Episode 6 of Marvel’s What If…? rewrites the very beginning of the MCU and tells a superb original story revolving around Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t excited for this particular episode of What If…?. Along with Episode 2, which featured Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa Star-Lord, I’ve had Episode 6 circled for quite some time. It should also be noted that I think that 2018’s Black Panther is the greatest superhero movie ever made. One of the big reasons for that is Michael B. Jordan’s powerhouse performance as Erik “Killmonger” Stevens, who is among the MCU’s best villains to date. While Killmonger’s arc in Black Panther (2018) was handled beautifully, I have wanted to see more of him, despite knowing the likelihood of getting to was slim to none.
Episode 6 of What If…? gives audiences the opportunity to see Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger once more. It does so by having Uatu, also known as The Watcher (Jeffrey Wright), take the viewers back to the very beginning of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In 2008’s Iron Man, Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark is captured and imprisoned in a cave by a terrorist group called the Ten Rings. Stark builds his first Iron Man suit of armor there and escapes, setting the course for the MCU as we know it. What If…?’s Episode 6 shows us a universe in which Tony Stark (Mick Wingert) isn’t captured and is instead rescued in Afghanistan by Erik “Killmonger” Stevens (Michael B. Jordan). From there, the episode tells a superb original story with a great performance from Jordan as Killmonger in the lead role, notable actor and character returns, and some thrilling action sequences.
Michael B. Jordan’s return to the role of Killmonger is a welcome one. He’s just as cunning and charismatic as ever. Those that have been begging for the character to return in some form, like myself, will walk away satisfied. It adds to the character’s legacy without erasing Killmonger’s satisfying journey in the MCU. The late Chadwick Boseman also returns, for the second straight episode, as T’Challa/Black Panther. This marks the third of four episodes that Boseman was able to record prior to his passing in August 2020. I don’t expect Boseman to return again until possibly the finale of What If…?. Of course, I could be wrong, but it makes the most sense. Speaking of returns, audiences are also treated to the reappearance of Andy Serkis as Ulysses Klaue. He’s another character that, given the events of Black Panther (2018), likely won’t appear again in the MCU. Klaue’s return is delightful, mostly because Serkis clearly has tons of fun playing the role, and that fun rubs off on the audience during his brief screentime. Hopefully, What If…? can give us more welcome actor and character returns like those in Episode 6 moving forward in addition to featuring the main players of the MCU.
Episode 6’s story takes the “Every villain is a hero of his or her own story” quote quite literally by making Killmonger, a villain, the hero. He rescues Tony Stark, becoming a hero, and changing the course of his universe forever. It’s a fascinating twist on that quote and What If…? presents it in a way that is compelling and unique. Sure, audiences have likely seen villain focused narratives before, but not quite like this. There’s one negative about the narrative, though, and that is, the story just kind of ends rather abruptly. Previous episodes had endings and cliffhangers that felt more natural. This one kind of comes to a screeching halt. It’s a real shame, because Episode 6’s narrative pacing is really good. There wasn’t a particular moment that felt rushed up until the ending.
In terms of action sequences, Episode 6 of What If…? features one of the better action sequences of the series thus far. The sequence appears to combine elements you might have seen in Black Panther (2018) and Avengers: Infinity War (2018). It’s quite thrilling, and despite being less than two minutes long in terms of the episode’s total runtime, it feels a lot longer than that. During this fight sequence, the use of the score from Black Panther (2018) not only makes things feel more epic, but it adds to the immersion of the episode. Little things like a simple score insert, which Episode 2 also did well, can help the audience get further immersed in this new universe, which in turn ups the intensity of big moments. There is also a solid action sequence featuring Chadwick Boseman’s T’Challa/Black Panther that also likely takes inspiration from Black Panther (2018) but stands out on its own thanks to some cool and slick visuals.
Even if I hadn’t been looking forward to this episode, it would still be one of the best episodes of What If…? to date. There’s a bit of a trend I’m beginning to notice, which is that the greatest episodes of the series up to this point, Episode 2, Episode 4, and now Episode 6, all feature the combination of original stories and compelling lead performances. That isn’t to say that all of the other episodes have been bad, they haven’t been, but most of them have had something that kept them from reaching their potential. Even with a somewhat sudden ending, Episode 6 of What If…? has a great original story, andlives up to the hype thanks to Michael B. Jordan’s performance, notable actor and character returns, and its awesome action sequences.
What If…?‘s Episode is now available to watch on Disney Plus.
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