Marvels ‘What If..?’ Episode 5 Review: Zombie Apocalypse Comes to the MCU with Mixed Results

What if the Earth’s mightiest heroes became… zombies?! Yes, you read that correctly, What If..?’s fifth episode dares to be the zaniest and different of all, adapting the Marvel Zombies series of comics. Instead of Thanos coming to Earth to destroy half of humankind, a zombie virus sweeps across the globe. It takes out almost all of the original Avengers, and leaves the often-supporting heroes, like Hope Van Dyne, Sharon Carter, and Okoye, to search for a cure. 

Handing the spotlight to characters who are usually secondary is a smart decision for this episode. Not only does it give them a chance to shine, but it also throws together characters who haven’t interacted with each other before – be that Happy Hogan fighting zombies with Sharon Carter, or Peter Parker sharing emotional moments with Hope. The fact that some of these characters have never met in the MCU proper gives the group the feel of a rag-tag bunch of survivors. That’s just what’s needed for a zombie apocalypse-based episode. 

Unlike previous instalments that have rehashed much of the films to set up their premise, What If… Zombies is happy to cut to the chase and delve straight into the good stuff. In this instance, the good stuff is the surprising amount of bloody action. It comes as a bit of a shock that Disney and Marvel are willing to get gruesome with their beloved characters, but the unexpectedness of it is part of the fun. The zombies themselves may not be so creepy, but they provide wonderful cannon fodder for the still-living survivors. The walking corpses are torn limb from limb, decapitated, and cut clean in half. The action is full of delightful splatter, and the whole episode is just great fun. 

Zombies also feels like the most stand-alone episode so far. Others have been inherently tied to the events of the MCU, even if they subverted expectations. While this episode clearly references Avengers: Infinity War and contains many parallels to that story, it could easily be watched by itself. After the first minute, it feels much more like its own concept, containing a creative twist on Marvel characters. 

Where Zombies disappoints is in the payoff department. It reels us in with all of the zombie genre tropes – the group of survivors (and the typical mistakes that get them killed), the gruesome battles, and the desperate search for a cure. But it doesn’t go anywhere, at least not anywhere truly satisfying. The episode ends on a fantastic set-piece with plenty of action and excitement, but it ends so abruptly. Just as the heroes are approaching their goal, The Watcher jumps in with some narration and the episode ends in a frustrating cliffhanger. It gets us to care about their search for a cure and then leaves us hanging. For a fun instalment with such a cool concept, the disappointing end really lets it down. 

With What If… Zombies? Marvel has shown that they really know how to tell a zombie apocalypse story. They get the tropes just right, and the characters are easy to invest in. The bloody action is the most fun part of all. It’s a shame that the abrupt ending makes it feel unfinished, and I can only hope that the other half of the tale is someday told. 

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