'What If..?': The Best Easter Eggs And Throwbacks In 'What If.. Zombies?!'
The ep was packed with references.
After a fun first two episodes, Marvel's What If..? took a dark turn, with episodes three and four dealing with rather dark tales. This continued in episode five, 'What If.. Zombies?!', with an episode centered around the MCU being plunged into a Zombie Apocalypse. What If..? is probably the best chance Marvel Studios were ever going to have to adapt the Marvel: Zombies spin-off comics into the MCU, and the result is bizarre, but compelling viewing.
With both comics content and MCU history to play with, 'What If.. Zombies?!' had a lot of references for fans to spot. Here are the best Easter Eggs and throwbacks from the episode.
A Different War
'What If.. Zombies?!' opens the same way as Avengers: Infinity War, with Bruce Banner sent back to Earth to warn the Avengers of the coming of Thanos. Yes, he returns to a different world than he expected, but the episode's opening is still quite similar to the scene in the original film.
The What If..? scene mirrors the Infinity War scene in a few ways, including the arrival of Ebony Maw on Earth, and The Hulk's refusal to emerge and fight, and Spider-Man's arrival just in time to save the day. However, their were a few humorous differences. In the original scene, Wong severs the head of a monster with one of his portals, but in the 'Zombies' episode, the undead Wong's own head is severed by the portal.
Peter Parker's movie knowledge
Throughout his appearances in the Marvel Cinematic universe, a running joke has had Peter Parker saving the day with his knowledge of movies and Popculture. This happens first in Civil War, when he helps Team Iron Man take down the giant Ant-Man with a plan lifted from Empire Strikes Back, and again in Infinity War, when he helps rescue Doctor Strange from Ebony Maw with using knowledge from the Alien franchise.
Peter’s popculture knowledge continues to come in useful in ‘What If.. Zombies?!’. The teen has made an instructional video to introduce new survivors to the rules of surviving in the apocalypse, and also offers suggestions to the group based on his horror movie knowledge.
Bucky Is Not That Sad About Zombie Sam’s Demise
At one point in the episode, Okoye must kill the undead Sam Wilson to save Bucky Barnes. Afterwards, she apologises, in recognition of the fact that Sam and Bucky were friends. Bucky rather awkwardly admits that he is not that sad.
This makes sense, considering the approximate point in the MCU timeline that 'What If.. Zombies?!' is set. Prior to the events of Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Bucky and Sam had a rather contentious relationship, tolerating each other for the sake of their mutual best friend, Steve Rogers. It was not until the adventures shared in their series that the two developed a genuine friendship.
'Til the End of the Line
As the group of survivors attempt to escape aboard a train, Sharon Carter screams, and as Bucky rushes to investigate, finds she has been infected by the undead Captain America. Bucky does battle with his former friend, eventually managing to get hold of his Shield, which he uses to cut Zombie Cap in half, with this parting comment:
"Sorry, pal. I guess this is the end of the line."
This is, of course a reference to this quote from earlier Captain America films, as a key part of Bucky and Steve's close friendship:
"I'm with you 'til the end of the line."
The line is first said by Bucky to Steve in the first film, and repeated by Steve in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, as he is trying to get through to a brainwashed Bucky.
Feeling quite low after being infected, Hope questions Peter on how he is able to stay upbeat considering everything that is going on. Peter replies that he has had experience at smiling through the pain, considering all the people he has lost in the past. On this list of losses, people mentioned his Uncle Ben.
Despite being an important part of Spider-Man's history in the comics, this is the first time Ben Parker is referenced by name in the MCU, with the only other proof of his existence being his initials on the suitcase Peter uses in Spider-Man: Far From Home. There are a few theories about Ben's fate in the MCU, with the most popular being that he was killed when Ivan Vanko attacks the Stark Expo in Iron Man 2. The Parkers are confirmed to have been present at the expo, as the little boy Iron Man rescues during the attack is a young Peter Parker.
As they arrive at the facility in which they believe a cure will be found, Kurt warns the group to be careful. He senses that Baba Yaga, the witch, a supernatural figure in Slavic Folklore, is near.
Aside from foreshadowing the appearance of the Zombified Scarlet Witch, the scene is a throwback to Ant-Man and the Wasp. In that film, Kurt repeatedly refers to Ava Starr, aka The Ghost, as Baba Yaga.
From Page to Screen
While searching Vision's facility for transport to Wakanda, he discovers T'Challa, minus a leg. In a gruesome twist, it is revealed that Vision is keeping T'Challa captive in order to use him as source of food for the zombified Wanda.
This is similar to a moment in the original Marvel Zombies comic, in which the other Zombies, who maintain their sentience in that universe, discover that Hank Pym has been hiding T'Challa to use as a fresh food source. However, here, T'Challa is missing both a leg and an arm when he is discovered.
Other elements lifted from the comics include the Zombies retaining their powers, and Scott's ability to survive as a severed head. However, this is remixed slightly from the comic, as where Scott's beheading was part of his cure, Janet Van Dyne is beheaded as a Zombie, and her head survives first carried around by the other zombies, and later, attatched to a new cybernetic body.
Tragic Love Story
As is almost expected at this point, Vision dies again, atoning for his actions by ripping the Mind Stone out of his own head in order for the group to take it to Wakanda as a possible cure. Vision's latest death scene, including Zombie Wanda appearing, briefly, to grieve over his corpse, mirrors his Infinity War death.
In fact, Vision and Wanda's whole story in this episode can be viewed as a dark mirror of their Infinity War plotline. Because Vision was unable to kill Zombie Wanda, as Wanda eventually forces herself to kill him in Infinity War, the world remained in greater danger.
Death is not the end
Following the Hulk's heroic sacrifice, the remaining survivors, now consisting of just Spider-Man, T'Challa, Scott's head, and the Cloak of Levitation, escape with the Mind Stone, bound for Wakanda. As they depart, Peter takes some time to grieve his lost friends, and T'Challa offers a piece of advice.
"In my culture, death is not the end. They are still with us, as long as we do not forget them."
The first part of this quote is a throwback to Civil War, with T'Challa saying it to Black Widow following the bombing that killed his father, King T'Chaka. However, it seems extra poignant now that T'Challa's actor, Chadwick Boseman, is no longer with us.
In the final shot of the episode, a zombified Thanos is seen, still in possession of the Infinity Gauntlet and five of the six Infinity Stones. Going by the information presented in the episode, he can likely still use the stones even as a zombie, but whether he retains enough sense of mind to want to complete the set, or is simply driven by hunger is unkown.
Either way, he poses a continued threat to our surviving heroes. Thankfully, all hope is not lost. If a potential part two of the 'Zombies' story goes ahead in season two of What If..?, and continues to follow the Infinity War timeline, we could see Thor arrive as back up for the survivors.
So.. Who wants more Zombies?
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