Spoiler Alert: This article contains spoilers for Episode 2 of What If...?.
While the first episode of Marvel’s What If…? sees a world without a Captain America, the second episode might be showing us the same thing, but in a different way. Episode 2 of What If…? ponders the question of what would happen if T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) was Star-Lord instead of Peter Quill. And boy, is it a doozy.
While T’Challa does a lot of good for the universe, especially by turning Thanos to the good side, he leaves a power vacuum ready to be occupied by a new villain: the Collector (Benicio del Toro).
We’ve met him before in Guardians of the Galaxy, and it’s clear he has a pull towards villainy, but he’s not nearly as powerful as he is in What If…?. In this version of the Collector, he actually has Captain America’s shield in his collection, but how did it get there?
The Collector has several familiar Easter eggs in his larger collection in ‘What If…?’ Episode 2.
In Episode 2 of What If…?, the Collector becomes the galaxy’s greatest villain since Thanos gets converted to the good side with T’Challa’s influence. So, the Collector takes over Thanos’s old henchmen, the Black Order, and is able to garner an even larger collection than what we see in Guardians of the Galaxy.
We see several living beings in his collection, and we even meet Howard the Duck (Seth Green), who tries to help T’Challa — until he sees the bar and detours off to get a drink. But he’s not the only interesting collectible. When the Collector and T’Challa are battling it out in the episode’s final scenes, he shows us a bit of his weaponry.
From there, he first pulls out a rocky fist from the carcass of a “terrible chatty Kronan.” Many avid MCU fans are already theorizing that that is Korg’s fist.
The second weapon he uses is a dagger forged of dark matter — which we first saw in the MCU being wielded by Malekith in Thor: The Dark World. The Collector’s final weapon he uses is Hela’s helmet and necrosword, deadly weapons first used by the literal Goddess of Death in Thor: Ragnarok.
But in the background, we can’t help but notice that the Collector also has Captain America’s shield, as well as Thor’s hammer Mjolner, in his possession. So what does this mean for this alternate reality? How did the Collector get ahold of these two very specific weapons and what does that have to do with T’Challa?
The Collector has relics from the Avengers in his collection, such as Captain America’s shield.
It’s odd to see such recognizable relics in the wrong hands, especially when we have no idea how they got there. But for every Marvel Easter egg, there’s an explanation — usually, although sometimes years later. In this case, we don’t know exactly how Cap’s shield got to the Collector in Knowhere, but we do have some theories.
Because T’Challa is able to convince Thanos not to vanish half of the galaxy’s population and is able to convert Thanos to the good side, this means that the Avengers may have never existed.
They formed in response to Loki coming down to Earth in Avengers, but who was Loki working for? Thanos. In addition, the superheroes and supervillain join back up together in order to defeat Thanos, but without a common enemy, there’s no reason to fight together in the first place.
Thor may have left Earth once he and Jane broke up, which would make him much more accessible for someone like the Collector. Not to mention, the Collector and the Grandmaster from Thor: Ragnarok are brothers. So it’s possible that Thor still ends up on the planet Sakaar, but the Collector and Grandmaster are much more powerful and fully aligned, which could be how he gets Mjolner.
The truth could just be the simplest explanation. Maybe the Collector gains so much power that he can actually defeat the Avengers. Or maybe Captain America is never brought back from his cryogenic state since there’s no need for the Avengers. If that’s the case, could the Collector have simply bought his shield off of the U.S. government?
If Captain America is woken up in this reality, perhaps he joins S.H.I.E.L.D. anyway without the Avengers. There are other galactic threats, but without the Avengers assembled, Captain America might have been much easier to defeat. Either way, the shield in the Collector’s possession proves that Episode 2 also takes place in a world without a Captain America.
New episodes of What If...? drop every Wednesday on Disney Plus.