Avengers: Infinity War is a very special movie - it has about 20 main characters, who originate from a dozen or so separate franchises, and are all mashed together in bizarre and creative ways, like a child playing with action figures. It's a film made of 80% pure fanservice - with hints towards the past, towards the future, and maybe entirely incomprehensible to anyone who had not seen the 19 films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe that preceded it. And amongst all of this chaos, all of this fanservice, and all of these scene-stealing characters, one surprising individual reigns supreme: Okoye.
Yes, the head of T'Challa's Dora Milaje is unquestionably the best character in all of Infinity War. This was not something that was entirely apparent to me on my initial viewing (where I probably would have said Peter Parker or Dr. Strange were the MVPs), but upon rewatching the movie, it seems so obvious. Because Okoye has a VERY brief appearance in the film, but she makes EVERY. SINGLE. SECOND. COUNT.
According to internet people with more time on their hands than I, Okoye is in Infinity War for a grand total of....3 minutes and 15 seconds. That is REALLY not very long - but it makes sense. Wakanda isn't introduced until the halfway point of the film, and even going from there it's one of about 3 separate plot threads. Beyond THAT even, she's one of about a dozen main characters (many much main-er than her) hanging around Wakanda. But she makes the most out of every single second she has.
Okoye's first scene comes late in the film, after Cap is asked where they could possibly take Vision to try to safely remove the Mind Stone from his forehead - there's a smashcut to Wakanda, as T'Challa and Okoye stroll through a field towards Bucky to offer him a brand new arm (for murdering 4-armed aliens). Okoye doesn't get much meaningful dialogue here, except for her line regarding the Border Tribe - "Those that are left." A pretty simple line, but one bursting with subtext.
You might remember the somewhat underplayed subplot in Black Panther of Okoye's husband, W'Kabi, being the leader of the Border Tribe - and one of the notable Wakandans to side with Killmonger over his longtime friend, T'Challa. The conflict between husband and wife (as Okoye explicitly supports T'Challa, even after he gets chucked off a waterfall) doesn't get as much play as it should - but that was because their BIG scene that really nails down W'Kabi's motivations, was weirdly cut from the final film. Here it is, just as a reminder:
While we never get a clear resolution to what happens to the (in the eyes of T'Challa, at least) traitorous W'Kabi and the members of the Border Tribe who supported him, we get a pretty clear indication from Okoye as she bitterly spits out "Those who are left." Either they have fled Wakanda or have been exiled - but one way or the other, W'Kabi is likely gone. Really, Danai Gurira packs a TON of emotion and implication in this one line - on top of resolving a hanging thread from Black Panther - and it deserves more attention.
From there, Okoye shifts into a different mode - No Bullshit Okoye. This was one of my favorite aspects of her character in Black Panther, and she really brings it front and center for much of the rest of the film. Honestly, the MCU needs more characters like Okoye - characters who are absolutely not about quips or clever one-liners, but just calling 'em like she sees 'em and deathly serious most of the time. Okoye is in no way HAPPY about hosting the Avengers in Wakanda, as she knows the danger they bring with them. She has no loyalty to these strangers - plus, she's not even getting a Starbucks. I don't care what you ironic haters think - pumpkin spice is fuckin' DELICIOUS.
And here it is - the BEST Okoye moment in the film, and maybe my favorite moment in Infinity War PERIOD...her stare of disgust. Bruce Banner has been hopping along the Wakandan warriors in the Hulkbuster armor, and proceeds to trip over himself and completely eat shit by slamming face-first into the ground. In a giant, hyper-expensive mech suit. He looks like a complete doofus. And only one person exhibits the utter disgust he's deserving of in that moment: Okoye.
And why shouldn't she? The fate of her NATION is at stake for the sake of a sentient purple robot, and this doofus is wasting the most powerful weapon ANY of them have? I'd be disgusted too. Get up. Learn what you're doing. The Dora Milaje is defined by dedication, discipline, and skills - what the hell is Banner's excuse?
One of the other great aspects to Okoye is the WEIGHT she brings to everything. Because she's a reasonably serious character, you know you can take what she says with a dose of gravitas. When the Outriders start slamming their bodies into Wakanda's shield-bubble (and, for the most part, murdering themselves in the process), she's the only one horrified at what's happening before their eyes: these alien soldiers are killing themselves FOR NO REASON. T'Challa looks unperturbed, Black Widow is just straight up confused - but Okoye understands perfectly, and her basic empathy doesn't know how to handle what she's seeing. These are living things - and they're destroying themselves.
...then comes the "all is lost" moment. M'Baku declares that this battle will be the end of Wakanda (and, hey, if 4-armed alien monsters were invading my country a few yards in front of me, I'd probably think the same thing) - and Okoye, ever the realist, doesn't mince words: "Then it will be the noblest ending in history." She doesn't try to REFUTE M'Baku and say anything to the contrary - like, "Nah, we can totally beat these aliens! C'mon, fellas!" Okoye sees the world just as M'Baku does - this is likely the end of her life and her country....but they are gonna KICK SOME ASS on their way out.
Remember "No Bullshit Okoye"? Well, here she is again, calling out the stupidest narrative device in Infinity War - keeping Scarlet Witch hidden up in Shuri's Tower for most of the battle. See, Scarlet Witch is literally goddamn CHAOS MAGIC. She has ACTUAL MAGIC POWERS and can do all sorts of stuff with telekinesis and energy projection. And, for some reason, she sits out MOST of the battle to watch over Vision (who they have no reason to suspect could be in danger at that point).
So when Scarlet Witch finally DOES decide to hop on down and grace the battlefield with her presence (after A WHOLE BUNCH OF PEOPLE HAVE DIED), Okoye isn't grateful or surprised - just pissed off that she hadn't joined sooner. And, as usual, Okoye's right.
Okoye isn't scared of SHIT - she takes on members of the Black Order without any hesitation, and literally throws her spear at Thanos' head as he makes his way towards Vision. Hear that, Thor? SHE AIMED FOR THE HEAD. Maybe you could spend some time with Okoye before Avengers 4 and try to pick up some tips.
I mean, c'mon - no powers, no mechsuits, just a spear...and look at the SHEER INTENSITY she has in her eyes.
Ultimately, I think this is a big reason why Okoye was spared - other than the total shock factor of T'Challa getting dusted (while other MCU main heroes Thor and Cap remained). Sidekicks were getting dusted left 'n right in Wakanda - Falcon, Bucky, Groot...Rhodey didn't, but without Tony there he didn't feel QUITE so sidekick-ish as usual. Really, Okoye was the only true sidekick to make it through the Snap. And it's because the Avengers are gonna NEED Okoye in Avengers 4. They're gonna need her dead-serious tone. They're gonna need her propensity to hurl spears at the heads of those who mean her people harm. They're gonna need her total lack of bullshit.
Reminder - she packed ALL of this into 3 minutes and 15 seconds. Okoye is a goddamn legend.