This week’s episode of What If…? is undoubtedly the show’s most lighthearted, carefree installment to date.
The episode (titled “What If… Thor Were an Only Child?”) takes Marvel fans to a timeline in which, as its title suggests, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) was raised without his adopted brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) around. And consequently, Thor grew up to become nothing more than a total party animal as an adult.
It’s a fun and silly episode of television — one full of winks and nods to moments from previous Marvel Cinematic Universe films, including 2011’s Thor and 2019’s Avengers: Endgame. On top of all that, the episode also gives Marvel fans an MCU face-off that they likely never saw coming: Thor vs. Captain Marvel.
What If...?’s Captain Marvel vs. Thor fight, explained
Around halfway through What If…? Episode 7’s runtime, S.H.I.E.L.D. arrives to put a stop to Thor’s increasingly reckless and destructive party antics. With Korg (Taika Waititi) accidentally putting Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) in a coma (it’s a whole thing), Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) becomes the organization’s acting director and decides to call in the big guns to help bring an end to the God of Thunder’s global rager.
That help comes in the form of Captain Marvel, who immediately makes her way to Thor’s party and tries — peacefully, at first — to get him to call it off. When that doesn’t work, a fight breaks out between the two heroes that sees them battling in Las Vegas, Stonehenge (yes, really) and the Mojave Desert. Thor brings his hammer, Carol brings her fists, and it’s just as epic and fun of a fight to watch as it should be. There’s even a moment when Carol, impressively, takes a full, devastating lightning blast from Mjolnir without so much as flinching.
In true comic book tradition, Captain Marvel and Thor’s conflict ends ambiguously and without a clear winner; though, the episode heavily implied that Carol could decimate him if she wanted to. Ultimately, however, their second fight (this time in Serbia) gets interrupted by the arrival of Thor’s mother, Frigga. Her visit to Earth convinces Carol to help Thor try and cover up the impressive scope of his party, and the two end the episode on good terms, more or less.
It’s an enjoyable, low-stakes superhero vs. superhero conflict — one that feels like a fun nod to Carol and Thor’s tense first meeting in Avengers: Endgame. It’s in bringing Thor and Captain Marvel to blows, though, that What If…? also delivers its biggest homage to comic book fans.
What If...?’s End of the Bargain
The premise of What If…?, both in the comics and on TV, exists mainly as a nod to comic book fans and, specifically, the speculative conversations that usually break out between them. And at the very center of those conversations has always been arguments about which superheroes would win in hypothetical, 1v1 fights. It’s the thing that comic book readers have, perhaps more than anything else, spent decades arguing with each other about.
Taking that into account, it would have been colossally disappointing if What If…? Season 1 hadn’t delivered on that front in some form or another. Manufacturing a way for two superheroes who would normally never fight each other to do just that is one of the most obvious and appealing things that a show like What If…? can do.
That’s what makes watching Captain Marvel and Thor’s fight in this week’s episode of What If…? so engaging. Not only is the fight a fun, action-packed superhero confrontation, but from a meta-perspective, it’s also extremely satisfying to see What If…? so blatantly and gleefully embracing its most obvious, fan service-y potential.
What If...? hints at an Avengers 5 mystery
In doing so, What If...? Episode 7 also answers one of Marvel’s Phase Four’s lingering questions: Who will be the new leader of the Avengers? While Avengers 5 is years away, many have speculated that Captain Marvel or Thor could assume leadership of the super-powered team. The outcome of this fight might suggest Carol could take charge in Avengers 5.
Speculation aside, What If…? Episode 7 represents the moment when the series fulfills its most basic of promises — and is all the better for it.
What If…? is streaming now on Disney+.