Ever since the latest episode of Marvel’s What If…? premiered on Disney Plus this week, fans have been nitpicking every minor details, discovering Easter Eggs, and generally trying to sus out the extended lore of the alternative reality it presents.
In episode 8, entitled What If…Ultron Won?, a brief appearance by Thanos and a seeming inconsistency with the congruency of the events we’re familiar with in the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies had some viewers scratching their heads, as Looper was apt to point out.
The episode centers around a remixed version of the final events of Avengers: Age of Ultron, in which Ultron successfully merges back with his do-gooder AI alter-ego, Vision, becoming powerful enough to ignite every nuclear weapon on Earth and destroying nearly all life on the planet.
Thanos briefly comes face-to-face with Ultron, coming to Earth through a portal and wielding the Infinity Gauntlet with every stone except the Mind Stone.
In a shocking display of power, Ultron easily tears Thanos in half and takes the stones for himself.
But eagle-eyed viewers noticed something strange: though Thanos was in possession of the Soul Stone, for which the bearer must make a sacrifice to obtain, later on in the episode, Gamora appears and is unharmed. The titan’s stepdaughter and perhaps the sole subject of his love was the person Thanos sacrificed in the Avengers: Infinity War to get the Soul Stone in the first place. So what’s the deal in this episode?
Well, as well Reddit Mhunterjr user pointed out on the What If…? subreddit, this is an alternative universe, meaning there could’ve been a myriad of alternative events or rules that apply to this world that did not apply in the MCU proper. For instance, someone could’ve retrieved the Soul Stone for him and given it to him or maybe a sacrifice is not needed in this alternative world because it’s no longer looked after on the cliff of Vormir. Or perhaps Gamora was not the favorite daughter, but instead Nebula, who is absent in the episode, was the sacrificial lamb.