This week’s installment of What If…? essentially provided fans a Marvel style take on Dawn of the Dead. At risk of sounding predictably redundant it was another excellent episode that embraced the zombie genre tropes in a fresh way for the MCU.
Maybe it’s not a coincidence, but the best episodes of What If…? so far have prominently featured Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and the Avengers.
This installment took place at a pivotal time period in the MCU with Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) getting sent to Earth to warn of Thanos’ imminent arrival. Things immediately take a darker turn as Banner finds Iron Man, Doctor Strange and Wong turned into flesh eating zombies. It’s been fun seeing the echoes of the regular continuity play out with the tiny shifts that make this reality far different from the familiar one.
Banner gets rescued by a ragtag group of surviving heroes including Wasp (Evangeline Lilly), Bucky (Sebastian Stan), Okoye (Danai Gurari), Agent Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp) and Spider-Man (Hudson Thames). And Doctor Strange’s cape. Thames channeled Tom Holland’s voice so well that it was hard to tell them apart.
The Watcher shows how this Earth got overrun by zombies, a very clever twist on events from Ant-Man and The Wasp. Part of the fun of this series has been seeing how that one slightly changed thread unravels so much from the movie continuity we’ve seen play out.
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Despite the zombie horror themes and the tragic death of some characters, this was easily the most fun episode. Just like the films, Peter shot a video PSA on surviving the zombie apocalypse while some supporting players from other movies got some hilarious lines. Writer A.C. Bradley assembled an inspired group of MCU characters and incorporated their skill sets in a sensible manner in dealing with zombies.
Easily the most frightening aspect of this scenario is the Avengers still retain their abilities and skills even as zombies. It’s a little spoiler-y to reveal all the infected Avengers, but they’re some of the more formidable members of the team.
Director Bryan Andrews captured the feel of a zombie movie down while maintaining the MCU’s sense of irreverence and overcoming the odds. The action sequences are cleverly laid out with the Avengers being stalkers avoiding the standard slow, plodding movement. It’s not too shocking that not all of the initial surviving heroes makes it to the final destination. This war of attrition gives the mission a sense of desperation against seemingly insurmountable odds.
And as becoming the norm for these episodes, Boseman recites a line of dialogue that almost feels prescient like he’s preparing his fans for life without him. It’s an emotional scene for sure that provides added significance to any episode he appears.
These wide, sweeping episodes of What If…? that feature multiple characters tend to be a slight step ahead of the others. Maybe it’s the fun of hearing the actual MCU actors voice their characters or seeing characters interact in different scenarios. Zombies is one of the standout episodes and might be the best of the season.
Rating: 10 out of 10
Photo Credit: Disney+