What If…?: What’s hidden in plain sight in episode 8

Ultron in Marvel Studios' WHAT IF...? exclusively on Disney+. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.
Ultron in Marvel Studios' WHAT IF...? exclusively on Disney+. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved. /
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Avengers: Endgame, Clint Barton, Natasha Romanoff, Hawkeye, Black Widow, What If...?
Marvel Studios’ AVENGERS: ENDGAME..L to R: Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye/Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner)..Photo: Film Frame..©Marvel Studios 2019 /

Cinematic callbacks

Every episode of What If…? has various references to the live-action movies, and some are more obvious than others. But this episode also made quite a few references to other movies besides those produced by Marvel Studios (although those movies also happen to be owned or co-owned by Disney, as well). These callbacks, in no particular order, includes:

  • In the opening action scene, Black Widow (voiced by Lake Bell) is, once again, on a motorcycle like she was in Avengers: Age of Ultron, and apparently doing the exact same maneuvers that she performed with it during that film.
  • Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) has the same haircut he sported when he was Ronin during Avengers: Endgame. Also, his cloak apparently uses the same technology that the S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarriers use to become invisible. Him having a mechanical arm seems to indicate that Ultron blasted his arm off with the Mind Stone at some point.
  • The scene showing Captain America, Thor, and Hulk dead echoes the nightmare Tony Stark had when his mind became zapped by Wanda at the beginning of Avengers: Age of Ultron. In addition, the facility in which he and Ultron are in is the same place where Tony, in Age of Ultron, reprogrammed the nuclear launch codes to prevent Ultron from hacking them.
  • Carol Danvers (voiced by Alexandra Daniels) calling Ultron “Skynet” is, of course, a reference to the evil AI from the Terminator franchise, which is now co-owned by Disney along with Paramount. It’s also lampshades the fact that both this episode and The Terminator involves the last of humanity waging war against race of killer robots after a nuclear holocaust (Although Carol is somewhat wrong about “the killer robot movie” needing a sequel, because Terminator 2: Judgement Day  is one the best sequels ever made).
  • When they arrive at the KGB archives, Clint asks Natasha if she’s ever seen Raiders of the Lost Ark. Later, he frustratingly quotes a line from Star Wars, “the Death Star plans are not in the main computer.” Both Raiders of the Lost Ark and Star Wars are both produced by Lucasfilm which are also owned by Disney.
  • Natasha finds the Red Guardian’s shield at the KGB facility. If you recall, Red Guardian, a.k.a. Alexei Shostakov, was essentially Natasha’s adoptive dad in Black Widow (2021). Moreover, although Alexei once again wore his Red Guardian uniform, he never did get back his shield.
  • Finally, Hawkeye falling to his death is an inverse of Black Widow falling to hers in Avengers: Endgame. What’s more, Hawkeye’s last effective attack is the backwards jump while letting loose an arrow – the same move he performed when jumping off the building in the first Avengers movie.
  • Thanos’ arrival at the ruined Avengers tower in this episode is frame-by-frame identical to his arrival at Wakanda in Avengers: Infinity War.

Speaking on that last point…