The Most Shocking Moments From the Show So Far

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Warning: Spoilers for the first six episodes of Marvel’s What If…? follow.


Marvel’s What If… is a thrilling animated alternate take on the standing MCU franchise, giving viewers Sliding-Doors style adventures in which fan-favorite characters make different choices, both big and small, that send reality off on a totally different course.

It began with a light-hearted mirror-verse type take on Captain America: The First Avengers, in which Peggy Carter took Abraham Erskine’s Super Soldier Serum instead of Steve Rogers. That episode, more or less, played out like the 2011 movie, just with different faces in different places. Subsequent episodes would not only deliver bigger swings but also far darker outcomes, echoing the endings readers used to experience with the original What If…? comics, which often featured supremely heavy and haunting outcomes and resolutions.

Here is a running list of What If…?’s most surprising moments, from massive monsters to sinister twists to — yup — actual ends of entire universes.


Shuma-Gorath Part 1

“What If… Captain Carter Were the First Avenger?,” by sticking to a very basic premise that seemed to replay the first Cap movie with different characters shuffled about, didn’t offer up any landmark shocks or shifts, but the arrival of a giant cosmic creature we assume (nothing is confirmed, and some think it may have been a form of Hive) was Marvel’s own Lovecraftian “Great Old One,” Shuma-Gorath, was a fun poke. Since the story had the heroes capture the Tesseract early on, Red Skull’s Plan B was to call upon a monster he believed to be Hydra’s ultimate weapon. Naturally, he was quickly dispatched by this tentacled, telepathic beast that threatened to destroy the entire world as it emerged from a portal and grew larger and larger.

Star-Lord Is Beloved

Prince T’Challa getting kidnapped by Yondu’s Ravagers was a big twist in and of itself, but the better thrill was seeing that T’Challa, as the being of light and hope that he naturally is, had managed to turn Yondu and the entire Ravager crew into a benevolent bunch of Robin Hood-style thieves who sought to better and benefit the entire galaxy. With his Wakandan ideals forever in his heart, T’Challa softened the most hardened of cosmic badasses using little more than kind words and wise sentiment.

Thanos Is Fun-Loving

The most surprising of T’Challa’s converts was…the Mad Titan himself, Thanos! Now a jovial and warm member of T’Challa’s band of do-gooders, Thanos occasionally chuckled at the thought of who he used to be – with his genocidal plan to wipe out half of existence now laughed off as an afterthought.

End Times Part 1

Episode 2 of What If…? — titled “What If… T’Challa Became a Star-Lord?” — may have been a heist-y feel-good affair, but its dark, winking ending was reminiscent of the comics’ diabolical closings. Since Ego’s earthly child never made it into space, and never became part of the Guardians of the Galaxy, our world, and every other world, was left vulnerable to “The Expansion.” Peter Quill grew up an orphan and was in no way prepared to resist his pop’s powers.

We HAD a Hulk

“What If… the World Lost Its Mightiest Heroes?” was a murder mystery, unspooling a deliciously nasty yarn about all The Avengers getting bumped off during “Fury’s Big Week” before they could properly assemble. Tony Stark, Thor, and Hawkeye fiendishly fell to a secret assailant, but it was all fun and games until…The Hulk went “kablooey!” Yes, the unsinkable green-skinned brute went down, leaving Betty, Natasha, General Ross, and fans in total disbelief. Whoever was taking out Earth’s Mightiest Heroes was not f***ing around.

Hank Pym Is a Madman

Unlike other episodes, Episode 3 hid the different choice/event from us until the end, as it would have spoiled the big twist right up top. So what was the difference in this reality? Well, in this realm, Hope Van Dyne was recruited into SHIELD. Subsequently, she’d die on a mission and her father, Hank Pym, would go crazy with rage, blaming Fury and his manipulative recruiting techniques (he’d used Hope’s mom, Janet, as a sentimental pressure point). Now as Yellowjacket, Pym had effectively killed off those previously thought to be untouchable (makes you realize just how powerful Ant-Man really is).

End Times Part 2

Even though Fury and Loki teamed up and defeated Hank Pym, Earth was still lost. Though, to be fair, it fell in a much more peaceful and passive way than — say — a giant Chitauri invasion of New York. With Thor’s murder, Loki’s plans to conquer Midgard came much earlier, so there was no near-death experience/fall from Asgard, deal with Thanos, or a reckless desire to unleash violence.

Do They Even Need Cap?

Episode 3 ended with a subjugated Earth — and Fury and Coulson discovering a frozen Steve Rogers, giving viewers a glint of hope that our world could possibly be won back from the overwhelming forces of Loki’s Asgard. But in a final shot we saw Carol Danvers, Captain Marvel, also there… honestly, giving us way more hope.

Shuma-Gorath Part 2

Yes, What If…? has gone Shuma-Gorath crazy!

In the premiere episode, the beast that Captain Carter thwarts is assumed to be Shuma-Gorath, but in Episode 4 — “What If… Doctor Strange Lost His Heart Instead of His Hands?” — the tentacled being-from-beyond makes its return and now, in the context of Doctor Strange, it very much is Shuma-Gorath. With Stephen Strange trying to absorb other magical beings to become powerful enough to change time, Shuma-Gorath is staged as the most powerful of the bunch.

Good Strange Loses

Episode 4 was definitely the darkest chapter of the bunch. Part of that was due to it making viewers think, for a short time, that good would prevail. When the demented Doctor Strange Supreme was pitted against his old “good self,” in a last ditch effort by The Ancient One to prevent the erasure of the entire universe, it seemed like right and reason would surely triumph, right?

Nope. Strange Supreme squashed his old heroic self, still determined to go through with his mad plan.

Watcher’s Like “See Ya!”/End Times Part 3

Because Episode 4 dealt with Doctor Strange becoming immeasurably powerful, it was able to crack open the multiverse a bit more than usual. Strange was actually able to sense Uatu’s looming presence, even asking The Watcher, in the end, to help him. But as much as Strange regretted everything (when finally faced with the consequences he’d been warned about), Uatu was like “LOL, sorry” and allowed that entire universe, with trillions of lives, to crumble and die.

Uncle Ben

MCU’s Spider-Man graciously entered the movies without having to rehash his Uncle Ben origins. Not that it didn’t happen, but we didn’t have to see it happen again. But Uncle Ben definitely existed. Not only is the character hinted at in Homecoming, during Peter’s first meeting with Tony Stark (when it’s clear that Peter feels guilt over something), but his Ben’s initialed luggage is used in Far From Home. But it took What If…?’s Episode 5 — “What If… Zombies?!” — to give us an MCU Peter mentioning Uncle Ben’s name out loud for the first time.

“I’m Covered in Sharon”

“What If… Zombies?!” featured a ton of ghoulish undead moments, but one of the best was Hope Van Dyne entering the mouth of a zombified Sharon Carter and then… popping back to normal size. Ack! Not only does it once again speak to the power of the Pyms in general, but it’s also sort of a nod to the long-running fan discourse over whether or not Ant-Man and The Wasp can use this, er, technique to dispatch regular human (or Mad Titan) enemies. Of course, this type of tactic is a bit too brutal for the regular MCU films and shows, but it was fun to see it used here on, basically, a brainless husk.

Zombie Movie Twist 1

Episode 5, being a full-blown zompocalypse story, had some fun with zombie movie cliches. The first was the tried and true trope of finding shelter, or an ally, that’s not what it seems. The moment when the heroes think they’re safe but there’s a dark secret happening behind-the-scenes, be it cannibalism or awful experiments or what have you. Here, the grim twist involved — well — a different type of WandaVision love story, in which Vision, unable to cure Wanda’s undead status, resorted to feeding her people – including entire chunks of T’Challa!

Zombie Movie Twist 2/End Times Part 4

Episode 5 also ended like many zombie flicks, with our survivors headed to a place they assumed was safe and clear of undead hordes. Well, as usual, the “safe haven” they had in mind was just as overrun with ghouls as the rest of the world, meaning they were unknowingly headed into a death trap. This time…with a Zombie Thanos ready and waiting to snatch the Mind Stone and evaporate all of reality!

Killmonger Killing T’Challa With a Stark Zapper

Episode 6, “What If… Killmonger Rescued Tony Stark?,” indeed featured Michael B. Jordan’s Black Panther villain saving Tony Stark’s life, which in turn meant that Iron Man never came to be. But this turn of events also led to the untimely demise of Stark not soon after — at Killmonger’s hands. And not just that, but Killmonger also murdered his cousin, T’Challa, which was indeed a shocking moment. It’s a What If…? story, so of course nobody is safe, but at the same time, it was surprising that the Black Panther himself could be so easily taken out by, well… a Tony Stark whatchamacallit zapper. Universe-destroying pivot points in history we can believe, but this seemed to go a step too far!


What was the most surprising moment of What If…? to you so far? Let’s discuss in the comments!

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