When young T’challa (Chadwick Boseman), Prince of the technologically advanced African nation of Wakanda, seeks to explore the world, he is abducted by an alien spacecraft helmed by Ravager Captain Yondu Udonta (Michael Rooker), due to a mix up when trying to find Peter Quill (Chris Pratt). Offering to show T’challa the entire Galaxy, Yondu takes the young prince under his wing, and together they reshape the entire galaxy. Now a man grown, T’challa goes by the name Star-Lord, a renowned intergalactic adventurer known for taking on dangerous missions, saving entire planets, and never backing down from a fight. And he does not travel alone; along with Yondu’s crew of ravages, including Kraglin (Sean Gunn), newly recruited fanboy Korath the Pursuer (Djimon Hounsou), and the reformed Mad Titan Thanos (Josh Brolin), he also calls on the help of the galaxy’s most infamous femme fatal, the luxuriously blonde adopted daughter of Thanos, Nebula (Karen Gillan).
When Nebula offers a job to T’challa and the Ravagers to steal an ancient artifact from the galaxy’s kingpin of crime, The Collector, they hatch a scheme to sneak into his museum past his guards, The Black Order. Everything seems to be going to plan until Nebula double crosses them, paying off a debt to The Collector with the capture of the famous Star-Lord. However, to the Ravagers’ surprise, Nebula reveals this was all a part of T’challa’s plan. As Nebula leads the Ravagers in their escape, along with the artifact, saving her Mad Titan father in the process and building a bond between them, Yondu races to T’challa’s aid as he fights The Collector. Stuffing him in one of his own display boxes, they manage to make their escape. Having saved the galaxy countless times, T’challa feels the pull of his home in Wakanda. Returning to Earth, T’challa introduces his royal family to his adopted galactic family.
What If…?’s second episode is a huge turn around from its previous Captain Carter season premiere. Unlike its first episode, this wasn’t trying to fit all of the same plot points of a film into a thirty minute retelling with just a few changes, but was a wholly new and original story, though still worthy of director James Gunn’s usual insanity. While it begins almost exactly like Guardians of the Galaxy, with Star-Lord on Morag, it quickly evolves into a comedic adventure starring the dashing galactic hero, T’challa.
There wasn’t a moment of this episode that I wasn’t laughing at the jokes or references or smiling because a galaxy with T’challa in it is genuinely a better place. Not only does he convince the Ravagers to become adventuring saviors instead of space pirates, or convince Thanos that there are better ways to allocate the universe’s resources than to cull half the population (everyone calling out Thanos’ genocide plan was the funniest running gag of the episode), but he even managed to save Drax’s (Dave Bautista) planet from a kree invasion, leaving him to be a happy family man and bartender. This was a fun episode where you knew everything was going to work out in the end and I was totally fine with that because it was just so much fun. It was truly worthy of the best and most exciting Saturday morning cartoons.
The only way this episode falls short is a missed opportunity for a special cameo. This episode was full of little references that were pure fan service, such as the Collector having all of the Avengers’ weapons and Hell’s stylish helmet, or Howard the Duck, but one Easter egg was missing; Stan Lee. Rumors abound that Marvel’s famed comics creator and “Generalissimo” had a different cameo than what was eventually seen in Guardians of the Galaxy. Instead of his appearance in the beginning of the film with Rocket and Groot, he was supposedly meant to actually be apart of The Collector’s collection, not as some alien species, but as Stan Lee himself. Whether this was rumor or fact, the idea has become so wide spread that it is genuinely surprising they didn’t add it into this episode.
The fact that so many of the original Guardians of the Galaxy cast returned to lend their voices to this episode was such a treat. Michael Rooker was expected, but imagine my surprise to hear Josh Brolin and Karen Gillan’s voices, especially as the variant characters they were.
But the obvious star (lord) of the episode was Chadwick Boseman, performing his role as T’challa for the last time after his sudden passing a year ago. Just like this episode, this T’challa wasn’t weighed down by the burdens of leading a kingdom, avenging his father, or facing the world’s systemic racism. He was fun and charming and all of the good things you want in a character. He may have even been too perfect, but it worked and I’m not complaining. I’m so glad that Chadwick Boseman was able to perform this fun character before his passing.
“Dedicated to our friend, our inspiration, and our hero, Chadwick Boseman.”