‘Marvel’s What If…?’ Episode 6 Review: An Uninventive Instalment with an Unsatisfactory Ending

With its sixth episode, Marvel’s What If…? seems to have come full circle, and not necessarily in a good way. As the series has progressed, the ideas and variations of events it presented have become increasingly creative, ranging from swapping the roles of characters to killing them off in a zombie apocalypse. But this episode, like the first featuring Captain Carter, is minimally different from the main timeline of the MCU. 

While the basic principle of throwing together characters who’ve never met in the MCU, but plausibly could, remains, the initial premise is much more promising than the outcome. In What If… Killmonger Rescued Tony Stark?, Erik Killmonger does just that when he saves Tony from being kidnapped in Afghanistan. As a result, Stark never learns a lesson in humility and heroics, and Iron Man never comes into existence. Instead, he recruits Killmonger as his chief of security and righthand man. No Iron Man sounds like a huge change considering he is the heart and soul of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but the episode squanders its opportunity to do something really interesting with it. 

The biggest disappointment is the fact that Killmonger’s story is set up as being a villain’s ‘second chance’. This is not followed through whatsoever, with Killmonger being the exact same character as we’ve previously seen in Black Panther. It quickly becomes clear that his motives are largely identical, and his overall plan of action is similar enough to be predictable. Rather than any significant changes, what we effectively have are scenes from both Iron Man and Black Panther mixed together, and after the excellent precedent set by the last two episodes, this mish-mash of films comes across as uninventive. 

There are some small bits of enjoyment to be taken from the episode, though. Seeing Tony and Killmonger bonding over their common ground is refreshing and unexpected, and there is again plenty of action to provide excitement. Like many episodes, it climaxes in an epic battle. However, only one of the sides is relatable and interesting, which prevents it from being quite as thrilling as it could be. We do, get to see more of T’Challa’s parents and his mother’s fighting prowess, though, which is a surprising turn and definitely entertaining. 

Most criminally of all, this episode seems to be making the cliffhanger ending a staple of the What If..? series. Yet again it leaves a story half-finished, with events having reached their destructive apex before The Watcher intervenes with his final line of narration. This episode, like several before it, leaves the state of affairs in a complete mess, with people and nations on the brink of destruction, and then simply implies that another group of heroes will salvage it. This approach defeats the very purpose of watching a superhero show – we want to see the day be saved, not accept a cliffhanger ending that implies future acts of heroism that the audience will never get to see. 

What If…?’s continuing use of cliffhanger endings is becoming increasingly frustrating and unsatisfactory, and unfortunately the lack of creativity in this episode does little to improve matters. With three episodes still to come, we can only hope for the series to quickly return to form. 

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