Marvel’s ‘What If..?’ Episode 2 Review: T’Challa’s Star-Lord Kicks Things Up a Notch

Chadwick Boseman gives a heartwarming final performance as the beloved T’Challa in this second episode of What If..? Except, the Black Panther actor isn’t playing the character as we know him, he’s playing Star-Lord. Peggy Carter’s Captain Britain was a nice, simple introduction to the show’s core concept. Episode 2 is like a grand flourish in comparison – it showcases how earth-shakingly different things can be if one tiny change is made. 

Once again, The Watcher invites us to imagine ‘what if?’, and although his lengthy introduction is getting a bit old the second time around, the alternate timeline he introduces is riveting. Instead of Peter Quill, Yonda (Michael Rooker) and the Ravagers accidentally kidnap T’Challa. As the Wakandan hero becomes this universe’s Star-Lord, the difference he makes to the timeline is huge and yields some real surprises. Characters who were evil or morally ambiguous are now less so, and their reactions to and relationships with T’Challa are the complete opposite of how things were with Peter. This is the first episode of the show to really hit home its portrayal of the butterfly effect. 

Aside from taking the concept further and being larger in scale than the premiere, this episode also just has everything you could wish for. Many actors return to their roles, including Karen Gillan as Nebula, and others whose appearance is less expected. While often voice actors would be entrusted with this work, everyone involved does an excellent job of bringing their characters to life in animated form. 

Speaking of the animation, this has also greatly improved when compared to the previous episode. For whatever reason, there seems to be less of a disconnect between the drawn backgrounds and three-dimensional characters. This can most likely be chalked up to the change in setting. Much of the episode unfolds in space, or on planets with elaborate and fantastical locales, and the enhanced level of detail brings the backgrounds more in line with the character animation. The facial animation is also much improved. In any case, the style is much less distracting this time around, so there is more room to enjoy the plot. 

When it comes to its execution of the narrative, I would describe this episode in one word – efficient. It presents us with what would otherwise be an entire feature films’ worth of plot spread over 30 minutes. Granted, this is possible mainly because the world and its characters are already familiar (there’s little need for exposition) but it’s jammed packed with everything you’d get out of a live-action Marvel film. 

They absolutely nail the comedy, while also executing a serious and exciting heist story with all the generic elements. There’s humour, there’s the typical narration of the plan as it’s being pulled off, and there’s unexpected twists and turns along the way. Pair that with an excellent cliffhanger ending that illustrates once more how one difference in the timeline can change everything, and you have what should be an excellent blueprint for all future episodes of What If..? 

If Captain Carter introduced the bare bones of the series’ concept, T’Challa’s Star-Lord shows just how much can be done with it. The show is shaping up to be way more than a glorified game of ‘spot of the difference’ for fans; it’s a series that’s telling stories that are exciting in their own right. 

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