The second episode of the animated Marvel Studios and Disney+ collaboration What If…? hit the streaming service merging the worlds of Guardians and the Galaxy and Black Panther through the medium of King T’Challa. The late Chadwick Boseman (42) graces the small screen in an animated return to his role as T’Challa, albeit in this form an intergalactic prince of Wakanda taking on the role of Star-Lord.
Maintaining the humorous tone of the Guardians and the Galaxy franchise, the episode kicks off with a return to the first scene in Vol. 1, yet we see admiration being shown to the now-humble form of Star-Lord via the good graces of T’Challa. One of the various bridges the episode crosses is the establishment of Thanos as on the hero side versus his previous villainous incarnation within the live-action forms of the MCU. Apparently, the main villain of Phase Three could have just been neutralized when presented with a solid argument from T’Challa. Regardless, the episode explores the fractured but slowly repairing relationship between Thanos and his adopted daughter Nebula.
“What If…T’Challa Became a Star-Lord?” also marked the return of many MCU characters and their respective actors and actresses in addition to Boseman’s return to his role. Via voice roles, Josh Brolin (Sicario) reprises his role as Thanos, Kurt Russell (Tombstone) as Ego, Seth Green (Robot Chicken) as Howard the Duck, Ophelia Lovibond (Elementary) as Carina, Michael Rooker (The Walking Dead) as Yondu Udonta, Tom Vaughan-Lawlor (Love/Hate) as Ebony Maw, Carrie Coon (Fargo) as Proxima Midnight, Benicio Del Toro (The Usual Suspects) as The Collector, Karen Gillan (Doctor Who) as Nebula, John Kani (The Lion King) as T’Chaka, Sean Gunn (Gilmore Girls) as Kraglin, Chris Sullivan (This is Us) as Taserface, Danai Gurira (The Walking Dead) as Okoye, and Djimon Hounsou (Blood Diamond, Gladiator) as Korath the Pursuer.
The crux of the episode relies on the mistake of snagging T’Challa instead of Peter Quill at a young age at the hands of Yondu and the Ravagers. What started as a mistake leads to the ultimate successes and proclamation as heroes of the galaxies for the Galaxies as well as an adoptive father for T’Challa. The newly aligned family does rely on the notion that Yondu informs T’Challa that Wakanda was torn apart by war and therefore there is no reason for him to return. While this is a lie, it is a white lie in the eyes of Yondu as to remain with someone he respects and cherishes in addition to the good and rationale that T’Challa can provide towards the galaxy. Upon its reveal, T’Challa is visibly and emotionally upset with his adoptive father, but comes to reasoning by the episode’s conclusion for a trip home to Earth, in particular Wakanda.
What If…? continues to adjust the norm for the causal and even hardcore Marvel fans. For one, it was amazing to see another instance of Boseman returning to his role in a new and revamped format galactically. More importantly, it focuses on the concept of twisting and turning the preconceptions individuals carry about certain characters. In this episode, Thanos, Nebula, and the Collector all take on the idea of reversing their original roles, intentions, and motives. While the Captain Carter episode began this realization as to what there is to expect with the program, yet this episode blows the doors off by challenging the characterizations of multiple different film franchises and their own unique story worlds (see Drax’s return and his wife and children spared due to Thanos’ turn).
The episode maintains the humor-centric fashion of Guardians while also running wild with the juxtaposition of reactions and respect that T’Challa holds over other individuals within the MCU in comparison to Peter Quill. While the episode ends with a happy ending, it also proffers the idea of how timelines can flip the script on other characters as well…enter Ego into a Dairy Queen with a teenage Quill.