‘What If…?’ Retrospective: Episode Three Tells a Dark but Hopeful Tale

by Noah Tang

The third episode of “What If…?” pivots from the relatively light and cheerful tone of the first two episodes. It tells the story of how five of the six original Avengers are brutally murdered during the events of Fury’s Big Week, the seven-day period in which the films “Iron Man 2,” “Thor,” and “The Incredible Hulk” all take place. In the original timeline, this week was crucial in that it encompassed the formation of the Avengers.

However, this alternate timeline diverged from the canonical MCU movies when, years prior, Nick Fury decided to recruit a certain individual to join S.H.I.E.L.D. Some time afterward, that individual is killed in the line of duty, and a close relative of hers, blinded by grief and desperate for revenge against Fury, formulates a plan to destroy any chance of the Avengers Initiative ever coming to fruition.

This episode follows Nick Fury as he races to unravel an assassination plot against not-yet assembled Avengers

Throughout this episode, that relative succeeds in assassinating most of the would-be Avengers. As if the situation were not bad enough, Loki and the Asgardian army descend to Earth to exact vengeance following the death of Thor, forcing Fury to contend with two hostile forces simultaneously. Fortunately, he is able to broker an alliance with Loki after convincing him that they have a common enemy in Thor’s murderer.

Of course, every Marvel fan knows that Loki cannot be trusted. True to his character, he executes his own agenda while seemingly cooperating with S.H.I.E.L.D. After defeating the serial killer with Fury’s assistance, Loki completes his evil plan.

Towards the end of the episode, Fury eulogizes the fallen heroes. He tells Coulson that “the Avengers were an idea, the affirmation of humanity’s need to believe that in our darkest hour, we will find our heroes.” Despite these tragic losses, the Avengers Initiative is far from over. Fury soon finds Captain America in the ice, and Captain Marvel meets Fury there, proving that “in this universe, as in all others, hope never dies.” A hopeful ending closes this dark and depressing story.

Episode three affords fans some enjoyable moments despite its bleakness. In one scene, while being transported in a prisoner truck, Black Widow casually dispatches the entire squad of S.H.I.E.L.D. guards before cutting a hole in the truck floor to escape, much to Brock Rumlow’s chagrin. In another scene, Loki arrives on Earth and immediately begins to deliver a menacing, grandiose speech to Fury and the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents present. However, Fury’s phone ringing interrupts Loki’s monologue, visibly annoying the god of mischief.

Lokis characteristically grandiose presence and crafty tendencies represent one of the episodes highlights

The concept of hope is the main theme of episode three. And it reminds me that our true hope lies not in superheroes, nor in men or anything they can accomplish, but in Christ alone. 1 Peter 1:3 says that “According to [the Father’s] great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” Whereas the fictional citizens of the MCU look to the Avengers to save them from physical death temporarily, we in the real world can look to Christ to save us from every form of death eternally. Unlike the Avengers, Jesus cannot be thwarted because He has already won the victory.

I personally did not enjoy episode three very much, especially when compared to the first two episodes. Tragedies are not normally my cup of tea, especially those that kill off characters I am emotionally invested in. But I was glad to see some of my favorite characters appear, even if they ultimately perished, and as always, I enjoyed the show’s visual artistry. Most of all, I appreciated the message that hope never dies.

Episode three of “What If…?” is now streaming on Disney Plus.

Noah Tang is a super-senior Business Management major. He likes to spend time with friends, study theology and watch movies.

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