“What If…?” Episode 8 delivers Marvel fans to yet another alternate reality with “What If… Ultron Won?” The episode, which remixes the ending of “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” depicts a world in which that film’s titular villain successfully manages to transfer himself into the Vision’s body before subsequently nuking the entire planet.
Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Black Widow (Lake Bell) are the only members of the Avengers to survive the attack, and the episode follows the pair as they attempt to stop Ultron’s ongoing, post-apocalyptic rule by locating an AI version of Arnim Zola (Toby Young) that oversaw the Winter Soldier program in Siberia.
But just like in the mainstream Marvel Cinematic Universe, Clint Barton has a family in “What If…?” Episode 8, who are presumably killed in the episode’s nuclear apocalypse, which makes the archer feel pretty miserable in the episode’s cold, post-apocalyptic Siberian wasteland.
He even admits at one point to Natasha how tired he is of fighting, which isn’t all that surprising, given how poorly the character initially coped with his family being snapped out of existence at the end of “Avengers: Infinity War.”
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Thankfully, Hawkeye and Black Widow hatch a plan to defeat Ultron by infecting his network with Zola’s presence. Their plan goes surprisingly smoothly for a while too, but there’s one surprising moment towards the end of “What If…?” Episode 8 that makes no sense to Marvel fans.
Why does Hawkeye sacrifice himself?
Towards the end of “What If…?” Episode 8, Black Widow, Hawkeye, and their Zola-controlled Ultron drone are seen fleeing from a hive of pursuing Ultron sentries — a chase that climaxes when Clint sacrifices himself to save Natasha in a moment that parallels Black Widow’s death in “Avengers: Endgame.”
The archer willingly lets go of Natasha’s hand as they’re attempting to escape through a Siberian missile silo and, as he falls, he fires off an explosive arrow into the cluster of Ultron drones that are pursuing them. He’s killed in the blast, but Natasha and her Zola-controlled drone make it out alive.
While it’s understandable that Clint might be “tired” of their bleak world, his death in “What If…?” Episode 8 just seems excessive. He effectively abandons Natasha to handle Ultron by herself, and although she’s perfectly capable of doing that, his sacrifice also leaves her to live out the rest of her life in a post-apocalyptic world with only a Zola drone for company.
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The scene has baffled Marvel fans on Reddit, with u/callMEmrPICKLES writing, “I just don’t really understand why he sacrificed himself when he could have just fired that arrow without killing himself.” The Redditor then added, “I know he had lost his will to fight any longer, but they actually had a chance to stop Ultron and he just completely gave up.”
While the user did note that the episode sets up Clint’s self-sacrifice early on, writing, “I guess they were alluding to it earlier,” they still believe that “it just seemed like something he wouldn’t have done.”
All in all, it’s hard not to feel like Clint’s death in “What If…” Episode 8 simply could have been avoided.