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Friday, September 17, 2021

What If…? Episode 5 takeaways: MCU series delivers its most disturbing episode with zombies and an undead Thanos

In What If... Zombies!?, the fifth episode of the series, major superheroes are infected with a virus and become cannibalistic monsters. Only a few superheroes are left to save the world.

Written by Kshitij Rawat | New Delhi |
Updated: September 10, 2021 8:44:04 am
What If, what if zombiesWhat If...? streams on Disney Plus Hotstar in India. (Photo: Marvel Studios)

The fifth episode of Marvel Studios’ animated series What If…?, What If… Zombies!?, was all about, well, zombies. It may well be the most disturbing episode for MCU fans, even more so than the third episode, in which the original Avengers died before they could become Avengers.

For seeing somebody you love or admire dead must be better than seeing them becoming shambling, lifeless monsters who are trying to eat you.


In What If… Zombies!?, superheroes like Tony Stark and Doctor Strange are infected by a virus that Janet van Dyne first contracted in the Quantum Realm. She infected Hank Pym and then the virus was let loose in the world. When the world’s mightiest superheroes became infected, there was little hope for others. Only a few like Spider-Man, Hope van Dyne, Okoye, Sharon Carter, and Happy Hogan are holding out.

Here are a few things that we need to talk about:

1. VisionWanda?

Wanda what if Wanda as a zombie. (Photo: Marvel Studios)

In WandaVision, Wanda conjures a Vision, who was very dead, to lead a fantasy life with him. In the process, she willingly enslaves thousands of people to play the part in a small town sitcom. In What If… Zombies!?, the reverse happens. Vision is responsible for feeding living people to Wanda to keep her alive, even if she is a zombie.

2. A zombified Scarlet Witch!

We know Wanda or Scarlet Witch is super-powerful (perhaps the most powerful character in MCU thus far), and granted, she is not somebody totally right in the head right now. But in What If…?, she was zombified and was kept well-fed by Vision who sacrificed anybody who came to him. The very thought of Scarlet Witch going mad is frightening as we saw in WandaVision, but What If…? showed what would happen if she totally lost her marbles. And it wasn’t pretty.

3. Wakanda as the last safe haven

This is not unbelievable that Wakanda is the final place in the world that is still resisting the tide of zombies. It has a force-field that makes it impossible for the cannibalistic monsters to break into its defences. However, if the dead superheroes get here, they can damage the force-field and overrun Wakanda as well. It is likely we will not see the resolution of the conflict, but it is fun to speculate and think about whether the living will end up winning the war.

4. Zombies but not totally dumb zombies?

Captain America, what if A zombified Captain America. (Photo: Marvel Studios)

Unlike most zombies we see in movies like 28 Days Later and TV shows like The Walking Dead, the zombies in What If…? are not dumb. At least, they are not totally dumb. For instance, even after Tony became a zombie, he still knew how to use his powers. Ditto Doctor Strange and Wong. If they were dumb, the alternate world shown in the episode would not be in such a mess in the first place. Apart from the fact that they are not completely stupid, zombification works in the episode in the same way. If a zombie bites or cuts (with fingernails) an uninfected person, they become a zombie.

5. T’Challa’s poignant words

So, What If… T’Challa Became Star-Lord?, the second episode of the series, was not the final performance of Chadwick Boseman. He also features in the zombie episode. Not only that, he repeats the words he uttered in Captain America: Civil War — “in my culture, death is not the end” — to comfort a grieving Peter Parker. This line becomes even more poignant in the wake of Boseman’s death from colon cancer last year.

 Thanos, Thanos what if A zombie Thanos with an Infinity Gauntlet with Mind Stone missing. (Photo: Marvel Studios)

Honourable mention

Zombie Thanos with an (incomplete) Infinity Gauntlet — the Mad Titan is madder now. He is missing only Mind Stone, mind you, and that is in the possession of the survivors. If he gets it, he will probably decimate the whole universe. Even a living Thanos was not very reasonable.

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