Wakanda Forever’s mid-credits scene is exactly the right kind of surprising

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever draws to a close with most everyone thinking that they have a solid understanding of the world’s balance of power following the passing of one Black Panther and the rise of a new one. But the movie’s solitary mid-credits sequence introduces a surprising new twist that could upend all that and set the stage for a very different kind of Black Panther story going forward.

This piece contains spoilers for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.

Rather than picking up in a completely new location some time later, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever‘s mid-credits sequence opens right back up on Shuri (Letitia Wright) and Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) on a Haitian beach. Though Wakanda Forever details how Nakia chose to become a teacher following the events of Avengers: Endgame, the movie doesn’t spend all that much time discussing why she chose Haiti or what she was doing in the country for all those years that kept her from contacting her people back home. Given what T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) and Nakia meant to one another, it’s easy enough for people to believe that her years of not returning to Wakanda were due to her grief over his death.

While grief was certainly part of what kept Nakia away from Wakanda, she reveals to Shuri that it wasn’t her only reason or the most important one. She and T’Challa figured, Nakia explains, that it would be best for their son, Toussaint, to grow up away from all of the attention and danger that comes with being a member of the royal family. As shocked as Shuri is to learn that she has a six-year-old nephew, she’s even more stunned and moved when he tells her that while Toussaint is his Haitian name, his mother also named him T’Challa for his father.

Letitia Wright as Shuri in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.

Letitia Wright as Shuri in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.

Along with being a tribute to Toussaint Louverture, Wakanda Forever‘s Toussaint / T’Challa is one of the many ways the film tries to honor the spirit of the deceased Wakandan king and the actor who portrayed him. The elder T’Challa’s legacy lives on in his son, and in the wake of Queen Ramonda’s (Angela Bassett) death at Namor’s (Tenoch Huerta) hands, his existence is likely a kind of balm for Shuri, who assumed that her entire family was dead.

But young T’Challa’s existence in the wake of the deaths of his father and grandmother raises an interesting question about the future of Wakanda’s throne that the movie leaves purposefully unanswered. After Shuri’s able to synthesize a new version of the heart-shaped herb and become the newest Black Panther earlier in the film, it’s fairly clear that she intends to retain that specific title as well as her position as the nation’s princess. But Wakanda Forever also takes care to give M’Baku (Winston Duke) one of the film’s last significant lines as he announces his intention to once again challenge Wakanda’s other leaders to ceremonial combat to determine who their new ruler should be.

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever ends on a hopeful note, but it does so after putting the whole of Wakanda through a level of tumult, upheaval, and destruction that’s wholly new for its people. The movie doesn’t go quite so far as to suggest that there could be even more monumental shifts coming Wakanda’s way. But it would make a certain amount of sense if future installments in the franchise focused on how Wakanda plans to get its political situation in order now that it has a new Black Panther who doesn’t seem interested in being queen.

Obviously, there are rules when it comes to how Wakanda chooses new rulers. But between the elder T’Challa’s shocking death and his having a secret son, it seems very much like Wakanda Forever might be laying the groundwork for a fascinating story about succession that could have far-reaching consequences for the Black Panther franchise’s future.