Everyone’s other favorite Thor: Ragnarok villain, Hela (Cate Blanchett), gets her hands on the prize from Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings in the seventh episode of What If…? season 2. “What If… Hela Found the Ten Rings?” was written by Matthew Chauncey and directed by Bryan Andrews.

The Watcher (Jeffrey Wright) narrates that in a “campaign of fire and blood,” King Odin (Jeff Bergman) attempts to unite the Nine Realms under Asgard. Odin’s chief weapon? His own daughter, Hela, the Goddess of Death. The Watcher says that the branches of the world’s tree fell under their control. However, Hela wanted to conquer the entire cosmos. Because he couldn’t contain his daughter’s thirst for blood, Odin banished her to Hel.

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However, the Watcher explains that in this world, Hela’s influence inspired a different course of action. Hela laughs and says Odin wanting her to give up the battle is “rich.” She says that’s all he ever raised her to do. Hela says without a fight, she’s no one. However, when Hela throws Mojinir, Odin simply catches it. 

Odin says no god who has so little appreciation for life should have dominion over death. He shatters Mojinir. Odin says he is taking Hela’s power from her. He summons her helm to his hand. Hela protests but Heimdall (Idris Elba) activates the Bifrost. Odin casts Hela out of Asgard. To the helm, Odin says, “Whomsoever wears this helm, should she know mercy, shall possess the power of Hela.” Then, he hurls the helm into the Biforst after her. On Midgard, a fishing trip is interrupted by an object falling from the sky. The helm is discovered by Xu Wenwu (Feodor Chin) and his warriors. 

When Wenwu Met Hela 

The Watcher says Wenwu is about to discover someone more intriguing than rain that has fallen from the heavens. As Wenwu takes the helm, Hela approaches. Hela orders Wenwu and his men to bring her the crown. But Wenwu says he’s the only one who gives orders in these parts. Hela mocks Wenwu’s jewelry. She reveals she’s the Goddess of Death but Wenwu is indifferent. His soldiers attack her.

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Hela is shocked to learn she can bleed mortal blood. Nevertheless, she gains the upper hand over the attacking soldiers. However, that’s when Wenwu uses the Ten Rings to subdue Hela. She says she would be victorious if she had her helm. Wenwu tells her to show him. Soon, Hela stands before her helm. She says she can’t decide if Wenwu is brave or stupid. But she concludes he’s both.

But when Hela attempts to lift her helm, she finds she’s unable. Hela begs Odin not to do this to her. However, she still cannot lift the helm. Rather than execute her, Wenwu takes her prisoner. At his compound, Wenwu invites her to dinner. He even gives her a beautiful red dress. 

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Hela hopes he isn’t proposing marriage. Wenwu states he sees a fighter within her. He proposes an alliance. Hela shares that her father saw a fighter within her as well. But after nurturing that fighter, he called her a monster when her ambition outgrew his own. Hela predicts Wenwu will eventually do the same. Wenwu denies that he will do this. He is not her father.

What If… Hela Found the Ten Rings? 

Wenwu says the Ten Rings were a gift bestowed upon him. He says that he gives back to the world by protecting its people. Wenwu says his world is besieged by dangerous forces. Hela asks if she qualifies as a dangerous force. Wenwu says that while Odin may have feared the fight in her, he does not. He says that if they fight together, they can protect the world. Wenwu moves in to kiss Hela. However, Hela knocks him unconscious. 

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Hela attempts to remove the Ten Rings. They won’t budge. Wenwu’s guards arrive and Hela flees. Wenwu instructs them to keep her alive. As Hela attempts to flee the compound, she falls through the rough. Inside a darkened room, she finds Morris the Dijiang. Hela follows Morris to freedom. As they flee on a horse, Hela suggests heading north, where the people still honor Asgard. However, Morris seems to know of the location of an army ready to take up Hela’s cause. In fact, Hela and Morris seem able to communicate just fine.

Soon, Morris has led Hela to the enchanted forest maze outside Ta-Lo. When the wood begins to shift, Hela asserts that she hasn’t survived a thousand years of war to die by foliage. Fortunately, she and Morris make it through. But Morris and the horse abandon Hela as she is attacked by an unseen force. It’s one of the protectors of Ta-Lo.

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In Asgard, Heimdall realizes that Hela has moved beyond his view.

What If… Hela Visited Ta-Lo? 

In Ta-Lo, Hela is awed by phoenixes as she awakens. She finds herself surrounded by the protectors of Ta-Lo. Hela is addressed by Jiayi (Lauren Tom), who speaks for the Ta-Lo Elder Council. Jiayi says Morris has already filled them in. She continues that Ta-Lo is a borderland. They protect Earth from threats from the underworld. Threats like Hela.

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Hela assures Jiayi that she means no harm. She explains that her quarrel is with Wenwu and Odin. And also Frigga. Hela attempts to get the warriors of Ta-Lo to take up arms for her cause but they just stare at her. She asks Jiayi if any of these “threats from the underworld” might be looking for work. Jiayi says you can only fend off darkness with light, not more darkness. Hela says it’s a lovely sentiment. She asks if they can teach her their practice. 

The people of Ta-Lo remain skeptical. But Hela says there’s no better way to secure their mission than to recruit her to their cause. Jiayi tells Hela that when the sun reaches its zenith, Hela’s training will begin. A council member protests that Jiayi can’t be serious. But Jiayi says they have methods to ensure Hela won’t betray them.

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That’s when the Great Protector appears in the skies over Ta-Lo. “Message received,” says Hela. Meanwhile, in Asgard, Heimdall reports to Odin that Hela has moved beyond his view. Odin asks if she could be dead. Heimdall tells Odin that Wenwu is in possession of the powerful Ten Rings. Odin says that these capabilities on Earth mean their age of peace may be short-lived.

True Freedom 

In Ta-Lo, Hela observes a warrior manipulating flower petals. She says she’d like to learn that. However, she’d prefer knives, fire or blazing knives instead of flowers. But Jiayi tells Hela she’ll be sitting and practicing her power of breath. Hela knows how to fight. She must cultivate a mastery of her inner world.

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Soon, Hela and Jiayi sit and fold paper, the art of zhezhi. “Focus, unity, peace,” says Jiayi. “Only through them will you discover what you truly seek.” Hela hangs laundry, but protests. Jiayi begins to swirl the laundry around Hela. She asks why Hela seeks to learn their practice. Hela states that it is so she can take the Ten Rings from Wenwu and seek vengeance upon her father. She says this is so she can seize control of Asgard and continue her conquest across the universe.

Jiayi asks what Hela will do when all the realms across the universe have been conquered. Hela says that this is enough. But a flashback shows us young Hela (Liv Zamora) with puppy Garm. Odin chains the Hel-puppy. He says the King must tame his threats to ensure they fight for him.

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Jiayi asks what Hela hopes to find at the end of her conquest. Hela says, “Freedom. The freedom from control. The freedom to choose my own path.” Jiayi says she’s ready to begin. As the pair continue to train, Jiayi states that everything in life pertains to their practice. Finally, Hela has begun to grasp the lessons. Jiayi says when Hela begins to live the lessons, then she becomes a master.

What If… Hela Fought Odin? 

However, Hela’s training is interrupted by the distant arrival of Odin via the Bifrost. Hela dons Ta-Lo armor and arms herself with Ta-Lo weapons. Jiayi says Hela’s training isn’t complete. Hela says Odin terrorizes the countryside in her name. She says he seeks the Ten Rings. Hela says she must stop him. Jiayi says if Hela chooses this path, she walks alone. Hela says Odin chose her path for her long ago. “If I ever wish to be free to choose my own, then I must face him, with or without you,” says Hela.

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Hela arrives at the battle between the forces of Odin and the forces of Wenwu. Wenwu compliments her armor but says he misses the dress. Odin approaches and tells Hela that when she vanished from Heimdall’s view, they feared the worst. He instructs Hela to embrace him. Odin says he came to rescue her. But Hela asks if they’ve just come for the Ten Rings.

Odin says that Earth is too primitive for such power. He says Hela must join him in bringing Midgard under their protection. Hela refuses. She accuses Odin of throwing away his weapon, his own daughter, because he had secured his throne. Odin says she must have forgotten that he stripped her of her crown. But Hela says she’s not alone. Wenwu and Hela stand against Odin and Gungnir

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Hela quotes Jiayi and attacks Odin. Odin says he should have locked Hela away when he had the chance. Hela says he should have gone with his first instinct. She knocks Gungnir from his hands. However, he summons it again. Nevertheless, Hela and Wenwu continue to battle him. Odin almost gains the upper hand but Hela and Wenwu hold strong.

Hela Victorious 

Finally, Hela uses flaming knives to sufficiently distract Odin. She subverts his killing blow. Then, Wenwu punches him with the Ten Rings. Odin is incapacitated. Hela offers her hand, and says they can end the violence once and for all. Elsewhere, Hela’s helm vibrates. Odin rejects her offer of mercy and seizes Hela by the neck. “Since when does my daughter pass on the chance to end a life?” asks Odin. Hela says that Odin was right. “No god should have dominion over death that has so little appreciation over life.”

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Hela’s helm comes to life and flies to her head. Her power is restored. Odin is knocked aside. Wenwu is awed. Hela’s suit is now white instead of black. A giant explosion erupts. Hela seizes Gungnir. 

Kneeling before her, Odin says he sent her here to learn. Odin says in the end she eclipsed even him. He surrenders the throne to her. Hela says that only from there can she unmake his empire. When she’s finished, the universe will know freedom. Odin asks what has happened to his once-great executioner. Hela states that she gave peace a chance.

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The Watcher says that there, the armies of Earth and Asgard formed an alliance. He states that Hela built a cosmos-spanning empire not of conquerors, but of liberators. A young Gamora is rescued from Thanos by Hela, Wenwu and Morris. “Liberators whose campaign across the universe would prove even the darkest of hearts can come to know peace.”

The first seven episodes of What If…? season 2 are currently available for streaming on Disney+, with new episodes daily through December 30.

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