*Warning: This piece contains spoilers for episode five of What If…?*
Man! What If…? is starting to get really good. After slowly finding its footing in a slew of enjoyable enough episodes, last week’s Doctor Strange story showcased the potentiality of how one choice can end the world. In this week’s episode, we’re diving into Marvel Zombies, which, if the quality of its episode showed you one thing, should be turned into a Disney+ animated series of its own.
The gist of the story goes a little like this: During the events of Ant-Man and the Wasp, Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) enters the quantum realm to save his wife, Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer). However, in this universe, Janet’s time in the quantum realm did not end well, and she becomes a zombie–infecting Hank in the process, who quickly assembles an army to take down even Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. The showrunners are really enjoying killing off Iron Man, it seems, as he gets killed quite early on by Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly), who has assembled a team of the remaining Avengers to defeat the Zombie army, comprised of Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), Spider-Man (Hudson Thames), Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp), and Okoye (Danai Gurira) who are accompanied by Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) and Kurt (David Dastmalchian).
They are trying to find T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), who believes he is still alive and hiding inside Camp Lehigh, where a cure might be found. As many of the heroes (and Zombified versions of Avengers) die along the way or turn into brain-eating zombies, they finally arrive at camp Lehigh and meet Vision (Paul Bettany), who has been holding off the Zombies through the mind stone. Many surprising twists and turns await the viewer in this week’s episode of What If..? which is likely to be its very best yet. The concept of Marvel Zombies is hugely entertaining in and of itself, so to have an episode now part of the canonical MCU that treats the storyline in an effectively cathartic (and surprisingly violent) manner is oddly satisfying to watch.
If you thought the action was great in last week’s episode, heh, you haven’t seen anything yet. No, really, the episode opens with a kickass fight scene involving Ebony Maw (Tom Vaughan-Lawlor), Cull Obsidian and the Zombified versions of Iron Man (Mick Wingert), Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), and Wong (Benedict Wong), and sets the stage for what’s to come: a classic MCU title, with the right dose of epic action and genuinely funny humor. Happy Hogan and Kurt are the real standouts of this episode; both giving out hilarious running gags (the “Baba Yaga” is a classic from Ant-Man 2, but Favreau’s got a few genuinely funny jokes here that no one should spoil) and having lots of fun playing their vocal roles.
This is the first episode where everyone is on the same page, voice-related. It’s probably because the material is really well written and engaging this time around. At 28 minutes without credits, What If…Zombies?! plunges us into exhilarating character dynamics, stunning animation, and movie-level action sequences. No kidding, when Vision destroys Camp Lehigh with the mind stone, when Bucky fights Zombie Cap or Zombie Falcon, or when The Wasp sacrifices herself to bring the remaining heroes into the camp, these sequences are imbued with so much emotional weight and surprising twists around every corner that it becomes just as exciting as watching an MCU title on the big screen. It perfectly complements the massive exhilaration everyone had while watching Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings last weekend and showcases why Marvel is just so damn good at delivering great stories almost every single time.
And while it is justifiable to say that this will have no ramifications to the future of the MCU (even if we don’t know for sure), What If…? starts to become one of the zaniest things Marvel has ever done, and, as a result, the ramifications don’t really matter anymore. It’s an anthology series, à la Alfred Hitchcock Presents or The Twilight Zone, and will continue until an overarching plot is likely to be revealed next season. If you treat it as such (even if the first three episodes are quite weak compared to four and five), you might have more fun with this one instead of waiting for the whole shebang to be revealed. Marvel may have a few more tricks up their sleeves we don’t know of yet…