A grieving kid with cosmic radiation flowing through his veins and an unhinged celestial being sounds like the kind of problem you’d call in the Avengers for. But the group that MCU’s gotten you familiar with—the ones who never retreat without ensuring the enemy has fallen—is sort of different here. The second episode of What If season 2 pulls an adolescent Peter Quill to safety before he’s fully corrupted by the extraterrestrial half of his lineage. You might want to brush up on your knowledge of the lesser-known, mostly forgotten Marvel superheroes if you really want to make the most of the experience this episode has in store for you.
What’s different about the journey of this Peter Quill?
Mighty judgmental of The Watcher to introduce 8-year-old Peter Quill the way he does! But when you see the absolute carnage this tiny little glow-eyed future Star-Lord is capable of, even you will be a skeptic. I mean, not only do Peggy and the fighter plane under her command fail embarrassingly in their pursuit of little Peter and his space pod, but he also absolutely demolishes the Grand Central Terminal in busy Manhattan. The Watcher knows what’s bugging him. Luck hasn’t been kind to Peter in this reality. As if losing his mom wasn’t hard enough on him, Yondu’s stunted emotional growth has made the Ravagers hand over the little boy to his celestial father, Ego. But the reunion wasn’t at all warm and tear-soaked. Staying true to his name, the first thing Ego does after meeting his son is take away the one thing that tethered him to planet Earth and his mom’s memories—the Walkman. Why let the kid be a kid when you can weaponize him for your power-hungry dream of “The Expansion”? Bad dads aren’t unique on TV. But a father using his adolescent son to consume all the planets in the universe until everything is a part of him surely takes the cake.
Which superheroes join hands to stop Peter Quill?
It’s the year 1988. Tony Stark is still a kid getting on his dad’s nerves, and Captain America hasn’t been thawed out yet. So, who are the Earth’s mightiest heroes that Peggy and S.H.I.E.L.D. turn to? It was time for Hank to take a break from passing potato chips off as vegetables to his sharp-witted daughter Hope. Neither of them can be expected to have moved on from their loss. And even though Hank still holds S.H.I.E.L.D. accountable for the death of his wife, just one look at the state of Manhattan on TV is convincing enough for him to bring himself, his daughter, and the much-needed Pym particles to the S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters. They’re not alone there. Hank’s bittersweet banter with Bill Foster is cut short by Hope’s awe at the inclusion of royalty in the mix. King T’Chaka has graced the headquarters with his presence, but not without reminding Howard of the fact that they’re indebted to Wakanda. Was that an apology from Howard Stark for having lost America’s most beloved superhero and his vibranium-powered shield? It’s not the time to pick and choose. Much to their fear and somehow to their relief as well, Russia has eased up in the middle of the Cold War and loaned out their choice killing machine, the Winter Soldier, so that the more immediate problem of Earth facing total destruction can be avoided. Thanks to Dr. Wendy Lawson’s tesseract-fueled Kree Starforce jet, it takes the group no time to land on Coney Island.
How does Peter Quill escape?
The kid isn’t messing around. The wave of cosmic radiation he’s been emanating has got the S.H.I.E.L.D. bigshots on edge. They do locate the threat pretty early, and considering Peter’s actually just a kid having the time of his life at a carnival, they majorly underestimate the punch he packs. There’s no problem in the department of delegation, at least. Wendy inspects the pod’s technology, which is seemingly above her paygrade, while Hank, Bill, T’Chaka, and the grim Winter Soldier bully the kid around in an attempt to contain him. Their best technologies and skills are no match for Peter’s celestial powers, though. It takes the groundbreaking (literally) appearance of Thor with his trusted Mjolnir for Peter to be docile enough to be captured. Thor’s caught him in the same cell that once held Loki, making it abundantly clear that it’s personal. And why wouldn’t it be when Peter’s apparently turned the armies of the nine realms to dust, including that of Thor’s home? But the thing is, Peter really is just a boy caught up in the cruel machinations of his father. It takes Hope and Peter bonding over the loss they have in common for it to even come out that all Peter wants is to go home. As the grownups bicker over how best to treat the 8-year-old—to maim, kill, or put him under the microscope—the two kids contrive their own plan to get Peter home to Missouri. Hope is the first person on Earth to give Peter the benefit of the doubt. She knows the signs of grief on a personal level. And she’s seen the same effect of losing a loved one in Peter. So it’s not just her walkman that Peter gets. With her father’s gear and trust at her disposal, Hope makes sure that Peter breaks out and gets home safely. It’s her admirable sense of empathy that opens the grownups’ eyes to the truth. How they’ve been handling an alarming circumstance that involves a child has been nothing short of despicable.
How does Peter Quill beat his father?
What gets majorly overlooked when it comes to Earth’s superheroes is the moral side of it all. They’re there to protect their planet and their people. And in order to do that, sometimes they have to do the unthinkable and hurt someone who’s a victim of circumstances. Peter’s case is no different. Nonetheless, his age does factor in when it comes to the approach the superheroes should’ve taken. No matter what’s at stake, you at least hear out a kid before aiming to take him out. Who knows what they would’ve ended up doing if Hope hadn’t talked some sense into them?
But even then, it’s not entirely out of the goodness of their hearts that they send Wendy and Hank to fetch the boy. It was never Peter, but the power he holds as a half-celestial that Ego wanted to make use of. Thor got his hands on a seedling—something that contains Ego’s essence. If a celestial were to activate it, Ego would consume Earth and everything on it. The trouble is, the seedling is protected against any harm Earth’s dwellers might want to cause it. S.H.I.E.L.D. is having a change of heart for some reason. While saving a boy under the thumb of his abusive father was certainly a part of it, their decision to get Peter to join their side was mainly to make sure that Earth stayed out of the fight between the two celestials.
Ego never loved the boy. It wasn’t fatherly love that made Ego seek out his son. Engulfing the universe as a whole is the sole vision that has guided Ego’s decisions and actions all along. So, now that his son’s joined hands with beings he looks down on, there’s nothing stopping Ego from crushing him with his bare hands. Before Peter flew in, the superheroes were in quite a pickle. Ego didn’t even need to unleash his full potential for the mightiest heroes on Earth to cower before him. And since he’s the only weapon that he can be beaten with, Peter absorbs his essence through the seedling. I bet Winter Soldier is breathing a sigh of relief, looking back at his decision not to pull the trigger. The ending spells out what the episode’s really been about. Hope took a gamble on Peter. And by destroying his celestial god of a father with a blinding blast of cosmic energy, Peter has truly made the most of the chance Earth’s superheroes have taken on him. Donning the name his mother would’ve called him, little Star-Lord avenged her death and defended Earth with a single breath. Howard getting through to Winter Soldier and awakening a little bit of Bucky in him is not a small win either. It will take decades of therapy to fix the guy, but the fact that he took his finger off the trigger was certainly a sign of hope. Thor’s not totally satisfied with how the whole ordeal ended, though. Ego’s reign may be over, but his planet still lives. If Ego’s planet holds his essence and it falls into the wrong hands, this whole thing could repeat itself on a much grander scale. Since the heroes have banded together already, it only makes sense for them to get the job done in such a way that no further threat remains—at least from Ego’s wretched cosmic energy.