This reality’s Star-Lord has a Black Panther purple hue.
After last week’s Captain Carter adventure, the second episode of Marvel Cinematic Universe animated series What If…? landed on Disney Plus Wednesday and brought us into a new alternate reality where Peter Quill never became intergalactic outlaw Star-Lord. Instead of abducting the son of the Celestial Ego in 1988, the Ravagers grab Wakandan Prince T’Challa (the late Chadwick Boseman), who became Black Panther in the mainline MCU.
The omniscient Watcher (Jeffrey Wright) reveals how accidentally snatching the charismatic future king changes the universe, in What If…T’Challa Became a Star-Lord.
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Spacefaring SPOILERS lie ahead.
The Mad Titan chills out
Unsurprisingly, T’Challa is a whole lot better at being a lord of the stars than Peter, pushing Yondu (Michael Rooker) and the Ravagers to be more heroic. He even managed to convince Thanos (Josh Brolin) to abandon his plan to wipe out half the universe’s population (though he still reckons it would’ve been efficient).
“I’m a big enough man to admit when I’m wrong,” he says. “T’Challa here showed me there was more than one way to reallocate the universe’s resources.”
T’Challa and Yondu have a fun dynamic in the show’s second episode.
Since Thanos’ machinations in his quest for the Infinity Stones shaped much of the main MCU timeline, this rewrites much of what we knew. There’s still friction between him and his adoptive daughter Nebula (Karen Gillen) though.
T’Challa also saved Drax’s (Dave Bautista) homeworld Kylos from a Kree invasion, so his wife and daughter are still alive — they were killed by Ronan the Accuser in the original timeline — and Drax is working as a bartender.
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Rise of the Collector
Turns out Taneleer Tivan (Benicio del Toro), aka the Collector, filled the power vacuum left by Thanos’ reformation. He even recruited the Black Order, Thanos’ goons in the original timeline, to act as his security.
He still loves to collect relics, species and fauna from around the galaxy in this reality — including the Embers of Genesis, a nutrient-rich cosmic dust that can fix up dying planets or feed “billions of people on millions of worlds.” Nebula wants to steal the Embers by pretending to offer the Orb T-Challa recovered on Morag. (This turns out to be a cover story though.)
The Collector also sought to purchase the Orb in the original timeline (where it was obtained by Peter Quill) in his quest to gather the Infinity Stones — the Orb acted as a containment device for the dangerous Power Stone.
The Collector might be absolutely jacked in this reality, but he’s no match for two Ravagers.
A collection of weapons
In his battle with T’Challa and Yondu, the Collector wields several weapons associated with heroes and villains from the mainline MCU.
Thor’s hammer Mjolnir and Captain America’s shield can also be seen in his fancy display case — hinting that the Collector has slaughtered a few Avengers in his rise to power.
Chadwick Boseman loves a good challenge
Back on Earth, this reality’s Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) apparently lived a normal life and is working at a Dairy Queen. He’s confronted by his father, the Celestial Ego (Kurt Russell), whose eyes glow menacingly.
“Too bad this might spell the end of the world,” says the Watcher. “But that’s a story for another day.”
The Celestials are an ancient race that can manipulate matter and energy. Ego wanted to expand his consciousness to assimilate the entire universe (the Watcher kinda downplayed the threat), but needed the power of a second Celestial to do so. He impregnated women of many species to create one, but Peter was the only one who inherited Ego’s power.
In the original MCU timeline, Yondu kept Peter away from Ego after realizing the malevolent Celestial was slaughtering his offspring in his quest for a suitable child. Ego tracked his son down in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, but Peter managed to resist after the stupid Celestial admitted that he killed his mother. Peter ultimately defeated his father with the help of his fellow Guardians, losing his own Celestial powers in the process.
Observations, WTF questions and Easter eggsThis episode is dedicated to “our friend, our inspiration, and our hero Chadwick Boseman.” Boseman died in August 2020 at 43. We’ll hear his vocal performances in four episodes of What If…?Our first glimpse of Star-Lord T’Challa on Morag mirrors our introduction to Peter Quill in the first Guardians of the Galaxy. Kree hunter Korath (Djimon Hounsou) was dismissive of Peter, but fanboys out over T’Challa and ends up joining him. If you got an Ant-Man vibe from this episode’s heist elements, it might be due to elements that sound like Roy Ayers’ Escape — the music that plays during Luis’ incredible stories — being worked into the score when Nebula explains their plan to take the Embers and their triple-cross later on.What happened to Gamora in this reality? She’s visible on the poster for this series, sporting Thanos’ Avengers: Endgame armor and looking very cool indeed, so she’ll presumably show up later. If that’s Gamora from this universe, it’s possible she took up his quest for the Infinity Stones. T’Challa mentions that the reformed Thanos “gardens now” — he does so in the main timeline after completing his genocidal quest (until Thor beheads him).Yondu misremembers Robin Hood as “Robin Leach,” the late journalist best known for hosting Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.T’Challa briefly teams up with Howard the Duck (Seth Green), who has cameos in the two Guardians of the Galaxy movies and Avengers: Endgame. He also starred in a thoroughly strange 1986 live-action movie, but that isn’t part of the MCU (for now).Carina (Ophelia Lovibond), Collector’s servant, tried to betray him in the main MCU timeline as well. She wasn’t as successful there, since she grabbed the Power Stone and was destroyed by its power in the first Guardians of the Galaxy.The Collector’s fate — facing a horde of people he subjugated — is similar to that of the Grandmaster in Thor: Ragnarok. These characters are brothers.In the Wakandan party, Kraglin (Sean Gunn) talks about jump points making “your face all scramble-y.” We saw this in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.Peter is listening to Space Age Love Song in the final scene. This 1982 A Flock Of Seagulls tune plays during the ’80s-themed homecoming dance in Spider-Man: Homecoming. The Celestials created the Eternals, a race of immortal superbeings who’ll star in their own movie this November.
Join us for more Easter eggs and observations next Wednesday, Aug. 25, when episode 3 of What If…? hits Disney Plus.