Warning: This article contains SPOILERS for What If…? season 2 episode 4


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Summary

  • What If…? undermines Iron Man’s sacrifice in Avengers: Endgame by showing alternate universes where Thanos was defeated other ways.
  • Thanos is killed twice in What If…? season 2, proving, once more, that Doctor Strange was wrong in Endgame.
  • What If…? season 2 episode 4’s post-credits scene hints at the immortality of characters like The Grandmaster and The Collector, challenging the assumption that they can be killed.

4 years after Iron Man died during Avengers: Endgame‘s heartbreaking ending, What If…? season 2 episode 4’s ending undermined his tragedy. Worse still, the same MCU TV release had done the same thing just four days earlier in episode 1. In both cases, the imaginative animated series challenged one of the fundamental story details of Robert Downey Jr’s final appearance as Tony Stark.

While What If…? is very much an Elseworlds-style multiverse release offering a glimpse at some of the millions of universe branches created by the countless Nexus events of everyday MCU existence. Now that the TVA are no longer pruning branches created by these Nexus events, the multiverse can be as chaotic as it yearns to be. The result, as Sylvie indirectly predicted in Loki season 1, is that an infinite number of branches exist, creating universes where Nebula joined the Nova Corps, where Happy Hogan became the Purple Hulk, or where the Avengers formed early in 1988. Crucially, though, each of those branches still adhered to every rule of the Sacred Timeline established before they branched off.

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What If…? Season 2 Episode 4 Ending Explained

What if Season 2 Gamora

In What If…? season 2 episode 4, Marvel answers the question of what would have happened if Iron Man’s near-miss sacrifice at the Battle of New York hadn’t been avoided. Instead of Stark falling back through the portal above New York after destroying the Chitauri mothership, in this branch, he was trapped on the other side of the portal and ended up being teleported to Sakaar instead of being killed. Don’t ask why, the show doesn’t actually answer it: it’s more just a set-up to have Stark entwined in The Grandmaster’s endless gladiatorial games.

While Thor: Ragnarok saw Chris Hemsworth’s God of Thunder and Hulk taking part in battles for their life with other gladiators, Iron Man arrives at a different point in Sakaar’s confusing timeline. At this point, The Grandmaster presides over rigged Death Races, in which the likes of Valkyrie, Korg, and (inexplicably) Gamora all compete. Stark hatches a plan to escape, but also to overthrow The Grandmaster and end his reign of tyranny on Sakaar.

The Grandmaster confirms time doesn’t work traditionally on Sakaar, confirming he’s aware that he’d seen Iron Man’s future defeat of Thanos.

What If Confirms Valkyrie Was Always Destined To Be King

Valkyrie sits on her throne, looking bored

In an interesting twist, after Iron Man is successful and beats The Grandmaster in their Death Race, Valkyrie is crowned king of Sakaar. That suggests that Valkyrie’s multiversal destiny is to be a king, effectively adopting the logic of Canon Events from Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse. That raises the possibility that every character in the multiverse remains fated, despite the destruction of the Sacred Timeline, which also fits with The Grandmaster confirming Tony Stark’s future defeat of Thanos, even in this branched universe.

In What If…? season 1, the idea of Absolute Points was introduced, establishing events in the Marvel timeline that could never be avoided. Season 2 suggests Absolute Points can happen in different forms.

After convincing Gamora to help him defeat The Grandmaster, Iron Man repays her allegiance by helping her kill Thanos. The returning Mad Titan sits on the same throne as was previously seen in Guardians Of The Galaxy, and offers no defense when his daughter double-crosses him. Up to that point, she had remained loyal, suggesting an unseen event on the main timeline prior to Guardians of the Galaxy‘s events led to her epiphany and betrayal of her father. That mystery will seemingly remain unanswered, but her arrival on Sakaar must have come before 2014 (when GOTG is set).

How What If…? Undermines Iron Man’s Death (Again)

Without getting too deep in the multiversal soup, it’s Gamora’s murder of her father that compromises Iron Man’s Endgame ending. In Endgame, Doctor Strange tells The Avengers that of the millions of possible futures he saw, only one led to their victory at the Battle of Earth. That single possibility is tied inherently to Tony Stark’s sacrifice, with the suggestion that any other plan to take out Thanos (like Rhodey’s suggestion to kill him as a baby) wouldn’t have worked, somehow.

But in both What If…? season 2 episode 4 and episode 1, Thanos is killed quite easily by two of his former allies. The first episode sees Ronin The Accuser kill him off-screen, while Gamora kills him three episodes later to set up her part in the Guardians Of The Multiverse’s battle with Ultron from What If…? season 1’s ending. Just as Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness confirmed Thanos was defeated without Iron Man dying, What If…? confirms Doctor Strange was wrong. Thanos could have been taken out elsewhere on the timeline, making Tony Stark’s ultimate sacrifice significantly less special.

Marvel's What if...? Season 2 Poster

What If…?

What If… ? is an animated anthology series set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe which features fan-favorite characters, including Peggy Carter, T’Challa, Doctor Strange, Killmonger, Thor, and more. The new series, directed by Bryan Andrews with AC Bradley as head writer, features signature MCU action with a curious twist. The show sees Uatu the Watcher, an omnipotent being that observes the events of multiple universes from afar as they unfold, unable to interfere. However, things shift when an entity peers beyond the veil, jeopardizing the multiverse. 

Cast
Samuel L. Jackson , Stanley Tucci , Michael Douglas , Sean Gunn , Mark Ruffalo , Karen Gillan , Tom Hiddleston , Jeffrey Wright , Michael B. Jordan , Toby Jones , Sebastian Stan , Paul Rudd , David Dastmalchian , Natalie Portman , Josh Brolin , Dominic Cooper , Jeff Goldblum , Hayley Atwell , Djimon Hounsou , Chadwick Boseman , Taika Waititi , Chris Hemsworth , Neil McDonaugh , Jeremy Renner , Michael Rooker

Seasons
2

Writers
Ashley Bradley , Matthew Chauncey

What If…? Season 2 Episode 4 Post-Credits Scene Explained

The Grandmaster in What if Season 2

As What If…? season 2 episode 4’s credits roll, the season’s second credits scene (after Darcy’s festive sing-along after episode 3’s ending), The Grandmaster actually returns again. Despite being melted by his own Melt Stick from Thor: Ragnarok, Jeff Goldblum’s charming bad guy survives, jovially asking his sidekick and bodyguard Topaz to fetch a sponge to mop him up. It’s a funny tag, but it suggests that the Elders of the Universe (including The Grandmaster and his brother The Collector, played by Benicio Del Toro in the MCU) are actually immortal. No matter what they have to endure to survive.

That suggests that while The Collector was assumed to have been killed by Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War, it’s unlikely he actually died. He might not be living well, as The Grandmaster wouldn’t be after What If..? season 2 episode 4, but it seems he is one of the MCU’s genuinely unkillable characters.

New episodes of What If…? season 2 release every day until December 30 on Disney+.

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