- Marvel’s What If…? season 2 brings back Thanos, which suggests that the MCU hasn’t moved on from Avengers: Endgame and the Infinity Saga’s success despite the introduction of multiple new characters in Phases 4 and 5.
- Thanos is a Marvel character with so much potential that the Infinity Saga wasn’t enough to fully explore it.
- What If…? season 2 also demonstrates how the MCU can balance the past and the future by bringing back familiar characters while introducing new ones.
Thanos’ return in Marvel’s What If…? season 2 proves that the MCU hasn’t fully left Avengers: Endgame‘s success behind. As the Multiverse Saga develops, multiversal stories like Loki season 2 and Marvel’s What If…? season 2 explore the infinite possibilities of the Marvel multiverse, tying the MCU’s past with its present and future. Therefore, it’s expected for upcoming MCU movies and shows to revisit events from previous titles and put a fresh spin on them. Like its first season, What If…? season 2 introduces new variants and teams, as well as new alternate realities where certain MCU events happen differently.
The What If…? season 2 trailer reveals surprising scenarios, including a 1980s version of the original Avengers, an even more powerful Hela, and at least two new battles against Thanos: one led by Captain Carter and one rematch with Steve Rogers. These fights follow Thanos’ first MCU return in What If…? season 1, where the Mad Titan appeared as a peaceful member of the Ravagers in episode 2 and as one of Ultron’s victims in episode 7. This time, it seems the Infinity Saga’s main villain will once again be a believable threat in the MCU.
Why What If Season 2 Is Revisiting And Revealing New Thanos Fights
What If…?‘s focus on Thanos is surprising after his definitive death in Avengers: Endgame, but his return in the animated anthology makes sense due to how little the MCU actually got to do with him. Thanos’ goals were thoroughly explored in Avengers: Infinity War and his defeat was unavoidable in Avengers: Endgame, yet the villain could have starred in many other stories to prove his abilities against a variety of MCU opponents. Apart from showcasing the infinite possibilities of the multiverse, What If…? also provides MCU characters with a chance to shine in self-contained episodes without being tied to a bigger continuity.
Thanos’ Return Shows How Marvel Can’t Move Past Endgame Entirely
As exciting as Josh Brolin’s return as Thanos in What If…? season 2 may seem, Marvel’s decision to bring back characters like Thanos, Steve Rogers, and Tony Stark in animated format so soon after Avengers: Endgame suggests that the best parts of the MCU remain in the Infinity Saga. In fact, the What If…? season 2 trailer doesn’t feature any characters introduced in Phases 4 and 5, which further emphasizes the MCU’s apparent lack of faith in the Multiverse Saga. Since Thanos made such an impact in Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, his return in What If…? season 2 is guaranteed to draw attention.
By this point, the MCU should already be using characters such as Shang-Chi, Moon Knight, and She-Hulk both in live-action and animation. In comparison, Thanos was first teased in 2012’s The Avengers, appeared in a small role in 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy, and returned for a post-credits scene in 2015’s Avengers: Age of Ultron. Meanwhile, Shang-Chi, Moon Knight, She-Hulk, and other Phases 4 and 5 stars don’t have a likely appearance until 2026’s Avengers: The Kang Dynasty, which precedes the end of the MCU’s current saga. Thanos and the original six Avengers, of course, returned as early as Phase 4 either in animated or in live-action form.
How What If Season 2 Is Showing A Path Forward For Marvel
Nevertheless, What If…? proves how well the MCU can balance the past and the future with its large cast of characters. Some episodes can bring back beloved characters from the Infinity Saga while others deal with recent events, and certain episodes can even go as far as introducing brand-new characters. For instance, What If…? season 2 sees Tony Stark meet Gamora on Sakaar and Hela claim the Ten Rings, but it also introduces the MCU-exclusive character Kahhori, who makes her debut in animated form without a previous appeareance anywhere in Marvel Comics beforehand.
Future What If…? seasons could retain this model, and other MCU entries could learn from it as well. Instead of introducing multiple new characters and abandoning them as soon as their debut story is over, new MCU releases could use characters or plotlines from previous successes to aid in their introduction, but then bring them back soon afterward. While an anthology like Marvel’s What If…? is the obvious place to try this strategy, other MCU movies and shows could also benefit from it.