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Why Marvel's What If...? Has So Many Major Character Deaths

Death has been a regular occurrence in Marvel’s What If…? For the most part, alternate takes on key MCU scenarios from the Infinity Saga have ended badly for Marvel’s heroes and villains. Most episodes feature quite a few notable casualties.

The episode about T’Challa being Star-Lord instead of Peter Quill proved that happy endings are possible in the animated Disney+ series, but they apparently aren’t common. The other timelines in the multiverse that the Watcher has shown have not been kind to the heroes of the MCU. Most of the iconic characters in the movies, such as Captain America, Black Widow, Hawkeye, Hulk, Falcon, and more have all died at least once on-screen in What If…?. Many were also among those turned during the zombie apocalypse that happened prior to the timeframe of episode 5. In just episode 6 alone, Iron Man, Black Panther, and War Machine were all casualties of Killmonger’s power-grab scheme.

Related: The MCU Just Hinted How Powerful Shuri Will Be As Black Panther

Characters dying so often in Marvel’s What If…? can largely be attributed to the fact that the events that transpire in each episode of the show don’t have real consequences. While some timelines could theoretically be revisited in a later season, there are so many in existence in the multiverse that no singular character is important. The only exception to this may be episode 1’s Captain Carter, since this variation has developed a certain degree of popularity and may be safe for the time being. As for everyone else, killing them off doesn’t come with any problems, since the show’s stories are in MCU alternate timelines. Marvel’s What If…? has more freedom with its characters’ fates than any other Marvel property.

It should also be noted that this element of the show is one way that the MCU is maintaining the spirit of the original What If? comic from the 1970s. For the same reason mentioned above, issues of What If? killed Marvel icons all the time. Every scenario sent each character involved in the story in directions that differed greatly from what happened in the original comics. Showing Iron Man getting killed by Namor and Hulk because the Avengers didn’t stay together in What If? #3, for example, demonstrated just how important a singular event or decision can be. One thing being done differently can lead to all sorts of tragedies and disasters.

The same can be said for the MCU’s animated interpretation of the comic book series. It too can highlight the scope of Marvel's Phase 4 multiverse, the great significance of just a single timeline difference, and the impact one character's death can have on everyone around them. And by taking advantage of the idea that any Marvel hero can die (no matter how beloved they may be), Marvel’s What If…? has the ability to present stories that are both standalone and emotionally meaningful at the same time.

More: What If...? Episode 6: 7 Big Questions About Killmonger And Iron Man

Marvel's What If...? airs every Wednesday on Disney+.

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