Martin Carr reviews the sixth episode of Marvel’s What If…?
By combining elements of Avengers: Endgame, Black Panther and Iron Man amongst others, episode six offers up some serious food for MCU thought, turning heroes into villains, villains into world powers and bringing female empowerment centre stage. Featuring voice work from Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan and Paul Bettany amongst others, What If…? raises some intriguing questions without offering up all the answers.
Turning that Tony Stark introduction inside out, audiences are led down a comic book garden path of infinite possibilities. Epiphanies never come about, transformative experiences get side lined and good people suffer in silence. Within two minutes, this alternate reality feels not only possible, but tangible as these A-list actors really dial up their contributions.
As corpses stack up, benevolent forces are taken off the board and as Killmonger gains dominance things turn dark. As much as viewers will be reminded of past glories, this story of escalating violence and human casualties in the pursuit of justice feels tainted. As this retrofitted Iron Man origin story goes further off the rails, there is no escaping the darkness that begins to infiltrate events and the intentional suppression which follows it.
Rather than heroics being front and centre this is now about benevolence working from within. It becomes about an unlikely alliance of powerful women, standing firm against a very male orientated threat. Similar to Black Panther, this episode hinges on the way two divergent ideologies are drawn together through circumstance, one eradicating the possibility of good in another. As ever it also obsesses over a personal need for power at any cost, whilst exploring the ramifications of what that brings out in people.
Michael B. Jordan reminds audiences of the power Killmonger possesses, both strategically and ethically. Revenge can be a great motivator, whilst cunning and guile only compound that trait into something more formidable. It is his ability to read the room, play the players at their own game and yet retain a ruthless streak which makes him such an intriguing villain. One that not only takes away a fundamental piece from the MCU chessboard, but genuinely exploits the premise of this show in the process.