Marvel’s What If…?
Season 1 Episode 3
What If… The World Lost Its Mightiest Heroes?
Nick Fury struggles to launch The Avengers when candidates are targeted by a serial killer.
So this is a dark one and it doesn’t get any lighter. The story takes place during the events of both Iron Man 2 and the first Thor movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. While Tony is dealing with the threat of Whiplash and going through a personal crisis, he is visited by Nick Fury and Black Widow with a means of stopping the palladium poisoning in his body. After getting an injection of what is supposed to be Lithium Dioxide, Stark has a reaction that causes him to drop dead on the spot. This puts Widow in a bind as there seems to be no evidence of foul play and she was the one who injected him. Already the episode takes some interesting twists and turns and they get more interesting as the story continues.
Widow is arrested, but Fury wants her to go underground and discover who killed Stark. She decides that the best way to do that is to find Betty Ross and get some answers. At the same time, Coulson is guarding Mjolnir after it crash lands on Earth and when Thor comes to retrieve it, Clint Barton is waiting for the order to shoot. Unfortunately, the shot comes without authorization and Thor is killed as well landing Barton in a cell. You can see where this is going as another Avenger falls leaving everyone wondering who or what has targeted Fury’s Avengers Initiative and its candidates.
The mystery elements go even deeper when a mishap causes the end of the Hulk and leaves Black Widow on the run looking for answers. To make matters worse, an army of Asgardians led by Loki comes to Earth seeking the person who killed Thor. With little time, Fury has to find the assassin and bring him to the Asgardians with his list of allies growing smaller by the moment.
There are a lot of moving parts to this episode and the intrigue and mystery are what make it so entertaining to watch, but the story is really dark. When the assassin is revealed, the revelation adds some interesting and emotional context to the episode. Emotional context that could have ended there, but the episode pushes a little too hard and too far with its final moments. I think I know where they were trying to go with it and while it was clever, all of the emotional weight of the episode is sacrificed for it.