This Is Us may be prone to big, dramatic twists, but I still don't think that we will ever see one of the Pearsons become badass double agents that turn against their country and royal family. But that's exactly what happens to Randall Pearson... er, Sterling K. Brown, in Black Panther. This Is Us fans saw a whole new side of Sterling K. Brown in Black Panther, and even though his character only appeared briefly in the movie, Brown still stole delivered a knockout performance. Spoiler alert: Black Panther spoilers involving Sterling K. Brown's character ahead.
In the new Marvel movie, Sterling K. Brown plays the brief but pivotal role of N'Jobu, the brother of Wakanda's King T'Chaka. Black Panther begins with introducing us to N'Jobu through a flashback to 1992 Oakland, California, as we see T'Chaka as the Black Panther come to pay his brother a visit. N'Jobu had been dispatched to America as a War Dog — one of Wakanda's undercover spies — along with his friend Zuri, but after the smuggler Ulysses Klaue was discovered to have escaped Wakanda with some of the country's invaluable Vibranium, T'Chaka suspects his brother may have helped Klaue.
It turns out, N'Jobu did help Klaue steal the Vibranium, and reveals to his brother the moral reasoning behind his decision: he has seen the plight of African Americans from his time in the country, and given Wakanda's vast resources, he believes it is a moral imperative that the isolationist country come out of hiding and help the people that need it. Honestly, it's a very convincing argument, but it does not sway T'Chaka, who is absolutely devoted to keeping Wakanda's Vibranium a secret and kills his own brother right then and there for betraying the country.
And... that's it. N'Jobu's story effectively ends after just one scene in Black Panther, but it becomes absolutely crucial to the movie's plot. After killing N'Jobu, T'Chaka makes yet another cruel — actually, borderline sadistic — decision by leaving N'Jobu's young son behind without a father. That boy grows up to become Erik Killmonger, a black ops-trained killer who holds his father's belief that Wakanda his morally compelled to use its insanely advanced technology to help the oppressed people around the world rather than continue to hide. It is this warring ideology along with the reveal to T'Challa of what his father really did to N'Jobu that create the central conflict of the movie, and it's a particularly complex conflict since most audiences have reported that they really can see the point of N'Jobu and Killmonger's side.
Clearly, Sterling K. Brown still made a huge impact with only a relatively minor role in Black Panther. He also showed of a grittier side for fans who may know him best as the dorky dad Randall Pearson on This Is Us. But then again, although N'Jobu is definitely more intense and intrepid than Randall, Brown's two characters do have some pretty notable similarities. They both seem to be committed fathers, and they are also both defined by how resolutely they adhere to the decisions they believe to be morally right — N'Jobu is willing to go against his country and family in an attempt to provide aid for people who need it, and Randall has become something of the moral compass for the Pearson family, even to the point that his rigid regard for the rules can bring about panic attacks. In the end, there is a case in there for Randall and N'Jobu being more alike than different, despite how they appear.
Black Panther is in theaters now, and This Is Us airs Tuesday nights on NBC.