On August 28, 2020, the world was shocked to learn that Chadwick Boseman passed away due to colon cancer. Many things went into people’s minds, like the shock of learning he had cancer in the first place or losing such talent this young. The one aspect that everyone agreed on is the legacy he left behind. There are roles you can turn to, but none more impactful than his work as the iconic character, Black Panther. His last role is voice work for Marvel’s What If…? and it’s such a terrific tribute to the character. The episode shows how impactful Boseman’s T’Challa is to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and how much he’ll be missed.
Story: Vast Amount of Impact
With last week’s episode, it was a little more careful on how big the what-if scenario would be. It played out beat for beat like Captain America: The First Avenger, which isn’t a bad thing, but there could be so much more. This episode shows how vast one decision could impact the entire universe. By accidentally abducting T’Challa as a little boy, events in the universe changed drastically. Instead of becoming space pirates, the Ravagers become more like space Robin Hood and his band of merry men, by stealing from the rich and giving to the poor.
Not only that but there are so many vast and minor impacts it makes that we get to see play out. Including early on in the episode, we found out that Thanos is now a Ravager and allies with the heroes. Moments like this show how much potential this series can have. There’s so much lore and world-building in this one episode, that I know people would want to see fleshed out. With a lot of talk about Star-Lord’s accomplishments, it’ll be nice to see it adapted. But, if they showed all of them then it would hurt the episode in the long haul.
The episode looks like it’ll play similar to Guardians of the Galaxy with Star-Lord stealing the Power Stone. The concept still happens, but there are many turns like Korath actually knowing who Star-Lord is and starts fangirling while getting beat up. It’s fun as a nice meta moment as well because Djimon Hounsou voiced T’Challa in the BET Black Panther series. The episode transitions into becoming a heist, as the Ravagers are tasked to steal something from the Collector. It becomes an exciting action heist that has traditional double-crosses and fun planning.
Characters & Performances: A Showcase for Boseman
Words can’t express how good Chadwick Boseman’s performance is in this episode. He plays such an interesting version of the character because there’s not as much weight on his shoulders. There’s no responsibility about what to do with ruling Wakanda or world-weariness from him. Instead, there’s a lightness and fun attitude that he now has from living out in space. It doesn’t make him reckless, as he’s actually wise with his most considerable superpower. No, it’s not from the unique herb in Wakanda but his compassion and heart. Even though it’s not the character that we know, it feels like a fitting tribute to not only T’Challa but also Chadwick Boseman, as he impacted many people through compassion.
The stories we hear from the group of how he saved them and turned them to the side of good are inspiring. How any being can be redeemed, even for the Mad Titan, is awe-inspiring. Having Thanos as a part of the group is exciting and fun to watch. Josh Brolin returns his voice to the role, and for such a severe villain to genuinely be good (even know he’s referencing his former genocide plans) is such a highlight. Like many story beats, I wish to see how T’Challa turned Thanos into a good guy, even if it’s a simple conversation.
There’s also Michael Rooker returning as Yondu and it’s just a smart addition. We get to see a much warmer side to him that’s still in character. It’s a good reminder that this show can bring back characters without cheapening their deaths in the main MCU continuity.
Cinematography & Sound: Mixing the MCU
The enjoyable part about this series is the mixing and matching of different MCU movies. Visually, we get to see a blend of Black Panther and Guardians of the Galaxy in terms of their color palettes. Even though Guardians has their fair share of purple, you see purple draped across the screen when T’Challa appears. There are also lots of dark blues and yellows that feel reminiscent of the Guardians. The addition of color makes the action splash as the heist scene is thrilling to watch.
The musical score composed by Laura Karpman really gets to stand out with the themes of multiple MCU movies getting mixed up to create something new. When everyone is planning the heist, we get to hear a little of Christophe Beck’s score from Ant-Man. It’s interesting to see that’s becoming more of a motif when people in the MCU plan on a heist. We also get some music inspired by Ludwig Göransson’s score from Blank Panther. It echoes T’Challa remembering his past, and the music makes it all the more effective.
Editing & Pacing: Just the Right Speed
To pack so much in just thirty minutes seems like a hefty task, but it has just the right balance. We don’t have to spend too much time regarding Star-Lord’s adventures because they do a great job of telling us. That means we have the rest of the episode to focus on the big heist. It moves at the right speed as they execute the steal from the Collector. We get the typical editing sequences of the group planning the steal and the reveal of the double-crosses.
It feels like an old-school serial with a major sci-fi twist. The ending feels just a bit rushed with the emotional conflict quickly wrapping up, but it’s not that much of a problem. The story does a good job of carrying the weight and making the quick resolution work. It’s interesting to note that not everything gets wrapped up, and there’s some potential for this story to continue later on in the season.