In the sixth episode of Marvel Studios What If, Erik Killmonger saves Tony from the Ten Rings in Afghanistan. But does this make Tony safe?
The latest episode of What If turns the wheel of time such that Tony Stark doesn’t have to create a suit of armor. Killmonger saves him from the “ashes of captivity”, and paves his way into Tony’s league at Stark Industries. But there’s more to Killmonger than that.
The sixth episode of Marvel Studios What If is a full circle from Phase 1 to Phase 3 of the MCU. We get to see Tony’s travel to Afghanistan for the weapon’s presentation from Iron-Man (2008). And we also see Erik Stevens (Erik Killmonger), T’Challa’s villainous cousin from Black Panther (2018). Multiple characters return and cross paths in an alternate universe.
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In a drastic turn of events, Killmonger is able to prove in front of the press that Obadiah Stane is guilty of planning the assassination of Tony Stark to the Ten Rings. Stane is arrested and Tony makes Killmonger the new COO of Stark Industries.
Killmonger Tastes Technology
During a conversation, later on, Killmonger mentions Tony’s father’s words that “peace means having a bigger stick than the other guy.” (Iron-Man) This shows how he prefers war for the sake of peace. And although Tony preferred if no one had to fire weapons at all which proves his liking for “peace in our time” (probably a hint towards “a suit of armour around the world” (Avengers: Age of Ultron)), Killmonger throws his own shrewd light on this idea by mentioning his project about automated combat drones and how it would “make human soldiers obsolete.” The word “obsolete” stands for something old-fashioned or out of time.
A normal person would have rather said that such drones would prevent the deaths of human soldiers. However, Killmonger’s words show that he too is bent upon technology just like or even more than Tony. It was Tony’s immense want for an AI-powered Iron Legion that ultimately gave birth to Ultron.
The Arc-Reactor that Wasn’t
Be that as it may, Tony decides to help Killmonger give shape to his drones. However, the requirement for an effective power source leads Tony to miniaturize an arc reactor. Killmonger adds his catalyst by providing Vibranium as the “right juice” for the reactor to work as a self-sustaining energy source that could easily power hundreds of such drones. One way or the other, it seems that fate does lead Tony towards Vibranium, and his father’s prophecy that it and he “will change the world.” (Iron-man 2)
This leads Tony to contact Ulysses Klaue, the infamous black-market arms dealer. We know him from Avengers: Age of Ultron and Black Panther played brilliantly by Andy Serkis. Rhodey is sent to carry out the deal. However, T’Challa arrives in the nick of time and takes Klaue’s people down to prevent the use of Vibranium for unfair means. He was probably waiting for Klaue to show up on his radar as it seems too much of a coincidence to have both Rhodey’s meet-up with Klaue and T’Challa’s plan to capture Klaue to clash at the same hour of the day. Killmonger was listening all along to whatever was happening via an earpiece on Rhodey. He makes his entrance and kills both T’Challa and Rhodey. He keeps Klaue handy as he is the only one who knows the entry point to Wakanda.
Death Leads to Destruction
Tony finds out about it but before he, and the Vibranium-powered robot drone, could take him down and call the cops, Killmonger kills him too conveniently with a Vibranium-made Dora Milaje spear. This in turn held the Wakandans responsible for Tony’s death just as Killmonger had planned. And this meant war. Despite Pepper’s doubts regarding Killmonger and the number of deaths since his arrival, General Ross ordered an all-out war on Wakanda. He further orders the large-scale manufacture of the Liberator drones i.e. the ones made by Tony and Killmonger together for the war.
Killmonger Becomes Black Panther but Doesn’t
Killmonger carries Klaue’s dead body to King T’Chaka. T’Chaka accepts him as he has brought down the person who caused so much havoc for Wakanda. He notifies them that war is coming in the form of the Liberator drones made of Vibranium alloy. Eventually, the Wakandans are able to destroy the drone fleet and win the war. So in this way, Killmonger not only takes down his strongest enemy but also takes revenge on the years of oppression that his predecessors have suffered at the hands of a foreign power. This is what makes T’Challa declare him as the next Black Panther. This gets him closer to take over the Wakandan throne. And thus he takes vengeance for his father’s death too. Moreover, his pain for all his brothers and sisters who suffered in a foreign land while Wakanda did nothing gets lessened.
As we remember from the Black Panther movie, one has to drink from the heart-shaped herb and go to the ancestral plane in order to imbibe the soul of the Black Panther. This is what happens to Killmonger. However, upon reaching the ancestral plane, he faces T’Challa. T’Challa warns him of his deeds and that power, “unearned, can be a very volatile force, cousin.”
Yet Another Open-Ended What If
In the end, we see Shuri turn up in Pepper’s office. This is after General Ross decides to bring down Wakanda on its knees. As we have already mentioned multiple times earlier, What If yet again leaves a considerable part of its plot to our imagination. We only get to see Shuri and Pepper teaming up to reveal the truth behind Killmonger, their common enemy. How? That’s up to us.
All in all, this episode takes things differently as opposed to major of the other episodes of Marvel Studios What If. We find a more improvised angle of things and plots. And the storyline was able to surprise us. From the trailers for this episode, we could only make out that Tony and Killmonger would team up but nothing more. This kind of episode is what makes Marvel Studios What If true to its purpose. Hopefully, the upcoming episodes will follow this route.
The next episode of Marvel Studios What If arrives on September 22. While Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is slated for July 8, 2022.