Monday, September 20, 2021

‘What If…?’ Episode 2 Review: Chadwick Boseman’s T’Challa Joins the Ravagers For an Amazing Ride

Episode 2 of Marvel Studios’ first animated series, What If…?, debuted today with T’Challa taking center stage. The late Chadwick Boseman’s final performances as T’Challa will take place during the series, and this week brought us one of a reportedly four total episodes. This will likely be the only one seeing him as the main player (but I hope I’m wrong).

As we mentioned in last week‘s review, the animation for this series is stunning. It’s smooth, sophisticated, and vivid; it’s exactly what you’d expect from Marvel. What If…? is truly the perfect project for animation, too. There are no limitations within the Multiverse, as we’re learning, and there are no limitations in animation. The action the studio can incorporate into this series is absolutely attributed to the freedom that comes with animation versus live-action.

The What If…? series is based on the comic series of the same name that began in 1977. From its inception, the series’ goal has always been to reimagine the storylines we knew and turn them into an entirely new adventure. The animated series has done just that with the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This week, we saw T’Challa join the Ravagers and become Star-Lord in the place of Peter Quill.

The Collector (Benicio del Toro) and T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman) face off on Knowhere.
Marvel Studios

Spoilers for episode 2 of What If…? ahead!

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Admittedly, episode 1 didn’t hook me, but this one did. From the moment Korath fan-boyed over Star-Lord to the Ravagers celebrating with the Wakandans, I loved every moment of this episode.

Of course, this episode will likely hit every viewer differently after the loss of Chadwick Boseman last year. While he certainly wasn’t the same T’Challa we know, to hear Boseman’s voice bringing his iconic rendition of T’Challa to life was nothing short of a resplendent, precious gift. I distinctly remember feeling a sense of disconsolate relief when it was confirmed that Boseman had recorded his audio for this series, welcoming the heartbreaking closure I hoped would come with the series. This episode certainly helped.

“T’Challa, if you are out there, you are one bright burning light in the night sky of billions, and we will search every last one of them until we find you on this plane or the next.”

King T’Chaka

Many familiar voices also lent their talents to reprise their roles. Karen Gillan was back as Nebula, Josh Brolin as the Mad Titan Thanos, Benicio del Toro as The Collector, Michael Rooker reprised the sorely missed Yondu, John Kani returned as King T’Chaka, Djimon Hounsou as Korath, Kurt Russell came in for that surprise Ego cameo at the end, Kraglin and Taserface remained voiced by Sean Gunn and Chris Sullivan, Danai Gurira returned as Okoye, Seth Green as Howard the Duck, Carrie Coon as Proxima Midnight, Tom Vaughan-Lawlor as Ebony Maw, and Ophelia Lovibond for Carina.

The premise of this episode was simple. Yondu outsourced his mission to get the offspring of the God Ego from Earth. The result? They grabbed the wrong kid. Instead of finding Peter Quill, they stumbled upon a wayward Wakandan prince, T’Challa, yearning to explore. (Wakanda is based on a vibranium meteorite after all. It was an easy energy-reading mistake.)

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So, is T’Challa a better Star-Lord than Peter Quill? Who’s to say. But this episode definitely asked the question. And fundamentally, it’s hard to say no. In this reimagination, T’Challa turned the morally gray (at best) Ravagers into the Robin Hoods of the universe. Stealing from the rich and giving to the poor, T’Challa’s presence on the Ravagers had a massive ripple effect on the entire universe. A ripple effect that seemingly ended a lot of suffering for a lot of people. Even if it was just the ones affected by Thanos’ Snap that no longer came to pass.

There was so much to love about this episode. It made up for the heart and smooth-flowing dialogue that episode 1 lacked. It also just had so many fun twists — good guy Thanos with a somewhat functioning relationship with a non-robotic Nebula, T’Challa and Yondu’s incredible partnership that seemed far more beneficial than the one between Peter and Yondu, and all those other little cameos along the way. This was a much better exploration of a What If…? scenario, with the aftershocks of this subtle change being more apparent than episode 1’s.

This was proven throughout the episode as we get little hints of the changes from character appearances (Nebula), redemptions (Thanos), and the Ravagers’ new mission as a whole. However, nothing was more jarring than seeing many of our Avengers’ weapons housed with the Collector. Captain America’s shield, Mjolnir, Hela’s helmet, and more were all somehow obtained by the Collector, making everyone wonder exactly what else was seismically altered? Where episode 1 lacked this tumultuous shakeup, episode 2 flourished.

The writers continued to soften the jarring changes to the familiar with the new here in episode 2. The slight callback to Avengers: Infinity War in the opening scene with Korath, asking if he should bow before the Lord Star-Lord, was an impeccable addition to lead the episode in with. Attention to detail is not something Marvel lacks, and it’s absolutely translating over into this animated series. Every project gets its full due, and with this series leading the way for later animation tie-ins, I can’t see anything but a bright future ahead.

As we expect from Marvel, humor, action, and heart continued to be seamlessly interwoven within the story. In no easy feat, they somehow made one of Marvel’s most terrifying and abhorrent villains into someone I’d like to go grab a drink with, in 30 minutes! What If…? is proving that Marvel knows its characters and how to use them, and their audience and how to connect with them.

Personally, I think this episode (or episode 3) should have led the series off. I truly think these are a better representation of what this series is bringing to the table as a whole. Episode 2 was as hilarious as it was intriguing. The plot was fresh with Easter eggs galore for fans to decipher with every rewatch. The series continues to explore all the Multiverse has to offer, prepping viewers for what’s undoubtedly to come. The MCU will never be the same again.

As a final note, while it certainly wasn’t intentional, some of the quotes from this episode surrounding T’Challa and Chadwick hit so close to home.

“To our friend, our hero, our inspiration. Chadwick Boseman.”

“And if I’ve learned anything from watching you, on any planet, among any people, there ain’t no place in this galaxy where you don’t belong.”

Yondu

Don’t miss next week’s episode exclusively on Disney+, with Loki on Earth and a massive mystery to solve … (It’s the best of the first three, don’t miss it.)

Stay tuned for our weekly coverage on What If…?.

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Kaity
Kaity started with Harry Potter in second grade and it’s been a losing battle ever since, or maybe a winning one ... She lives in New England with a small herd of cats, two dogs, three chinchillas, and one daughter. Her main fandoms are Marvel, The Umbrella Academy, Star Wars, and Lord of the Rings, with special emphasis on one vibranium shield-wielding Super Soldier. Contact: kaity@nerdsandbeyond.com

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