Marvel's What If: 6 Coolest Changes To The MCU In The T’Challa Star-Lord Episode

T'Challa and Yondu in What If

SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for the latest episode of What If. If you have not yet watched it, read on at your own risk!

In the premiere of Disney+’s What If, The Watcher introduces audiences to a world where the events of Captain America: The First Avenger play out quite differently than in the 2011 blockbuster with which we are familiar. Rather than Steve Rogers receiving the Super Soldier Serum and becoming the beloved Captain America, Peggy Carter goes through the process instead and transforms into the heroic Captain Carter. Most of the episode plays out mirroring the arc of the aforementioned film – but the latest chapter is quite a bit different. Guardians of the Galaxy is used as a starting point, but it goes in a whole new direction after its start.

Episode 2 of What If features what is the final performance by Chadwick Boseman, centering on T’Challa going into space and taking on the mantle of Star-Lord, and it’s both incidentally a beautiful send-off for the actor, and an amazing alternate reality compared to the canon of the MCU. There are some excellent changes made from the familiar cascading from the bigger question the title of the show asks, and, as will become typical with this regular feature, we’ll start with the event that changes everything…

Taserface and Kraglin in What If

Yondu Sends Kraglin And Taserface To Get Peter Quill, But They Get T’Challa Instead

Like with the What If premiere – which saw its premise launched with Peggy Carter’s decision not to watch Steve Rogers’ procedure from an observation booth – the story in Episode 2 doesn’t begin simply with T’Challa being Star-Lord. Instead, it starts with a road not taken: specifically Yondu’s decision not to kidnap Peter Quill himself, but instead send fellow Ravagers Kraglin and Taserface to do it.

In Guardians of the Galaxy, Peter Quill’s life changes forever when Yondu abducts him from Earth, but it’s because his subordinates are incompetent that history is permanently changed. Kraglin and Taserface’s mistake is somewhat understandable, as Wakanda’s technology is fueled by extraterrestrial resources, and thus made it a reasonable place for them to search for Yondu’s kid. It’s still a mistake, though, and it’s a cool one that results in some incredible things playing out in the future.

Korath in What If

Korath Most Definitely Has Heard Of Star-Lord

James Gunn and actor Djimon Hounsou sculpted an iconic MCU moment in Guardians of the Galaxy when Korath responds to Peter Quill introduction of himself as Star-Lord. In addition to perfectly clashing with genre tropes, it’s a wonderful meta commentary on the fact that few movie fans knew about the titular team prior to the film’s release. It will forever stand out as one of the most memorable beats in the blockbuster, but credit where credit is due, What If does an amazing job turning it on its head.

When Korath comes upon T’Challa on Morag, one’s first instinct is to expect that the scene will mirror its live-action counterpart… but then it totally swings in the opposite direction. Korath has not only heard of Star-Lord, but he is a gleeful and obsessive fanboy. It makes for a great laugh, and is a perfect set-up for what is definitely the best aspect of the episode.

T'Challa in What If

T’Challa Is The Greatest Hero The Galaxy Has Ever Known

T’Challa repeatedly proved himself to be a spectacular, brave, and noble hero during his time in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, fighting for truth and justice in Captain America: Civil War, Black Panther, and the last two Avengers movies, but it turns out Earth was being a tad selfish by keeping his outreach limited to just the single planet. As we learn in the second episode of What If, he is an individual who is better off among the stars where his influence can create intergalactic peace.

While T’Challa does wind up working alongside a number of Peter Quill’s teammates from the live-action movies, they don’t really form the Guardians of the Galaxy since there isn’t really too much to guard against. Instead, the Ravagers are totally reinvented, and they are able to run a very successful Robin Hood-like game around the universe. It is a shame that the hero was lied to about his family and country in order to keep him from wanting to go back home, but at least the episode has a happy ending in that regard as well.

Thanos in What If

Thanos Abandons His Goal For Genocide (Let’s Call It What It Is)

As Marvel fans got to know Thanos from Avengers to Guardians of the Galaxy to Infinity War/Endgame, it became ceaselessly clear that he is a monster. Driven by intense ego and a savior complex, he was established as a tyrant with constant violent intent that was capped off when he successfully used the Infinity Gauntlet to eliminate half of life in existence. It’s really a shame, because What If Episode 2 shows that a simple discourse with T’Challa would have totally set him straight.

T’Challa clearly does many, many things to make all of reality a better place as Star-Lord, but arguably his greatest accomplishment is convincing Thanos that there is a superior path to universal peace than trying to decrease demand for resources. The Mad Titan still doesn’t fully agree with criticisms that define his master plan with the Infinity Gauntlet as genocide, but he is clearly a changed individual than the villain we got to know in the second half of the Infinity Saga.

The Collector in What If

Korg Doesn’t Survive Long Enough To Meet Thor

Ok, so this moment from What If Episode 3 doesn’t quite match the parameters of this feature’s headline, as I can’t honestly say what we learn about Korg is particularly “cool” – but it does represent one of the most shocking turn of events in the story, and that shocking quality is cool in its own way.

Korg, brought to life with motion-capture and voiced by Taika Waititi, has been a fan favorite since his introduction in Thor: Ragnarok, and appreciation only grew as he stuck by the God of Thunder’s side during his dark period at the start of Avengers: Endgame. But What If plays the “who cares” card pretty daringly. Korg never has the opportunity to try and save Asgard or battle Thanos because apparently he dies, and his arm winds up in the possession of The Collector to be used as a weapon against Star-Lord.

Peter Quill in What If

Peter Quill Meets Ego Under Totally Different Circumstances

Obviously most of What If’s second episode focuses on what happened to T’Challa after he was picked up by the Ravagers, but it also doesn’t totally forget about the guy whom Kraglin and Taserface were meant to get. Peter Quill is very briefly featured at the end of the 30-minute jaunt around the multiverse – and his presence is paired with a cliffhanger that may or may not ever be resolved by the show.

We first see Quill in a very familiar state, jamming out to some music on his Walkman, but his peace is interrupted when his biological father a.k.a. Ego The Living Planet, arrives. Based on the events of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, we know that the powerful celestial is going to put his human son to the test to see if he has successfully passed on his god-like nature, but what we don’t know is if Peter will have the wherewithal to reject Ego’s secretly sinister plans without the support of his intergalactic pals.

Following that stellar and emotional chapter of What If, we now have seven days until we experience the next one – and while I personally know what the episode is about, that’s a fun secret that I’m going to keep holding on to until it’s live on Disney+. You’ll be able to find it on the streaming service when it launches on Wednesday August 25 at midnight PST/3am EST.

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

NJ native who calls LA home and lives in a Dreamatorium. A decade-plus CinemaBlend veteran who is endlessly enthusiastic about the career he’s dreamt of since seventh grade.