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…? Erik Killmonger saved Tony Stark from the terrorists in Afghanistan and the Iron Man suit was never created? This week’s episode of What If…? turns the spotlight to the fan favourite villain from Black Panther and explores Killmonger’s quest for power in another universe.
While I will never say no to more Michael B. Jordan and I enjoyed the majority of the Black Panther reprising their roles for this episode, this episode is easily the weakest episode of the season so far. Not to say that it was a bad episode, it was entertaining, but it was missing the hook that previous episodes had. I enjoyed Killmonger’s arc, but the story did not provide the episode with any stakes to capture the attention of viewers. We did not have the emotional hook of the Doctor Strange episode, the thrill of zombies that we had in last week’s episode, nor the excitement of seeing Hayley Atwell becoming the hero fans wanted her to be for years. Instead, we get a safe episode that retcons the first Iron Man film to some extent while mixing in elements of the Black Panther film in the second half. The episode does have some great action sequences that are enough to entertain viewers, but after the wonderful mind bending episodes of the past few weeks, I was expecting more from the episode.
With Jordan, Chadwick Boseman, Jon Favreau, Don Cheadle, Danai Gurira, Paul Bettany, Andy Serkis, Angela Bassett, John Kani and Leslie Bibb returning to their MCU roles, the episode is never for a second short of great voice performances. It’s hard to blame the show for this, as the episodes were planned and voice performances were recorded before Boseman’s passing, but watching this episode was hard. The story arc for T’Challa is not what fans want to see given his unfortunate passing last year, and makes for an incredibly hard watch at times. I respect the show runners for not changing his character’s outcome to maintain one of his final performances as T’Challa as they envisioned it, I just wish his character had a more optimistic outcome. But I’m sure that Boseman’s final appearance as T’Challa this season and forever will bring tears to fan’s eyes and give Boseman the farewell role he deserves before paying tribute to him in next year’s Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.
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 this week’s episode…
The episode opens with Iron Man in the funvee, as it is attacked by the Ten Rings terrorist group. However, Killmonger shows up and saves Tony from the terrorists, therefore preventing Tony from being held captive in the cage and creating the Iron Man suit.
After rescuing Tony, Tony names Killmonger as the new Chief Security Officer for Stark Industries at a press conference, much to Happy’s disappointment. With intrepid reporter Christine Everhart in the crowd, she questions Killmonger as to why he was so far away from his unit, which was stationed thousands of miles away? Killmonger tells Christine and the rest of the reporters that he had uncovered plans that Obadiah Stane financed and organized the plan for Tony to be kidnapped, and Killmonger releases the documents proving Obadiah’s involvement online. Seeing the truth, Happy knocks Obadiah out and he is then taken away by the authorities.
Later that night at Tony’s mansion, Tony is hosting a party celebrating his return. Tony tells Killmonger that the two of them will be like Butch and Sundance, after Tony asks Kilmonger to become the new COO for Stark Industries. However, Pepper is uneasy about Killmonger’s appearance in Afghanistan and his intentions. She meets with Rhodey at the party and receives the background check she requested on Killmonger. Rhodey’s background check discovers nothing unexpected by the audience: Killmonger’s father’s death, his military background, and the fact that he is an assassin. However, Pepper is certain that Killmonger wants something from Tony, as everyone wants something from Tony, and she is determined to find out what it is.
Down in the car garage, Tony and Killmonger are admiring Tony’s fleet of vehicles. Killmonger reveals to Tony that his father was killed by gang violence when he was young. Killmonger then asks for Tony’s help on a project entitled Project Liberator. He then pulls up schematics showing a large Iron Man-esque suit similar to what Obadiah created in the original Iron Man film. Tony and Killmonger then begin building the suit in a building montage sequence. Tony and Killmonger realize they have a power source problem after creating the suit, and Tony immediately disregards minituarizing an arc reactor to power the suit! (Take that Iron Man fans!) Killmonger has another idea for a power source: vibranium. Tony agrees that vibranium would be an excellent power source, but he says that his father got the last source and used it to create Captain America’s shield. Killmonger reveals to Tony that there are still sources of vibranium on Earth, and Tony suggests that Ulysses Klaue could help them obtain some. But Pepper and Killmonger are against the idea of Tony meeting with Klaue, so Tony sends Rhodey to meet with Klaue to get the vibranium.
Rhodey meets with Klaue on the coast of Africa, in an abandoned ship, one that Marvel fans will recognize from Avengers: Age of Ultron. Rhodey begins his meeting with Klaue, who has a Dora Milaje vibranium arrow, but Klaue sees that they have an unwelcome guest. Black Panther drops from the ceiling of the ship, tells Rhodey that his conflict is not with him before making his move on Klaue and his men to reclaim the vibranium for Wakanda. But Killmonger expected this and uses his sonic blasters (akin to what Obadiah used in the original Iron Man film) to take out T’Challa and take the vibranium for himself. While doing so, Killmonger kills both T’Challa and Rhodey. Before delivering the death blow to Rhodey, Rhodey asks why Killmonger is doing this, to which Killmonger says that you have to be a part of the system to burn it to the ground.
Killmonger escorts Rhodey’s body back to the United States, while T’Challa’s body is taken back to Wakanda. While Killmonger is at Tony’s mansion, J.A.R.V.I.S. recreates Rhodey’s death and figures out that Killmonger had to have killed him, and locks down the mansion. But Killmonger melts down the vibranium he stole to power Project Liberator. J.A.R.V.I.S. has robots attack Killmonger, but in the Project Liberator suit, Killmonger easily defeats them and uses a Wakandan spear to kill Tony. With his dying breath, Tony tells Killmonger that he thought they were brothers, while Killmonger reveals that Tony was not able to see the difference between them.
Since Tony was killed by a Wakandan spear, General Ross believes that the Wakandans are behind Tony’s death. Killmonger wiped J.A.R.V.I.S.’s system so there is no video recording of him killing Tony, to place the blame on the Wakandans. While Pepper suggests that Killmonger is involved to General Ross, Ross ignores her and takes control of Stark Industries. He orders that Project Liberator be upgraded and sends Killmonger with troops to Wakanda. En route to Wakanda, Klaue joins Killmonger and his men.
Outside the forcefield to Wakanda, Killmonger turns on the troops and Klaue and kills them. He then carries Klaue’s body into Wakanda to show loyalty to the Wakandans by avenging T’Challa’s death. After being taken to the throne room, Killmonger reveals his royal ancestry to King T’Chaka. He tells his uncle that he has spent his entire life searching for his home, to which his uncle welcomes him with open arms and tells Killmonger that he is now home. But Killmonger says they do not have time to celebrate as an army approaches Wakanda. Killmonger pulls up footage of the army of robots advancing on Wakanda and tells the Wakandans that he can help defeat the army by disconnecting the robots from J.A.R.V.I.S.’s system so that they can be destroyed.
That night, the robot army has reached the border of Wakanda. Killmonger tells King T’Chaka that they have to let the robots in so that the robots can be disconnected from J.A.R.V.I.S.’s system. Shuri questions her father about this, but he tells her that he trusts Killmonger as he is family. The shields are let down, allowing the robots to enter Wakanda. Once inside, T’Chaka orders that the shields be raised, which cuts off the robots communications with J.A.R.V.I.S.’s system and disconnects them. But Killmonger has another plan up his sleeve. He uses a remote control to repower the robot army. Killmonger and the Wakanada army then attack the robot army to defend Wakanda, with Killmonger entering the fight by exclaiming “Wakanda forever”, which is guaranteed to be a knife in the heart for any big MCU fan. By the end of the fight, Killmonger and the Wakandan army defeat the robots, cementing Killmonger’s loyalty to Wakanda.
The next morning, Killmonger is watching the Wakandan sunrise that his father told him about growing up. He is joined by King T’Chaka. Killmonger tells T’Chaka that he wishes he could share this view with his brothers and sisters around the world. T’Chaka then offers Killmonger the heart-shaped herb, passing on the powers and mantle of the Black Panther to him.
After taking the herb, Killmonger is transported to the Ancestral Plane. There, he meets with T’Challa’s spirit who asks Killmonger if everything he has done was worth it? Killmonger tells T’Challa that it was worth it, but T’Challa says for what: a throne? Killmonger tells T’Challa that he did it for vengeance for his father and all his brothers and sisters around the world who have suffered oppression while accusing T’Challa of doing nothing to help them. T’Challa says that Killmonger believes that the answer to suffering is more suffering, but Killmonger thinks it is power. T’Challa then warns Killmonger that power unearned can be very volatile, and that it will eventually get the best of him.
Back in the United States, General Ross is continuing his preparation to attack Wakanda to avenge Tony and Rhodey’s death. Pepper continues to object, knowing that Killmonger is involved somehow. However, General Ross shrugs her off and she returns to her office. There, she finds a visitor waiting for her: Shuri. Shuri has brought Pepper a report on Killmonger, proving his connection in the death of T’Challa, Rhodey and Tony. Shuri wants to work with Pepper to make the world see what Killmonger has done, forging a new bond. However, this is where the episode ends with the Watcher’s voiceover closing the episode saying that heroes are never truly gone, but that they live on in those they inspire to carry on the fight.
With only three episodes left in this season of What If…?, I’m excited to see what the showrunners have in store next. While the episodes have been fairly unrelated, there is a larger plan at play and I cannot wait to see how they tie it all together and its effect on the future of the MCU. Will the Watcher finally interfere in the events and alter the timeline? When will Captain Carter show up next? Don’t miss my next recap of What If…? to find out the answer to these questions and what mind bending events occur in the next episode.