Black Panther: Wakanda Forever has been one of the most anticipated movies of the year since its release date was first announced. Now that it’s here, many people are wondering how the movie reckons with Chadwick Boseman’s legacy, even as it attempts to move the story of Wakanda forward.
The sequel’s long runtime, not to mention its sprawling cast of comic book characters that include Shuri, Queen Ramonda, Namor, and several surprise allies and antagonists, leave plenty of time for a number of different plots and intense battle scenes, but here’s where each one of them leaves our characters in the end.
Warning: Spoilers for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever below.
In its earliest scenes, the film introduces us to Namor, a powerful Marvel character and the leader of an underwater civilization that has been blessed with vibranium, just like Wakanda has. Although Namor (who explicitly states he’s a “mutant”) initially approaches the Wakandans as a testy potential ally, he eventually reveals that he wants to take revenge on the surface world for the way that they drove his people underwater and now threaten them with their desire for vibranium.
That puts him at odds with the stylish Shuri, who wants to find a peaceful way forward, and keep Namor from killing Riri Williams, the girl genius who invented the only machine capable of detecting vibranium. After Namor invades Wakanda and kills Queen Ramonda to avenge a murder Nakia committed to save Shuri from Namor, Shuri vows that she will have revenge on him.
Thanks to a gift she received from Namor, Shuri is able to recreate the heart-shaped herb that instills the power of the Black Panther. She takes the herb, only to discover that Erik Killmonger is waiting for her on the ancestral plane. Inspired by his hatred rather than her family’s heroism, she seeks to avenger her mother’s death by aiming to destroy Namor once and for all.
With Shuri now possessing the powers of the Black Panther, she uses them to lure Namor into a trap. While the Wakandans enagges in an epic fight over the sea with Namor’s army, Shuri manages to lure Namor to a nearby deserted island, confident in the revenge that she’s seeking. Their fight is brutal and bloody, with Shuri slicing off one of Namor’s winged feet (preventing him from flying) and Namor stabbing Shuri in the stomach with his spear.
Shuri recovers, and detonates a bomb near Namor, incapacitating him and bringing the great ruler of the seas to his knees. Yet when it comes time to deliver the fatal blow to Namor, however, she hesitates, and sees her mother, who reminds her to do the right thing: do not kill. She instead shows Namor mercy, and vows that Wakanda will come to the aid of his people should they ever need it.
After sparing the villainous Namor’s life, Shuri gets Riri back to the U.S. and Okoye busts Everett Ross out of jail for the help he provided the Wakandans. Shuri then travels to Haiti to see Nakia. While there, she has a chance to reenact a ceremony she performed with her mother early on in the film, and we see flashes of King T’Challa run through her mind.
In that moment, it’s clear that Shuri is finally fully mourning the loss of her brother, and has a newfound understanding of the what her mother told her. Her brother may no longer be on this earth, but he’s still with her. It’s a moving, poignant tribute to Chadwick Boseman’s legacy as the character, and a wonderful bit of acting from Letitia Wright.
You bet! Remember, this is a Marvel movie, after all. After Rihanna’s mournful ballad “Lift Me Up” plays over the cast credits, the movie goes back to the beach on Haiti.
In a lengthy mid-credits scene, we learn even more about the legacy that T’Challa left behind. Nakia brings a young boy down to the beach, and introduces him as her son with T’Challa. She left Wakanda in part to raise him away from the pressures of being king. Shuri learns that Nakia’s son’s Wakandan name is also T’Challa, and that he’s been raised in the traditions of her people.
While her brother and mother may be gone, Shuri can look forward to a bright future, with herself as the current Black Panther and a possible successor, her nephew, seemingly ready to honor the memory and spirit of her family’s heroic legacy.