“What If…?” Episode 6 Proves Why Nakia Is Crucial To Black Panther

SPOILERS FOR WHAT IF…? AHEAD!

For the past few weeks, with Marvel’s What If…? on a hot streak, I had begun to hope that the series’ worst episode was well behind us. As disappointing as it was to see Captain Carter’s potential wasted in a shallow and unimaginative recap of The First Avenger, I genuinely believe that the first episode was always to some extent going to play like the tutorial level of a video game, giving general audiences a taste of what the series had to offer before it could jump into bigger and bolder concepts. And we’ve got four straight weeks of good or great episodes to prove that What If…? isn’t afraid to go big.

What If...?
Tony Stark and Erik Killmonger | cnet.com

But it seems the show still has a couple of clunkers left in store for us too.

And the downside of What If…?‘s anthology format is that without an overarching storyline to pull viewers through these rough patches, audiences are gonna drop off and they won’t necessarily feel compelled to come back each week. Technically, the characters in What If…? are supposed to meet up and fight a big bad at some point, and there’s even talk of some appearing in live-action sooner rather than later, but we’re six episodes deep into a nine episode series, and there’s still no sign of that happening.

That puts the pressure on each new stand-alone episode to try and outdo the last, and unfortunately this week something just doesn’t click. On paper, the basic premise is intriguing enough: what if Tony Stark (voiced by Mick Wingert) never got kidnapped by the Ten Rings, never became Iron Man? That alone could be the Nexus Event of a million new realities, but throw in the seemingly random twist that it’s Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) of all people who rescues Stark, and we could have had a good old political thriller weaving across the globe between the United States and Wakanda.

But in execution, episode six is an awkward mash-up of Iron Man and Black Panther that struggles to add anything meaningful to either movie’s mythology in just thirty minutes. Tony Stark’s inclusion, at least in such a prominent role, feels especially unnecessary. He’s really only there to be Killmonger’s pawn in a game of three-dimensional political chess, but roughly half of the episode is spent fleshing out their relationship. The story actually nearly finds its footing when the action finally shifts away from his mansion to Wakanda, but because we still need to catch up with Stark’s supporting characters, the problem of split focus doesn’t get solved.

Also, I totally get wanting to capture the tone of Iron Man and Marvel’s other Phase One movies…but did the plotline need to be ripped from the Phase One movies too? I just really need Tony Stark’s genius to be utilized for something other than building an army of faceless, easily hackable robots. I’m begging Marvel to think of something else, anything else, that they can do with this character’s tech.

The scenes in Wakanda, meanwhile, suffer from a lack of thematic cohesion. The nuance of Ryan Coogler’s writing simply isn’t there to foster potential for multiple interpretations on different levels, or to provoke a very meaningful discussion, and the episode falls completely flat when tackling the complexity of its central character, Killmonger. Sure, we learn that he’s a big fan of anime, which is a cute humanizing detail I’m not entirely sure what to do with, but What If…? doesn’t actually seem to understand his motivations except on a surface-level.

What If...?
Nakia | syfy.com

And part of that is because What If…? drops the most crucial (and underappreciated) character from Black Panther – Nakia. This isn’t something acknowledged in the episode, nor is any correlation drawn between her absence and the ease with which Killmonger takes over Wakanda in this timeline, but the loss of Nakia is felt. She’s the antithesis to Killmonger – both come from a place of wanting to help the African diaspora, but while Killmonger only has a vague idea of how to achieve that, informed by his experience working with destructive imperialist institutions such as the US military and CIA, Nakia wants to use Wakanda’s resources to help the world, and she has cohesive strategies about how to do so.

That’s what makes one exchange in What If…? stand out as a particularly bizarre moment that betrays a misunderstanding of Killmonger’s purpose as a villain. In place of Nakia’s radical empathy, What If…? uses James Rhodes (Don Cheadle) as the mouthpiece for a very different moral counterpoint to Killmonger’s message. “You’ve gotta be part of the system to change the system”, he says at one point while defending his service in the US military, before Killmonger strikes him dead and responds that he’s gonna “burn it down”, referring to “the system”.

The problem with this is that Killmonger always was part of the system – even in this alternate universe, it’s made pretty clear that he’s been working with the US military and the CIA for some time. That’s where he learned how to be such an effective agent of chaos, and where he became enamored of the imperialistic ideology he tried to implement in Wakanda. Killmonger didn’t ever want to “burn down” the system – he wanted to force it to work for him because being part of that system had taught him to equate bloodshed with strength, and oppression with power.

This scene, which tries to sever Killmonger’s connections to the US military and position him as an outsider with radical opinions, feels like What If…?‘s counterpart to that episode in The Falcon And The Winter Soldier where Karli Morgenthau accidentally started making some good points, so the series stopped talking about her cause and doubled down on why her methods were too extreme and she had to be stopped.

The most interesting thing about the episode, at least to me, is the different reception that awaits Killmonger when he finally reaches Wakanda. Having killed T’Challa (voiced once again by Chadwick Boseman, in an especially touching performance), his path to the throne is seemingly wide open: but while he could easily strike down the elderly King T’Chaka (John Kani), Killmonger chooses to keep the man alive instead and manipulate his grief to obtain a spot in the King’s favor, ultimately being chosen to succeed T’Challa as the new Black Panther.

What If...?
Killmonger | engadget.com

Not everybody is fooled by his act, however. Visiting the Ancestral Plane, Killmonger is warned by the spirit of T’Challa that he will pay a terrible price for his crimes – which segues nicely into the final scene of Shuri (voiced by Ozioma Akagha) discovering that Killmonger is behind the murder of Tony Stark, and meeting with the new president of Stark Industries, Pepper Potts (voiced by Beth Hoyt) to discuss a plan. I haven’t forgotten that shot from the trailer where Pepper was fighting alongside the Dora Milaje, and although I expected to see it in this episode I now feel certain we’ll pick up this storyline again.

At the moment, I’m not sure if that idea actually excites me. This episode isn’t bad, but it brings very little to the table that wasn’t already done (and done better) in Black Panther or Iron Man. Hopefully in part two, Nakia shows up and becomes the Black Panther in this universe like she deserves.

Episode Rating: 5.9/10

“What If…?” Episode 2 Is The Best Kind Of Marvel Storytelling

SPOILERS FOR WHAT IF…? AHEAD!

Come August 28th, it will have been a year since we mourned the sudden and shocking loss of Chadwick Boseman, the man behind the instantly-iconic character of Black Panther – and for many of us, the pain of that parting still feels raw and vulnerable. Boseman was so much more than an actor in some of our favorite movies: he made the most of every moment he had on this planet to inspire people around the world through his work and especially through Black Panther, and his full impact – particularly on the Black community – can’t be put into words by me.

What If...?
What If…? | sportskeeda.com

But while today’s episode of What If…? obviously can’t fully accomplish that gargantuan task either in just thirty minutes, it does a beautiful job of bringing Boseman’s legacy of kindness to life onscreen, assisted by luscious animation and a brilliant performance from Boseman himself, who recorded all his lines for What If…? before his death. Focusing on the repercussions of a change to the Marvel timeline that turns his T’Challa into the character known as Star-Lord, this episode is just as much a microcosm of Boseman’s own impact on the real world as it is of T’Challa’s impact within the confines of the Marvel Multiverse – a glimpse into those areas where the actor and the character overlapped on some level.

And where the two overlap is where the magic happens, and Boseman slips into the character of T’Challa so effortlessly that it doesn’t matter if he’s wearing the mantle of a Star-Lord rather than the solemn duties of Wakanda’s king: it’s T’Challa, the man underneath all the trappings, that we love. And that’s why this episode is a perfect encapsulation of what can make What If…? so rewarding to fans, because these stand-alone stories are supposed to shine a spotlight on the characters themselves, removed of their iconic gear and cool nicknames, placed in a wholly different scenario, but still themselves at their core; still making the decisions we know that character would make.

That’s exactly what the first episode of What If…? got so terribly wrong, using Peggy Carter to tiredly hit all the same plot beats as Steve Rogers did in The First Avenger. That episode could have been about almost any character in the MCU being injected with the Super-Soldier Serum, and it really wouldn’t have mattered because the writing was entirely plot-driven, leaving no room for the bold character choices we need from a What If…? scenario. It ceased to be a story about how Peggy Carter wears the mantle of Captain Carter and what she brings to the job, and became a recap of Steve Rogers’ movie, starring interchangeable action figures whose individual personalities matter less than a shield.

That’s always been a criticism of MCU movies, and I hated that the studio – which is, in fact, moving away from that mentality overall – gave its own detractors ammunition like that. This episode of What If…?, on the other hand, takes the cornerstones that make up T’Challa’s character – such as his dignity,  generosity, open-mindedness, and his desire to do good even when it requires him to upend the status quo – and uses those as the rock-solid basis for an original story that has similar vibes to Guardians Of The Galaxy, sure, but veers off in a completely different direction.

T’Challa being abducted from earth in place of Peter Quill (voiced by Brian T. Delaney) because the Ravagers were misled by Wakanda’s energy signature, him accidentally becoming the Star-Lord, and having a chance to share his kindness and pure spirit with the rest of the galaxy: that quite literally changes everything in the MCU – like, to the point where he doesn’t even form the Guardians Of The Galaxy in this timeline because he’s already averted most of the tragic events in each member’s backstories.

And the episode takes its time to reveal this, peeling back the layers so precisely that when the episode starts with T’Challa going about the exact same Power Stone heist that Peter Quill pulled off in the first Guardians Of The Galaxy movie, you might be wary that it’s a repeat of what happened with episode one. But the catch is that, while Peter Quill kicked off the events of Guardians Of The Galaxy by trying to sell the Power Stone on the black market, T’Challa plans to use it to solve an energy crisis in the Krylorian star-system.

We get to see the impacts of T’Challa’s actions everywhere he goes. For one thing, he and the Ravagers’ captain Yondu Udonta (Michael Rooker) are actually close – and while their father-son dynamic still comes with conflict, T’Challa’s maturity and wisdom helps him navigate those rough patches, and facilitates an earlier redemption for Yondu. In this timeline, Thanos (Josh Brolin) runs a bar and gardens in his spare time – having been convinced by T’Challa that his plan for randomized genocide on a universal scale as a means of resource reallocation isn’t efficient or ethical (although there’s something eerie to Thanos constantly repeating that his plan would have worked).

As for Thanos’ adopted children, we only meet this timeline’s version of Nebula (Karen Gillan) – who is still mostly humanoid, having never been hardened into a sentient killing machine for her father. Side-note: It’s very weird seeing Nebula with any hair, much less a full head of wavy platinum blonde locks like a 1940’s movie-star. She’s still not on good terms with Thanos, which I appreciate because she has legitimate reasons to be upset with him besides turning her into an android, but she’s also funny, fashionable, and even a bit flirty around T’Challa (whom she calls “Cha-Cha”), and Karen Gillan does a great job selling the whole performance.

Later it’s revealed that Drax (voiced by Fred Tatasciore, due to some kind of “miscommunication” behind the scenes) never experienced the crushing loss of his wife and daughter – which would have sent him down the dark path to vengeance – in this timeline. In a bizarre twist of fate, he’s now working at Thanos’ bar. Even Korath (Djimon Hounsou), a minor villain in Guardians Of The Galaxy, ends up joining the Ravagers team and abandoning the Kree zealot Ronan. And while some of these changes might seem over-the-top divorced from context, Boseman’s charisma makes it believable.

What If...?
T’Challa as Star-Lord | themarysue.com

Now…that’s not to say everything in the universe is magically fixed by T’Challa’s presence. Thanos retires from his life of evil, but the power vacuum he leaves behind is quickly filled by another tyrant – Benicio Del Toro’s Collector. This twist makes a lot of sense, and retroactively helps to elevate this bizarre character as a legitimate threat, something he never got to be in the movies before getting killed off. In What If…?, with the help of the Black Order, the Collector has already done pretty well for himself – nabbing a whole bunch of new trinkets to add to his collection, including Mjolnir, Captain America’s shield, and – most horrifyingly, to me – Hela’s telekinetic helmet.

Along with the fancy weaponry comes an element of action that was completely missing from the character’s previous appearances, and perhaps feels a bit jarring here because of that. He’s still drowning under several pounds of snazzy bling when we meet him, but he quickly sheds his outer layers to reveal an impressive six-pack, and show off some martial arts moves. Del Toro seems to be having a great time voicing the character and doing weird stuff with his line-readings, which totally works for the Collector.

Oh, and can we just talk about Carina (Ophelia Lovibond) for a moment? One thing I love about the Multiverse is that even the most obscure characters can return and get payback for how the films did them dirty. And Carina, the Collector’s abused servant, has deserved a second chance ever since James Gunn used her to demonstrate the destructive abilities of the Power Stone in Guardians Of The Galaxy by having her get blown to smithereens. Just as Gunn has gotten better at writing women, so too has the MCU slowly improved.

In What If…?, Carina finally gets revenge on the Collector for all the evil things he did to her, smirking as she slips on the bracelet that allows her to control his minions and turn them against him. I love how there’s no attempt to moralize about her actions, and we don’t even get to see what happens – we just hear the Collector squealing the word “Karma!” before he’s buried under the weight of his own monstrous creations. It’s so dark, it’s so powerful, and I don’t think enough people are as obsessed with this scene as I am.

Contrast that scene with Peter Quill’s non-reaction to Carina’s death in Guardians Of The Galaxy, however, and you’ll notice that this whole episode is pretty damning for Quill – whose time as Star-Lord has resulted in a lot less peace and harmony, and a lot more apocalyptic catastrophe. His swagger, braggadocio, and self-absorbed attitude have always teetered between endearing and irritating (no thanks to Chris Pratt being the absolute worst), and his casual sexism in the Guardians franchise was never cute. It’s a real shame, because we absolutely deserve the messy, dramatic, canonically bisexual disaster that is Marvel Comics Quill, and we’re probably never gonna get it from Pratt.

And that’s why I’m so intrigued by the new version of Quill we met today in What If…?, who never got off-world – and is not voiced by Chris Pratt – but instead ended up working at a Dairy Queen in Missouri while T’Challa took his place among the stars. The episode concludes with Ego the Living Planet (Kurt Russell) donning human form and reuniting with Peter, juxtaposed with scenes of T’Challa returning to Wakanda and introducing his biological family to his found family from outer space. I really hope we reconnect with Quill and Ego at some point, because that’s too big a cliffhanger to leave like that.

Across the board, this is a massive improvement on the premiere episode. The writing is more sophisticated, the action is even cleaner, the voice-acting is stellar, and even Jeffrey Wright’s The Watcher – while still a background character – gets to engage with the material a bit more, just as I’d hoped he would. Most importantly, What If…? knows, or at least I hope it knows, that at its core it has to be character-driven to work…at the very least in episodes where the central conceit is a role-swap.

What If...?
T’Challa and Yondu | insider.com

And that’s especially important with regards to characters like T’Challa, who mean so much to people because of the qualities that make them different from a lot of other superheroes, that can’t be treated as interchangeable or secondary to the plot. Hopefully, What If…? continues to keep that in mind going forward.

Rating: 10/10

Michaela Coel Joins “Black Panther 2” In A Mystery Role

Michaela Coel is on a meteoric rise to stardom, and it’s been a beautiful thing to witness. Over roughly five years, the British-Ghanaian actress has gone from a fleeting appearance in The Last Jedi to starring in an episode of Black Mirror and in the TV series Chewing Gum, which she wrote and produced. But until last year, she was still relatively unknown – and then I May Destroy You came along, earning Coel three Emmy Award nominations for her work in front of and behind the camera as an actress, writer, director, and producer. I’m sure Marvel President Kevin Feige had his eye on her even before she joined WandaVision‘s Elizabeth Olsen in the Emmy’s Best Actress category, but just yesterday it became official: Coel is joining the MCU.

Michaela Coel
Michaela Coel | standard.co.uk

She’ll be showing up in the sequel to Black Panther, titled Wakanda Forever, and has apparently already joined director Ryan Coogler and her castmates in Atlanta to start filming. That’s really all we know for the time being, because her role is being kept under wraps, but speculation has been…intense, to say the least. Why? Because thanks to her extraordinary talent and the fact that she happens to possess the most sculptured cheekbones in all of England, she’s one of the top fan-casts for the character of Ororo Munroe, a.k.a. Storm.

Yeah, as in the Storm. The Storm whose been one of the most prominent members of the X-Men team in Marvel Comics since 1975. The Storm whose an Omega-Level Mutant with pretty much every atmokinetic ability under the sun (the light of which she can manipulate by altering levels of moisture in the air, by the way), including the power to generate wind, rain, lightning, thunder, snow, hurricanes, tornadoes, fog, etc. The Storm who appeared in six of Fox’s X-Men movies played by Halle Berry and Alexandra Shipp, and who got virtually nothing to do in all that time. It is long past time for Storm to get some of the spotlight that’s been reserved for her (white, male) teammates, and Michaela Coel in the role would ensure an unforgettable MCU debut for the character.

And unlike, say, Reed Richards or Blue Marvel appearing in WandaVision, Ororo Munroe showing up in a Black Panther story would make sense. The character’s connections to Wakanda date back to her first interaction with the African nation’s king, T’Challa, whom she met and rescued back when he was still a prince. The two formed a close (and semi-romantic) bond while journeying together, but separated before they could express their feelings for each other, with T’Challa going on to become king of Wakanda and Munroe settling down in her ancestral homeland on the Serengeti, where she was worshipped as a goddess. Since then, in the comics, she’s married T’Challa, served as the Queen of Wakanda for a time, left T’Challa to side with the X-Men, defended Wakanda from a number of threats including Skrull shapeshifters, and taken over as its Queen during T’Challa’s absence.

But in the MCU, T’Challa isn’t coming back following Chadwick Boseman’s tragic passing last year. There’s been a lot of debate over whether it’s the right choice and how Marvel will incorporate Boseman’s death into the story of Wakanda Forever, but ultimately it seems a different character (or perhaps, characters) will take up the Black Panther mantle – one likely being Shuri, T’Challa’s younger sister, and another candidate being M’Baku of the Jabari Tribe. I don’t expect Storm to vie for the mantle, but I could envision a scenario where she’s introduced at the beginning of the movie as one of T’Challa’s friends from childhood, who never got the chance to say goodbye to him before what will presumably be an in-universe funeral for the character.

Michaela Coel
Storm | wallpaperflare.com

There would be pros and cons to this, of course. It could serve as a very touching opportunity to explore more of T’Challa’s youth, and I’m sure many audiences would see themselves in Storm’s grief and feelings of incompletion. But at the same time…it might be unfair to both the character of Storm and the legacy of Chadwick Boseman to use this movie as a means of introducing other major characters, if it distracts from giving Boseman the send-off he deserves. It could also be unfair to Michaela Coel, who never worked with Boseman and can’t draw on the same genuine feelings of heartbreak that his Black Panther castmates like Lupita Nyong’o, Letitia Wright, and Winston Duke, can. If anyone could make this work, it’d be Ryan Coogler, but it’s going to be a tricky situation regardless.

But of course, we don’t actually know that Michaela Coel is playing Storm in Wakanda Forever, and there’s a good chance she’s not. My only hope is that she’s not in a one-off role, because Coel deserves to stick around in the MCU no matter who she’s playing.

And if not Storm, what then? Well, there’s a few other options I’ve seen floated, all of which could potentially be interesting. For instance, Michaela Coel would make for a radiant Madam Slay, a minor villain from the comics who controls an army of leopards and is mostly content with hunting and killing poachers until she crosses paths with Erik Killmonger, becomes his lover, and tries to usurp the throne of Wakanda with him. In the MCU, Madam Slay could show up in Wakanda to avenge Killmonger’s death at the end of Black Panther, although that could turn into a retread of Killmonger’s own character arc.

A lesser-known but perhaps even more interesting character is Zenzi, a villainous empath who can force people to succumb to their darkest desires and worst impulses. In the comics, she’s not technically Wakandan but does become an ally of a Wakandan rebel movement who seek to overthrow T’Challa. In the MCU, her origin story could be tweaked a little: she could lead a rebellion against whoever is chosen to become the new Black Panther. Interestingly, Zenzi has a connection to Baron Zemo which the MCU might like to exploit – I don’t know about you, but I’d love to see Michaela Coel join the Thunderbolts.

Coel may not want to play a villain, however, in which case she’d also be a great choice to play Aneka, one of the Dora Milaje warriors from the comics who hasn’t appeared yet in live-action – but whose canonical girlfriend, Ayo, was prominently featured in The Falcon And The Winter Soldier just recently. Not only would it be great to have more LGBTQ+ representation (particularly queer Black women) in the MCU, but this is a role Michaela Coel could easily reprise in the upcoming Wakanda-centric Disney+ series. In fact, she could lead the Wakanda-centric Disney+ series, not to mention write and direct parts of it too.

As you can see, there’s a lot of great characters besides Storm whom Michaela Coel could play, and I’d be happy with any one of these choices because I really just want Coel to shine. But if she is playing Storm, and she is the very first Mutant introduced in the MCU, you definitely won’t see me complaining because I’ve wanted her in that role for a while now.

Michaela Coel
Dora Milaje | cbr.com

How about you? Do you want to see Michaela Coel don Ororo Munroe’s classic white hair and take to the skies, or would you prefer her in a different role? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!

Wakanda Was Right Not To Totally Trust Bucky – Sorry, Not Sorry

SPOILERS FOR THE FALCON AND THE WINTER SOLDIER AHEAD!

And…here we go again. Another week, another episode of The Falcon And The Winter Soldier, another round of unbearable Twitter discourse about the white people in this show while the Black lead continues to be, at best, overshadowed, and at worst, actively undermined, by this very type of discourse. And this week’s episode didn’t even center on Sam Wilson as much as it could have with better writing, but it focused even less on Bucky Barnes – and yet the new discourse predictably revolves around the latter.

Wakanda
Bucky and Ayo | digitalspy.com

This week, it’s actor/director Stephen Ford who failed the “try-to-have-a-meaningful-conversation-about-The-Falcon-And-The-Winter-Soldier-without-constantly-centering-whiteness” challenge. While most of us were acknowledging the sheer awesomeness of the Dora Milaje warriors, and getting even more hyped about the upcoming Wakanda Disney+ series that will surely explore their adventures and inspiring teamwork, Ford took to Twitter to share his own deeply cringeworthy take on one of the best scenes in the series (and by far the best action sequence), in which Ayo and the Dora Milaje battle Sam Wilson, Bucky Barnes, John Walker, and Lemar Hoskins.

In a matter of minutes, the Dora Milaje have soundly defeated all four men – and only fail in their ultimate goal to capture Baron Zemo because Sam and Bucky insisted on getting involved in the fight to protect John Walker’s fragile ego, allowing the Baron to escape in the chaos. Sam almost holds his own, but Ayo makes short work of Bucky, swiftly and decisively activating what is implied to be a secret failsafe built into his Wakandan-made vibranium arm, causing the appendage to simply pop off.

The moment is shocking, and is clearly supposed to provoke an emotional reaction from the viewer – but if your takeaway is that the Wakandans are “really messed up” manipulative monsters who violated Bucky’s bodily autonomy, then I encourage you to rewatch the scene: and this time, not through the filter of whiteness. Because the entire sequence is far more complex and nuanced than that, and exemplifies everything I love most about The Falcon And The Winter Soldier‘s masterful way of tackling very serious topics.

Ford’s argument, which I had already seen being voiced by melodramatic Bucky stans before he posted his tweet, is that Bucky was betrayed by the Wakandans who designed the failsafe in his arm, and that it’s indicative of the way nobody in his life – even those he believes to be friends or allies – actually trust him to have changed or evolved since his time as the brainwashed HYDRA killing-machine known as the Winter Soldier. But for a deep-dive psychological analysis into an already iconic pop-culture moment, it’s embarrassingly shallow, ignoring several crucial bits of context that lend a wholly different meaning to the scene when taken into account.

Firstly, how about we actually talk about why the Dora Milaje were there? They had been dispatched from Wakanda to find Baron Zemo and bring him to justice for assassinating their King T’Chaka – a violent killing that, need I remind you all, Zemo carried out while disguised as Bucky in an attempt to have the Winter Soldier taken captive, thus making him easier for Zemo to later access and brainwash. And yet, when the Dora Milaje arrive in Riga, they find Bucky now willingly aiding and abetting Zemo – something that has to hurt them all, after what they did to help Bucky heal and recover from Zemo’s manipulation.

And sure, you could argue that Bucky had a valid reason for breaking Zemo out of prison and following him halfway around the world…but at the same time, it is deeply troubling that Bucky hasn’t once mentioned what he planned to do with Zemo after he and Sam had gotten the information they needed from the killer. At this point, anything remotely resembling a plan has now gone out the window (or, rather, the sewer tunnel), thanks to Zemo’s escape: but the Dora Milaje are validated in their distrust of Bucky, because all he’s done is call Zemo “a means to an end”, as if that makes his actions more ethical, without explaining whether he ever intended to hand Zemo over to the Wakandans, or back to the German authorities.

Wakanda
Ayo | superherohype.com

Secondly, let’s talk about the arm in question for a moment, shall we? Designed by the Wakandans out of vibranium, their nation’s most rare, precious, and frequently stolen resource, the fact that that arm even exists is proof that Wakanda trusted Bucky enough not to go on a homicidal rampage strangling people to death, as is the fact that Ayo leaves the arm with Bucky after their battle instead of taking it with her. But…that arm is still a weapon; a dangerous and potentially very destructive weapon.

And Ayo, by activating the failsafe in the arm, isn’t telling Bucky she distrusts him. She’s reminding him – without even having to say a word, though she does throw in a whispered “Bast damn you, James” for good measure – that Wakanda did trust him, that they made the choice to weaponize him believing he had changed, and that he betrayed that trust: not by devolving into the Winter Soldier again, not by going on a murder spree or anything like that, but by having the audacity to defend Zemo after everything he did to hurt the people who helped Bucky escape him in the first place.

There’s a reason society overemphasizes the virtue of trust – because whiteness relies on people putting their total, unwavering, trust in fundamentally corrupt individuals and systems which are then free to exploit, abuse, and weaponize that trust against people of color, and particularly Black people. Unconditional trust is extremely dangerous, and if you want a good example, look no further than American nationalism, which is horrifically embodied in The Falcon And The Winter Soldier by John Walker. The entire show is about this idea of unconditional trust being the weapon of the oppressor, and about how Black people specifically have known this for a very long time.

So no, the Wakandans not putting total trust in Bucky isn’t a fault of theirs. It’s a defense mechanism – just like the literal failsafe they built into his arm. It’s not monstrous, it’s not manipulative, and it’s not messed up.

Wakanda
Bucky Barnes | gamerant.com

You know what is? That every week, the discourse that comes out of The Falcon And The Winter Soldier immediately centers whiteness and white characters in a story that is all about the dangers of doing just that. But with two episodes left and two more weeks of what will have to be some extraordinarily bad “hot takes” in order to top this one, I hope I can use my blog responsibly to help fight this trend.