Briefing

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever's biggest questions, explained

Everything to know about what's next for the franchise's major characters

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever concludes with an emotional credits scene that has significant implications for the franchise's future, as do several other plot points and reveals in the film. Here's everything you need to know about the movie, that ending, and what it all means for the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe — with major spoilers ahead: 

Is Shuri the new Black Panther? 

Ladies and gentlemen, meet your new Black Panther. 

As fans suspected, following the death of actor Chadwick Boseman, the Black Panther mantle was passed to T'Challa's sister, Shuri (Letitia Wright), after she recreates and ingests the Heart-Shaped Herb. 

That means Shuri is now positioned to lead the franchise, at least for the time being — a choice that may prove to be controversial after Wright came under fire for tweeting an anti-vaccine video in 2020 and was reported to have espoused anti-vaccine views on set (Wright has denied those reports). 

But there is precedence for this move in the comics, where Shuri also took over as Black Panther, though the circumstances were different. In a 2009 comic storyline, T'Challa ends up in a coma after being attacked by Doctor Doom, so Shuri became Black Panther. After he woke up, she still kept the mantle for some time. 

What's going on with M'Baku at the waterfall?

In his final scene, M'Baku (Winston Duke) announces during a coronation ceremony at the Warrior Falls that the Black Panther, Shuri, won't be coming — and he intends to "challenge for the throne." 

The implication appears to be that going forward, M'Baku will rule as king of Wakanda, while Shuri will still be Black Panther, and he's presumably seeking the throne with her permission. It's a way for the franchise to divide up duties and give Duke a major role in the future, since the Black Panther and the king of Wakanda don't necessarily need to be the same person. After all, in Captain America: Civil War, T'Challa was the Black Panther while his father, T'Chaka, was king. 

What happens in Wakanda Forever's credits scene? 

Shuri travels to Haiti, where T'Challa's love interest, Nakia (Lupita Nyong'o), has been working at a school. Finally ready to let go of her brother, Shuri burns her funeral garbs at the beach. But then Nakia introduces Shuri to a young boy: Her secret son with T'Challa. The boy's Haitian name is Toussaint, but in Wakandan, his name is … Prince T'Challa. 

Boseman's T'Challa disappeared for five years during "The Blip," the time after Thanos' snap, so we can presume this child was conceived before that. But it's explained that T'Challa wanted to keep him hidden so he could grow up without the pressures of the throne, and he prepared Nakia and his son for his death. With this reveal, a movie that already served as an emotional tribute to Boseman ends with a hopeful symbol of his legacy. 

What's the future for T'Challa's son?

It's not often a movie introduces a replacement for its lead character and then a potential replacement for the replacement. 

It's hard not to speculate that the young Prince T'Challa will eventually grow up to be Black Panther himself. The introduction of the child appears to be a clever way to deal with Boseman's absence in the MCU. In the immediate future — presumably going into the next Avengers movies — Shuri will likely retain the Black Panther mantle. But some fans were disappointed by the idea that they'll never get more storylines with T'Challa as Black Panther, suggesting a recast was in order for that reason.

By introducing his child, then, Marvel has set itself up to eventually get a T'Challa back in the Black Panther suit, but without the new actor having the pressure of replacing the irreplaceable by literally playing Boseman's character. This would also put some necessary distance between that actor taking over and Boseman's passing.

Based on the child's age, he can't become Black Panther for a while. But Marvel does have Avengers: Secret Wars slated for 2026, which, based on the comics, should involve all sorts of multiverse-collapsing madness. Fans have wondered if this could allow Prince T'Challa to be aged up by the end due to the reality of the Marvel universe being altered — possibly even allowing him to take over as soon as Black Panther 3.

Another option would be for Shuri to continue as Black Panther even after Secret Wars, but have T'Challa join the Young Avengers (possibly alongside America Chavez, Cassie Lang, and others) before he's ready to take over. 

Does T'Challa have a son in the comics?

He did at one point, though not under these circumstances. In the comics and in the animated film Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow, T'Challa instead had a child named Azari with Storm — as in, Storm from the X-Men, played by Halle Berry in the films. Azari inherits powers from both his parents, and he also eventually takes the Black Panther mantle. This happens in an alternate universe, though, and in the MCU, Storm hasn't been introduced. 

What's next for Riri Williams?

Wakanda Forever introduces Riri Williams (Dominique Thorne), the genius young inventor who we'll next see leading the Disney+ series Ironheart, slated for fall 2023. 

Notably, though, Shuri doesn't allow Riri to keep the Iron Man-esque suit she uses in the final battle, so she'll have to rebuild it in Ironheart — and though Shuri gets the police off her immediate tail, Riri may still be on the CIA's radar following the events of Wakanda Forever. 

In the comics, Riri gets to meet Tony Stark, who inspired her sort of like how Captain Marvel inspired Ms. Marvel, though perhaps the movies will have Shuri serve as a mentor in Iron Man's absence. The Riri of the comics becomes Ironheart after Tony falls into a coma, and she also joins a team of teenage heroes called the Champions, a group that has also consisted of Spider-Man and Ms. Marvel

But long term, it sure looks like Riri will become the "new Iron Man" of the Avengers line-up. Spider-Man: Far From Home hinted that Peter Parker might fill that role, but it makes more sense for it to be Riri, especially given that Marvel is still sharing the Spider-Man character rights with Sony and is constantly at risk of losing them

What is Valentina up to?

The biggest plot twist of Wakanda Forever may be the reveal that Valentina Allegra de Fontaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) was … married to Everett Ross (Martin Freeman)? 

Louis-Dreyfus' character was introduced in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier as a mysterious woman who recruits John Walker (Wyatt Russell). In Black Widow, she sent Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh), who apparently works for her, after Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner). It hadn't been clear who Valentina works for, but we now know she's the CIA director — though as Marvel.com notes, the comics depicted Valentina as a triple agent who's secretly loyal to a Russian terrorist organization, so her true allegiance in the MCU may still not be known. 

But Valentina seems to be assembling a team that will eventually be called the Thunderbolts, a group of darker Avengers that are essentially the Marvel version of DC's Suicide Squad, and Wakanda Forever suggests it would operate under the supervision of the CIA (possibly off the books). 

We also see that the United States wants to destabilize Wakanda, and the only one pushing against that is Ross, who was arrested before being freed by the Wakandans. But Valentina mentions she dreams about America being the only country with Vibranium. So with Ross ousted, could she push for a war against Wakanda — a country that has now been blamed for an attack on CIA agents — in Black Panther 3? Or might she order the Thunderbolts to steal Vibranium from Wakanda in 2024's Thunderbolts film? 

It's hard to imagine Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), who's been confirmed as part of the Thunderbolts, would go along with that, though, given Shuri took him in and helped restore his mind after Captain America: Civil War

What's next for Namor? Is he a mutant? 

Congrats to Namor for becoming a rare Marvel villain to survive their movie! 

In the comics, Namor has been dubbed Marvel's "first mutant," and he openly describes himself in Wakanda Forever as a mutant, the biggest indication yet that the X-Men are on their way into the MCU. Between this and the reveal that Ms. Marvel is a mutant, it seems the plan is to introduce mutants into the MCU as if they always existed, rather than having them be pulled in from another timeline. 

By the end of the film, Namor is spared by Shuri after making an alliance with Wakanda, and he declares in his final scene that the time will come when Wakanda needs his help against the surface world — possibly setting up Wakanda and Talokan to join forces in Black Panther 3. This jives with the comics, in which Namor is more of an anti-hero than a straight-up villain, and he's fought the Black Panther but also allied with him. So if the U.S. really does wage war on Wakanda, Namor can join forces with Shuri, requiring her to ally with the man who killed her mother — and teaching Marvel fans it really can be exhausting rooting for the anti-hero

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