Warning - This article contains spoilers for Episode 5 of Marvel Studios' What If...?.
When the idea for Marvel Studios What If..? was introduced, the episode that immediately rose to the top of the discussion was the zombie episode. What If..? Zombies!? is finally here, and it was everything fans expected it would be and completely shocking all at the same time.
Episode 5 of the MCU's first animated series provided the classic horror movie vibes along with a wide array of Marvel connections. This episode was by far the biggest yet of the series featuring 24 familiar characters from the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
With so many players on the board, it quickly became a fan-fiction dream of team-ups, matchups, cameos, and big moments. Many familiar faces in this episode were introduced with brainless bloodlust for anyone in front of them. Others were introduced as members of the team before being taken over by the zombie infection. And a few managed to get out with their wits about them and bodies completely intact...for the most part.
Here is every character from the MCU that appeared in Episode 5 of What If..? and their status ahead of the rumored follow-up in Season 2.
Peter Parker, Scott Lang, & T'Challa Survived
A staple of any good zombie movie is the handful of survivors that make it out unscathed. This is the group that propels this episode of What If..? into a follow-up that could get fans on their feet. While there is a large group of heroes that start as our zombie hunter group, Peter Parker is the only one that made it out on the other end. Swinging into the frame in the first scene of the episode, Spidey will be leading the charge heading back to Wakanda.
He is joined by the character that sets the precedent that defines this list. Scott Lang was shown in the flashback that started the zombie apocalypse, and everyone thought he went down for the count. It was revealed that Vision was able to save Lang from the neck up, and from that point forward, unless you see someone become a zombie, they are still on the board.
Finally, T'Challa was the big twist of the episode after being captured and tortured by Vision to feed a zombified Wanda. As the brains of the group moving forward, T'Challa is a key piece as he heads home to use the Mind Stone and save the world. And surely nothing will get in his way when he arrives.
Tony Stark, Doctor Strange, & Wong Introduced Zombies
The Infinity War feels in this episode hit hard, mostly because of the number of characters involved, but the beginning of the episode took fans right back to 2018. The first quartet for Infinity War set the tone of dream scenarios of players coming together. And this episode turned that group on its head as Tony Stark, Doctor Strange, and Wong greeted Banner on Bleecker St. as the first zombies of the episode.
These characters do not spend a ton of time on screen, but they introduce the idea, show that zombies moving forward keep their powers and abilities, and set the creepy tone right away. Wong is the only one of these characters confirmed to be terminated in this episode, so the Zombie duo of arrogant geniuses are still actively moving into Season 2.
Cap's Undead Secret Avengers
There is something about Steve Rogers showing up in a train station that gets the crowd going. Teased by the arrival of a zombie Hawkeye and Falcon, Captain America's showdown with Bucky was one of the highlights of the episode. Dressed up with MCU callbacks and heart, this episode proved the "pop power" of Captain America moving forward.
Cap and Sam Wilson join Wong in their fates being sealed by way of division. Okoye was able to pull off Danai Gurira's signature zombie kill by splitting Sam Wilson from head to toe. And Cap fell victim to his own shield as Bucky split him in half on the back of the train.
However, based on the rules, the only way to kill a zombie is to take out the head. So there is a chance of a Qui-Gon Jinned Steve Rogers crawling around the New York subway system.
The Supporting Cast Arrives & Falls
These are the first characters on this list to start as zombie hunters only to fall on the undead side of the line. Happy Hogan and Sharon Carter were amazing universe-building characters in this episode, but anyone who has seen a horror movie before knew they were not going to make it out alive, at least, not completely alive.
Happy was some great comedic relief for the first half of the episode and was equipped with a piece of MCU legacy weaponry in his Iron Man 3 watch glove. Sharon kept up her badass persona as the team's super-spy who managed to evade the likes of Hawkeye and a zombified Happy Hogan only to be taken to the other side by Captain America. She was also the standout joke of the show after becoming the new signature move for the shrinking family.
The Villains of What If...?: Hank Pym and Co.
It was revealed that Hank Pym was again the reason behind the problem in What If..? as he found his wife, Janet Van Dyne, with the zombie virus in the Quantum Realm. This was the beginning of the end for Earth. And Hank Pym continues to be the antagonist in the What If..? writer's room.
Hope Van Dyne was one of the leaders and main characters of the episode the entire time. This was a big spotlight moment for the character and Evangeline Lilly. Hope was able to market the sacrifice play and lead the zombie hunters to... victory? Either way, Wasp was able to show her giant form momentarily in this episode, and that is an exciting prospect heading into Phase 4.
Black Order of the Zombie-Verse
To start the episode off, 2/4 of the Black Order came to Earth in search of the Time Stone much like in Infinity War. Hear me and rejoice, Ebony Maul did not see that coming. Both he and Cull Obsidian was the quick victims of the first three zombies to show the audience the classic zombie conversion. Their fate is unknown, but there is definitely someone who would be interested in their services.
Thanos was the big surprise at the end of the episode, teasing what is sure to be the plot of the upcoming part 2 in Season 2. Showing up in Wakanda with five Infinity Stones is scary enough, but the Mad Titan being converted to the land of the non-living is an even more absurd situation to walk into. There are some questions as to how he obtained the Time Stone and how a zombie was able to get near him. Surely, those questions will be addressed in a future installment of this scenario.
The MCU's Baba Yaga
There are constants in the world that stay the same no matter what butterfly gets stepped on in the universe. This was a theme in Episode 4, and it seems to hold over in Episode 5. What is the inevitable in this universe? Wanda Maximoff is someone that should be feared at all cost if she does not have her wits about her.
Wanda being the big boss in this episode was a visual spectacle that combined familiar Wanda imagery and the lore that is Baba Yaga. The Scarlet Witch took on The Incredible Hulk in the highly anticipated rematch. A zombified Wanda is almost as terrifying as a Wanda who knows she is doing wrong but just doesn't care.
You Didn't See Them Die
This is one of the biggest rules in movies, especially of the comic book movie variety. Scott Lang set the precedent that until a character is seen as a zombie, fans cannot be sure who exactly has a taste for brains.
Bruce Banner opened the episode and made an epic sacrifice for a Wanda-Led zombie crowd. This is after he semi-officially made Spider-Man an Avenger. The lead of this episode came in and went out epically. Kurt was there and then was taken by Wanda. Fans are unsure if he made it out, but the safe bet is Kurt will no longer be helping the team.
Both Bucky Barnes and Okoye were the military leads of the zombie hunters and stood in front of danger to save their team. While Okoye was also swallowed up by the power of Wanda Maximoff, it is not official that she was bitten. Bucky, on the other hand, was seen being tossed across the way in New Jersey. After The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, the precedent for Bucky surviving that fall is set.
Lastly, and maybe most interestingly, Natasha Romanoff was shown as a part of the Avengers sent to San Francisco to try to contain this spread. Cap, Iron Man, and Hawkeye did not make it out as a part of the living. T'Challa was captured by Vision and remains a part of the roster. The lack of Black Widow in the back half of this episode all but confirms a big surprise return for the super-spy in part 2.
Yes... Vision Died Again
For the second and a half time in a calendar year, fans have had to watch their favorite vibranium android fall in this episode of What If..?. This time, however, Vision was not on the good side of the line as he was literally luring our heroes in to slowly feed them to Wanda. This is a sinister side of Vision fans have never seen, but it is not out of nowhere when looking at the events of WandaVision.
In WandaVision, Wanda put her ethics and morals aside to preserve the love of her life. Vision does the exact something here despite what that might mean for the fate of others. This parallel made Vision's death here less emotional than the others, but man... that is a lot of dying for an indestructible humanoid.
The Zombie Universe Isn't Done Yet
While 24 characters may seem like the maximum that the MCU could get out of zombie content, there are still plenty of MCU names left on the board. This virus is Earth locked, and except for Thanos and his gang, anyone off-world has not been involved. That leaves a number of heroes who could either help save the world or become a part of the undead army.
Thor is the biggest name on the list as the only original Avenger not to make an appearance. His supporting cast like Valkyrie, Korg, and Meek also has an "Unknown" status. The entire Guardians of the Galaxy roster is in play and with Thanos having five of the six Infinity Stones, they are likely on track to come face to face with the Mad Titan once again.
Gamora is a wild card with the What If..? premise adding some ambiguity as to how Thanos recovered the Soul Stone. Another galactic wild card is the ever-elusive Carol Danvers. Canonically in the MCU, Captain Marvel shows up when the Avengers go round two against Thanos. With Nick Fury's condition also unknown, there is a chance the SOS was sent out and Captain Marvel is en route.
Lastly, Shuri could be a major player in curing the planet with the Mind Stone frequency. If anyone is going to make it work, it is the Wakandan Princess. But with Thanos and his army all zombied up, it is unclear if Shuri was able to find safe shelter... and for how long.
The zombie episode of What If..? gave fans everything they could have asked for and more. The most "one-off" of all of the episodes so far this season was fan-fiction brought to life and seems to be leading down a path that the other four episodes are not. Knowing that part 2 is likely coming in What If..? Season 2, this will arguably be the most rewatched episode by the end of Season 1.