Last week’s opening episode was a great start for Marvel’s new animated series; a glimpse into a world in which Peggy Carter, not Steve Rogers, was the recipient of the Super Soldier serum that created Captain America. Full of twists on classic Captain America: The First Avenger scenes, it was able to speed through the story at a great pace, with excellent action scenes, social commentary, a well handled sense of joie de vivre in Carter’s Super Soldier and even its own version of the doomed Peggy/Steve romance (no less heartbreaking than the ‘real’ version). The episode also brought some genuinely exciting new elements to the MCU, such as the Hydra Stomper and a very big, interdimensional tentacle beast – and it did all of this with such confidence and panache – with a great pseudo-comic book look to its CG-animated aesthetic – that it’s genuinely exciting to see what new twists on familiar concepts will be coming our way.

This week, Jeffrey Wright’s icily detached Watcher introduces us to a story that mashes up Guardians of the Galaxy with Black Panther. The Ravagers, headed up by blue-skinned scoundrel (with a deeply hidden heart of gold) Yondu, have been tasked with ensuring the safekeeping of a certain Peter Quill after his cancer-stricken mother passes away. At least, that’s the ‘official’ version – here, in a Multiverse of infinite possibilities, the question is asked: What If…T’Challa Became a Star-Lord?

The fun of this episode is in understanding the contrast between the slightly inept, more self-serving Star-Lord that we know and love – Chris Pratt’s ‘legendary outlaw’ that no one has heard of – and T’Challa’s more charismatic, selfless personality, which leads familiar scenes to some unexpected places. There’s a few genuinely cool surprises with the appearance and alteration of a few key MCU characters, which provides much of the appeal of the episode.

The main action in the episode is focused around a heist, which is well done – but there’s an uninteresting MCU character who’s been overpowered and doesn’t prove to be a particularly compelling antagonist. Sure, there’s lots of fun little references to Marvel continuity, but it just feels like the opportunity has perhaps been missed to give us a much bigger scale adventure – and everything wraps up a little too quickly and neatly, epilogue aside. The opening credits all but spoil the final scene too, which promises an extremely intriguing alternate universe tale – one which would be great to see, further down the line in What If…?

The acting and general style of the episode can’t be faulted though, with the usual colourful intergalactic visuals that the Guardians of the Galaxy movies bring to the table – and a great twist on the Star-Lord costume with a Wakandan flavour. The late, much missed Chadwick Boseman – with his final performance as T’Challa here – is, as always, superb. So are the rest of the cast, including the surprise characters that I won’t spoil here (though of course, social media is likely to be abuzz with these revelations already). There’s also some genuinely heartfelt moments; it’s a shame that so much screen time is given to the uninteresting villain, but the way it plays out is perfect, at least.

Not quite as strong an episode as the show’s debut then, but still fun and definitely an interesting way to demonstrate the power a relatively small change can have on near-enough the entire universe. Let’s see where The Watcher takes us next…

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