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How 'Black Panther: Wakanda Forever's ending sets up a path for two kingdoms
Wakanda Forever is the story of two kingdoms, and they both have very interesting futures.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever had a lot to achieve from the outset, and the film is packed with story developments that both deal with the loss of King T'Challa himself and play out a new conflict between a pair of secretive, powerful kingdoms on the world stage. It's a jam-packed movie that, in classic Marvel Studios fashion, leaves us with plenty of intriguing paths forward, so now that the film is out in the world, it's time to break it all down. Let's take a closer look at Wakanda Forever's ending, and what it means for the future of both Wakanda and Talokan.
Warning: There are spoilers for Wakanda Forever ahead.
While the film spends quite a bit of its runtime exploring how Wakanda copes with the loss of its king, paying tribute to departed star Chadwick Boseman along the way, the central conflict of Wakanda Forever is ultimately the struggle between Wakanda and Talokan, as Namor (Tenoch Huerta Mejia) rises up to seek retribution for Wakanda exposing his kingdom to potential discovery, and Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett) and Shuri (Letitia Wright) seek to both honor his concerns and resist his more brutal tendencies. Helping Wakanda out are Nakia (Lupita Nyong'o) and the just-introduced Riri Williams (Dominique Thorne).
It's a complex struggle with many layers, but in the end, Wakanda prevails thanks to Shuri's successful re-engineering of the heart-shaped herb that transforms her into the new Black Panther. As she's finally able to let go of her anger over losing T'Challa and realize she's fighting to protect her people, Shuri forces Namor into a stalemate and, ultimately, a truce. That means the Talokan army retreats, Wakanda rebuilds, and the two nations are at peace... for now.
It's important to remember, particularly when it comes to Talokan, that the seeds which sowed this conflict in the first place aren't likely to go away. Sure, Riri might have realized that she can't make any more vibranium detection machines, but if she was able to throw that thing together with her brilliant mind in a very short period of time, it's possible that another engineer, or team of engineers, could take just a little longer and make it happen. It's also quite clear that Valentina (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) has her eye on Wakanda's every move, so it's quite possible that various US intelligence assets have already been deployed to learn more about Talokan.
He may spend most of his time in the depths of the ocean, but Namor is not ignorant of these concerns, nor is he benevolent enough to simply ignore them. As he tells Namora at the end of the film, an alliance with Wakanda is beneficial right now, particularly because Wakanda has made so many enemies on the world stage with its secrets, but that doesn't mean he'll always be yielding to the new Black Panther's wishes. There may come a time, and soon, when Talokan once again has the upper hand.
Speaking of the new Black Panther, it seems that Shuri has, at least for the moment, embraced her role as protector but not necessarily as monarch. When the day comes for her investiture as Wakanda's queen, she's nowhere to be found, leaving M'Baku (Winston Duke) to issue a challenge and take the throne as her ally and friend. This might ultimately work in Wakanda's favor, because M'Baku is both a capable ruler in his own right and a seasoned warrior, and because dividing the duties of protector and ruler could prove beneficial for both the monarch and the Black Panther. If Shuri can focus on her scientific passions and her duties as Wakanda's guardian, and M'Baku can run the country, they could both end up stronger in the long run. But of course, it's not clear yet if that will work out.
Which brings us to that big mid-credits reveal, that Nakia (Lupita Nyong'o) stayed away from Wakanda all these years not because she didn't love her homeland, but because she was raising her and T'Challa's secret son in Haiti. In his brief moments onscreen, the boy is very aware of who he really is — T'Challa, Prince of Wakanda and heir to his father's throne — and Nakia notes that she and T'Challa agreed to keep their child safe and separate from the pressures of royal life until the time was right. What the film doesn't tell us when the time actually will be right, and how the rest of Wakanda will react to the news that their king had a son.
There will, of course, be plenty of time to figure that out on both the big screen and on Disney+ in follow-ups to the Wakandan story, and even if young T'Challa were to go home right now, he'd be ruling under a regency and not as an absolute monarch himself. For the moment, at least, he stands as more of an emotional point than a narrative one, a welcome surprise that allows Shuri to feel her brother's presence even as she tries to move on from her grief, and allows Nakia to remember the love she had and lost. After losing her entire family, Shuri is no longer alone, and that will both strengthen her as the Black Panther and shore up Wakanda's future as a nation. M'Baku can rule for now, maybe even for a long time, and Shuri can keep fighting, but neither of them can hold those roles forever. Now, with Wakanda's future on both the world stage and in the MCU very much uncertain, there's a clear legacy worth fighting for.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is now in theaters.
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