WHAT IF…? S1E2 “What If…T’Challa Became a Star-Lord?”

In less than two weeks, it will be the one year anniversary of the tragic passing of actor Chadwick Boseman. So this week’s episode of What If…? featuring Boseman’s final performance as T’Challa will likely resonate quite deeply for many.

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Credit: Disney/Marvel

“Is your destiny determined by your nature, or by the nature of your world?” That’s the question pondered by Uatu the Watcher (Jeffrey Wright) in the latest What If…? episode that begins with a familiar scene at Morag with Star-Lord retrieving the Orb (in actuality the Power Stone). When once again confronted by Korath (Djimon Hounsou) and Sakaarans, Star-Lord reveals himself to be T’Challa, causing Korath to fanboy out, a reaction T’Challa (or the audience for that matter) was not expecting.

While Peter Quill barely made a name for himself as Star-Lord by the beginning of Guardians of the Galaxy, apparently T’Challa has actually become a “legendary outlaw” by “stealing from the powerful and giving to the powerless.” After making quick work of Korath and giving him a fighting lesson in the process, T’Challa makes his escape aided by the timely arrival of Yondu (Michael Rooker) and adds Korath to their team of Ravagers.

A flashback reveals exactly how the Wakandan prince found himself in space. It seems that Yondu outsourced the assignment to pick up Ego’s child on Earth to his subordinates, who mistook a young T’Challa for Peter Quill. Microaggression aside, it’s completely understandable for aliens to think Earthlings all look alike since even Drax was under the impression Yondu was Peter Quill’s biological father, and it’s somewhat understandable for aliens to make this mistake. It seems T’Challa would rather stay with the Ravagers and explore the universe instead of returning remaining trapped in his home of Wakanda as decreed by his father T’Chaka (John Kani). Unfortunately, T’Challa eventually learns from Yondu in his absence that Wakanda has been destroyed.

Back in the present, T’Challa gets some hang time in Contraxia with the Ravagers including Kraglin (Sean Gunn), Taserface (Chris Sullivan), and…Thanos?!?!!? Yes, it seems T’Challa was able to reform the Mad Titan (once again played by Josh Brolin) and convinced him there was “more than one way to reallocate the universe’s resources.” Apparently Thanos isn’t on social media.

After a quick selfie with bartender Drax, T’Challa encounters his old flame Nebula (Karen Gillan), sans cyborg implants and now sporting blonde hair. Nebula has a job for T’Challa (or Cha-Cha as she affectionately calls him) to steal the Embers of Genesis, cosmic dust able to terraform entire ecosystems. Unfortunately, the Embers are in the possession of the kingpin of the intergalactic underworld Taneleer Tivan a.k.a. The Collector (Benicio Del Toro).

The Ravagers plan a heist with almost as many twists and turns as the memorable Ricky and Morty “One Crew over the Crewcoo’s Morty” episode. With The Collector’s security and former Thanos henchmen the Black Order distracted, T’Challa searches The Collector’s museum on Knowhere for the Embers.

Unable to find his way, T’Challa frees and recruits Howard the Duck (Seth Green) to give him the museum guided tour. However along the way T’Challa discovers a Wakandan Talon fighter, revealing not only is Wakanda still intact but his father has been sending messages to the stars hoping to find his lost son.

The Ravagers are doubled crossed by Nebula and taken prisoner, where T’Challa confronts Yondu for his deceiving him. T’Challa is then taken to be placed in The Collector’s museum, but upon discovering that he has no special abilities The Collectors opts to have Squidward Ebony Maw dissect him.

However, it turns out Nebula is a “triple agent” and manages to free the Ravagers and steal the Embers at the same time. T’Challa also is able to escape, thanks in small part to the assistance of The Collector’s slave (or prisoner with a job as The Grandmaster prefers) Carina (Ophelia Lovibond).

While the Ravagers make their way out of Knowhere with Thanos confronting his former henchmen the Black Order, T’Challa is forced to face off with The Collector and his arsenal of weapons including a gauntlet hacked off a talkative Kronan (KORG!!!!), a dagger forged in dark matter from the Dark Elf Malekith, and Hela’s crown allowing him to generate necroswords. Just when The Collector is about to kill T’Challa, Yondu arrives to once again save his surrogate son.

Credit: Disney/Marvel

Nebula also saves her father Thanos by forcing Cull Obsidian to ingest some of the Embers of Genesis, causing vegetation to sprout all over Knowhere. Meanwhile, T’Challa and Yondu defeat The Collector and leave him to face punishment at the hands of Carina and the rest of his former slaves.

Realizing he’s been away from home long enough, T’Challa returns to Wakanda to reunite with his family and brings his Ravager family along with him (as well as Cosmo the Spacedog who stowed away). We then witness yet another family reunion, this time at a Dairy Queen in Missouri where employee Peter Quill is visited by his father Ego (Kurt Russell) which spells doom for the world but Uatu teases that this is a story for another day, or perhaps Season 2.

“What If…T’Challa Became a Star-Lord?” ends with a touching dedication to Chadwick Boseman.

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Miscellaneous Notes

  • Much like Drax, it seems T’Challa as Star-Lord is extraordinarily humble.
  • I can’t help but wonder if Yondu ever threatened to eat T’Challa like he did Quill in the “Sacred Timeline.”
  • The Skrull home planet of Tarnax IV gets a mention by Korath.
  • It’s good to know that Thanos continues his hobby of gardening.

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  • I’m sure everyone noticed both Thor’s hammer Mjolnir and the Captain America shield in the The Collector’s arsenal. Nothing compared to the Maestro’s trophy room!

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  • T’Challa and Yondu’s “Sticky Fingers” move is just as effective as Thor and Loki’s “Get Help” ruse[Editor’s note: “Get Help” also works great with Alligator Loki.]
  • I fully expect Thanos to be referred to as “Captain Genocide” from this day forward!
  • I absolutely adored Korath and his adorkable fanboy obsession with T’Challa!
  • Kraglin mentions how jump points make your face “all scrambly,” a reference to how we discovered in Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2 that it isn’t healthy for a mammalian body to hop more than fifty jumps at a time.
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Fear and Loathing in 700 Jumps by Nathan Davis.
  • The Embers of Genesis seem to be an original creation for the MCU, unless one of our readers is able to identify them.
  • Peter Quil’s love of music from the ’70s and ’80s continues as he listens to “Space Age Love Song” by Flock of Seagulls.
  • It’s quite fitting Peter Quill works at a Dairy Queen since that’s where Ego planted his seed as seen in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. As James Gunn revealed on Twitter, the inclusion of the ice cream franchise wasn’t a mere product placement. Perhaps Scott Lang should have opted to find employment at Dairy Queen instead of Baskin-Robbins!

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New episodes of What If…? are available for streaming Wednesdays on Disney+.