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What If… Killmonger Rescued Tony Stark?

"Heroes are not born. They're forged in darkness. Shaped in battle. Defined by sacrifice."

The last few installments have been very dark. I'm starting to wonder if this series will be nothing but doom and gloom.

What If has always been a strange beast, treading around the fringes of storytelling. Often bleak, most issues served as a cautionary tale, that our true timeline was really the best case scenario. I guess that's the point of an anthology series, to play with expectation and themes, but except for the more positive ones with Captain Carter and T'Challa as Star Lord, the episodes have been borderline nihilistic and downright brutal to both the characters and the worlds they inhabit – at least one was completely destroyed.

Darkness is a requisite for good storytelling. Without a touch of evil, there is usually nothing to fight against. The bigger the scope of the story, the greater the darkness has to be to balance it. So when the protagonist of the story is the source of darkness, things can get a little out of balance.

Take Avengers: Infinity War for example. Personally I think it is a great movie. Using Thanos as the main protagonist is brilliant storytelling, and it works because he needed the screen time to be sold as a threat. Except if taken strictly by itself, the movie is very depressing, bordering on unwatchable. Our heroes don’t just lose, they lose everything. Yet when you combine it with Avengers: Endgame you suddenly have a complete narrative where we have some major darkness to overcome, but it is eventually balanced out with a very satisfying ending with lasting consequences.

If you think about it, the only real change here was with Tony. By robbing him of his life-altering capture, witnessing Yinsen sacrifice himself and seeing first hand what his weapons were being used for, he lost that defining moment in his life. He never changed, he never was able to move past his own self-interest. Without Tony as Iron Man, the world was a very different place.

But Killmonger being our protagonist in this story is a strange choice. He hasn’t changed at all from his original appearance in Black Panther, and here there is no character arc for him. In fact the only thing that changes with his story is he is ultimately successful in his goals. He bypassed the hero in a brutal way and managed to trick almost everyone into believing him to be a genuine hero. Not only that but he kills not one, or two, but three of our major characters. Of course this version of Tony and Rhodey will likely never become heroes in the same way they were in our prime universe, but losing T'Challa like that was hard to watch.



At least it ended on a fairly positive note with Shuri and Pepper joining forces to take down Killmonger. With Shuri's brains and Pepper's ingenuity and skill, I could easily see a path where they would both become heroes like Iron Man and Black Panther. I also really liked the progression of the episode, how it makes sense to the narrative. My only real issue was with Killmonger not getting his revenge on T’Chaka, since he was the main reason his father was killed.

Casting Bits:

Michael B. Jordan (Killmonger)
Jon Favreau (Happy Hogan)
Chadwick Boseman (T'Challa)
Angela Bassett (Queen Ramonda)
Danai Gurira (Okoye)
Andy Serkis (Ulysses Klaue)
Don Cheadle (Rhodey)
Paul Bettany (Jarvis)
Leslie Bibb (Christine Everhart)
John Kani (T'Chaka)

all returned to reprise their original roles.

Mick Wingert was Tony Stark
Kiff VandenHeuvel was Obadiah Stane
Beth Hoyt was Pepper Potts
Mike McGill was General Ross
Ozioma Akagha was Shuri

Pieces:

While the design was anime-inspired, this felt a bit like a rehash of Iron Man 2 at times. Just with a much more successful villain.




The Watcher was fully formed here. We could even see the color of his clothes. Is he manifesting more because of how invested he is becoming with these alternate Universes? If so, how long until he begins to interfere?

Quotes:

T'Challa: "You believe the cure for human suffering is more suffering."

Tony: "It's only a failure if it explodes."

Tony: "Wow. Uh, bold design choice."
Killmonger: "What? I like anime."
Tony: "Worst-case scenario, we'll end up with the most expensive Gundam model. Jarvis, start casing the warehouse. We're gonna need FPV wiring, nanocircuitry, and Bloody Marys. Hangover's starting to kick in."

T'Challa: "Power, unearned, can be a very volatile force, cousin. It'll get the best of you, eventually."

Tony: "Jarvis, search the MIT doctoral thesis database. Project..."
Killmonger: "Liberator."
Tony: "You got an ear for branding. I'll give you that."

I really don’t know where to rate this one. It was compelling to watch, but it felt a bit incomplete and far too dark to be enjoyable.

2 1/2 out of 4 Robot Automatons Created by a Dastardly Villain

Samantha M. Quinn spends most of her time in front of a computer typing away at one thing or another; when she has free time, she enjoys pretty much anything science fiction or fantasy-related.

5 comments:

Billie Doux said...

Maybe I'm not "getting it." I liked Captain Carter, but it just feels like it keeps getting worse. Is that the point?

Diogo said...

This episode reminded me just how much I absolutely loved Killmonger in Black Panther. Such machiavellian brilliance, such fighting prowess, such charisma. And I love his musical theme, too, which showed up a lot in the episode... I think he's the only Marvel villain with a memorable leitmotiff.

Anyway, fun What If, my only issue is how abruptly it ended... it's not even the fact that it's a downer ending, episode 4 was super bleak but when the universe is destroyed and evil Strange is left all alone at least it feels like a complete story. This one just feels like they cut out the third act. But maybe they are building up to something? There seems to be some hints that these episodes are building up to some multiversal shennenigans, we may yet see these different versions of characters interact with each other. It might be fun to see Starlord T'Chala vs Black Panther Killmonger.

Side note: Did you know Michael B.Jordan is an anime nerd? That line in the episode must have been a reference to that. His favorite anime is Naruto Shippuden, and Killmonger armor was purposely designed to look like Vegeta's from Dragonball Z

Shari said...

From the promos, I had thought Kilmonger was either a hero in this world or at least on the path of redemption. So, despite the fact I believe it was a great episode, I was disappointed. Killing off several of my favorite characters didn't help!

JBA said...

I agree that without an Endgame type of ending to wrap it up, I'm finding the series more and more depressing. And since I don't watch the MCU to be depressed, I'm starting to really consider giving up on this show. I enjoyed the other Disney+ shows very much, but I don't see the point in What-If. I knew going in that it wasn't going to be required viewing, since it is all hypothetical worlds that are not part of the "sacred timeline", so I doubt it will matter all that much if I don't watch another episode.

An Honest Fangirl said...

I had also thought/hoped that Killmonger would be an actual hero based off of the previews, and was disappointed when that wasn't the case. Also, another episode that felt like I was watching everything on 1.5x speed. Basically, I wanted to like it but couldn't.

JBA, I am actually very curious about where this series will ultimately end up fitting within the MCU, if it'll just be non-canon snippets of things or if it'll all tie in somehow. It feels like we're building to SOMETHING. Things continue to end on a sad or negative note and the Watcher becomes more and more corporeal each time. I just don't know what or how they could tie up in a way that makes sense.

If anything, it's reinforcing that the TVA picked an A+ Sacred Timeline to adhere to compare to all of these others.