This article contains spoilers for What If…? episode 2.
The second episode of Marvel’s latest Disney+ series, ‘What If…T’Challa Became a Star-Lord?’, explores the possibility of T’Challa becoming the iconic galactic outlaw in a twist that also involves him being portrayed as very different from the Peter Quill version of the character. It’s safe to say Star-Lord never needed to perform a dance-off to save the universe in this timeline!
As you may know if you visited the site last week, our What If…? reviews are adopting a different format. More of a “breakdown” that we hope will still satisfy regular readers but also help younger viewers and those less familiar with the MCU keep up.
With that in mind, let’s dig deeper into ‘What If…T’Challa Became a Star-Lord?’…
For episode 2’s branch timeline, it helps to have seen Black Panther, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 1 and Vol 2, and Avengers: Infinity War.
Not only do we get to see an alternate life for T’Challa, we also get to find out what Peter Quill’s fate might have been if he hadn’t been picked up by Yondu as a child, and what Thanos would have done if he’d just chilled tf out.
The ‘What If?’ moment in this episode addresses what would have happened if Yondu had outsourced the assignment of retrieving Peter from Earth (see Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1) to the Ravagers, and they ended up lifting T’Challa instead, nixing the events of Black Panther. In their defense, they say, the cosmic readings in Wakanda were off the charts. Since it was built on an ancient vibranium meteorite, T’Challa concurs.
It is T’Challa we see lifting the Power Stone from Morag and not Peter at the beginning of the episode, changing the events of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 1. Korath has heard of Star-Lord in this alternate timeline and is a huge fan because T’Challa is basically a galactic Robin Hood here.
Korath is so enamoured with T’Challa, in fact, that he begs to join the Ravagers. The gang, along with Yondu, have reformed. They are no longer simply grimy thieves, smugglers, criminals, bandits, mercenaries, bounty hunters and pirates, and they plan to use the recently-acquired Infinity Stone to jump-start a dying star and save a planet in peril.
We see that T’Challa has managed to change a lot of the cosmic MCU’s major fates as Star-Lord. He’s even broken through Thanos’ mindset in this branch timeline, convincing him that there’s more than one way to achieve his goals, and he’s changed Drax’s life by saving his home world from a Kree invasion, too.
As Star-Lord, T’Challa runs into a friendly and now-minimally cybernetic Nebula, who initially comes across as a kind of blue Jessica Rabbit. She manages to pique his interest by describing a MacGuffin called the Embers of Genesis – cosmic dust that can terraform ecosystems. T’Challa understands he could use them to eradicate hunger across the galaxy, but they’ll have to steal them from The Collector, who has filled Thanos’ power vacuum.
T’Challa and Nebula plan a heist on Knowhere, which involves evading the Black Order. They’re working for The Collector in this timeline, in an alteration from Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame.
Who are the voices?
Jeffrey Wright returns as What If…?’s narrator, Uatu The Watcher. Chadwick Boseman is T’Challa/Star-Lord, Michael Rooker is Yondu, Djimon Hounsou is Korath the Pursuer, Chris Sullivan is Taserface, Karen Gillen is Nebula, Josh Brolin is Thanos, Seth Green is Howard the Duck, Danai Gurira as Okoye, John Kani is T’Chaka, Angela Bassett is Ramonda, Benicio Del Toro is The Collector, Carrie Coon is Proxima Midnight, Kurt Russell is Ego, Sean Gunn is Kraglin, and Tom Vaughan-Lawlor is Ebony Maw.
Drax is the real omission here, as Dave Bautista did not return to reprise his role in the series. He claims he was never asked, but executive producer Brad Winderbaum chalked it up to a “miscommunication.”
This was a wonderful episode, and it was great to see how much of a positive influence T’Challa had been on the universe after getting the opportunity to leave Earth and satisfy his natural curiosity. It was also consistently funny to note how much better T’Challa was at being Star-Lord than Peter.
Of course, it was all bittersweet knowing that What If…? marks the late Chadwick Boseman’s last performance, and it was hard not to get choked up during the episode’s final scene in Wakanda. I can’t wait to see the other versions of T’Challa that pepper this season of the show.
The reformed Thanos in ‘What If…T’Challa Became a Star-Lord?’ was also a treat, and I loved how he always seemed to be just on the cusp of falling back on his old plan, but his Ravager family, their banter and their friendship had drawn him in too deep to take it too seriously. Murdering half the universe has become a running joke in this timeline, which was some dark comedy I couldn’t help but warm to.
It wouldn’t be a Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 1-adjacent episode without a brilliant Howard the Duck appearance, and this one was glorious, but hearing Seth Green’s voice coming out of Howard’s beak made me yearn for the recent Howard the Duck animated series that never was.
T’Challa’s fight with The Collector was a smorgasbord of Easter eggs for Marvel fans, too. We saw that in this timeline he’s managed to get hold of Hela’s Thor: Ragnarok headpiece, Thor’s hammer Mjolnir and Captain America’s shield! I’d love to hear the stories behind those objects of desire falling into his hands. Maybe we’ll get to revisit it in a later episode of What If…?, but if we don’t, that’s fine. I’ll let my brain fill in those gaps with some wild stuff instead.
How does it work out?
T’Challa finds a Wakandan ship in The Collector’s stash and realizes that Yondu has lied to him about the country’s destruction, but the two objectively have more of a father-son relationship than Yondu ever did with Peter, and they have a nice heart-to-heart that ends with T’Challa returning to Wakanda to reunite with his father, T’Chaka, and the rest of his Wakandan family.
Meanwhile, Ego eventually finds an older Peter mopping the floor at a Dairy Queen, but this altered meeting might mean the end of the world, we’re told, as in this timeline there’s no one to guide Peter away from Ego’s nefarious Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 plans!