Warning: This article contains spoilers for the Season 1 finale of What If...?.
Marvel Studios just aired the ninth and final episode in its first season of animated content on Disney+ What If...?, which gave fans alternate versions of classic stories from the Infinity Saga. Bringing back many of the MCU's veteran stars to reprise their roles in voiceover form, this show took the chance to make some wild decisions with alternate plot points from the MCU's past.
By the ninth episode, fans got the first epic action from the Guardians of the Multiverse, which featured a stealth-suited Captain Peggy Carter, T'Challa's new take on Star-Lord, Doctor Strange Supreme, and more. On the flip side, numerous episodes featured brutal deaths for iconic MCU heroes thanks to events like a zombie apocalypse and the real Age of Ultron.
One hero that usually ended up on the business end of these events was none other than Tony Stark, the character that started the MCU over 13 years ago. In a recent interview, the show's head writer even had a laugh about this fact as she teased part of what fans didn't see in Season 1.
An Episode Sans Tony Stark Dying
Speaking with Entertainment Weekly, What If...? head writer A.C. Bradley looked back at how often Tony Stark died in Season 1's nine episodes while teasing the entry that was cut due to COVID-related delays.
Bradley confirmed that the episode rumored to feature Tony Stark and Gamora was cut after one of the head production offices had to deal with tough pandemic-related issues. She was also happy to reveal that Tony actually lived all the way through this episode after the first eight entries often times gave the MCU icon a cruel fate.
Tony Stark died in four different episodes during Season 1 at the hands of Hank Pym (Episode 3), a combo of zombies and the Wasp (Episode 5), Erik Killmonger (Episode 6), and Ultron (Episode 8). Bradley laughed while mentioning that she and the team "didn't murder Tony horrifically" during this cut episode, already having received hate mail for half of the first eight episodes bringing various cruel endings:
"Yeah, due to the pandemic one of our core production houses was hit very hard, and could not finish animation on one of our episodes that was supposed to air earlier in the season. That episode featured Tony and Gamora. It was a lighter episode! We didn't murder Tony horrifically in this one, I promise! Big spoiler. [Laughs] But I'm getting hate mail."
What If...Tony Stark Caught a Break?
Coming off one of the greatest runs in superhero movie history through the Infinity Saga, it became clear early that Tony Stark was in for a rough time during What If...?.
When this delayed episode comes to Disney+ sometime during Season 2, it will mark only the second episode featuring Iron Man in which he makes it to the credits after the Season 1 finale. Of course, this now seems slightly obvious, since the episode was meant to come before Tony and Gamora ended up on Nidavillir with Eitri in possession of the Infinity Gauntlet.
As fans endured Tony meeting his demise four unique ways, fans were in an uproar nearly every week, even over an animated show that explored multiple alternate dimensions. Bradley spoke about this topic at the end of September with a similar sense of humor as this time, even comparing Iron Man to South Park's Kenny, who has died brutally countless times over the past quarter-century.
The live-action MCU timeline utilized Robert Downey, Jr.'s iconic hero for ten movies in eleven years before Tony Stark's universe-saving sacrifice with the Infinity Stones in Avengers: Endgame. Pitting the magnitude of that moment against the hilarity of his fate in What If...? has certainly been a fun dichotomy to witness over the past few weeks.
All nine episodes of What If...? are available to stream on Disney+.