Written by David Holland
There are a few classic horror monsters that have been around so long that it can sometimes be hard to do in a new an interesting way. Sure, I guess you can make your vampires pretty and sparkly, or make Michael J. Fox your werewolf, but zombies have been around in film so long that it’s hard to make them new. Even “The Walking Dead” got boring by Season Five and anyone who tells you otherwise is deluding themselves. But wait a second, this is the MCU, and we’re experimenting with alternate timelines. That means our zombies could use weapons, like the Iron Man suit, or magic and superpowers. Holy crap, that means this week we are asking: “What if… zombies!?”
We start out at the beginning of “Avengers: Infinity War”, except in this universe when Janet van Dyne returned from the Quantum Realm at the end of “Ant-Man and the Wasp”, she brought a “quantum virus” with her. Yeah, I guess that’s as good an explanation as any for how zombies started.
When the Avengers tried to stop the spread they fell victim to it. In this universe, zombies are smart enough to operate weapons and use their superpowers. This is a half hour episode, so we don’t get into the science of it, just trust it. Our primary protagonist in this episode is Bruce Banner. He joins up with a team of a few other survivors: Spider-Man, Bucky, Happy Hogan, Sharon Carter, Okoye, Wasp, and Scott Lang’s friend Kurt. The team is ambushed in a train station on its way to search out a cure. Like any good horror film, the team is picked off one at a time. Happy Hogan is the first to go. Then, on the train, Zombie Cap turns Sharon before Bucky kills him. Wasp, already infected from killing zombie Sharon, sacrifices herself to get the team to safety. They discover that the Mind Stone, currently housed in Vision’s head, is the source of their potential cure. Scott Lang’s head, restored Futurama-style, is evidence that zombification can actually be reversed. But, like all zombie films, there’s always the one guy keeping a former loved one as a zombie pet. In this case, that guy is Vision, and the former loved one just happens to be one of the most powerful beings in the MCU.
Wanda was resistant to Vision’s cure and he didn’t have the heart to kill her. Most disturbingly, he has been feeding pieces of T’Challa to her! Not cool, Vision. She wrecks the team, leading to the deaths of Kurt, Okoye, and Bucky before Vision removes the Mind Stone and passes it on to the team to be taken to Wakanda for analysis. Wakanda is humanity’s last hope for creating a global cure, hopefully in time to stop zombie Thanos from snapping his zombie fingers and… creating more brains? It’s not super clear.
A lot of episodes in this series have asked us challenging questions. Last week we considered just how close Doctor Strange has come to tragic hubris. A few weeks ago we asked how being raised in space might have changed T’Challa and how he might have changed the universe. This episode isn’t quite designed to be so heavy. It’s your favorite Marvel heroes fighting your other favorite Marvel heroes as zombies.
If there is a lesson in this episode, like most horror movies, it is about hope and survival. This is probably most embodied by Peter Parker. Spider-Man is perpetually peppy and optimistic. He always has a quip up his sleeve. Even as the team falls one at a time, they have to keep hope alive that survival is possible and that they can eventually find a cure. As expected in the MCU, we see noble sacrifices, but they never lose the optimism that the good guys can win. Plus, the idea of searching for a cure for a disease that is ravaging the planet certainly does hit a little bit close to home for some reason.
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