Editor’s note: The below contains spoilers for What If…? Season 2, Episode 7.
The Big Picture
- Hela and Wenwu form an unlikely alliance and share a spark of romance in What If…? Season 2, Episode 7.
- Hela undergoes a transformation in her goals, realizing she wants freedom and the ability to choose her own path.
- Hela and Wenwu join forces, becoming liberators for the oppressed across the universe and potentially preventing the rise of Thanos.
While there are certainly many ways to be happy in love, one way to earn that happily ever after is a common interest with your partner. A sport, a hobby, immortality, and a thirst for power. You know, couple stuff. And while What If…? Season 2, Episode 7 “What If…Hela Found the Ten Rings?” isn’t exactly suggesting that Hela (Cate Blanchett) and Wenwu (Feodor Chin) are actually a full-on couple, there’s enough going on in this delightfully bizarre mash-up that it has us looking with definite interest.
Based on the Marvel Comics series of the same name, this animated anthology looks at alternate timelines in the multiverse that would happen if specific moments in the MCU occurred differently.
- Release Date
- August 11, 2021
- A. C. Bradley
- Streaming Service(s)
What Is ‘What If…?’ Season 2 Episode 7 About?
The Watcher (Jeffrey Wright) begins this story after Odin’s (Jeff Bergman) conquest of the Nine Realms, with his firstborn daughter Hela at his side. Hela isn’t content to stop there and wants to branch out to the entire cosmos, but Odin condescendingly tells her that the number of worlds he wanted her to help him conquer was exactly the right number, and anything beyond that is unreasonable and selfish.
Unlike in Thor: Ragnarok, Odin chooses not to imprison Hela for daring to have things like opinions, ambition, and hobbies. She rightly points out that she’s been raised to fight, so for him to ask her to stop now is ludicrous. Her attempt to use Mjölnir on him fails, and Odin crushes the mighty hammer to pieces, stripping Hela of her power as punishment for her bloodthirstiness before casting her out. He places a similar spell on her helmet that he did on Mjölnir in the first Thor, granting her powers to anyone who shows the right amount of mercy. The helmet crashes in the mountains of China, where Wenwu and his men find them.
But Hela is not about to let a sexy man with ten superpowered bangles make off with her helmet, and orders Wenwu’s men to retrieve it for her. Wenwu doesn’t care for her trying to order his men around and the two of them circle each other, exchanging barbs in the rain — fodder for all the best ships to set sail — before Hela has enough and declares herself the goddess of death, to no avail. A similar failed attempt to stop Wenwu’s men with her now-nonexistent powers does nothing but get her punched in the face. She plays the defenseless woman card and gets the guards to lower their defenses long enough that she can try to stop them the mortal way, as annoying as she finds this whole business. Wenwu finally stops her from using the Ten Rings, and Hela does not take well to being forced to kneel, angrily telling Wenwu that if she had her helmet, their positions would be reversed.
Either because he doesn’t believe her, or because this is what passes for foreplay among those with otherworldly objects of power, he humors her and allows her to retrieve it — or at least, to try and retrieve it. Like Mjölnir in another timeline, she’s unable to retrieve her helmet, and Wenwu takes her into custody. Unlike Thor in that timeline, she’s not stuck in a sterile cell but instead invited to Wenwu’s rooms for dinner. It seems he’s intrigued by her, even as she failed to orchestrate his doom as promised. He even gives her a gorgeous new dress to wear and is absolutely speechless once she slips it on. (This feels as good as time as any to say that if you know a romance novel with these exact vibes, I am all ears.)
Hela observes that the dress’s red color means it won’t stain once she kills Wenwu, but there isn’t much venom in the statement. Wenwu counters that red is a lucky color, with some brides even choosing to wear it on their wedding day. Hela is alarmed, but Wenwu is quick to say what he’s proposing is not marriage, but an alliance (same thing, really), because he admires her fighting spirit. Hela bristles at this: it was the same thing Odin saw in her and exploited, the same thing that then got her kicked out of Asgard. Wenwu assures her that he is not like her father (but keep looking at her like that, and she might let you be her daddy).
Hela and Wenwu Share a Spark of Romance in ‘What If…?’ Season 2 Episode 7
He shows her around his compound, explaining that he uses the Ten Rings to protect the world from dangerous forces. When Hela assumes he considers her one of those dangerous forces too, Wenwu instead takes her hand so gently, Hela utters a sound that can only be described as an italicized oh. He asks her to fight alongside him, to help him protect the world. He cups her cheek and leans in, about to take this episode into full-blown romance novel territory, when Hela fakes out and slams his head on the table instead — because we romance fans can’t have nice things in genres other than our own.
The sound obviously alerts the guards, who barge in before Hela can take the Ten Rings off Wenwu’s arms, so she makes a run for it instead. Wenwu orders them to bring her back alive and doesn’t even sound that mad about it, because getting his head repeatedly slammed into a table is apparently not a dealbreaker. Hela flees across the rooftops and gets a decent headstart until some tiles give way, and she falls into an empty room. She’s not alone though, as she’s quickly found by an adorable Dijiang (named Morris in Shang-Chi) who communicates to her that he knows a way out. The two of them escape Wenwu’s compound on horseback and take off into the night. Hela decides they’re going to ride all the way to the Norse country, a trip that will take several years, until the Dijiang tells her he knows of some people not a several-years-long journey away that might take up her cause instead.
The Dijiang leads her to the entrance to Ta Lo, a village protected by a magical forest of bamboo trees that part to let Hela enter. That’s a trap though, as the trees immediately try to close around her, forcing Hela to race through the path and emerge on the outskirts of the village, which has such extraordinary magical properties that she’s fallen out of Heimdall’s (Idris Elba) view. She is immediately attacked by a woman whose magic lets her wield the plants around her, and soon wakes up in front of the assembled villagers. The woman introduces herself as Jiayi (Lauren Tom), and tells Hela — who is surprised that anyone on Earth still has magic at all — that they serve as protection for the people of Earth against the threats of the Underworld. She assures them she isn’t there to cause them any trouble, but instead just wants to get back at Wenwu (and Odin…and Odin’s new girlfriend Frigga), and is willing to recruit the threats of the Underworld if the people of Ta Lo don’t want to help.
Jiayi tells Hela that darkness cannot be defeated with more darkness, only with light, so Hela spins that to her advantage and asks Jiayi to train her in the ways of the light. After all, who better to recruit in the fight against the underworld than the goddess of death herself? The rest of the villagers seem skeptical, but Jiayi is less so, casually threatening Hela with a flying dragon. As you do.
On Asgard, Heimdall goes to Odin to tell him he’s lost sight of Hela. Odin wonders if she’s dead, and Heimdall tells him about the Ten Rings in Wenwu’s possession, saying they even have the power to kill a god. Odin, forgets that he stripped Hela of all her powers and made her functionally mortal (so she could have died from literally anything), and decides that once again his ambition for power is the only one allowed to stand, and resolves that the owner of the Ten Rings must be stopped. Why does this feel less about his daughter and more about the threat to his power?
Back in Ta Lo, Jiayi takes Hela to a rocky little outcropping, and orders the goddess of death to simply sit there and practice her breathing techniques — so much for Hela’s hopes of learning to levitate several blazing knives. Like every brash apprentice in every story ever told, Hela chafes at the task. Her training with Jiayi also includes things like paper folding, and laundry, pushing Hela to the breaking point until Jiayi finally presses her to admit why she wants to learn their practice at all. What is the point of all the fighting, the conquering, the destruction? She gets into Hela’s head, until the goddess is forced to remember an instance from her childhood, where her father took her beloved dog away, chaining him to keep him tamed, much like he did with Hela and her helmet shortly after.
Hela realizes what she wants is not more conquest or vengeance, but simply the freedom to choose her own path, free of the chains and restrictions Odin has placed on her. With this new perspective on her goals, Jiayi declares Hela ready to learn at last. Training goes well until a telltale flash of light on the horizon heralds Odin’s arrival. Hela arms herself to face him, telling Jiayi she won’t let her father terrorize others in her name, and that he’s come looking for the Ten Rings. Jiayi tells her the people of Ta Lo are not warriors and if she chooses to go and fight, she will do so alone. Hela sees no way off the path Odin chose for her, except to go now and face him, and so she returns to Wenwu’s compound to find the place in the throes of battle
Hela Fights Odin in ‘What If…?’ Season 2 Episode 7
Wenwu lights up immediately when he sees her, proving that when the heart’s involved, there’s no situation too deadly or otherworldly to prevent a little light banter. Together, the two fight off their attackers until they’re left facing only Odin. He urges his daughter to join him once again, faking worries over her safety after she disappeared from Heimdall’s view. She accuses him of only wanting the Rings, which he says don’t belong in the hands of humans anyway — confirming her assumption that yes, that was all he cared about. He offers her the chance to help him bring Midgard under their “protection” (read: control) which she turns down at once. Odin doesn’t react well to being told no, and tells Hela she’s nothing without the power he stripped from her. He attacks Wenwu and Hela, who true to Jiayi’s teachings, uses light to repel Odin’s darkness. Wenwu might not have been there for the lessons, but he’s a fast learner, and seems pretty willing to follow Hela’s lead (also, isn’t love a lightness all its own, if you think about it?).
Hela saves Wenwu from nearly being blown to pieces by Odin, and even gets the chance to wield blazing knives. Odin’s attempts to get control of the Ten Rings fail, and he is disarmed and left at Hela’s mercy. She implores him to end the fighting, and this merciful act is enough to wake up her helmet from where it has lain stuck in the dirt. Odin is enraged that Hela is no longer bloodthirsty, something he actively faulted her for not long ago. But in her time on Earth, she finds she has gained an appreciation for life.
Her helmet returns to her, her red battle armor changing to a blazing white version of her Asgardian armor. Odin offers her his throne, and she agrees to take it if only to undo all the damage Odin has done in his campaign of conquest. Together, she and Wenwu form an alliance that spans the cosmos, acting as liberators for the oppressed across the universe, and while that might sound super loaded, it also looks like they nipped that Thanos mess in the bud, so for the best, perhaps. And nowhere did The Watcher say the two of them didn’t get together, so I know what I choose to believe.
The first seven episodes of What If…? are streaming now on Disney+.
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