Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

What If...? Episode 5 Explained

Another day, another truly devastating episode of "What If...?" Just as we recovered from the emotional torment of Episode 4, we were dealt another blow. Episode 5 of the MCU's first animated series introduced zombies into the universe. According to CBR, this particular episode pulled more from Marvel Comics than any previous four episodes. In a series that's literally titled "What If...?" head writer A.C. Bradley had a tremendous amount of creative freedom, but for Episode 5, she pulled a good bit of the plot from the source material.

So far in this series, we've discovered the answers to several mysteries: What if Peggy Carter became a super-soldier? What if T'Challa was Star-Lord? What if the Avengers never existed? What if Doctor Strange lost his heart instead of his hands? Episode 5's theme is a little looser, with its title being "What If... Zombies!?" The story examines what would have happened if Janet Van Dyne was infected with a quantum virus, which was brought into the world after Hank Pym rescued his long-lost love. An unknowing Hope Van Dyne brings her infected mother back through the quantum tunnel, and the virus spread throughout the entire Pacific Northwest in 24 hours.

The fallout from this turn of events is catastrophic and alters the world of the MCU as we know it.

Where do our heroes stand?

Episode 5 of "What If...?" takes place after the events of "Ant-Man and the Wasp" and just before "Avengers: Infinity War." So everything we know about the MCU before those films is still canon. Steve Rogers is Captain America, T'Challa is King of Wakanda, and Scott Lang is Ant-Man. All of our favorite heroes still exist in the roles we know them for, and there's no swapping out aliases in this episode.

However, from the get-go, we learn that most of our beloved heroes have been overtaken by the virus. Cap, Black Widow, Iron Man, Falcon, and Hawkeye are immediately zombified after they show up to fight the virus in San Francisco. Our survivors include Peter Parker, Bucky Barnes, Bruce Banner, and Hope Van Dyne. Sharon Carter, Happy Hogan, and Kurt (the X-Con worker from "Ant-Man") are also still around and aid in the resistance against the virus. Also around is the Cloak of Levitation, which single-handled saves Bruce from being devoured by a zombified Doctor Strange, Wong, Iron Man, Ebony Maw, and Cull Obsidian.

Okoye arrives from Wakanda and joins the resistance, and we also learn later in the episode that T'Challa and Vision are both still around and in their human and synthezoid forms, respectively. We horrifyingly find out that Wanda Maximoff is a zombie later on, but the silver lining here is that she is not yet the Scarlet Witch — so she's not as terrifying as she could be.

How can they defeat the virus?

After the surviving heroes start to drop like flies — RIP Happy — we're left with just Peter, Bruce, Kurt, Bucky, Okoye, and Hope as they make their way to Camp Lehigh, where a beacon has been sent out. When the team learns Hope will soon zombify due to an injury, so she transforms into Giant Woman to help the team cross a wasteland of zombies to get to the camp. She crashes down in a blaze of glory as she succumbs to the virus, but not before saving the last of her friends.

It's no surprise to learn here that Vision is still around because he's not made of flesh and is of the slightest interest to the zombies. We find out he has been using a kidnapped T'Challa to feed zombie Wanda. Vision can't bear to destroy his love and keeps her imprisoned. They also learn that the Mind Stone is the key to beating the virus. Vision was able to use the stone to keep an infected Scott Lang alive — who is now just a head, by the way. The team just needs a way to broadcast the stone's frequency to the world. The only place capable of doing this is Wakanda, so the new mission is to escape Camp Lehigh with the stone for Africa.

The surviving heroes accidentally release Wanda in the process, and as one can imagine, all hell breaks loose. It's here that we lose Kurt, Bucky, Okoye, and Bruce as they all — sans Kurt — sacrifice themselves for the greater good. Vision also sacrifices himself by pulling the Mind Stone out of his head so the team can take it to Wakanda. This brings the synthezoid's MCU death count to four — for whoever's counting.

Our survivors are now Peter, T'Challa, and Scott, who have escaped in a Quadjet to Wakanda. We are left to wonder if they will complete their mission.

How does this change the MCU going forward?

In the final scene of the episode, the real kicker is where a zombified Thanos is revealed who has the Infinity Gauntlet fit with all of the stones, except for the Mind Stone. Peter, Scott, and T'Challa have absolutely no idea the threat that is coming, and it looks like the universe as we know it is going to crumble yet again. It's hard to say if zombie Thanos has the same intentions as normal Thanos, so him getting the Mind Stone makes things twice as scary.

Now that the quantum virus is the biggest threat on Earth, it also might be to other planets and their people. A very slim glimmer of hope here is that if Thanos still plans to snap away half of all life, at least that would get rid of a good bit of the zombies. "What If...?" Episode 5 has left us — yet again — in a bitter, cruel world that seems out of hope. The fate of everything is in the hands of T'Challa, Peter, and just-a-head-Scott, who could possibly save everything if they can broadcast the frequency, which should destroy Thanos now that he is a zombie. We're just going to assume that's what happens here, so we don't have to process two horrific "What If...?" endings back to back.