Warning! Spoilers ahead for What If…? episode 5.
The Marvel Zombies episode of Marvel’s What If…? suggests Thanos (Josh Brolin) was right in Avengers: Infinity War. The Disney+ MCU show reached its midpoint with episode 5, an outing imagining what living-dead virus plaguing Earth. Things become more complicated when even some of the primary Avengers are infected themselves.
As with previous episodes of What If…? which mine inspirations from the events of the Infinity Saga, episode 5, “What If…Zombies,” uses the beginning of Infinity War as the jumping off point for its narrative. Unfortunately, Heimdall (Idris Elba) seemed to have sent Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) to a different reality — one where it’s ravaged by zombies brought by Janet van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer) from the Quantum Realm. This forced Earth’s Mightiest Heroes to band together in an effort to curb its spread. Sadly, the problem has become far too big even for the Avengers. As the heroes get infected one by one, the remaining characters strive to find a cure.
The episode ended with a cliffhanger of sorts, after a cured Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), and Spider-Man (Hudson Thames) head out to Earth’s final frontier — Wakanda, where they plan to figure out how to disseminate the cure. Given the timeline, it’s also around the same time as Thanos’ attack in Infinity War, which was teased with a shot of a zombie version of the Mad Titan. It’s the Watcher’s (Jeffrey Wright) narration at this point, however, that makes it more interesting in relation to what actually happened in the Sacred Timeline. Uatu said “Even in the darkest of times, humans will give all to save their planet. Even if it might bring an end to the universe.” In Infinity War, Thanos claimed that the snap was pivotal in ensuring that the galaxy continues to be sustainable. Otherwise, it’s only a matter of time before it suffered the same fate as what happened to his homeworld, Titan. The Avengers were adamant about fighting this that even five years after they lost, they continued to hold out hope that the decimation could be reversed, but What If…? suggests Thanos was right.
Granted that Thanos’ random genocide is wrong, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes were motivated by their personal reasons in fighting him and reversing the effects of his snap. In Avengers: Endgame, they went through the effort of collecting all the Infinity Stones via the time heist to then execute their own snap to bring back those that they lost such as family members, friends, and fellow heroes. There was no mention about the rest of the galaxy; in fact, Marvel Studios never really showed how the decimation affected other realms other than sending Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) to take care of them. Aside from Thanos’ wrong approach to resolving his perceived issue, who’s to say that the snap didn’t address the looming problem regarding the scarcity of resources? The Avengers never really took this into consideration when they planned on reversing Thanos’ Snap; they just wanted to be reunited with the people they’ve lost.
Incidentally, Marvel Studios touched on this particular complication in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier as the world grappled with the sudden return of half of the world’s population. At this point, it’s unclear if it will be revisited in future storytelling. But while the heroes accomplished their mission and defeated Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War, it’s possible that it’s at the cost of the galaxy’s future.
Marvel’s What If…? airs every Wednesday on Disney+.