Howard Stark talking to Bucky Barnes over the headset

Did This One Scene in ‘Marvel’s What If…?’ Change the Course of Tony Stark’s History?

The second season of Marvel’s What If…? is here and it might have changed Tony Stark’s life forever. And all it took was one caring moment from Howard Stark (John Slattery), which might have saved his life.

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In season 2 episode 2, “What If … Peter Quill Attacked Earth’s Mightiest Heroes?”, Howard and Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) assemble their own team of Avengers. The team was built to fight Peter Quill, who was in league with his planet dad Ego. At one point, Bucky is programmed to take out Peter no matter the cost by someone who is not Howard or Peggy. Howard steps in and talks Bucky down, saving Peter’s life.

This moment is important to the episode because Peter Quill is just a kid who misses his mom and who has been lied to by Ego. But it is also important if you know the history of Bucky Barnes and Howard Stark (and by extension, Maria Stark). The episode takes place in the late ’80s, where in a few short years in the main timeline, Howard and Maria would die at the hands of the Winter Soldier and leave their son, Tony Stark, an orphan.

This one scene where Howard Stark breaks Bucky out of his programming and clears his mind? That could have just saved his life on December 16, 1991. And it would have changed the entire trajectory of Tony Stark’s life.

The history of Howard Stark and Bucky Barnes

Bucky Barnes with a gun

In the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s main timeline, Howard and Maria die in a car crash. In Captain America: Civil War, we all learned (along with Tony) that they were murdered by Bucky Barnes/the Winter Soldier. This revelation was the catalyst for Steve and Tony fighting one another at the HYDRA facility in Siberia. Tony is desperate to avenge his parents, while Steve is trying to protect his brainwashed friend.

The history between Howard and Bucky goes further back than that fated night. They met back during World War II when Steve was working with Peggy and Howard. He also did recognize Bucky in the footage we see, so there are many reasons why Howard knows the Winter Soldier.

All this is to explain the live-action reasons why Howard and Bucky are connected and why Tony did not take kindly to what happened in Civil War. Now, back to What If…?.

Seeing Howard break Bucky out of his programming means a lot because it changes the future for Tony Stark. Who would Tony be if he still had his parents? Would the world even need Iron Man? Not only do I want to return to the ’80s to see that team again, but now I want to see what the life of that Stark family would be like.

Hopefully, these versions of Howard and Maria don’t suffer the same fate. At least for their Tony.

(featured image: Disney+)

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Rachel Leishman
Rachel Leishman (She/Her) is an Assistant Editor at the Mary Sue. She's been a writer professionally since 2016 but was always obsessed with movies and television and writing about them growing up. A lover of Spider-Man and Wanda Maximoff's biggest defender, she has interests in all things nerdy and a cat named Benjamin Wyatt the cat. If you want to talk classic rock music or all things Harrison Ford, she's your girl but her interests span far and wide. Yes, she knows she looks like Florence Pugh. She has multiple podcasts, normally has opinions on any bit of pop culture, and can tell you can actors entire filmography off the top of her head. Her current obsession is Glen Powell's dog, Brisket. Her work at the Mary Sue often includes Star Wars, Marvel, DC, movie reviews, and interviews.