‘What If?’ Season 2 Episode 5 Recap & Ending Explained: Who Kidnapped Peggy?


Have you seen a franchise and a TV show set within that franchise fundamentally misunderstanding a gimmick and continuing to misinterpret it? Actually, have you seen a franchise and a TV show set within that franchise that understand the gimmick of the premise, allow the narrator of the show (The Watcher) to underscore the fact that they do understand the gimmick, and then continue to misinterpret it? Well, that’s what What If? has been doing this season. Despite having access to an infinite number of possibilities, it is choosing to go back to a specific set of characters from Season 1 because there’s more to their story, and The Watcher (who is a stand-in for Kevin Feige and the writers) thinks that it’s worth exploring. In the last episode, they went back to the Thanos-killing version of Gamora. Today, they’ve brought back Captain Carter, who appeared in the first and last episodes of the first season of the series.

Spoiler Alert

Captain Carter Learns About the HYDRA Stomper

In the regular version of the MCU’s events, Captain Rogers got himself preserved in ice while fighting Red Skull. He was resurrected several years later and recruited by Nick Fury to fight Loki and his Chitauri invasion, thereby making him an integral part of the Avengers. In the What If? version of the MCU’s events, Peggy Carter became Captain America, and Steve Rogers controlled the HYDRA Stomper (a suit that looked very similar to the first Iron Man suit that Tony Stark made in Iron Man). They fought HYDRA, and while Steve Rogers stayed in his timeline, Peggy ended up at a point in the timeline where SHIELD was analyzing the Tesseract. In What If? Season 2 episode 5, we see her working alongside Black Widow (Natasha Romanoff) and doing a version of the opening events of Captain America: Winter Soldier, where they fight a bunch of pirates on a ship. After the fight, Natasha reveals that the ship is carrying the HYDRA Stomper, with Steve Rogers still intact inside it. However, Steve goes out of control and nearly kills Natasha and Peggy.

During the debrief, Nick Fury reveals that SHIELD has been aware of the HYDRA Stomper’s existence since the 1960s, and SHIELD has lost many of its operatives while trying to stop Rogers. Peggy refuses to believe that Steve can be capable of such barbarity. That’s when Natasha hits everyone with the revelation that Steve is acting the way he is acting because he has been brainwashed by the Red Room, i.e., the facility that makes assassins like Black Widow. She didn’t inform Peggy about this earlier because she wanted to save her from a second heartbreak. Fury says that the HYDRA Stomper has a new mission, and they have to stop him before he succeeds, but he advises Carter to sit it out because he knows that her emotions will get the better of her. Before they can come to an agreement, Secretary Bucky Barnes (yes, he’s the secretary of SHIELD in this universe) is attacked by the HYDRA Stomper, thereby making it clear that the one who has brainwashed Steve probably wants to bring SHIELD to its knees. This leads to a full-on fight between Peggy and Steve. Barnes tries to reason with Steve and fails. So, Peggy is left with no other option but to incapacitate Steve and take him to a discreet location—away from the eyes of SHIELD—with Natasha’s help.

Captain Carter, Black Widow, and Steve Rogers Face Melina Vostokoff

While examining Rogers, Natasha says that the HYDRA Stomper is the only thing that is keeping Rogers alive. Peggy says that they should take Tony Stark or Bruce Banner’s help to deal with this situation, but Natasha advises against it because as soon as they go for the obvious options, SHIELD is going to locate them and take Rogers away from them. Peggy says that, in that case, they should go to the Red Room because if that’s the place that has made Rogers the weapon that he is now, it should also have the cure. Natasha says that the place is so secretive that it’s impossible to find. Rogers wakes up and agrees to take them to the Red Room. It does seem like Rogers has regained some form of normalcy as he remembers some of the last, love-filled moments he shared with Peggy back in the day. That restores Peggy’s trust in Rogers, and they go with him to a Sokovian military base, which seems like one of those model towns made for testing nuclear or atom bombs.

However, sooner rather than later, the animatronic citizens of the town start shooting at Peggy and Rogers with darts that can electrocute their victims. Natasha, Peggy, and Rogers put up a great fight, but they succumb to the overwhelming firing of the robots. When they are at their lowest, the Red Room reveals itself to the trio, and they are greeted by Melina Vostokoff (the woman who made the serum that controlled the widows in the Black Widow movie) and her widows. She reverts Steve Rogers back into his “Winter Soldier” mode and reveals that everything has been a ruse (the ship and the assassination attempt on Bucky Barnes) to bring Captain Carter to a secluded location and make her a part of the Widow program. Melina says that Carter is an idol that the girls in Russia look up to her. So, if she can make her a part of her team, it’ll be a big win for her. Natasha and Peggy refuse to go down without a fight, thereby leading to a massive brawl that levels the fake Sokovian town.

Did Captain Carter save Steve Rogers?

The fight between the Widows, Melina, Steve, Peggy, and Natasha, is almost five minutes long. It’s probably one of the longest fight sequences that I have seen in an MCU property, and it’s utterly boring. Animated action sequences come with a sense of freedom that’s probably not possible in the live-action medium. However, the showrunners’ shallow sense of imagination and their adherence to a very stilted form of animation keep this whole set-piece from being truly memorable. The virtual lighting is good, but the character animation, the virtual camera angles, and the editing do not come together in a satisfying way. Anyway, during the concluding moments of the fight, Peggy says that she isn’t going to fight Steve anymore because she is tired of fighting. Natasha nearly gets choked to death by Melina. 

That’s when Steve decides to launch himself into the Red Room, thereby destroying the source of his trauma; a moment that’s similar to the ending of The Iron Giant. Natasha ties Melina to Steve, and she is hopefully killed in the explosion. At the end of What If? Season 2 episode 5, we see Peggy deciding to go on a self-appointed mission to find the missing Steve Rogers since his body wasn’t found in the aftermath of the Red Room explosion. Natasha decides to tag along. That said, before they can drive off into the distance, Peggy is sucked into a portal of sorts. When Peggy wakes up, she is confronted by a wizard version of Nick Fury and a version of the Scarlet Witch who has been credited as Wanda-Merlin. These two apparently believe that Peggy can save their “queen.” Who is this queen that they are talking about? Well, I’m not sure. Since there’s magic involved, it can be Frigga or Hela, as they are known for their witchcraft. We have to wait to find out all about it, even though that defeats the very purpose of a What If? show.

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Pramit Chatterjee
Pramit Chatterjee
Pramit loves to write about movies, television shows, short films, and basically anything that emerges from the world of entertainment. He occasionally talks to people, and judges them on the basis of their love for Edgar Wright, Ryan Gosling, Keanu Reeves, and the best television series ever made, Dark.

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