This article contains spoilers for Marvel’s What If…? episode 7.
With a couple exceptions (the Captain Carter and Dr. Strange episodes, to be specific), Marvel’s What If…? series has had a fairly consistent system to its endings. They would end the story on one note and then tack on a cliffhanger scene that would subvert it. T’Challa as Star-Lord ends on a happy note? Well, Peter Quill and Ego might bring the end of the universe. Loki rules Earth? Well, here are some heroes who say otherwise. Spider-Man hopes to save the world from the zombie apocalypse? Well, here’s Zombie Thanos waiting for him.
This week, we have the seventh episode of nine, “What If… Thor Were an Only Child?” After a four-episode streak of some of the darkest stuff the series could give us, we’re rewarded with some kind of unholy mix of a superhero adventure, a 1980s party comedy, and a Looney Tunes cartoon. In a universe where Loki wasn’t adopted by Odin, Thor becomes a party-obsessed god. It’s a lighthearted romp where even the threat of SHIELD dropping nukes is treated with levity.
In the final moments, Party Thor shows a different kind of humility by going to Jane Foster’s trailer and asking her out on a date. Uatu the Watcher looks on, narrating about how the two lived happily ever after, only to be cut off by something that surprises even him.
A group of Ultron drones appears before Thor in the desert. They step aside to reveal the main Ultron, who not only has the face of Vision, but ALL SIX INFINITY STONES. Now, yes, that is enough to ruin any hero’s day, but what does that have to do with Party Thor?
This isn’t like the other cliffhangers. At this point, there’s nothing to suggest that Thor’s wacky exploits and the lack of a scheming Loki would lead to the creation of Ultron and the gathering of the Infinity Stones. That’s because this Ultron isn’t from Thor’s universe.
The initial promotional poster for What If…? revealed various characters from various episodes. Captain Carter, Marvel Zombies, Spider-Man with Dr. Strange’s cape, etc. One figure that caught the eye of some was a hybrid of Ultron and Vision with the six Infinity Stones. The indication was pretty straightforward: in the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron, Ultron would have succeeded in putting his consciousness into the red, vibranium body. There would be no Jarvis-minded Vision. There would be no more Avengers. Ultron would be victorious.
Now, this does bring into question how Ultron could obtain the Soul Stone. Perhaps he sacrifices Tony Stark, adding a disturbing layer to their already bizarre relationship and adding to the many deaths of Iron Man in the multiverse. Maybe he just lets someone else get it and steals it from them. Force Wanda to sacrifice Pietro and then overpower her.
Whatever the case is, this version of Ultron – whose story has yet to be told – is revealed to be more than a universal threat. He is now a multiversal threat, showing up to conquer Party Thor’s reality.
What this ending means is that we’re heading to the What If…? Endgame.
While downplayed a bit, the initial trailers and promotional footage suggested that at some point, there would be a big crossover. The iconic cinematic shot of the Avengers posing in a circle was intercut with some different heroes posing similarly in a devastated city. While the same trailer already established the T’Challa version of Star-Lord, the other three (Black Panther, Gamora, and Thor) were not as well-explained at the time.
There was also a quick moment of the sickly Strange Supreme meeting Captain Carter. If it wasn’t for the two literally sharing screentime in one shot, you could be forgiven for thinking it was two separate pieces of footage and dialogue slapped together.
The mid-season trailer showed more of the crossover, with it being apparent that the heroes of the multiverse are up against the Ultron army. It seems that there’s a representative from each episode involved:
- Episode 1: Captain Carter.
- Episode 2: T’Challa Star-Lord.
- Episode 3: Black Widow.
- Episode 4: Strange Supreme.
- Episode 5: Marvel Zombies, presumably summoned by Strange to fight the Ultron drones.
- Episode 6: Killmonger Black Panther.
- Episode 7: Party Thor.
- Episode 8: Gamora dressed as Thanos and wielding his two-sided blade.
- Episode 9: Ultron Vision.
It should also be noted that the same trailer also includes a shot of Pepper Potts and Shuri running side-by-side, suggesting a follow-up of sorts to Killmonger’s storyline in the sixth episode.
What If…? Episode 8
As of right now, we don’t know for sure what the eighth episode is all about, but a Lego tie-in may have tipped us off months back. One of the What If…? Lego sets is based on Iron Man ending up on Sakaar, including figures for Tony Stark, Valkyrie, and the Watcher.
As the rumors go, supposedly the eighth episode will be based on Iron Man not making it through the portal during the climax of Marvel‘s Avengers. Instead, he drifts through space until finding himself on Sakaar. Somehow, this is supposed to give us an incarnation of Gamora who dresses and fights like Thanos.
Did Black Widow Really Die in Episode 3?
The least bizarre character to pop up in the upcoming crossover is Black Widow, who seems to be her normal self. She appears to be the version from “What If… the World Lost Its Mightiest Heroes?” where Hank Pym went around killing all the would-be Avengers. If you notice, all the other characters showing up are those who survived their episodes. Even Strange Supreme was alive, albeit the only thing existing in his universe.
The last we saw of Black Widow, she was being beaten up by Hank Pym. She was dragged into the darkness while trying to warn Nick Fury via phone call, but that was it. Afterwards, they treated it like she was dead and they showed a casket among the others in the epilogue.
At the same time, we never did see a body. Nor would we need one, considering Hulk went full Stay Puft Marshmallow Man and he got a casket.
My theory here is that Hank Pym didn’t actually kill her. Or at least, he thought he did, similar to how he thought his wife was dead. He could have shrunk Black Widow excessively, thinking that she was being reduced into nothingness. In actuality, she could be hanging out in the Quantum Realm, ready to be plucked away to fight the Ultrons. Maybe even capable of returning to her own Earth to help fight Loki.
The Source Material
Outside of Marvel Zombies, this season of What If…? has been nothing but original stories. They haven’t been trying to copy the comics until now. While the details are different, the finale appears to be based on a miniseries from 2014 called What If…? Age of Ultron.
As the Age of Ultron comic event featured Wolverine traveling through time, the What If…? miniseries showed that it caused dire ripples through the multiverse. Random people would die of aneurysms from Wolverine’s journeys and the stories would be based on those nexus events. Like how Captain America dying of an aneurysm while being frozen would have led to a world with Frank Castle taking up the mantle.
The first issue featured a world conquered by Ultron. The final issue had this version of Ultron go to war with heroes from the other stories. The most notable was an incarnation of Black Widow from a world where Thor died and she ended up having to lift Mjolnir to save Earth from the Midgard Serpent.
Could that be the payoff? In the movies, Black Widow politely declined trying to lift the hammer. There would be no enchantment on Party Thor’s hammer to stop the unworthy, but if this Black Widow can return to her home world alive, there is an enchanted Mjolnir just sitting there, waiting to be lifted.
You know, the mid-season trailer does show Black Widow wielding both Captain America’s shield and Hawkeye’s bow. Why not go for the trifecta?
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