What If…? Episode Six Delivers My Favorite Villain of the Series So Far
I love me an intelligent baddie.
**Spoilers for Marvel’s What If…? up to episode six.**
Marvel’s Disney+ series What If…? has offered a variety of AU fanfics where everything we thought we knew about our favorite Marvel Cinematic Universe characters was turned over, sideways, and under.
While it’s given us a new take on our heroes, it’s also given us some pretty great villains who end up, in many ways, succeeding. There have been multiple universes where the Avengers are killed and one where the entire world blips out of existence. Frankly, there have been more downer endings than positive ones, which I suppose is the benefit of having continuous alternate universes.
That being said, the latest episode, where Killmonger saves Tony Stark during the events of the first Iron Man, is one of the most intriguing premises we’ve seen so far, at least, in my opinion. While I do tend to like the wilder “never gonna happen” takes, this scenario being so plausible is one of its greatest strengths.
When I first saw Killmonger rescuing Tony in all the advertisements for What If…? I thought we’d get more of a “Tony and Killmonger buddy cop” angle. Yes, I actually thought we’d get a heroic Killmonger. After all, we got an “I can admit when I’m wrong” Thanos in T’Challa’s episode. It never occurred to me that this would be the same Killmonger as the one we met in the MCU, now with more resources and, more importantly, the support of someone like Tony Stark.
Nothing about Killmonger changed (save for him liking anime, but I suppose it never came up in Black Panther). If anything, since the episode focused on him, we got to see just how calculating he could be, and I loved every minute of it. Killmonger feels like he’s constantly playing chess, but the people around him don’t realize that they’re all a part of his game. At one point during the episode, I turned to my wife and screamed, “Okay WHAT does Killmonger actually want? Whose side is he on?!”
Because every time I thought I’d figured it out, he ended up doing something that screwed that person over!
Killmonger plays both sides perfectly while being weirdly honest about the way he feels—I think? I actually do believe that he didn’t want to have to kill Tony, and it really does feel like he’s happy to be in Wakanda.
However, none of that means he isn’t willing to hurt whoever he has to in order to get what he wants.
There’s something chilling about him chatting with T’Chaka about N’Jobu, this foreboding sense of dread because you’re waiting for Killmonger to take revenge for his father’s death (since T’Chaka killed N’Jobu). With that comes a certain level of discomfort because Killmonger is, clearly, a patient man. Every time I thought, “This is it, this is when Killmonger destroys Wakanda,” he’d do the opposite. He brought those “Gundams” into Wakanda, but deactivated them to make it look like he was on their side, then reactivated them to take them off guard … then helped destroy them.
My initial response:
My response when I realized that Killmonger is a crafty mf’er playing the long game:
What makes this so interesting is that we could’ve easily gotten this story. Killmonger being where Tony was at that point in time is not that unbelievable at all, and everything that followed was exactly in character for, well, everyone involved. Tony would be so trusting of Killmonger that he’d volunteer his resources, Killmonger would keep up appearances with Tony, and even Klaue, until he didn’t have to anymore, and it would all lead to the Wakandans continuing to not trust the rest of the world (and, on the flip side, the rest of the world not trusting them).
A lot of the What If…? episodes end on a sort of “oh sh*t” cliffhanger, but this one really left me tense. We get to see that Shuri and Pepper are gonna team up to try to stop Killmonger, but since Killmonger feels multiple steps ahead of everyone, you’re left wondering HOW they’re gonna stop him. That’s why I liked this episode so much. Killmonger can, clearly, win in a fight, but he also had to be smarter than everyone else around him. There’s something extra intriguing when a hero has to do more than beat the villain up, but they have to unravel their plan and, furthermore, prove that they’re even a villain to begin with.
Shuri and Pepper have to do more than stop Killmonger; they have to prove that he can’t be trusted, and since he’s in so good with Wakanda (and since T’Chaka, most likely, feels VERY guilty about N’Jobu), it’s gonna take a lot to get folks to see how bad Killmonger is.
Yeah, I’m actually kinda bummed out that we don’t get more of this, because I’d love to see Killmonger and Shuri have a battle of wits against each other.
Give me more smart villains, is what I’m saying, especially ones who can “do it freestyle” when they have to.
(featured image: Marvel)
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