What If…?’s high-octane premiere remedies the most WTF moment from the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
WARNING: The following contains spoilers for What If…? Season 1, Episode 1, « What If… Captain Carter Were The First Avenger, » streaming now on Disney+.
As much as the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s films make big bucks at the box office and usually land rave reviews from critics, there are some disappointing efforts. Thor: The Dark World is one such example. However, even in the better films, there are some WTF moments, such as Steve kissing Sharon Carter while still holding a flame for Peggy in Captain America: Civil War. Thankfully, the biggest head-scratching moment gets remedied in « What If… Captain Carter Were The First Avenger? »
This moment is none other than the death of the tyrannical Red Skull in Joe Johnston’s Captain America: The First Avenger. Played by Hugo Weaving, Skull piloted an airship that held weapons powered by the Tesseract. He planned on blowing up American cities with the lasers, but thankfully, Captain America infiltrated to save the day.
A fight ensued, and Cap breached the cube’s casing with his shield, only for Skull to become entranced upon seeing the galactic relic exposed. Drunk with power, he grabbed the cube, and it disintegrated him. To this day, it’s anticlimactic and laughable, with the execution feeling totally off as fans didn’t even know if Skull died. Come Avengers: Endgame, audiences learn he was teleported through a wormhole to Vormir to guard the Soul Stone, which felt a little like redemption for Captain America: The First Avenger‘s botched ending.
The moment underwhelmed fans who didn’t want to see such a badass Marvel villain go out like that without Steve taking him down. Not to mention Steve just watched the Tesseract burn through the ship and fall out, which made it seem like the film wasted its core antagonistic elements.
Thankfully, Captain Carter’s battle with Skull in an alternate reality has a much more brutal ending for Skull. He tries to use the Tesseract to open a portal to bring over a giant eldritch monster akin to Shuma-Gorath. As he’s about to gloat about his success, it backfires, with one of the giant tentacles grabbing and crushing the screaming Skull in front of Captain Carter. It’s a slightly comedic yet brutal fatality that maintains the scene’s mystique without painting Skull as a bumbling, curious fool.
This shows there are aggressive consequences to one’s actions in war, and it feels like dark karma, as the being he’s trying to weaponize turns on him. It plays up Skull’s pride, ego and narcissism better and shows he can’t cage beasts he doesn’t understand. It’s a lot more emphatic and action-packed, sticking with the tone of what a Cap vs. Skull fight should be, rather than the villain clumsily thinking he could hold a cosmic power source and hope for the best.
Created by A.C. Bradley, the first episode of What If…? is now available on Disney+, with new episodes debuting on Wednesdays.
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