Episode 2 of What If…?, What If…T’Challa Became a Star-Lord?, is absolutely stunning. It is an incredible joyride through an almost absurd amount of MCU nods and history that is gripping from start to finish. The episode impressively manages to be both hilarious and heart-wrenching in constant waves that at times are simultaneous. All eyes and ears are on Chadwick Boseman’s final role as T’Challa, and Episode 2 as a whole rises to meet his brilliant performance. Despite being in the form of a half-hour animated show, it manages to be a beautiful farewell to such an iconic and impactful actor and character.
Even armed with the heavy knowledge that Episode 2 marks one of Boseman’s final performances—and one of T’Challa’s final appearances—the episode hit an emotional depth that, quite frankly, didn’t seem entirely possible given the nature of the What If…? series and the Guardians of the Galaxy-based premise. It is no surprise that the sound of Boseman’s voice evokes such a mixture of joy and grief nearly a year after his death, but hearing his Star-Lord performed with such vibrant personality and passion both breaks and fills your heart at the same time.
The fact that T’Challa as Star-Lord completely changes character trajectories of Star-Lord himself, the Ravagers, and various side characters is a hilarious contrast to Guardians of the Galaxy, but it also doubles as what feels like a tribute to T’Challa and Boseman. The impact the two have had in the MCU and world at large is well analogized here. The utter goodness of T’Challa that turns the space explorers into world-saving heroes and Thanos righteous is heartwarming almost beyond words now. And wow—the quick bits of Black Panther score that would pop in and out constantly added another layer of intensity and emotion to the episode that kept on surprising.
While loosely following the plot of Guardians of the Galaxy, Episode 2 hits a family theme hard. Despite the fact that we end up exploring three or four different “families” by the end of the episode, they are presented and played out so well that it all comes across cohesive and genuinely a part of the same story without feeling overdone. Even the brief nod to Drax’s wife and daughter being alive in this reality was a noteworthy moment. While the Nebula-Thanos dynamic and arc is less compelling, the episode nails the portrayal of T’Challa’s relationship to both the Ravagers and Wakanda. The most gutting scene is undeniably T’Chaka’s message left for T’Challa that his Wakandan family would never stop looking for him, whether on this plane or the next. It’s simply both heartbreaking and heartwarming. In any event, it’s moving.
Throughout the unavoidable but captivating bittersweet emotion that shrouded this episode, it also managed to have countless laugh-out-loud moments stemming primarily from the dramatic character changes. Easily one of the best examples is Thanos who has seen the error of his ways yet his original genocidal plan becomes a big source of laughter and also spotlights a fairly joyful version of the Mad Titan which is just authentically fun. The banter between the characters is also well done, and the voice performances overall do well enough to pull it off.
In short, Episode 2 of What If…? is absolutely phenomenal. It was broadly fun and enjoyable from start to finish and likely could easily fill an hour runtime—or even longer—without faltering. The incredibly well-executed mixture of laughter and tears turned this unassuming, animated, and inherently wacky episode into a moving and compelling story that resonates far beyond this series. Truly, it seems to be an episode of this type fit for a king. Boseman’s and T’Challa’s final bow is such a gift here at the end of the day and that is something to be grateful for amongst the grief.