What If…? Finally Did What The Main MCU Couldn’t

The Red Skull’s fate on Vormir in the mainline MCU remains an open question but What If…? gave Hydra’s supervillain leader a definitive ending.

Warning: SPOILERS for Marvel’s What If…? Episode 1 – « What If… Captain Carter Were The First Avenger? »

Marvel’s What If…? episode 1 finally did something that the main Marvel Cinematic Universe couldn’t do in regard to the Red Skull (Ross Marquand). What If…?‘s premiere alt-reality tale, « What If… Captain Carter Were The First Avenger?, » showed what happened when Agent Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) became a super-soldier, Captain Carter, instead of Steve Rogers (Josh Keaton). It was Captain Carter who then stopped the Red Skull and Hydra so that the Allies could ultimately win World War II.

In Captain America: The First Avenger, Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) first came face-to-face with Johann Schmidt, a.k.a. the Red Skull (Hugo Weaving), as Steve saved Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) and the 107th Infantry division from a Hydra POW camp. In the climax of the film, before Captain America stopped the Red Skull from attacking the United States, the villain was teleported away by the Tesseract, which he didn’t realize was the Space Infinity Stone. Avengers: Infinity War revealed that the Red Skull was banished to Vormir where he was cursed to guard the Soul Stone. Red Skull spent the next seven decades on Vormir, where he encountered Thanos (Josh Brolin) and Gamora (Zoe Saldana) in 2018 and Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) and Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) in 2014 after they time traveled from 2023 in Avengers: Endgame.

Related: All 22 Super Soldiers Created In The MCU (Not Just Captain America)

However, What If…? one-upped the mainline MCU by actually giving the Red Skull a fitting death. In Captain Carter’s reality, Hydra set a trap to capture Howard Stark’s (Dominic Cooper) Hydra Stomper mech, which was powered by the Tesseract. The Red Skull then used the Tesseract to open a portal through interdimensional space to summon a massive tentacled monster (likely Shuma-Gorath) he called « the champion of Hydra. » But Johann Schmidt’s hubris led him to believe he could control the creature. Instead, the beast immediately attacked Red Skull as he was boasting about his achievement to Captain Carter. The monster quickly crushed the Red Skull within its tentacles, putting a definitive end to the supervillain.

Red Skull Monster

Considering the Red Skull’s Marvel Comics status as Captain America’s greatest enemy, it was always disappointing that the two super-soldiers only ever squared off canonically once in the MCU. It’s assumed that Steve Rogers met Red Skull again on Vormir when he returned the Infinity Stones to their proper place in the MCU timeline at the end of Avengers: Endgame, but people can only imagine that encounter could have been like. While it was a novel surprise for Red Skull to reappear in Infinity War and Endgame after seven years since he vanished in The First Avenger, Red Skull remains a classic Marvel villain the MCU wasted. On Vormir, Red Skull isn’t really himself; he’s merely a plot device around the Soul Stone instead of a diabolical menace.

What If…? was a well-executed and fascinating reboot of Captain America: The First Avenger and it went a long way to restoring the Red Skull as an apex of evil during his prime World War II years. But since Steve Rogers never became Captain America in Peggy Carter’s What If…? reality, it also made perfect sense that the Red Skull met a gruesome demise as a result of his foolhardy quest to destroy the world. Since there was no further purpose for the Red Skull in Captain Carter’s What If…?, it was satisfying to see the Nazi super-soldier get his just desserts. Red Skull’s definitive death in What If..? is arguably preferable to how the mainline MCU leaves him in limbo on Vormir with his ultimate fate hanging as an open question.

Next: Every MCU Death Fakeout (So Far)

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  • Eternals (2021)Release date: Nov 05, 2021
  • Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)Release date: Dec 17, 2021
  • Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022)Release date: Mar 25, 2022
  • Thor: Love and Thunder (2022)Release date: May 06, 2022
  • Black Panther: Wakanda Forever/Black Panther 2 (2022)Release date: Jul 08, 2022
  • The Marvels/Captain Marvel 2 (2022)Release date: Nov 11, 2022
  • Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (2023)Release date: Feb 17, 2023
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (2023)Release date: May 05, 2023

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