DISCLAIMER: This recap of Marvel’s What If…? episode “What If… Killmonger rescued Tony Stark?” (Season 1 Episode 6) is laden with spoilers. You’ve been warned. Proceed at your own peril.
Welcome back, Marvel fans! At face value, the question of, “What if Killmonger rescued Tony Stark?” seems innocuous enough. It certainly won’t significantly alter the course of the MCU … right? Wrong. The deaths of T’Challa and Tony Stark greatly impact the direction of the MCU sacred timeline as we know it. Notably, Stark’s murder, which affects the Avengers Initiative and beyond.
Not just that, but even the Disney Plus Marvel shows would be in the line of fire.
This episode is solid across the board, jam-packed with intricate details and innovative twists to stories we know well. In addition, the seamless melding of Iron Man and Black Panther. And that ending! A Shuri/Pepper Potts team-up is something I didn’t know I needed.
Ready to delve into “What If… Killmonger rescued Tony Stark”? Let’s get to it.
We open with the Watcher (voiced by Jeffrey Wright), ushering us into a new story. Tony Stark (voiced by Mick Wingert) is in the Kunar Province of Afghanistan. He’s there to demonstrate the might of the Jericho missiles designed by Stark Industries for the U.S. Air Force.
Suddenly, his team is rocked by a series of explosions.
When it looks like Iron Man’s origin story is about to unfold, we see Tony is saved by Navy SEAL lieutenant Erik Stevens, a.k.a. Killmonger (voiced by Michael B. Jordan). Killmonger urges Tony to keep moving, as the Ten Rings have reinforcements on the way. Tony evades capture in Afghanistan, and, as the Watcher puts it, “The Age of Iron Man never comes to pass.”
Back in the U.S., Tony is holding a press conference. Killmonger looks on in the crowd. Tony’s brush with fate opened his eyes to the horrors of war. He wants to create better weaponry to protect Americans.
Thus, he promotes Killmonger to Stark Industries’ chief security officer, much to Happy (voiced by Jon Favreau) and Pepper’s (voiced by Beth Hoyt) annoyance.
Apparently, Killmonger caught wind of an assassination plot against Tony while undercover in the Ten Rings, which Obadiah Stane spearheaded. So, Stane is arrested.
Then, Pepper asks Rhodey (voiced by Don Cheadle) to dig deep into Killmonger’s past. He comes up clean. Pepper is incredulous, and rightfully so. Nobody hangs around Tony without wanting something.
Later, Killmonger and Tony are in the latter’s lab. We learn about Killmonger’s doctoral thesis — he wants to create an automated combat drone, thereby rendering human soldiers obsolete. Tony, intrigued, vows to bring Killmonger’s vision to fruition.
After JARVIS (voiced by Paul Bettany) extracts Killmonger’s thesis data, a montage plays out of the pair working on the combat drones. Tony muses whether they could miniaturize an arc reactor. But Killmonger believes the key ingredient is vibranium. He suggests they pay a visit to Ulysses Klaue.
Next, they send Rhodey to confer with Klaue (voiced by Andy Serkis) at the latter’s base of operations. Klaue procures a vibranium spear he plucked from the Dora Milaje. He could give it to Tony for a pretty penny.
Suddenly, T’Challa, a.k.a. Black Panther (voiced by Chadwick Boseman), swoops in and takes out Klaue’s men. Killmonger arrives and kills T’Challa and Rhodey. He’s been in cahoots with Klaue this whole time!
Then, we see a joint funeral procession for Rhodey and T’Challa. Admittedly, seeing T’Challa die cuts to the quick. It feels too real.
Back home, Tony reveals that JARVIS is always watching. He has footage of Killmonger at Klaue’s base. Tony sicks the combat drone on Killmonger. The drones are programmed to know human combat moves. However, Killmonger gains the upper hand.
He also brutally murders Tony with the vibranium spear.
Later, General Ross (voiced by Mike McGill) declares war against Wakanda, even though Pepper’s quite suspicious of Killmonger. He was present for the deaths of Tony, Rhodey and T’Challa, after all.
Next, Killmonger and Klaue drive to the edge of Wakanda. We can see the force field surrounding the perimeter. Killmonger shoots Klaue, then carries his body over the Wakandan country line. He’s captured by Okoye (voiced by Danai Gurira) and the Dora Milaje.
Killmonger is brought before King T’Chaka (voiced by John Kani), Queen General Ramonda (voiced by Angela Bassett) and Princess Shuri (voiced by Ozioma Akagha). He reveals his true identity: N’Jadaka, son of Prince N’Jobu.
Ramonda and Shuri are reticent to accept him into the fold, citing that N’Jobu never had children. But Killmonger sweet talks his way into the family’s inner circle. He divulges that war is on the horizon, and the automated combat drones are heading for Wakanda.
Meanwhile, General Ross and the military get a glimpse of Wakanda for the first time on their cameras.
We see the drones crossing the Wakandan line while Ramonda leads Wakandan forces into battle. Killmonger, Shuri and T’Chaka observe from higher ground. Shur is still wary of Killmonger’s motives.
Suddenly, Killmonger joins the fight. The Dora Milaje and the Wakandan army spring into action, and it’s a beautiful sight even though Killmonger led the drones to Wakanda himself.
After Wakanda rises victorious, T’Chaka gives Killmonger the herb that’ll transform the latter into Black Panther. Killmonger receives a visit from T’Challa in the ancestral plane.
Killmonger reveals he did what he had to do for vengeance — for his father. Not just for his dad, but for his “brothers and sisters who suffered through oppression” while T’Challa and Wakanda “sat back and watched.”
“Power, unearned, can be a very volatile force, cousin,” T’Challa notes. Truer words…
Meanwhile, Pepper and General Ross deal with the aftermath of the drones versus Wakanda battle. She finds Shuri in her office. Shuri shows Pepper the dirty details regarding Killmonger’s rise to prominence. Everybody he killed. Pepper’s suspicions about him are validated.
So, the pair decide to team up to show Wakanda and the United States their common enemy: Erik Killmonger.
Overall, “What If… Killmonger Rescued Tony Stark?” is a fantastic outing bolstered by strong writing, great vocal performances (particularly Jordan, Serkis and Wingert) and stunning visuals. This story is such a game-changer, and I can’t wait to see how it plays out. Here’s hoping we get a continuation of it later in the season.
If tears weren’t streaming down your face when Ramonda tearfully shouted, “For T’Challa!” are you even human?
New episodes of What If…? are available to stream every Wednesday on Disney Plus.
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