Talk about laying it on thick. Let’s start out by saying that this episode of What If? was entertaining as it was supposed to be, but the fact that subbing T’Challa for Peter Quill changed A LOT. Some would go ahead and point out the difference in color and assume that Disney is getting bolder in riding the woke train as far as they can take it since the simple truth is that T’Challa is a black man and Peter Quill is Caucasian, and apparently having a person of color as Star-Lord would make him more personable and less of an arrogant pain in the butt. But the Mouse House decided to go all the way over and make T’Challa even more sanctimonious than has been seen in the MCU movies he’s starred in. The fact that Korath was ready to be best buddies with this new Star-Lord and even considered it to be an honor to be knocked out by him was a bit cringe-worthy, but to think that T’Challa had been such a huge influence on the universe that he even convinced Thanos to give up his quest for the Infinity Stones and dissuaded him from his plan to eliminate half of the universe, come on.
Taken from his home by Taserface and Kraglin, T’Challa was already feeling cooped up and was ready to go exploring, and twenty years later he’d become a well-known and well-respected Ravager that had plenty of friends and a reputation that the original Star-Lord couldn’t have paid to enjoy. But seriously, his influence was apparently so great that even Nebula looked a lot better than usual as she sported a full head of blonde hair and only a minor modification compared to the original timeline. Plus, Nebula was a person who knew how to get things done and while she and her adopted father didn’t fully get along they weren’t ready to kill each other. Add onto that the fact that Yondu was T’Challa’s backup and Drax was working as a bartender and it feels as though T’Challa’s mere presence in the universe was a way to keep a lot of lives from becoming far worse than they had been. It’s curious that we don’t see Gamora or Rocket and Groot, but there was likely an explanation for that.
The main thrust of the episode however is that Nebula has a deal that involves going after an artifact held by the Collector, who in the absence of Thanos as a true power became a type of overlord that was supposedly quite powerful. Add to that the fact that the Black Order was working for him and it was a tough mission from the get-go. But given that the Ravagers knew how to get in and out of a place, this should have been an easy job. Of course, there’s a lot of emphasis on ‘should have been’ since Proxima Midnight isn’t the easiest person to fool. Once she realized the Ravagers were about she locked the Collector’s domain down, leaving T’Challa and the Collector to duke it out as the overlord used a few very recognizable artifacts, among them Hela’s horned helm. Once Yondu joined the fight things got a little more interesting.
All in all this episode was interesting but felt as though it started out with a great deal of virtue signaling that was cleverly hidden by the fact that T’Challa’s temperament had already been established as far different than Peter Quill’s. There were several interesting moments in the episode when Howard the Duck showed up, and when Nebula shoved the artifact that they’d been after into Black Dwarf’s open mouth, thereby causing a mass of giant vines to grow instantly, tearing him apart as the vines continued to grow and expand, taking over the Collector’s impressive lair. Then of course there was the Collector, left to the less than tender mercies of all the beings he’d locked in cages over the years. T’Challa and his friends made their escape and made their way back to earth where he introduced his galactic family to his real family, as a shot of everyone explaining one thing or another about space and their motivations for being who they were took place near the end.
What was even more ominous though was that while T’Challa wasn’t Ego’s spawn, the planet masquerading as a regular human did find Peter by the end of the episode, and for just a brief moment it was made clear that something very bad was about to happen as Ego introduced himself. So really, the episode wasn’t bad, but the need to show things in a certain light has definitely been noticeable, and more than that, it’s almost like a backhanded insult to what’s already come before. It was a good episode, but it stung just a little.