Each week, Darren from @darrenmoviereviews will be recapping the most recent episode(s) of What If…? and the show’s overall connection to the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe.
What If…? T’Challa rocked out to Awesome Mix Vol. 1 and became the coolest hero in all of the galaxy. The second episode of What If…? course corrects with an original story featuring an excellent episode from the late Chadwick Boseman, honouring the late star with a wonderful episode.
This week’s episode is the first of four episodes in the season to feature Boseman, and the episode is a wonderful tribute to an actor lost far too soon. Boseman’s voice performance is full of excitement, joy, and compassion, bringing to life a different version of T’Challa that we have previously seen in the MCU, while still keeping the character traits in place that has made T’Challa a fan favourite character. And while it was not easy to sit through the episode knowing that this is one of the last times we will have Boseman play this iconic character, the episode is the start to a beautiful sendoff to the character. The episode is a showcase for T’Challa supported by great animation and the musical score which repurposes part of Ludwig Gorranson’s Academy Award winning musical score from Black Panther, which gives the episode the artistic basis to create an engaging and emotional watch.
After the first episode largely retold the events of Captain America: The First Avenger, the second episode delivers an entirely new and exciting story. While the opening scene is similar to the Morag scene from the first Guardians of the Galaxy film, the rest of the episode is entirely original. It’s an exciting heist story that draws on elements of the Guardians of the Galaxy films, while also having lots of Marvel characters and Easter Eggs from other films appear. It’s pure ecstasy for die hard Marvel fans, delivering everything they wanted in the series premiere and more. However, the story also plays as a wonderful send off to Boseman’s T’Challa. One of the core themes of the episode is family, which allows for a sentimental personal arc for T’Challa. While the episode has a happy ending for his character, it carries parallels for Boseman in real life that is guaranteed to cause some waterworks for viewers.
And into spoiler territory we go. If you have not seen this week’s episode of What If…?, stop reading now. If you have, keep on reading to find out what we learnt in the season finale…
The episode opens on Morag with Star Lord seeking the Orb. But it’s not Peter Quill who is Star Lord. It is T’Challa. After finding the Orb, he is surrounded by Korath and his men. After T’Challa asks if they know who he is, something different happens: Korath immediately recognizes him as Star Lord and begins fan-boying out! While Korath says he could be convinced of a career change to work for T’Challa instead of Ronin the Accuser, Korath attempts to stop T’Challa. T’Challa, easily blocking all of Korath’s attack, knocks him out and disables all of Korath’s men with his device and easily leaves the temple with the Orb with Korath slung over his shoulders.
Outside the temple, T’Challa is surrounded by more of Korath’s men. After stating not once, but twice that he “never flies solo”, Yondu’s arrow appears and kills all of Korath’s men. They then leave Morag, with Yondu asking T’Challa who the man slung over his shoulder is? T’Challa’s response: a new recruit.
We then travel back in time to T’Challa as a young child in Wakanda. He is having a discussion with his father, saying that he knows there is more to the world than Wakanda and wants to see it. His father, knowing more about the world, recognizes that T’Challa has the heart of an explorer but tells him that there is nothing but pain and suffering outside Wakanda.
That evening, young T’Challa is exploring and leaves Wakanda. As he does, the Ravager ship lands on Earth to get Peter Quill for Ego. But instead of Yondu handling it himself, he sends Kraglin and Taserface. Naturally, they grab the wrong child, abducting T’Challa instead of Peter. Yondu questions whether T’Challa looks at all like Peter (surprise, they don’t), but Kraglin and Taserface explain that the cosmic readings were off the chart where they found T’Challa. T’Challa pipes up, saying that this is due to the presence of the vibranium meteorite that Wakanda is built on. Seeing something in T’Challa, Yondu asks why he was outside by himself. T’Challa tells Yondu that he was exploring the world. Yondu replies by saying that’s fun, but why stop at exploring the world when they can show T’Challa all of the worlds.
Flash forward twenty years, T’Challa and the Ravagers have landed at a nightclub. Aside from Yondu and Kraglin, their crew also contains Thanos, newly reformed after T’Challa used a good argument to convince Thanos not to destroy half the universe. Korath, still starstruck by T’Challa, keeps pestering him to disclose what his favourite heist has been so far to date.
T’Challa heads to the bar to get a drink. Drax, as bartender, says that the money T’Challa tries to use to pay for the drinks is no good here. T’Challa is confused but apologizes, but Drax clarifies it is because the bar only takes cash. Oh…Drax and his literalness. Drax then recognizes T’Challa as Star Lord and asks for a photo with him to send to his wife and daughter. T’Challa takes the photo with Drax, but before they can get a good looking one of T’Challa (because Drax is always good looking and cannot take a bad photo of himself), someone appears, looking for T’Challa: Nebula.
After calling T’Challa “Cha-Cha”, Nebula gets to the purpose of why she has sought out T’Challa. It’s not to reunite with her now reformed adoptive father, Thanos, because like T’Challa she won’t let go of the past. T’Challa reveals that as a young child Yondu tried to return T’Challa home to Wakanda, but it was destroyed by yet another senseless war. So he has made it his mission to save everyone else’s home. Nebula then tells T’Challa why she’s come to find him: she has a job for him.
The job: to steal the Embers of Genesis. The Embers of Genesis have the power to terraform entire ecosystems on a scale that has the power to grow enough sources of food and eradicate hunger throughout the galaxy. While Nebula explains the plan to everyone, T’Challa pushes her and Thanos to solve their familial problems through counselling. However, Nebula has no intention to go to counselling with Thanos. She continues with the plan and let’s them know where the Embers of Genesis currently are: in Taneleer Tivan’s collection. Yes, we’re going to Knowhere. Since Thano’s change of heart, Tivan has become the most dangerous individual in the galaxy, with the Black Order as his personal security. Yondu thinks that the mission is suicide, ending with him and his crew being dissected as a science project by Tivan, before being added to Tivan’s collection. Yondu is adminant that the Ravagers will not be helping Nebula on her job.
After hearing Nebula’s job proposal, T’Challa and Yondu have a one on one conversation. While Yondu admits that T’Challa is the soul of the ship, he is the captain and he will not accept such a dangerous job. Yondu says that they are like Robin Hood, stealing from the rich and giving to the poor, and this job does not align with that purpose. But T’Challa has a different view: he sees this job as a real opportunity to change the galaxy and that they have to do it. Clearly convincing Yondu with this view, Yondu admits he cannot say no to T’Challa and agrees to take on Nebula’s job.
Now that the Ravagers are in, Nebula unveils the full extent of her plan. She and Yondu will enter Tivan’s fortress with T’Challa concealed in a case which contains the Ord. Outside, the Ravagers with Thanos will cause a distraction drawing away the Black Order, giving T’Challa the chance to escape his hiding to search for the Embers of Genesis.
On Knowhere, the plan starts off well. Nebula and Yondu get into Tivan’s fortress without a hitch and the riot caused by Thaons and the Ravagers gives the distraction for T’Challa to slip out of his hiding spot and begin searching for the Embers of Genesis. During his search, he comes across Cosmo the Space Dog, a Dark Elf, and Howard the Duck in cages within Tivan’s collection. T’Challa asks Howards for directions to the Embers and breaks him out of his cage, only to be led to the bar by Howard. At the bar, Howard naturally stops for another drink, but at this moment the Black Order realizes that the riot is a diversion and activates the alarm within the fortress, causing the rooms inside to lockdown. T’Challa is forced to leave Howard behind and escape the bar to continue his search for the Embers of Genesis before the doors lock him in.
Now by himself, T’Challa’s Wakandan necklace begins to glow. As he walks further into the collection, he discovers a Wakanda aircraft which has activated his necklace. He enters the ship, and his presence triggers a video transmission. It’s a transmission from his father, still alive, asking for any information for T’Challa’s abduction. However, T’Challa is captured by the Black Order as Nebula has double crossed T’Challa and the Ravagers. Nebula brought T’Challa to Tivan to settle her debt with Tivan.
Stuck in a cell, T’Challa is upset at Yondu for lying to him about the destruction of Wakanda. However, Yondu says he did this because like him, T’Challa is an explorer, and that past is a prison that will hold him back. Yondu believes that T’Challa belongs up in space with the Ravagers, his true family. However, T’Challa is still hurting from the betrayal and tells Yondu they were never family. Before their conversation can continue, T’Challa is knocked out by the Black Order guards and taken from the cell.
T’Challa wakes up in one of Tivan’s glass cases. Tivan is in front of his case, apologizes for the awkwardness with Nebula betraying him. However, the conversation quickly turns sour after T’Challa expresses his disgust about Tivan putting people in cages, and Tivan orders T’Challa to be dissected and stripped for body parts.
Back in the jail cell, Nebula shows up, and while Yondu thinks she has come to gloat…that is not the case. Nebula turns on the Black Order and frees Yondu and the Ravagers. She then informs them that their being captured and T’Challa locked in Tivan’s case was all part of the plan she devised with T’Challa. It was all a distraction for Tivan to allow Nebula to steal the Embers of Genesis. However, she does admit she knew nothing of the Wakandan ship. While Yondu is glad to hear they were betrayed by Nebula, he asks her what T’Challa’s escape plan is? Her response: he has one close to his chest.
Using his Wakandan necklace, T’Challa smashes the glass on his case to escape. Ebony Man uses his powers, controlling the glass shards to bind T’Challa. However, Carina, Tivan’s servant, shoots Ebony Man with a blaster and frees T’Challa. She admits T’Challa inspired her when speaking against Tivan putting people in cages. Leaving Carina behind, T’Challa begins to escape through Tivan’s collection. However, while escaping, Tivan surprises T’Challa, punches him and knocks him to the ground. A fight breaks out between T’Challa and Tivan, with Tivan utilizing weapons such as a Kronan Arm, Hela’s helmet and darts, a dark matter knife from a Dark Elf, while choosing not to use Captain America’s shield and Mjölnir, which are part of his collection.
While being chased by the Black Order trying to escape Tivan’s fortress, Thanos stays behind to fend off the guards so Nebula and the Ravagers can escape safely. While his standoff against the Black Order begins successful, Thanos is quickly overpowered. As the guards attack him, his screams catch Nebula’s attention as she is beginning to board the Ravagers ship… As the Black Order is about to kill Thanos, Nebula returns and saves Thanos. She uses the Embers of Genesis, which causes plants to begin growing out of the ground at an alarming rate, helping them defeat the Black Order. However, the plants continue to grow and quickly take over Knowhere, forcing both Thanos and Nebula to board the Ravager ship and leave Yondu and T’Challa behind.
T’Challa and Tivan’s fight continues, but T’Challa is now not alone. Yondu shows up with his arrow to help T’Challa fight. Their plan: to use the sticky fingers routine. While going hand to hand with Tivan, Yondu swipes Tivan’s control bracelet without being detected. T’Challa then attacks, and as Tivan tries to stop him with his control bracelet he realizes that Yondu has swiped it. Therefore, T’Challa is able to force and lock Tivan in one of his cases. T’Challa then gives Carina the control bracelet, who uses it to free all of Tivan’s prisoners. The prisoners quickly converge around Tivan’s case, which Carina opens to get her revenge against Tivan.
As Knowhere is being overrun by plants, T’Challa and Yondu escape using the Wakandan ship in Tivan’s collection, along with Cosmo. While aboard the ship, Yondu tries to apologize to T’Challa for lying to him about Wakanda, but T’Challa says there is no need to. He admits he wanted to see the universe, and that’s exactly what Yondu gave him. He agrees with Yondu, that he belongs amongst the stars, but after learning the truth about Wakanda, he is not sure where he truly belongs. Yondu tells T’Challa, after watching him for years, that there is not a place where he does not belong. The question is where does T’Challa want himself to be, with Yondu’s advice being to follow his heart. T’Challa then opens up a holographic map of Earth…
The Ravager ships land on Earth, and T’Challa makes his way back to Wakanda. He walks into the Wakandan throne room with the Ravagers, and is finally reunited with his long lost family. This heartfelt reunion is followed by a feast celebrating T’Challa’s return home. The scene is full of MCU references, such as Thanos’s planned genocide and Kraglin and the negative effects of travelling through space using jump portals. But the scene moves to T’Challa, his parents and Yondu. And they want to know how T’Challa ended up on a spaceship. T’Challa responds saying that he was lost, but Yondu found him and took him in. And as the camera pans out, the Watcher’s voice over returns to close the episode saying that as one family reunion is happening on screen, another is happening at the same time…
We then cut down to a restaurant. It’s closed for the night and one of the employees is cleaning up. The employee is wearing a Walkman, jamming out to music. It is Peter Quill. However, he has a visitor. His father, Ego, has finally found him after Yondu failed to bring Peter to him twenty years ago. After introducing himself to Peter as his father, Ego’s eyes begin to glow. But the Watcher informs us that this is a story for another day.
And there we have it, the first part of Chadwick Boseman’s final performance. Much like the first episode, there are lots of references and nods to previous entries in the MCU, but no hints as to the MCU’s future other than the fact we may see an Ego and Peter Quill episode in the future. However, the Watcher has another tale in store for us next week. Don’t forget to check back for next week’s recap as I discuss what mischief Loki gets up to on Earth as the King of Asgard!