Warning - This article contains spoilers for Episode 1 of What If...?.
Despite being its status as an animated anthology series, What If...? is just as big a part of the wider MCU as any of its live-action blockbusters.
While each episode appears to be telling its own storyline, there seems to be a larger narrative forming as the Guardians of the Multiverse are expected to assemble later in the season.
Marvel Studios' first animated venture premiered with its most highly-promoted outing as Peggy Carter was shown to take Erskine's legendary Super Soldier Serum in place of Steve Rogers. Much of the story told a narrative with great similarities to 2011's Captain America: The First Avenger, but the ending had some particularly critical differences.
Unlike Steve Rogers who only had the Red Skull to deal with, Captain Carter came face-to-face with a giant tentacled monster that may have set up Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
WHAT IF...? TEASES DOCTOR STRANGE 2 VILLAIN
During the climax of What If...?'s premiere episode, Captain Carter and Steve Rogers' HYDRA Stomper took on Red Skull's champion from across the stars, which turned out to be a giant green tentacled monster.
While unconfirmed, the creature in question is likely Shuma-Gorath, a powerful being that exists between universes who will reportedly serve as the primary antagonist of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
One particular shot highlighted the inside of Shuma-Gorath's terrifying mouth as he let out a loud roar-like sound, showing off his many teeth.
Hayley Atwell's hero initially attempted to defeat the powerful creature by using a sword to cut off his infinitely growing tentacles, an effort that proved to be fruitless.
Carter was eventually able to defeat Shuma-Gorath by pushing him back through the portal from which he came, taking herself through with him.
While Shuma-Gorath's destination is unclear for now, the portal took Captain Carter to the modern-day within the same timeline in which she is seen as a World War ll hero instead of Captain America.
Upon arriving in the modern era, Peggy was greeted by a shocked Nick Fury and Hawkeye who recognized her as the legendary Captain Carter.
The multiverse monster was also referenced earlier in the episode in a close-up shot of a door Red Skull inspected while looking for the Tesseract.
WHAT IF...?'S SURPRISING DOCTOR STRANGE 2 CONNECTIONS
When Captain Carter was shown to be fighting a giant tentacled monster in the What If...? trailer, many assumed it to be Shuma-Gorath. While the premiere never directly put a name to HYDRA's monstrous champion, the reports of Shuma-Gorath's inclusion in next year's Doctor Strange sequel certainly point to it being him.
A recent report from The Illuminerdi claimed the multiversal villain will be in pursuit of Xochitl Gomez's America Chavez during the reality-hopping adventure as he seeks to use her powers to gain control of the entire multiverse.
Assuming these rumors are accurate, it's hard to imagine how his role in What If...? could fit into this grander plan. However, Hayley Atwell's Captain Carter will reportedly make her live-action debut in the MCU horror flick, potentially indicating her animated appearance won't be the last time she takes on the tentacled monster.
This rumor is further supported by scenes revealed from later episodes in the season which will see Captain Carter return to encounter Doctor Strange Supreme. But it's unclear whether this encounter takes place in Carter's timeline or another alternate reality.
As future episodes of the Disney+ series will seemingly assemble a new team of heroes from across the multiverse, perhaps more of these could return in Benedict Cumberbatch's sequel to join the fight.
But if one thing's for sure, the MCU certainly hasn't seen the last of Shuma-Gorath with the villain set to return in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness which hits theaters March 25, 2022.