If you’re waiting to see one of your favorite heroes break bad, you’ll have to keep waiting. T’Challa as Star-Lord is a hero from the jump.
Episode 2 of What If…? shows what would have happened if Yondu (Michael Rooker) had delegated to his crew and they had accidentally picked up T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) instead of Peter Quill.
T’Challa does become the galactic outlaw known as Star-Lord, but instead of being a traditional criminal, he’s a Robin Hood-type that steals in order to help others.
The Watcher poses the question, “Is your destiny determined by your nature, or by the nature of your world?” Somehow T’Challa’s good nature perseveres, so much so that he influences Yondu and the other Ravagers to take up his cause.
Just like Episode 1, this episode captures the emotional core of its characters while launching them on a new adventure.
The episode lifts a few familiar beats from the first Guardians of the Galaxy, including Star-Lord stealing the orb from Morag and a run-in with The Collector (Benicio Del Toro). But in this story, Star-Lord teams up with Nebula (Karen Gillan) to steal the “Embers of Genesis,” a powerful substance that can terraform planets and could save populations from starving.
The actual mission of T’Challa stealing from The Collector feels like lower stakes than that of an MCU film, where it would end up being the B or C plot. This helps the story stay nimbler in its 30 minutes and leaves plenty of time for character-driven scenes in addition to action.
Chadwick Boseman is incredibly charming in the role, bringing every bit as much charisma to this animated version of T’Challa as he did in live-action. He clearly brought his passion for the character into the recording booth.
The episode takes on an extra layer of emotional resonance knowing that What If…? is Boseman’s last appearance as T’Challa, recorded before his tragic death. It’s another great performance of the character to live on in fans’ hearts and one that they will be happy to have experienced.
A Family Affair
Yondu and T’Challa have just as great chemistry as Yondu and Peter. It’s clear Yondu was always meant to have a surrogate son (though don’t worry, he lied to T’Challa too — this time about Wakanda being destroyed).
Seeing T’Challa as Star-Lord is interesting, but really it’s the effect he has on everyone around him that makes the episode such a great “What if…?” Turning the Ravagers into Robin Hood’s Merry Men is hilarious. These were always humorous characters, but remove their criminal element and they’re downright loveable.
Take for example Korath (Djimon Hounsou), who gets to fanboy over Star-Lord and join his crew instead of working as Ronan’s lackey.
Even Thanos (Josh Brolin), who joins the Ravagers after T’Challa convinces him the snap isn’t the only way to end inequality and scarcity, becomes somewhat heroic in the story. (I have to say, Marvel putting in an ongoing joke about whether Thanos’ plan was genocide is a bizarre and bold choice that could only work in this particular circumstance where it’s balanced out by T’Challa’s warmth).
Posing Nebula as a blonde femme fatale is inspired, and Gillan nails the role perfectly. Who else could pull off calling T’Challa, “Cha-Cha”? Her performance is second only to Boseman’s, and Nebula’s triple cross on the episode is so much fun to watch play out.
Animation wise this episode is much brighter and more colorful than the Captain Carter episode, pulling some of its style from the palette of the Guardians of the Galaxy film. The action sequences are solid and believe me the Black Order is just as terrifying in animated form as in their Avengers: Infinity War CGI.
Mission aside, this episode is about family, and ending the episode with T’Challa returning to Wakanda is a heartwarming reminder of how family can be many different things. T’Challa has two families, and he loves them both.
The final scene where Ego shows up for this multiverse’s Peter Quill means the doors are open for a sequel to this episode.
So far What If…? has stayed on the lighter side of storytelling, leaving some room to explore the darkness later in the season.
- Since Marvel has made it clear they don’t intend to recast Chadwick Boseman hopefully they still explore other characters from this version of Wakanda in future seasons of What If…?
- “Should we be bowing? I feel like we should be bowing,” feels like a nod to Bruce Banner in Avengers: Infinity War.
- If this is this multiverse’s version of Nebula, I am dying to see its version of Gamora (assuming she’s alive).
- Again the character design is on point with T’Challa’s purple Star-Lord jacket. Can’t wait to see those cosplays!
- Peter Quill working in a Dairy Queen is harsh but probably realistic. (Hey, at least it’s not Baskin-Robbins like Ant-Man).
What did you think of this episode? Let us know in the comments.
New episodes of What If…? premiere on Wednesdays on Disney Plus.