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…? zombies took over the MCU! Yes, the long anticipated zombie episode of What If…? has finally arrived after being teased in the first footage for the series over two years ago, and it does not disappoint!
Ever since the D23 Convention panel for Disney+ back in 2019, one image has stuck in my mind: the zombie version of Captain America. It was a truly startling image, released only months after we all witnessed Steve Rogers and the rest of the Avengers save the world in Avengers: Endgame. However, the animation was brilliant and the image showed the true potential of the wild stories that could be explored in What If…? And with the highly anticipated episode finally airing, it does not disappoint.
The first four episodes of What If…? focused on one MCU character, even though multiple characters may have appeared in the episode. However, with the zombie episode, this is the first episode that has the team up aspect of the Avengers films. We have a group of MCU characters fighting for survival during the zombie apocalypse, finding themselves at many times fighting notable characters from the MCU who have become zombies. To sum it up quickly, it’s like a twisted version of Captain America: Civil War, that instead of fighting for freedom and liberty, one group of Avengers is trying to eat the other. Like the previous episodes, this is a daring story that would never make its way into a MCU film. However, despite being focused on zombies and having some truly startling moments, this is an MCU story through and through. We get the signature MCU humour, largely thanks to Spider-Man’s extensive movie knowledge, which makes the episode feel light-hearted despite being set during the zombie apocalypse. While I think that the fourth episode centred on Doctor Strange is the strongest episode of the season so far, the zombie episode was one hell of a good time!
After last week’s episode which challenged the role of the Watcher and hinted that we could have an unreliable narrator on our hands, willing to intervene with the course of events, the show did not progress the Watcher’s role this episode. Reverting back to the first three episodes of the season, the Watcher is merely a narrator helping to tell the story of the episode. While I’m sure we will see more involvement of the Watcher going forward, I was hoping we would see a larger role for Jeffrey Wright this episode because it was such a pleasant surprise last episode. Despite this, all of the voice performances of the returning MCU cast members are great and the unique animation style continues to capture the comic book origins of the show with a keen visual eye.
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…
The episode is set during the events of Avengers: Infinity War and opens with Bruce Banner crash landing in the Sanctum in New York. However, unlike the film, there is no one there to greet him. No Doctor Strange, no Wong. Bruce goes out onto the street and Maw and Obsidian arrive, heralding the arrival of Thanos. Bruce tries to summon Hulk, but he refuses to come up, as expected. Then a portal opens behind Maw and Obsidian. Doctor Strange, Tony Stark and Wong come through the portal and begin attacking Maw and Obsidian. However, as Bruce watches from afar, something strange happens. Maw begins screaming as you see his limbs torn from his body. The picture then zooms in and you see that the three of them are zombies. They then spot Bruce and begin moving on him…
However, Hope van Dyne, Doctor Strange’s cape and Spider-Man appear and save Bruce from the zombies. Hope uses ants to eat away at Zombie Tony and Doctor Strange. As they escape, Doctor Strange’s cape uses one of the portals and closes it as Zombie Wong is going through it, taking off his head.
We then learn how the zombie outbreak occurred. During the events of Ant-Man and the Wasp when Hank Pym ventured into the Quantum Realm to rescue Janet, something happened. While in the Quantum Realm, she became infected with a virus that turned her into a zombie. She bites Hank as he comes to save her, and they both exit the Quantum Realm. As Hope and Scott Lang open up their ship, Zombie Hank and Zombie Janet attack and bite Scott, turning him into a zombie. Hope manages to escape, but within days the entire Pacific Northwest is overrun by the virus, including the Avengers.
To help explain the rules to survive the zombie apocalypse, Peter Parker has created a useful video entitled “So You Want to Survive the Zombie Apocalypse”. The video features Happy Hogan, Okoye, Kurt (from the Ant-Man films), Sharon Carter, and Bucky Barnes. In a comical video akin to Peter’s films from Spider-Man Homecoming, we learn the rules to survive:
- Wear long sleeves
- Aim for the head
During the video, we learn from Okoye that T’Challa is missing. After Peter finishes playing the video for Bruce, the remaining Avengers receive a message from another camp of survivors. The message claims that they have made progress on a cure, but the transmission is corrupted and the location cannot be ascertained. However, Bruce knows that the only place with the technology to create such a cure has to be the original S.H.I.E.L.D. base in New Jersey. The team makes their way to Grand Central Station to find a train to hotwire to transport them to New Jersey.
At Grand Central Station, Okoyoe orders the team to split up so they can get in and out as quickly as possible. Peter questions this, because he has seen enough horror movies and knows splitting up is a bad idea, and questions Okoye if they have horror movies in Wakanda. Clearly not impressed by his movie knowledge, Okoye tells Peter that they do not need horror movies in Wakanda when they have American reality television instead… Peter, Bruce and Kurt make their way to the train. Kurt and Banner are at the controls as Peter uses his web to create a giant slingshot to launch the train for when they get power to it.
Elsewhere, Sharon and Happy are exploring and something attacks them. Happy is hit with an arrow, attached to a wire that pulls him into the darkness, leaving Sharon alone. Sharon is then hit with an arrow as a Zombie Hawkeye emerges from the shadow. A horde of zombies appear behind Zombie Hawkeye, including a newly turned Zombie Happy. Sharon manages to slice off Zombie Happy’s hand to get Iron Man’s repulsor and uses it to fend off the zombies. Back in the concourse, Okoye and Bucky are attacked by Zombie Sam Wilson. After a quick battle, Okoye slices Zombie Sam in half, saving Bucky from being turned into a zombie.
Back at the train, zombies attack Peter as he is preparing the slingshot. Luckily, Doctor Strange’s cape saves Spider-Man just as the zombies are rushing the train. Sharon, Okoye, and Bucky manage to get on the train in time for Peter to release the slingshot, propelling them out of Grand Central station and away from the zombies. While riding the train, Okoye apologizes for not listening to Peter and suggesting that they split up, thinking that she is responsible for Happy becoming a zombie. Sharon decides to explore the train, and while doing so, she hears the sound of something on the roof of the train.
What Sharon hears is the sounds of footsteps on the roof of the train. The ceiling then drops to the floor as something falls into the train car. It is Zombie Steve Rogers. Hearing the noise, Bucky races towards the car and sees Zombie Steve over top of Sharon. Bucky begins fighting Zombie Steve, with Zombie Sharon soon joining the fight. Hope comes to Bucky’s aid and takes on Zombie Sharon, shrinking and flying inside of Zombie Sharon, only to expand and destroy Zombie Sharon at the same time. Bucky overpowers Zombie Steve, steals the shield and throws it at Zombie Steve, severing Zombie Steve’s legs from the rest of his body.
The rest of the team shows up after Bucky and Hope have defeated the zombies. Peter offers Hope hand sanitizer to clean Sharon off of her, however Hope has been scratched by the zombies. Hope knows that her time is limited and asks the team to end her life before she becomes a zombie. However, Peter wants to hold out, hoping that a cure does exist and is within their reach. Peter says that they have to have hope, which Hope asks how he still has it. His answer: all the movies he has seen in AV Club, he knows this is the time that they are about to succeed. Peter tells Hope that Tony told him that hope came through practice, but Aunt May used to tell him that if you don’t keep smiling when those loved ones who have left can’t, you might as well be gone too. And that their lost loved ones would want them to keep going, to keep fighting. However, interrupting this beautiful moment is Kurt with a bit of bad news: the train is out of fuel, stopping right in the middle of a horde of zombies.
Seeing the zombies outside the train, Hope tells the team that she can help get them to safety, allowing her to help fix the mess she created. She then uses the Pym Particles to enlarge herself and carries the team to the S.H.I.E.L.D. base while crushing and fending off zombies along the way. After depositing the team within the safety of the base fence, Hope is overrun by zombies climbing on her and collapses to the ground. With her last breath, she asks Peter to smile for her.
After losing Hope, the team notices something weird. The zombies are not climbing over the fence nor entering through the hole in it. Something is keeping them at bay. Kurt is convinced it is Baba Yaga, and after Peter jokingly grabs him, Kurt screams at the top of his lungs. However, Vision appears. As Vision is not human, he is not desirable to the zombies and has been able to survive the zombie apocalypse without any problems.
Vision takes the team within the base and explains why the zombies are not attacking them here. He says it is due to the Mind Stone emitting a frequency that is not to the zombies liking. Using that frequency, Vision has come up with a way to reverse the zombie infection. And he used it on Scott Lang. So despite Hope thinking Scott had become a zombie, Vision managed to turn Scott back into a human, who is now nothing more than a talking head in a glass jar. Realizing what Vision has come up with, Bruce says that they need to find a satellite to transmit the frequency across the globe to turn all of the zombies back into humans. Okoye says that the technology exists in Wakanda and that thanks to its force fields, it is the last safe haven from zombies on the planet. However, they face one small problem: getting to Wakanda. Sure that he can find a solution within the base, Bucky goes off looking for transport despite Vision’s warning that he won’t find what he is looking for.
While Bucky is searching the base, Bruce accesses the bases’ security log and discovers that they are not the first individuals to report to Vision’s signal. We then cut to Bucky in a dark room, discovering T’Challa secured to a table. T’Challa warns Bucky that they do not have much time and that they need to escape.
The scene then cuts back to Bruce, and Vision has discovered that Bruce found the logs. He tells Bruce that he’s sorry and that he wishes he didn’t find them at the base. Bucky then bursts into the room with T’Challa. T’Challa tells everyone that Vision grabbed him and locked him up to feed him to one of the zombies Vision has in the basement. Yes, Vision is keeping Zombie Wanda in the basement and feeding her because despite her being a zombie, Vision still loves Wanda. Vision admits that he has tried curing Wanda, but that his cure is not working on her. Okoye, ready to strike Vision, is interrupted as Zombie Wanda bursts into the room, hungry for human flesh. A fight breaks out, and as Zombie Wanda begins to overpower them, Bruce begs Vision to help them. Vision, seeing what he has caused, helps the team break out of the base and traps Zombie Wanda inside, trying to buy the team time to escape. But not before Zombie Wanda gets Okoye and traps her inside the base with her.
As T’Challa, Peter, Bucky, Scott and Bruce head towards the hanger in search of a jet, Vision realizes he cannot protect Zombie Wanda while also not allowing her to kill his friends. He rips the Mind Stone from his head and gives it to Bruce to help create the cure. But by doing so, Vision sets off an energy blast. Zombie Wanda escapes from the base, sees Vision lying dead on the ground, and chases after the team. Seeing this, Bucky stays back to fight off Zombie Wanda to give the others time to escape. However, Zombie Wanda still has her powers, stops Bucky’s bullets and sends him flying off into the sky. Zombie Wanda then catches up with Bruce and bites him. However, Bruce manages to turn into Hulk, whose skin is too strong for Zombie Wanda to penetrate. After learning this, Bruce gives Peter the Mind Stone and tells him and the others to get to the hanger and that he will stay behind to stall Zombie Wanda. Peter does not agree with Bruce, saying that he cannot lose another friend, but Bruce says that they will just have to avenge him.
Zombie Wanda has summoned the zombies surrounding the base to converge on Bruce. Bruce turns into the Hulk to battle the attacking zombies. This buys time for Scott, Peter, and T’Challa to get the jet up and running. They quickly take off and are flying out of the base, as a giant Zombie Hope appears trying to stop the jet. However, they out maneuver her and manage to escape. In the jet, Peter tells Scott that he is sorry about Hope’s fate but that Hope gave her life to save them. Scott then confides in Peter that that is exactly who Hope is, and that is not the first but second time she had saved him.
As they’re flying to Wakanda, Peter reflects on how only a year ago Tony asked him to join the Avengers, but now the team is gone. T’Challa, imparting some wisdom on Peter, tells him that in his culture that death is not the end. Those who are gone are still with us as long as they are not forgotten. Perfectly timed (well, not really), but Scott pipes up saying that the Avengers are not all gone as he is still there. The camera then moves ahead of the jet, speeding towards Wakanda. However, there is a surprise waiting for them inside Wakanda: a zombie horde commanded by Zombie Thanos wearing an Infinity Gauntlet bearing all six Infinity Stones.
While the episode ends on a cliffhanger, I don’t think we will be seeing Zombie Thanos for a bit. But much like the Captain Carter storyline set up in the first episode, I hope that this is a storyline that is visited later this season or in future season’s of the show. But next week we will move onto a new universe and a new take on a MCU story, and I cannot wait to see what is in store for viewers. Don’t miss my next recap of What If…? to find out what mind bending events occur in the next episode.