What If? just fixed the MCU's biggest continuity problem
Marvel's 'What If...?' is planning something big, and in the process, it's managed to clear up one of the most confusing chapters of the early MCU.
What If...? is setting up something big, and Episode 3 of the Marvel anthology makes it clear these animated episodes aren’t as disconnected as we thought. But that’s a discussion for another day, right now, we need to talk about one specific scene from What If Episode 3, and how it fixes Marvel’s original continuity sin.
Warning! Spoilers ahead for What If Episode 3.
What If and The Incredible Hulk
The Hulk has always been the ugly stepchild of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and not just because he’s big, green, and his pants are ripped. Due to complex legal reasons, Marvel can’t make any new Hulk-centric movies, which means all we have is 2008’s The Incredible Hulk, a movie that’s never really fit with the rest of the MCU tonally or stylistically.
Love it or hate it, the 2008 Edward Norton superhero movie is MCU canon, even if Marvel recast the big green guy with Mark Ruffalo a few years later for The Avengers. Now, thanks to What If, The Incredible Hulk’s place in this interconnected multiverse feels stronger than ever.
That’s because, in Episode 3, Black Widow (voiced here by Lake Bell, not Scarlett Johansson) drops into the middle of The Incredible Hulk on a mission to find out why someone is killing all of Nick Fury’s would-be Avengers. In just a few minutes, this scene accomplishes a lot.
For one thing, it puts Mark Ruffalo into the role once occupied by Edward Norton, creating a much cleaner continuity between this movie and the rest of the Hulk’s MCU story. It also clearly places the events of Incredible Hulk within the time frame of other Marvel movies like Thor and Iron Man 2. (While mega fans likely already know that these three stories all take place within the span of the same few days, that’s likely new information for most people watching What If Episode 3.)
Why What If Episode 3 this matters
Beyond simply retconning the MCU’s past to make a bit more sense, What If could be setting up important connections for the future. We already know that Abomination (aka, Emil Blonsky, played by Tim Roth) will return in Shang-Chi after making his one and only appearance in Incredible Hulk.
Meanwhile, Tim Blake Nelson’s Samuel Sterns was clearly set up in that movie to become the big-brained supervillain, Leader. That’s a plot thread that’s never been pulled, but perhaps now it will be, either in a future What If episode or in live-action.
Who knows, maybe Betty Ross (Liv Tyler) will even show up in live-action at some point. Thanks to What If, literally anything seems possible.
What If...? is streaming now on Disney+.