By Noah Tang
Episode two achieves a pleasantly surprising mixture of the “Black Panther” and “Guardians of the Galaxy” franchises, exploring what would have happened if T’Challa became Star-Lord instead of Peter Quill. In this timeline, Yondu Udonta delegates the task of finding Peter Quill to Kraglin and Taserface, who botch the job and take a young T’Challa by mistake. Surprisingly, the young Wakandan prince is not at all frightened by this experience and takes up Yondu’s offer to show him the universe.
Twenty years later, T’Challa’s heroism has changed the galaxy for the better. The opening scene shows him retrieving the Power Stone from Morag, not for personal gain but to restart the dying star of an alien race. He has also become the leader of the Ravagers and has changed their organization into a benevolent, Robin-Hood-style operation. Their newest recruit is Korath, who constantly fanboys over T’Challa to great comedic effect. They soon join with Nebula in a scheme to steal a valuable MacGuffin from the Collector, the big bad of this universe and quite the drama queen, with a penchant for making references to karma.
In this “What If…?” Scenario, T’Challa’s Star-Lord must face off against the Collector, the big bad of this universe.
The episode poses the question, “Is your destiny determined by your nature or by the nature of your world?” The example of our hero suggests that the former is true. Whether as Black Panther or as Star-Lord, T’Challa is committed to doing good and helping others. His sense of morality and his wise leadership effect great changes in the entire universe, most of which are positive. Although his title might be different in this reality, T’Challa remains the same noble, principled hero at heart. T’Challa is also unfailingly humble, just as in the main timeline. He does not emphasize his title of Star-Lord, readily acknowledges his lack of superpowers (he has not received the heart-shaped Wakandan herb in this reality) and does not let that fact bother him. Ironically, the Collector mocks T’Challa by declaring sanctimony to be his superpower. He is by far the better Star-Lord.
Episode two is especially poignant because it features Chadwick Boseman in one of his final performances as T’Challa. Unlike most actors, Boseman actually resembled his heroic MCU character in real life. As a believer, he sought to set a good example for the next generation, which was the main reason he took on the role of T’Challa even between bouts of surgery and chemotherapy. This episode is fittingly dedicated to him.
Pacing is less of an issue here because the main story takes place over a much smaller amount of time. Finally, the episode demonstrates the power of T’Challa’s quiet leadership. It reminds me of Proverbs 16:7, which reads, “When a man’s ways please the Lord, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.”
Episode two of “What If…?” is now streaming on Disney Plus.
Noah Tang is a super-senior Business Management major. He likes to spend time with friends, study theology and watch movies.