Warning - This article contains spoilers for the Season 1 finale of Marvel Studios’ What If…?
The debut season of Marvel’s first animated series What If…? came to a climactic close with the release of Episode 9, titled “What If… The Watcher Broke His Oath?”
The final installment was jam-packed with action and adventure as it provided resolution for several stories that were introduced through the streaming series’ first Disney+ outing.
Following the success of The Watcher’s Guardians of the Multiverse, Party Thor returned to Jane Foster where they first met in Vegas. T’Challa sought out Peter Quill and showed him how to use his blasters, and the new, mysterious Gamora returned to her ship with an unexpected friend in Tony Stark.
Even Black Widow got a second chance at life in an alternate universe after saving the multiverse from the Ultron of her home world.
But with these happy endings, there were also some stories that have yet to have their final chapters written. In fact, one tale, in particular, was left wide open for a serious follow-up that involves a new take on one of the MCU’s best works.
Captain Carter Can’t Catch a Break
Sound like anyone familiar?
Following the Guardians of the Multiverse defeating Ultron by trapping him in a pocket dimension, the members of the ragtag team were returned to their own universes at the time they were recruited by The Watcher.
When it came time for Peggy Carter to return to her home world, though, she hesitated as she looked at a picture of Steve Rogers hanging on the wall.
“Haven’t I earned my happy ending?”
-Captain Carter, What If…?
Peggy knew that The Watcher could send her back to the 1940s if he wanted to, so she questioned why she had to return to the time he found her in. Nevertheless, The Watcher assured Peggy that she was needed where she was, which the Captain met with a smile before reluctantly returning home.
That’s the last fans saw of Captain Carter in the first season of What If…? That is until the credits rolled.
What If... Captain Carter Had a Post-Credits Scene?
The shot opens with Captain Carter returning to her home universe at the moment she was recruited by The Watcher — aboard a hijacked SHIELD vessel.
Captain Carter is swiftly greeted by Batroc, who gives her a welcome-home-wallop that sends her to the ground.
But that doesn’t last for long as Black Widow zaps him with her Widow’s Bite.
Carter quickly embraces Widow following her multiversal excursion, which prompts Nat to ask the Captain if she’d hit her head.
Natasha shares that she found the reason why the pirates took over the SHIELD vessel they were sent to secure.
Widow warns Carter to prepare herself, and the Captain assures her that it “won’t be the strangest thing (she’d) dealt with” that day.
Captain Carter then approached the cargo container that Widow had brought her to, so she could take a look inside.
Peggy peered into the container, and her eyes widened as she realized a very big piece of her past was sitting on the other side of the metal door.
As Captain Carter stared into the container, The HYDRA Stomper suit was glaring back at her.
Once Peggy recognized the armor, Widow added that “there’s someone inside.”
Who’s Inside That HYDRA Stomper?
Captain Carter’s role in the What If…? finale provided several clues as to what fans can expect from her next adventure, but the show’s only post-credits scene offered the biggest hint at what’s to come.
The post-credits stinger cut out with the faint-yet-recognizable tune of Captain Carter’s theme music, offering a sliver of hope to a woman who had just been denied the life she truly wanted.
But before fans get too starry-eyed, let’s not forget when exactly this scene takes place in Captain Carter’s universe, or the fact that The Watcher felt that her universe needed her to be there.
Peggy Carter: Soldier for SHIELD
As the finale of What If…? began, Peggy Carter was brought back into the spotlight for the first time since the show’s debut episode. But this time, she was shown in the modern-day, serving the exact same role as Steve Rogers at the beginning of 2014’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
The sequence is almost identical to that of the Russo Brothers’ MCU political thriller, with Black Widow pestering Peggy about her dating life as the STRIKE team gears up to fight the enemy.
Captain Carter even jumps from the plane without a parachute just as Steve Rogers did, and she flips in the air and hits the water feet-first in the same way as Captain America, too.
It’s clear that the What If…? writers wanted to give fans a familiar scene to let them know exactly where Captain Carter is in this universe. But why not follow up on the ending to her debut episode when she arrived in the present day to meet Nick Fury and Hawkeye? Why not update the audience on her status as an Avenger at all?
It might be because the focus of Captain Carter’s story will remain on her bigger character traits: a woman out of time, longing to return to the love of her life. Just like Captain America.
The What If…? post-credits scene might just be hinting at a big scenario coming in Season 2 — one that will force Peggy Carter to question that very love she wishes she could return to, and it may actually pit her against Steve Rogers himself.
Why Is Captain Carter Tied to the Present?
“Trust me, that world, that time needs Captain Carter.”
-The Watcher, What If…?
When the Guardians of the Multiverse were ready to go home at the end of the day, they all left together and went their separate ways. But there was much more emphasis put on Captain Carter’s exit — so much so that The Watcher literally said that it was necessary that she return exactly how he found her.
Why is this? Why would the world need Captain Carter at that time? Perhaps the answer can be found in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
In 2014, Steve Rogers was tasked with securing a hijacked SHIELD vessel. This led him to realize the over-compartmentalization of SHIELD, which he strongly opposed. But little did he know, this would lead the First Avenger to uncover HYDRA operating within SHIELD. And even more surprising to Captain America, his lifelong best friend Bucky Barnes had been acting as a Russian assassin for the past fifty years as the Winter Soldier, and Steve Rogers was his latest assignment.
If it weren’t for Steve being bold enough to go up against SHIELD, HYDRA, and even his best friend that couldn't remember him, then the world would have been under HYDRA’s control within a couple of hours. But Captain America saved the day and put a stop to Project Insight, and he even set his friend back on the right course, too.
Steve Rogers: The Winter Soldier?
With all this in mind, let’s look back to where the audience finds Captain Carter at the beginning of What If…?’s finale. Peggy’s mission starts almost exactly the same as Steve’s did in 2014, right up until Peggy finds The HYDRA Stomper.
When Black Widow says there is someone inside the Stomper armor, fans can see Captain Carter’s animated eyes filled with hope, but that may be why the scene only went this far.
Recall what happened when Steve Rogers found out that his long-lost pal from his World War II days was still alive. It wasn’t a particularly happy reunion. But it's what drove the plot for one of the MCU's most enjoyable and successful projects to date because it put Captain America up against a foe that he didn't want to have to beat.
Now let's think back to the last time Captain Carter's Steve Rogers was seen on screen in What If...?. He was on the ground, spilling out of a dead HYDRA Stomper suit of armor, reaching out to Peggy as she tried to shut the portal. Steve had already evacuated his companions, so when Peggy left, he and Howard Stark were left to fend for themselves - sitting ducks next to the Tesseract.
Later, when Captain Carter arrives in the present day, SHIELD has the Tesseract in their possession. But when Peggy asks Nick Fury, "Where is Steve Rogers?", he dodges the question almost instantly.
If The Watcher claims that this world needs Captain Carter, then fans have to consider what challenges ahead she'll face that only Captain Carter could handle. And that points straight to her long-lost love, Steve Rogers.
But why should The Watcher fear the reemergence of Steve Rogers and The HYDRA Stomper? This could be because The HYDRA Stomper is now under HYDRA's control. And if that's the case, then the man inside the armor that Black Widow is referring to may not be the friendly, kind-hearted Steve Rogers that Peggy Carter remembers from the 40s.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier pitted Steve Rogers against his best friend Bucky Barnes as Steve tried to save the world from HYDRA's Project Insight. Now, it seems Captain Carter will go down a very similar path as she'll uncover HYDRA within SHIELD while also having to face the love of her life overtaken by sinister organization.
If Steve Rogers was taken by HYDRA in the 40s and turned into the Winter Soldier instead of Bucky Barnes, then that sets up a strong, familiar sequel for Captain Carter in Season 2 of What If...?