What is it with this show’s abject inability to land the foreboding epilogue? This episode is another series highlight—not just in terms of voice acting, but also budget (they don’t skimp on any of it, including a big battle scene in Wakanda)—but they somehow miss the most obvious ramifications of the change. The episode’s all about Michael B. Jordan’s Black Panther villain inserting himself into Iron Man 1 to take his revenge on Wakanda and the military-industrial complex to—theoretically, they glaze over it—break white supremacy and imperialism.
But they forget Iron Man 1 involved more than just Jeff Bridges being the villain; it also set up—sort of—the Infinity Saga, which apparently is no longer a thing in this universe. It’s okay; it’s just an obvious dodge. “What If … Killmonger Rescued Tony Stark (and the Sam Jackson Nick Fury cameo didn’t happen)?” is the better title.
The episode is Jordan inserting himself in Iron Man events to build a bunch of anime robots to fight battles. Tony Stark (Mick Wingert doing an adequate Robert Downey Jr.) loves him because dead father bros, but Pepper (Beth Hoyt in for Gwyneth Paltrow) isn’t sure. It doesn’t end up mattering because Don Cheadle and William Hurt (not William Hurt, but Michael Patrick McGill) trust Jordan because military bros. But can we really trust Michael B. Jordan? Is it possible for a guy named Killmonger to be a hero?
There are twists and turns as the episode goes straight from Iron Man 1 to Black Panther prologue, with a lovely but very heartbreakingly bittersweet Chadwick Boseman cameo. There are multiple movie stars contributing—Angela Bassett is the biggest surprise—and Jon Favreau, Danai Gurira, Andy Serkis, Paul Bettany (for like two lines, they really weren’t willing to pay for more), and John Kani. It’s concerning how easily Kani trusts Jordan; it’s almost like Captain America 3’s events did Wakanda a favor in the main universe.
But while someone like Leslie Bibb, who hasn’t been in a Marvel movie in ten plus years, gets opening titles credit, the actually important recast actors—Hoyt especially, but also McGill and Ozioma Akagha—get shoved to the end credits.
Plus, Jeffrey Wright’s annoying. Some of it’s the dialogue. Also, sitting through the poorly written opening titles monologue just to see what actors they got works against the viewing experience.
Jordan has a lot of fun, and the cartoon beefcakes him to good result and, thanks to the budget, it looks good throughout.
The epilogue’s a whiff, but what else is new. “What If…?” has a bunch of caveats, but I really wasn’t expecting such a successful outing. It’s like the better the source material to riff on, the better the episode. Sadly they’re running out of the good material.