Now that the next season of What If…? is announced and the Marvel Multiverse is in full swing, we return to the first season for a look at episode 2, where T’Challa became a favored Star-Lord.
In the next installment of What If…? there’s a favorable shift from the first. Diving into the more playful side of the character, Marvel celebrated T’Challa’s (voiced by the late great Chadwick Boseman) want to make the universe a better place by expanding his desire to learn all he can outside of Wakanda. It starts off as the movie, with T’Challa discouraged by King T’Chaka about the realities of the world. He stays confined in the protective barrier until his path changes because of his destiny; as The Watcher (Jeffery Wright) hints, it’s “a product of variables.”
Yondu’s (Michael Rooker) decision to leave an important assignment to his crew members leads to the abduction of young T’Challa and his path to becoming the Star-Lord of that universe. With his desire to explore and his royal demeanor, he quickly becomes well known in the universe for not sacrificing people over treasure and making good for those enduring hardships.
This was a bigger departure from the What If…? pilot where they took a safer, more linear approach to the theme – which is understandable when bringing in viewers but took out the punch of an opener. The T’Challa as Star-Lord variant combined the snappy humor of Ant-Man and Guardians with Black Panther‘s heart warming message of home, family, and belonging, making this episode stand out from the ‘by the book’ series opener.
In this episode, the writers could play and explore. With that freedom, they revisited characters that they introduced to you in the movies, giving them more of a voice to take part in the bigger picture and overall arc. All the characters worked together, never losing a beat or their quirks. The Collector’s (voiced by Benicio DelToro) campy and showboat nature got kicked up to a perfect 11. Even Nebula (voiced by Karen Gillan) had a solid arc in this version, resulting in her character having more agency and depth than in the films.
But I would be remiss of me not to mention that this was Chadwick Boseman’s last appearance of being T’Challa as a main character, and watching it with that knowledge was saddening. He was the soul of T’Challa, and listening to him blend his humor and wit to his character, to hear how much fun he was having, was a beautiful farewell gift honoring his memory and greatness.
I wondered why it wasn’t the very first episode, but after looking back, it was where it needed to be in the story line. It was the gateway to the over arching arc of the first season, full of humor and zaniness, that made the following episodes hit harder and prepare you for 2022 Marvel Multiverse madness.
So no matter if this is your first time watching or you’re returning to get ready for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, you can stream the episodes of What If…? on Disney+.
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