The eighth episode of Marvel's What If...? debuted on Wednesday, bringing the penultimate installment in the first season's wide-ranging journey. The series has already introduced a number of recognizable alternate universes and elements from the comics, from Marvel Zombies to Peggy Carter being a super soldier. A blink-and-you'll-miss-it moment in the series' most recent episode added to that lore in a whole new way, introducing an event that comic fans might recognize. Spoilers for Episode of What If...?, "What If... Ultron Won?", below! Only look if you want to know!
The episode follows a reality where Ultron (Ross Marquand) succeeded in turning The Vision into his perfect vessel, allowing him to take over the universe. That proved to not be enough for the robot, as he gained a level of sentience that allowed him to discover — and fight — The Watcher (Jeffrey Wright). The pair began to battle across the multiverse, and Ultron used the Infinity Stones to transport them in and out of various universes. One included an alternate version of Times Square, which was broadcasting footage of Steve Rogers / Captain America (Josh Keaton) being sworn in as President of the United States.
This pays homage to two key moments in the comics, the first being 1981's What If...? #26. In that issue, Steve Rogers wins the presidency as a candidate of the New Populist Party, and proceeds to publicly reveal his identity and provide the country and its allies with unlimited solar energy. That latter decision leads to "President America" being thrown into a trap by Red Skull in the country of San Pedro, which ultimately ends in his death.
Steve Rogers later became president again in the Ultimate universe, after he was written in as a candidate during a recall election. He remained president up until an incident at the J-RICE Orbital Energy Platform, which led to him resigning.
While Steve Rogers becoming president only barely factors into this week's What If...?, it not only manages to be a clever nod to one of the comic's most memorable issues and premises, but it opens a can of worms regarding that potential universe. The Ultimates comics universe was undoubtedly controversial among fans (and arguably already served as the foundation for the way the Marvel Cinematic Universe was established), but fans have wondered if we could see it realized onscreen in some capacity. Whether or not that will be the case remains to be seen.
New episodes of What If...? debut on Wednesdays exclusively on Disney+.