Spoilers for Episode 2 of Marvel’s “What If…?”. Now available to stream on Disney+.
Drax the Destroyer and T’Challa’s Star-Lord
To recap the events we see unfolding in Episode 2: A young T’Challa wanders out into the woods late one night only to be accidentally kidnapped by Yondu’s Ravagers, mistaking the poor boy to be the half-celestial being Peter Quinn. Thusly, T’Challa becomes Star-Lord in lieu of Peter, creating a wholly distinct and, in some cases, intriguing version of the notable character. However, despite being a light-hearted and enjoyable episode, for the most part, there still exists an obvious problem that impedes its ability to tell a memorable story: T’Challa’s version of Star-Lord.
Now, this is undoubtedly in no way the fault of the late Chadwick Boseman’s performance in the episode; on the contrary, the actor did a phenomenal job and will be sorely missed in future Marvel films. Instead, the problem in regards to T’Challa’s version of Star-Lord is a matter of how the character itself is written: he is just too perfect to be taken seriously.
We posit this argument because, throughout the episode, we are presented with a Star-Lord that is devoid of flaws. We are shown that this particular incarnation of Star-Lord saved Drax’s family from a Kree invasion, thereby negating Drax’s character arc, and then most shockingly of all, we learn that T’Challa’s Star-Lord single-handedly convinced Thanos to forego his mission to gather the Infinity Stones and wipe out half of life in the universe. Later on in the episode, we see T’Challa and the rest of his crew hatch a plan to reclaim the Embers of Genesis from the Collector, and everything goes too much according to plan. Like most audiences, we waited for the other shoe to drop, only to find that both shoes remained affixed ever so snuggly.
Why this is an issue is because it paints T’Challa in this episode as a one-dimensional character, a Gary Stu, a portrayal that suffers from its very own Superman problem. Because the character can so effortlessly accomplish anything he sets out to do in the episode, it, therefore, makes him a rather unrealistic and boring protagonist to follow. In fact, we will go as far as to say that the reformed Thanos we are given in the episode is far more compelling than T’Challa’s Star-Lord, and that is very disappointing given that the main focus of Episode 2 is T’Challa from the get-go.
Hence, it may have existed as an interesting premise worth exploring, but unfortunately, its execution was sorely misguided.
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