Marvel’s What If…?
Season 1 Episode 5
When the Avengers are infected by a zombie plague, surviving heroes search for a cure.
One of the things that continues to be fun about this series is how the story intersects with ones that we are familiar with. That being said, this is not a fun episode. It seems to be continuing the previous episodes arcs of getting darker with each moment. This episode begins at the beginning of Avengers: Infinity War where Hulk is sent back to Earth to warn of the coming of Thanos, but finds that his friends have been turned into flesh eating zombies. As Bruce fights for his life, one of the people who rescues him reminds us that the events of Ant-Man and the Wasp happen at the exact same time as Infinity War and those events are what led to the zombie hellscape the heroes currently find themselves in.
The episode does try to find some levity after revealing the events that led to the Avengers being turned by having Spider-Man introduce the surviving heroes of the world including Bucky, Okoye, Sharon, Happy Hogan and Kurt from the Ant-Man series. The heroes get a possible break when word of a cure sends them to Grand Central to hop a train to Jersey. In true zombie movie fashion, they are attacked by zombie Hawkeye and Falcon and not everyone makes it out alive. This was a great moment to reiterate the stakes of this episode and the danger these characters face.
Things get worse when zombie Cap returns and takes out another member of the group leaving Bucky to have to deal with his old friend. The moment was interesting but didn’t have any of the emotional weight you would expect from that moment and the humor didn’t help. Spider-Man has an interesting emotional moment with Hope and delivers some information that expands on his MCU counterpart better than his films have so far.
The survivors make their way to Jersey and discover a strange thing about the zombies in the area along with another Avenger who, by his nature, is immune to the effects of the virus. Unfortunately, in their zeal to broadcast their colleagues possible cure to the world, they discover his dark reality. This moment is very reminiscent of the actual Marvel Zombies run in the comics including the circumstances of T’Challa’s return. The episode has another really interesting and well done action sequence that is filled with heart and emotion. The episode also has a great twist ending that I wasn’t expecting and was executed really well.
Episode 5 is another dark journey into the MCU multiverse and it has some great, heartfelt moments throughout. The acting was great and the story was really powerful. It was great hearing Chadwick Boseman again, but the tone was off with the writers trying to break up the seriousness of the plot with humor that didn’t really work. Had they leaned more into the darkness of the story it wouldn’t have felt so disjointed at moments. Still, the story is solid and a dark, entertaining tale.