Black Panther: Wakanda Forever has arrived. Director Ryan Coogler and Marvel Studios had to restructure the film following the passing of Chadwick Boseman, who played T’Challa/Black Panther in Captain America: Civil War, Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. Marvel Studios made it clear that they would not recast the role of T’Challa after the actor’s death, and would instead retire him in the MCU.
Note: This article contains spoilers for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.
As such, Wakanda Forever introduces a new Black Panther—Shuri, T’Challa’s sister, played by Letitia Wright. An often-debated question about T’Challa following the reveal that the MCU was moving on from the character was how the Black Panther sequel would handle his send-off. Now that the movie has been released, audiences have an answer.
Black Panther’s death in Wakanda Forever explained
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever focuses on grief, and T’Challa’s death is a major driving force for the film from the start. The sequel opens with Shuri in her lab, desperately trying to find a cure for her brother, who she states is suffering from an “illness.” She continuously checks in on his heart rate as she attempts to recreate the Heart-Shaped Herb to save his life.
For context, in 2018’s Black Panther, Erik Killmonger, after becoming the King of Wakanda, had the Heart-Shaped Herb garden burned down to prevent any new super-powered sovereigns from being created after him. Shuri’s efforts to recreate the plant fail, but as she keeps trying, her mother Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett) enters her lab.
She informs her that T’Challa passed away, and Shuri breaks down. The condition from which T’Challa dies is never disclosed, and is only referred to as an “illness.” However, the movie does indicate it was some form of progressive condition. Later on in the film, Shuri mentions that T’Challa suffered in silence, and only came to her for help when it was too late.
This is reinforced in the mid-credits scene. In the sequence, Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) introduces Shuri to her and T’Challa’s son, Toussaint/T’Challa. Nakia explains that T’Challa sent her and their son to Haiti to shield them from both the Wakandan throne and his illness. Toussaint looks to be around six years old, which means he was born before Thanos’ snap. The scene also hints that T’Challa learned of his illness soon after his return in Avengers: Endgame.
Could T’Challa eventually return to the MCU?
The possibility of T’Challa’s return has long been speculated given his importance in both comics and the MCU. However, as it stands now, the character will understandably remain retired from Marvel Studios’ live-action franchise.
During an appearance on the Ringer-Verse podcast, Marvel Studios producer Nate Moore stated that T’Challa would never be recast:
"“I will say, the chances that you see T’Challa in our—I’m not hedging my bets, I’m being quite honest—you will not see T’Challa in the MCU 616 universe. We couldn’t do it. I will say, when Chad passed, it was a real conversation we had with [director Ryan Coogler] about, ‘What do we do?,’ and it was a fast conversation. It wasn’t weeks. It was minutes of, ‘We have to figure out how to move this franchise on without that character.’ Because, I think we all feel so much of T’Challa in the MCU on the screen—not in comics—is tied to Chadwick’s performance, is what he brought to that role, both on and off screen, I would argue.”"
The sentiment is not only understandable but justified. Chadwick Boseman’s cultural impact as the Black Panther was remarkable. Keeping T’Challa retired in the MCU is a fitting way to honor Boseman’s work, as it effectively makes the former King of Wakanda his character.
Though the actor’s absence will always be felt, his contribution to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the entertainment industry as a whole will live on, both through the impact T’Challa had on the world and the Black Panther franchise.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is now in theaters.