Wednesday remains Marvel review day, even if I might post a little later in the day. As a warning, this will likely happen for several weeks to come, as my schedule has changed a bit. BUT reviews are still happening. Today we talk about What If … Zombies!? and spoilers are ahead from here on out!
What was it about?
When Bruce Banner falls to Earth to warn everyone about Thanos’ arrival, he finds a planet entirely changed and now inhabited by … zombies.
I genuinely thought last week’s episode was dark, but this one was equally (if not partially more) sinister. In general, I was never a huge fan of the zombie genre, but I was curious to see what they would do with it paired with the Avengers and it was a lot of fun. I don’t have a comparison to the comic book storyline (because yes, there were zombies in the comics too), but it worked alright for me. That is … until the once again, super open and ambiguous end. I vowed not to complain so much about the episodes feeling rushed (which they still do), but I also haven’t made peace with the fact that it’s never really a closed story. Sometimes an open end is great, but sometimes … I just don’t know what to do with it. But let’s start at the beginning!
- Just like in Infinity War, Bruce Banner crashes into the Sanctum Sanctorum to warn everyone of Thanos’ arrival. However, in this reality, Bruce finds Earth changed and seemingly deserted. That is until Bruce’s henchmen arrive to start a fight, just to be surprised by superpowered zombies in the shape of Tony Stark, Wong and Doctor Strange. It’s not often that I see zombies retain the abilities they had before they were changed.
- Bruce eventually gets saved by Hope van Dyne, Strange’s cape and Peter Parker as we find out what happened on Earth.
- In this version of events, Hank Pym also went to find his missing wife in the quantum realm, but the reunion went quite differently. Janet van Dyne contracted a quantum virus that corrupted her brain (aka turned her into a zombie) and because of her daughter’s unrelenting search for her, she managed to bring the virus back to our realm and infect large groups in no time. Once the Avengers joined the fight and got turned as well, the fate of humanity was more or less sealed.
- If only it weren’t for a small group of survivors that still carried that torch of hope. In a very curious constellation, Hope van Dyne, Peter Parker, Happy, Bucky Barnes, Kurt (one of Scott’s friends, if you struggled to remember him as well), Sharon Carter and Okoye as well as Bruce Banner now, all found themselves in New York, willing to give their all to save the planet.
- The group gets a beacon that tells them that a potential cure has been found and in an attempt to get there, they lose a couple members. I have to say that, despite the scenes being fairly brief, the violence was definitely upped quite a bit. I never thought that I’d have to watch Sam get cut in half from top to bottom and Bucky react entirely nonchalantly, but here we are. I mean, he literally said “I should be sad, but I’m not”. To me, there were several quite gruesome moments.
- Only Peter, Bruce, Bucky, Okoye and Kurt make it to the base that is supposed to hold the cure, just to find Vision there. He found out that his mind stone creates an aversion within the zombies, which ultimately led him to test his theory. He was able to save Scott, but only his head. A head that keeps floating around and just telling dad jokes. Typical Scott!
- This is where Marvel really twists in the knife though! When everyone gets excited about potentially saving humanity, Vision turns dark. In reality, he has been luring people to his hideout in order to feed his zombie bride – Wanda. She is too strong and her zombie-condition can’t be cured, so he instead contained her and fed her, even holding T’Challa hostage.
- I did not expect to get another appearance of Chadwick as T’Challa, but my heart sang again. This wasn’t nearly as happy as the last episode he was in, but yeah, I’ll take what I can get.
- Ultimately, Vision can’t betray everyone he knows, while he also can’t let go of Wanda. He opts to destroy himself and give up the mind stone to the others, rather than leave her or kill her himself.
- A Hulk vs. zombie Scarlet Witch fight ensues, while Peter, Scott’s head and T’Challa are the only ones making it off the base with the mind stone. Thankfully, Wakanda’s shields were strong enough to not have them fall pray to the zombie apocalypse. So, technically, there is still hope that they can fabricate a cure, if only it wasn’t for the small little detail everyone forgot – Thanos arrival.
- The episode ends with an image of a zombie Thanos, who is wearing an infinity gauntlet with a full set of stones. To me, that means he defeated the remaining people in Wakanda and got the mind stone. I’m assuming his plans for the use of the gauntlet changed with his turn to a zombie, but I don’t know. I could speculate and form a dozen theories, but that’s the frustrating thing with these episodes sometimes. The end could mean basically anything and everything.
What did I learn from this episode? I still remember this thing going around TikTok or Twitter, where someone said that heroes would always sacrifice their love in order to save the world, whereas villains would burn down everything rather than let you go. Well, I think the What If … multiverse proves that our heroes are definitely willing to let it all go to hell for their loved ones. Just some more food for thought, because as the watcher said, all these stories (most of which often turn to a form of horror) started with love and hope/Hope.
Something I appreciate a lot with these episodes is how they replicate certain shots from the bigger MCU in animation. It was especially notable with Captain Carter’s episode, but continued to be utilized throughout the season thus far. This time around, for example, we saw a corrupted Steve Rogers still use his shield and it looked marred by blood, just like it did when John Walker misused it in TFATWS. It’s very smart cinematography, because it easily creates a connection and possible emotional memory to something familiar, but in a very subtle way.
In general, this episode offered a lot of imagery hinting at the fate of characters in different realities. There was Peter with the cloak/cape and him being Spider Supreme in another universe. Then there was Bucky with the shield (“guess this is the end of the line”), stepping up as the new “Captain America” in this version. It’s the little things that often only last a couple seconds, but that can be meaningful to viewers (although Sam is my Captain. Sorry not sorry).
Ultimately, I liked the episode, but I’ve enjoyed others even more. Maybe I’m not the right audience for an anthology series like this, but we’ve made it to episode 5 (which I believe to be the halfway point of the season), so I’m going to keep going with these little reviews/recaps.
PREVIOUSLY: WHAT IF …
- Captain Carter Were the First Avenger?
- T’Challa Became a Star-Lord?
- The World Lost Its Mightiest Heroes?
- Doctor Strange Lost His Heart Instead of His Hands?