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‘What If…?’ episode 5 review: Exciting zombie action and suspense

This week’s What If…? shows what would happen if most of the Earth’s mightiest heroes became zombies.

If you’ve stepped into any store recently, you can tell by the décor that it’s Halloween season (a bit too early for my taste). What If…? delivers a fitting episode this week as it explores a world overrun with zombies and even some of its mightiest heroes have succumbed to the affliction.

The story takes place during Avengers: Infinity War with Bruce Banner arriving to Earth to warn the people of Thanos’ arrival but he senses something off. When Ebony Maw and Cull Obsidian appear, they are attacked by zombified versions of Iron Man, Doctor Strange, and Wong. Apparently, during Hank Pym’s search for his wife in the Quantum Realm, Janet is infected with the zombie virus and he brings the disease back into the world. As the Avengers fought to contain the plague, they became infected themselves.

This episode of What If…? is your run of the mill zombie tale with a Marvel slant. There is a ragtag group of survivors who serve as humanities last hope that race to find a cure. It’s definitely a random assortment but it works in this context. Similar to the limited comic series from Robert Kirkman and Sean Phillips, zombies retain their intellect and powers which makes the former heroes more of a threat. There is a feeling of urgency and danger as the group navigate this landscape and certain scenes complement the horror aspect generating suspense as the team is picked off one by one.

The main highlights are the great action sequences throughout. There are many one-on-one, hero versus hero showdowns and the writers develop many creative ways to dispatch the zombies. The body count is so high and it can be jarring watching all these recognizable characters meet their end, sometimes in gruesome ways. Although how easily the zombified superheroes are killed makes you question how big of a threat they really are.

Visually, there are some memorable, splash page type moments. From the surprising dark turns for some of the characters to the heroic sacrifices for the greater good, they all make an impact. The final scene itself with Thanos, seems a bit gratuitous but still an awesome image.

The comedy of this week’s What If…? is a sticking point. It seems out of place and is a disconnect to the overall tone. If the episode leaned more towards the campy side of zombie stories, the corny one liners and other jokes would fit right in. However, since the narrative has a more serious and somber mood, it doesn’t quite fit. Rather than lightening things up, it makes the flow more disjointed.

Furthermore, there isn’t much depth to the episode. There are emotional instants following the loss of a comrade and the Vision tie in is pretty dark, but the plot is very straight forward. Though not everything needs to have a deeper meaning and it’s fun to sit back and watch a zombies and superheroes duke it out.

“What If…Zombies?” lacks complexity but is an entertaining capes and zombies one-off with exciting action.

New episodes of What If…? are released Wednesdays on Disney+.

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