*Spoiler alert: This article features major Black Panther: Wakanda Forever spoilers. Read with caution.*
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever was always going to be a film defined by a future forged from death. Chadwick Boseman's passing in August 2020 meant a new Black Panther would need to rise in his absence, Wakanda would need to mourn their fallen king, and we, on the other side of the silver screen, would need to tearfully come to grips with a Marvel Cinematic Universe without Boseman.
Director Ryan Coogler wasted no time thrusting us into this new reality by starting the film with the chaotic scene inside Shuri's (Letitia Wright) lab as she frantically fights back tears in an attempt to create an antidote to cure her dying brother, T'Challa, of an unknown disease. Before she could deliver her last resort, she was stopped in her tracks by her mother, the inimitable Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett), and frozen in place by the news of her brother residing with the ancestors. As soon as we got comfortable in our seats, we had to get comfortable with grief.
Luckily, Queen Ramonda guided us into this undefined future as tactfully as she did Wakanda. She showed us, and the world, the graceful intimidation of a leader in front of the United Nations. She easily thwarted France's covert attempts at stealing Wakanda's vibranium. Her sage wisdom about T'Challa's physical death not precluding his spiritual influence on his loved ones was meant to comfort us as much as it was meant for her tormented daughter. She began to feel like a mother to us all, which makes her Wakanda Forever fate heartbreaking on several levels.
Who Died In Black Panther: Wakanda Forever?
At one point in the film, Namor (Tenoch Huerta), the mutant god of the underwater civilization of the Talokan, threatens to kill Queen Ramonda if she follows up on her threat to reveal his existence to the rest of the world. In her defense, Namor had just kidnapped Shuri during her pursuit of genius engineer Riri Williams (Dominique Thorne), who created a machine that could detect vibranium and lead the surface world to his underwater kingdom. Everyone threatens everyone with death threats in Marvel movies, so Namor's declaration felt like nothing more than hollow gamesmanship. Unfortunately, he was dead serious.
Nakia (Lupita Nyong'o) successfully rescues Shuri and Riri, resulting in the death of a Talokanil. This inspires a vengeful Namor to invade Wakanda with a literal tidal wave of warriors forcibly. He eventually makes his way to the tower housing Queen Ramonda and Riri, before unleashing a water bomb that breaks through the protective glass. He submerges the Wakandan queen and Riri underwater. Queen Ramonda regains her consciousness long enough to use her last bit of strength to bring Riri to the surface. Unfortunately, it would be her final act of leadership among the living, as former General of the Dora Milaje Okoye (Danai Gurira) cannot revive the venerable leader. But, even in death, she helped bring a brighter future for Wakanda and Marvel fans.
What Does Queen Ramonda's Death Mean For Marvel's Phase 5?
We've known for a while that Riri as Ironheart, the heir apparent to Iron Man, would be given her own Disney+ show in Phase 5, and a new Black Panther would emerge. We just didn't fully know how the MCU brain trust was going to get us there. Finally, we got a resounding answer in Wakanda Forever: Queen Ramonda. Her selfless sacrifice kept Riri from drowning, and led her to remain in Wakanda in order to devise her impressive Ironheart suit. It's also worth remembering that the devious Val (played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus and now the director of the CIA) seems to be waging some kind of covert war on Wakanda; Riri's battle tech could come in handy here as well. Queen Ramonda risked the safety of her empire to protect Riri from Namor's murderous vengeance, so it's safe to assume she was well aware she was doing more than saving Riri's life; she was ensuring Wakanda had as much help as it needed now and into the future.
That future now includes her daughter assuming the Black Panther responsibilities, partly thanks to Queen Ramonda's death. Shuri created a synthetic version of the Heart-Shaped Herb that imbues one with the strength of the Black Panther for several reasons. Namor and his army were coming within the week, and her fellow Wakandans had retreated to the icy mountains of Jabari. More than anything, she was driven to her Black Panther fate by a rage to make Namor cower before her feet and perish. But, when she finally had Namor inches away from death, Queen Ramonda's spirit reminded her to "show him who you are." At that moment, she spared Namor's life, thus preserving him for future Phase 5 movies and shows, and establishing an alliance between Wakanda and Talkoan that will bear fruit in the future.
When you watch the upcoming Ironheart series, a possible third Black Panther film, and anything with Namor in it, make sure you pay your respects to the queen, a woman who lost her only son and still dared to give up her life for the betterment of ours.
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