REVIEW: ‘What If…?’ Episode 5

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What If Episode 5 - But Why Tho

What If…? Episode 5 not only puts its own spin on another Marvel Studios film but a fan-favorite Marvel Comics series as well. “What If…Zombies?!” wastes no time in setting up its premise, as much like Avengers: Infinity War Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) is sent to Earth to warn of Thanos’s invasion. However, he learns a horrible truth: while attempting to rescue his wife during Ant-Man and the Wasp Hank Pym unwittingly unleashed a “quantum virus” upon the world, turning the Avengers and a large swath of the population into flesh-eating monsters. With a collection of heroes including Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) and Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), Banner attempts to travel to Camp Lehigh, where Steve Rogers was trained as Captain America, in order to find safe haven and a possible cure.

This episode, much like WandaVision‘s “All-New Halloween Spooktacular!” was heavily teased in marketing and it’s not hard to see why. “What If…Zombies?!” pulls heavily from the Marvel Zombies miniseries which saw the House of Ideas’ heroes transformed into the living dead. And much like the comic, the episode shows that the zombified heroes are just as much of a threat as they were when they were alive: despite losing an arm Hawkeye is still a proficient shot, and Captain America can still fling his mighty shield with deadly force. The episode surprisingly doesn’t shy away from the more disturbing elements of the zombie genre, with characters having chunks peeling off their face and devouring flesh. I also appreciate that the episode gives an explanation for the zombie virus and manages to have Hank Pym at the center of the conflict, unlike the third episode.

Every zombie movie comes with a collection of motley survivors and given that this is set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe those survivors range from bonafide superheroes to the civilians who are a part of those lives. In addition to Hope and Bucky, Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) and Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp) also show up, as well as Ant-Man’s friend and fellow thief Kurt (David Dastmalchian). The episode actually makes use of everyone’s myriad talents: Kurt is able to hot-wire a train that takes the survivors to Camp Lehigh, Sharon’s spy skills come in handy while scoping out the terrain, and Happy provides transportation. The Marvel Universe was always described as “the world outside your window” and involving the supporting cast in this way helps to give weight to that claim.

Perhaps the strongest performance of What If…? Episode 5 goes to Hudson Thames, who portrays Peter Parker/Spider-Man. Not only does Thames deliver a performance that is extremely close to Tom Holland’s take on the web-slinger, but he also serves as the heart and soul of the episode and forms a unique rapport with Hope. The reason I love Spider-Man is that even when life kicks him in the teeth, he chooses to keep fighting. Even in a zombie apocalypse, this character trait doesn’t waver and I’m happy for that. The appearance of Black Panther also left me choked up, as the late Chadwick Boseman delivered a speech that was not only spot on for his character but also highlighted the impact his career has had on so many people. Even though T’Challa wasn’t the major focus of the episode, it was wonderful to hear Boseman again.

What If…? Episode 5 serves as both a solid adaptation of a fan-favorite Marvel comic and a reminder that even in their darkest hour heroes will find the strength to keep going. Between this and the previous episode, the series is leaning into the What If..? comic’s sense of delivering unexpected yet tragic twists on Marvel stories and I’m curious to see if the next episode continues this trend.

New episodes of What If…? will be available to stream on Disney+ on Wednesdays.

What If...? Episode 5
  • 9/10
    Rating - 9/10
9/10

TL;DR

What If…? Episode 5 serves as both a solid adaptation of a fan-favorite Marvel comic and a reminder that even in their darkest hour heroes will find the strength to keep going. Between this and the previous episode, the series is leaning into the What If..? comic’s sense of delivering unexpected yet tragic twists on Marvel stories and I’m curious to see if the next episode continues this trend.