Let’s Talk about What If…? Episode 1-6
Stark mastered arc reactor technology in a cave. Yes, he did have some help from a fellow scientist, Ho Yinsen, but that’s beside the point.
What if the Ten Rings terrorist cell hadn’t kidnapped Tony Stark and thereby accidentally led him down the path to become Iron Man?
That’s the premise of this week’s episode, and it leads to some dark events. Let’s talk about What If…? episode 1-6, the Killmonger and Stark bromance.
The 2008 movie, Iron Man, clings to the belief that Stark needed a catastrophic event to work up the nerve to turn into a hero.
At the start of this episode, Killmonger blocks the path to that redemptive character arc.
When the “Fun-V” explodes, Stark hides in the rubble and plots his escape. Then, salvation arrives in the form of Killmonger, who tosses aside a bomb.
Stark happily accepts his new friend’s help, and they quickly bond after Killmonger lives up to his name on the field of battle.
After Stark returns home, he holds another press conference, only this one unfolds much differently from the one in the film.
Surviving the assault has steeled Stark’s resolve about the need for military weapons. He also chooses Killmonger to head Stark’s security team.
A frustrated Happy looks on jealously, but that’s not the shocking twist here.
Killmonger suddenly reveals that he was working undercover in the Ten Rings. During his secret mission, he learned about a treacherous act.
Within the first five minutes of the episode, Killmonger has destroyed Obadiah Stane, whom the Wakandan busts for working with the Ten Rings.
Moments later, Killmonger earns (?) his second promotion of the week as the new COO of Stark Industries.
Pepper Potts watches with horror as the total stranger takes the job she wants.
Alas, she investigates him and finds nothing, which only makes her more suspicious.
Colonel Rhodes, who will never become War Machine, is more positive about the kid from Oakland made good. He could do without the killing, though.
We call that foreshadowing, kids.
The Worst Buddy Cop Movie
When’s the last time you watched Black Panther? Well, if it’s been a while, you should do something about that this week.
Meanwhile, I’ll remind you that N’dajaka has a brilliant mind, as one would expect from Wakanda royalty.
The soldier informs Stark of his project to build, well, Gundam-looking autonomous robots. Yes, we’re talking full-fledged mechs.
Stark relishes this opportunity to take this bromance to the next level by adopting a pet (project) together.
So, we get a different form of Iron Man, the kind that flies around without a host but mimics the gestures of its user.
Yes, that’s Killmonger. Yes, that’s bad.
Before that can happen, Tony needs a power source, though. He toys with the notion of an arc reactor before deciding that’s a dumb idea. That’s a good joke.
Then, the Wakandan suggests Vibranium, and he happens to have some hanging from his neck.
If this were a horror movie, the scary music would start playing right about now.
Stark gets an idea. He contacts an arms dealer he knows named Ulysses Klaue. If that name sounds familiar, it should.
A killer robot ripped his arm off in Avengers: Age of Ultron. He’s a bad dude and kinda deserved it, though.
A hero like Iron Man fights Ulysses Klaue. He certainly wouldn’t use the villain as a black-market supplier.
Of course, Stark technically doesn’t do that. Instead, he sends Rhodey in his place, which is – you guessed it! – Killmonger’s idea.
Things go south when enemies of Klaue arrive. They’re Wakandas, and, yes, Black Panther is one of them.
At this point, the real Killmonger comes out as he kills his cousin and takes his vibranium glove.
Then, Killmonger kills Rhodes. Foreshadowing is often fatal.
The Wakandan War Take Two
Killmonger isn’t done with his murdering…not by a long shot.
Stark had recorded the events that led to Rhodey’s death. So, he has planned revenge, one that involves his Stark Industries killbot.
Alas, Killmonger defeats the robot and then kills Stark. I’d say that Iron Man is dead, but he never really lived in this universe.
The treacherous Killmonger continues double-dealing. He convinces the American government to engage in military action against his people.
This plan goes about as well as you’d expect from one involving General Thunderbolt Ross. Seriously, how did that guy ever earn the rank of general?
Simultaneously, T’Challa’s grieving parents mourn in Wakanda. Soon afterward, N’Jadaka reveals his existence to the king and queen.
They (too) quickly accept him as the nephew they need, as they have T’Challa’s void to fill in their hearts. More treachery is afoot, though.
The fallout from all these plots is that Americans invade Wakanda, lose control of their Starkbots, and everyone views Killmonger as the conquering hero.
If anything, Killmonger seems scarier and more formidable in this episode than he did in Black Panther.
The dude effortlessly hops on one of those Wakandan rhinoceroses and springs into battle. At one point, he even rescues Okoye in battle.
Nobody on either side realizes that he has triggered the Starkbot attack from within Wakanda’s royal palace.
The Other Black Panther Sequel
After emerging victorious, N’Jadaka takes the blue herb and goes on the vision quest before becoming Black Panther and probably ruler of Wakanda.
At this point, Marvel tosses out yet another surprise. Once again, the late Chadwick Boseman appears to voice the character of T’Chaka. It’s magical.
Even though T’Chaka has died, he knows his cousin and calmly offers wisdom that he knows Killmonger won’t heed.
T’Chaka states, “You believe the cure for human suffering is more suffering.”
Folks, that’s brilliant dialogue. It encompasses the madness of so many of humanity’s anger- and frustration-based philosophies.
All that matters to Killmonger is that he has claimed more power. He also doesn’t take kindly to T’Chaka’s warning.
Apparently, when you murder somebody, they should show you a bit more respect.
Anyway, Killmonger is seemingly on top of the world until the ending cuts back to America.
Pepper Potts enters her office, where she is presumably the new head of Stark Industries since the CEO is dead and the COO has abandoned the company.
A 10-year-old girl named Shuri is waiting for her. Yes, I checked the math here.
In Black Panther, Shuri is 18, and it takes place in 2016, eight years after the events of Iron Man.
So, a 10-year-old has left her hidden country and traveled around the world to break into Pepper’s office. Shuri has brought receipts, too.
She can prove that Killmonger killed T’Chaka and Tony Stark. Ironically, this demonstrates that she’s similar to her cousin, as it’s precisely what he did to Obadiah Stane.
Shuri and Potts agree to work together against the “common enemy” that neither of their countries recognizes as a threat.
We’re gonna get another Black Panther sequel, this time in What If…?! And Killmonger will be Black Panther!
The dialogue in this episode sparkled. Stark makes a crack to Pepper Potts about his tax bracket that I find hysterical.
Several of Killmonger’s lines of dialogue, including his final words to Stark, resonated with me, too.
Importantly, this story also organically sets up a sequel where a grieving girlfriend and a 10-year-old girl must defeat the most powerful person on Earth.
Finally, the show gets bonus points for starting this episode at the same place that’s the genesis of the entire MCU!
I like this one a lot and definitely give it an A.
PS: Every time I unexpectedly hear Chadwick Boseman’s voice, I get chills.
There are three episodes left in season one. So, I’m holding out hope that we’ll hear him again!