIHeartSteve0704 (yes Coulson’s password is an expression of his undying love for Steve Rogers!) As she is logging into the database, Natasha hears someone in the background. She knows she is not alone in the library. Inside the database, Natasha is able to search who recently opened files, and one individual who died years ago: Janet Van Dyne. However, Natasha is confronted by an unseen foe who begins attacking her. While being attacked, she manages to call Fury. Unfortunately it goes to voicemail, with Natasha screaming “it’s all about Hope” as her last words before she is killed by the unseen foe.
In New Mexico, Fury listens to Natasha’s voice message. He now knows she’s dead and that the assassin will most likely be coming for him next. While he talks to Coulson about Loki being the reason that the Avengers Initiative was created, he realizes it’s not just him who is left in the Avengers Initiative. He pulls out a pager to page Captain Marvel, when suddenly he figures out what Natasha’s final words meant. He then heads off to meet Loki to either make a pact with a god or a deal with the devil…
We next see Fury in San Francisco in a graveyard. He has come to visit the tombstone of Hope Van Dyne. As Fury hoped, Hank Pym shows up. Hank blames Fury for Hope’s death that occured while she was on a mission for S.H.I.E.L.D., just like her mother Janet. Fury, having understood Natasha’s final words, accuses Pym of killing the Avengers. Pym then shrinks and attacks Fury. Fury is able to dodge and fend off Pym’s attack for the majority of the fight. Then Fury begins to multiply and appears all around Pym. Realizing defeat is imminent, Pym attempts to fly away but is frozen in ice. All of the Furys then turn into Lokis, and the real Loki and Fury appear. This was one elaborate setup to catch Pym, that allowed Fury to stop the assassin while honouring his deal with Loki. Fury tells Pym that individuals working for S.H.I.E.L.D. are willing to give their lives for something greater than themselves to save the world from men like Pym, and that is exactly what Hope did. As he is being taken away, Pym asks Fury to honour Hope.
With Pym in custody, Fury turns to Loki. He asks Loki to take the hammer and leave Earth. However, Loki sees this as a good new alliance and wants to extend his stay on Earth…
The next day, Loki and his army of Asgardians march into the United Nations. Overnight, Loki has taken over the world and has arrived at the UN to make his royal announcement speech. It is his great pride to announce that all the nations of the world have united under his leadership and that he is here to fulfill his destiny.
At a S.H.I.E.L.D. hanger, Fury and Coulson honour the Avengers they have lost, while realizing that they have a new foe to defeat: Loki. As Fury originally envisioned the Avengers, they are more than a team, but an idea and affirmation of humanity’s need. He knows that in their darkest hour, they will find the heroes they need. The scene then cuts to Fury on Captain America’s ground airship that was buried in the snow for years. He uncovers Captain America’s shield in the snow, and Captain Marvel appears behind him, reporting for duty.
Another great episode of What If…? this week giving fans another exciting story that we would never see in a MCU film. But questions still linger… Who will Fury get to join this next iteration of the Avengers? And will they be able to stop Loki and reclaim Earth? Hopefully we will get answers soon enough, but not until after next week’s episode which is rumoured to focus on Doctor Strange. Don’t forget to check back for next week’s recap as I discuss what strange events happen on What If…? next.