Earth’s Mightiest Heroes become Earth’s Undeadliest Heroes when a Quantum Virus pandemic causes everyone on the planet, including some of our favorite Avengers, to turn into brain-eating zombies. It’s up to the remaining Avengers–Wasp (Evangeline Lilly), Spider-Man (Hudson Thames), Bucky (Sebastian Stan), and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) to figure out a cure before everyone falls victim to the virus.
Don’t eat me! I’m vegan!Bruce Banner
Like too many great catastrophes, this one sprang from a place of love… and hope.The Watcher
In my culture, death is not the end. They are still with us, as long as we do not forget them.T’Challa
Required MCU Viewings:
- Avengers: Endgame: The inciting incident at the beginning of this episode takes place during the beginning of the latest Avengers film.
- Ant-Man and the Wasp: This movie takes a deep dive into the Quantum Realm and features the quest for the original Wasp, Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer). The defining “What If…?” moment comes from this film.
Defining “What If…?” Moment – Janet contracts a Quantum Virus:
In the past four episodes of “What If…?”, the defining moment that initiates a split in the timeline comes from a distinct decision (or mistake) made by a specific character:
- “What if Captain Carter were the First Avenger?”
- Agent Carter decides to stay in the room when Steve Rogers is undergoing the Super Soldier treatment.
- “What if T’Challa Became Star-Lord?”
- The Ravagers accidentally abduct T’Challa and take him into space instead of Peter Quill.
- “What if the World Lost its Mightiest Heroes?”
- Hank Pym decides to take revenge on Nick Fury for the death of his daughter.
- “What if Doctor Strange Lost His Heart Instead of His Hands?”
- Christine Palmer accepts Doctor Strange’s invitation to go to the awards banquet.
However, in this episode, there is no conscious decision or mistake that led to the split in the timeline. Instead, it was more of a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Janet Van Dyne had been trapped in the Quantum Realm for two decades, long thought dead by everyone except for her husband, who held out hope she was still alive. When Hank finally finds her in the film, it is a joyous reunion, and he successfully rescues her. In this episode, however, sometime during the course of the two decades in the Quantum Realm, Janet contracted a Quantum Virus that turned her into the undead. Hank still brought her back from the Quantum Realm, but on accident, because she turned him into a zombie and then the rest of the world quickly caught the disease.
This was another fantastic episode of this show. I have to admit, I was on the fence about this show to begin with. First there was the fact that it was animated, and then add to that, the anthology nature of the episodes–it just felt like there would be no real impact to the larger narrative of the MCU, which is one of the things I love the most about those films.
However, slowly but surely, with each new episode, this series has proven to me it is one worth watching. This was a fun concept, but it was handled with care and a love for horror stories. And man, they did not hold back. This episode was scary, gory and intense. But it was also one of the funniest episodes to date.
The strength of this series comes from the thing that I thought it would have the least of: it’s ties to the larger MCU. Because it is made by Marvel, even though it is animated, they are able to pull things from the movies that make it feel like an extension of the characters we love. Subtle things like different musical themes pulled from the heroes’ solo films help tie this story to the movies. And having most of the original actors return, though uneven at times, really works well when it works well. A perfect example of this is Paul Bettany as Vision this week. He was spot on, and it just made it feel like a logical extension of his appearances in TV and film.
It was great fun to see zombiefied versions of our favorite superheroes, complete with the ability to use their powers even though they were dead. Zombie Falcon fighting Bucky Barnes? Zombie Scarlet Witch!? Just awesome nerdiness all around.
Also, that ending. Surely there will be a part two, right?
Watching the Watcher:
Though the Watcher (Jeffrey Wright) didn’t interfere yet again in this episode, we saw the clearest shot of his face while was talking to camera. That’s the most we’ve seen of him so far, right?
Changes From the Established Story:
- Hank Pym finds Janet Van Dyne in the Quantum Realm, but instead of her being unharmed in the film, she is an undead, zombie version of her character after having contracted a Quantum Virus.
- Heimdall transports the Hulk to Earth after his confrontation with Thanos at the beginning of Avengers: Endgame, but instead of crash landing behind a bewildered Doctor Strange and Wong, Bruce finds himself in a deserted Sanctum Sanctorum.
- When Ebony Maw (Tom Vaughan-Lawlor) and Cull Obsidian arrive on Earth to look for the Time Stone, they are taken down by Iron Man, Doctor Strange, and Wong (just like in Avengers: Infinity War), but in this episode, they are defeated by being eaten and turned into zombies themselves.
- Spider-Man’s homemade apocalypse survival video is very similar in style to the video he made about his adventures with team Iron Man during Captain America: Civil War.
- In Spider-Man’s videos, we see a lot of callouts and Easter Eggs to various characters:
- One of Happy Hogan’s (Jon Favreau) listed skills is boxing, a reference to the scene in Iron Man 2 when he boxes (and loses) to Natasha Romanoff.
- Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp) has ‘eulogies’ referenced as one of her skills, calling back to the eulogy she gave for her Aunt Peggy in Captain America: Civil War.
- Vision is broadcasting a beacon of hope from Camp Lehigh, the birthplace of Captain America from Captain America: The First Avenger as well as the place where Cap and Black Widow find out that Hydra has infiltrated SHIELD in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
- If you look closely, one of the zombies that starts to swarm on Camp Lehigh has twin katana on his back, a possible reference to Deadpool (which would be huge because this would be the first official appearance of the character since becoming part of the MCU family back when Disney bought Fox).
- When Bucky Barnes finishes his fight with zombie Captain America, he says “Sorry pal. I guess this is the end of the line,” referencing what Cap says to him at the end of Captain America: The Winter Soldier about being with him until the end of the line.
- When Spider-Man is talking about the mentors that he has lost, he mentions his Uncle Ben. This is the first time the MCU version of Spider-Man references his uncle, who played a big part in his becoming Spider-Man in the comics and previous, non-MCU films.
- Bruce Banner crashing into the Sanctum Sanctorum is replicated from the beginning of Avengers: Infinity War.
- Vision pulling the Mind Stone out of his forehead is similar to Thanos doing the same in Avengers: Infinity War.
- Reddit user Livetrout has a pretty compelling theory that each episode of What If…? has represented one of the infinity stones (with a brief break for the third episode):
- “What If Captain Carter Were the First Avenger?” – Space Stone (Tesseract)
- “What If T’Challa Became Star-Lord?” – Power Stone
- “What If the World Lost Its Mightiest Heroes?” – None
- “What If Doctor Strange Lost His Heart Instead of His Hands?” – Time Stone
- “What If… Zombies?!” – Mind Stone
- This would mean that we have two stones left: the Soul Stone and the Reality Stone. With rumored episodes focusing on Gamora and Thor each, we could very well be seeing those stones soon.
- This episode ended on a major cliffhanger. Maybe they have no intention of following it up, but they have to, right?!
Mark Pereira is a staff writer for Boss Rush Network. He loves all video games, but his top three favorites are Skyward Sword, Super Mario 3D World and Batman: Arkham Asylum. You can find him on Twitter where he’s usually talking about Nintendo, video games, movies, and TV shows.