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Here’s why T’Challa didn’t die in battle in Wakanda Forever

Updated Jan 3rd, 2023 3:49PM EST
A poster showing King T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman) during the funeral.
Image: Marvel Studios

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Black Panther: Wakanda Forever finally explained what happened to T’Challa, delivering the character’s death after Chadwick Boseman passed away in real life. While dying in battle would have made a lot of sense for this particular Avenger, that’s not the route Marvel chose for T’Challa. Instead, we got a different ending for the character, which was even more suitable.

Not only that, but T’Challa’s death served the Wakanda Forever story better, and we finally know why Ryan Coogler chose this particular end for the character. Before you proceed, you should know that Black Panther 2 spoilers will follow.

When the world learned the tragic news that Boseman had died, MCU fans started wondering what Marvel would do about the character. The options were recasting the role or killing T’Challa in Wakanda Forever. Marvel chose the latter, something we knew long before the film made it to theaters.

Therefore, we were waiting to see how Marvel would handle T’Challa’s death on screen. We also knew that Marvel would not recreate T’Challa digitally for Wakanda Forever. That implied that theories showing T’Challa die in battle would not pan out. Then again, you wouldn’t have to see T’Challa’s face. A stunt double would have worn the costume in whatever action sequence would have led to the King’s death.

What we got instead was something a lot more heartbreaking. Like Boseman in real life, T’Challa’s death came after a bout with a disease. Even superheroes can get sick, no matter how brave and strong they might be. T’Challa’s illness is also fitting with the state of the real world, where a pandemic killed millions of people before their time.

Shuri (Letitia Wright) in the first Black Panther: Wakanda Forever trailer.
Shuri (Letitia Wright) in the first Black Panther: Wakanda Forever trailer. Image source: Marvel Studios

T’Challa’s death was an important plot detail

Talking to The New York Times, Ryan Coogler explained the thought process that went into T’Challa’s on-screen death.

That’s a critical development in Wakanda Forever, as T’Challa’s death transforms Shuri (Letitia Wright) into the person who would eventually become the next Black Panther:

Just practically, everyone was going to be waiting to see how we dealt with it, so doing it right up front made sense. In terms of the characters, we needed to introduce a different version of Shuri. We’re showing the moment that she becomes a different person than the person we met. She’s the smartest person in the world, but she can’t save her brother. What does that do to you?

The writer/director further explained that grief is what turns Shuri into the person we see in Wakanda Forever.

We wanted to have an emotionally intelligent conversation. It’s about the transformative quality of grief and trauma. There’s this expectation with emotional trauma that you just need time. ‘Oh, give them a couple weeks off; they’ll come back to work and get back to it.’ But that person is completely different in some ways. You just don’t see it because the change isn’t visible.

Furthermore, Marvel didn’t want Shuri to be able to displace her anger anywhere else. That’s why T’Challa’s death didn’t happen in battle. “If somebody else would’ve taken T’Challa out, Shuri would’ve looked for that person,” Coogler said. “We wanted it to be a situation where the only place to go was internal.”

If you saw Wakanda Forever in theaters, you already know what grief did to Shuri and how she coped with losing her brother. Black Panther 2 is still playing in theaters, and should hit Disney Plus soon.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.