The episode titled What if...Zombies?! is an excellent follow-up to the astounding episode 4 in the anthology series.
The story is set at the very beginning of the events in Avengers: Infinity War when Dr.Bruce Banner/Hulk crashes into Dr. Strange’s residence just in time to witness Ebony Maw and the rest of Thanos’ entourage arrive in New York City as part of Thanos’ grand plans for ‘cleansing’ the universe. Unfortunately for Banner, in this particular universe, things are a little different - the Avengers have turned into zombies in a post-apocalyptic world. Banner is rescued by a small band of survivors which includes Peter Parker/Spider-Man, Bucky Barnes/The Winter Soldier, Hope Van Dyne/The Wasp, Happy Hogan, Sharon Carter, Kurt (Antman’s friend), and the Wakandan head of armed forces Okoye.
For any new TV series the most fundamental requirement to guarantee its success lies in the execution of the pilot episode, and What if…? failed quite spectacularly at that. Not many TV shows have survived a poor pilot episode barring a few exceptions such as The Office, and Seinfeld - shows which went onto become the benchmark.
For Marvel Studios’ animated show about parallel universes and multiple timelines, the anthology aspect offered it a lifeline. Four episodes since it’s unremarkable pilot the series is slowly but surely establishing itself as one of the best animated adaptations based on Marvel characters.
The fourth episode What If... Doctor Strange Lost His Heart Instead of His Hands? was arguably one of the best-written stories from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. So What if…Zombies?! had pressure to deliver and be at least half as good as its predecessor. It’s safe to say that not only did it deliver, but also managed to be as close as possible in terms of quality to the previous episode.
Despite the burden of fitting in several characters in a half-hour show, the writers have somehow managed to give them well-defined arcs. All except Tom Holland as Spider-man from the original cast of the live-action films returned to voice the characters in the film. This has given the characters a sense of familiarity with the audience. However, Hudson Thomas, who replaced Tom Holland, was the standout in the narrative.
Unlike the previous episodes from the anthology, there is plenty of gore and violence which would have definitely qualified for an R-rating if it were live-action. In terms of the narrative, the writers have taken inspiration from several zombie adaptations from the past, and it has been given its own brand of distinctive flavour. The end product is a gripping and deeply emotional story that is probably just as dark as the previous episode.
However, the episode was not perfect, with a few minor issues that held it back from matching the excellence of the previous one. Couple of obvious plot holes could have easily been rectified, and Vision’s character arc seemed rushed with his actions remaining largely unjustified.
The series has truly found its groove. It is now safe to say that What if…? is the best Disney plus original Marvel series in the recent past.