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A scene from "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever." Image Credit: AP

‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’s’ post-credits scene gives the Marvel Cinematic Universe an heir to the Wakandan throne, and it’s not the most obvious choice.

The leader of Wakanda at the film’s end is Princess Shuri (Letitia Wright). Shuri overcomes the overbearing sadness following the deaths of her brother, King T’Challa/The Black Panther (the late Chadwick Boseman), and her mother, Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett), while leading the Wakandans into battle against Namor (Tenoch Huerta). She is the new Black Panther, ascending to the mantle of Wakanda’s superhero in the wake of her brother’s death.

But the burden of the Wakandan crown is not something Shuri may have to take on alone for long.

Letitia Wright as Shuri in 'Black Panther: Wakanda Forever'.
Letitia Wright as Shuri in 'Black Panther: Wakanda Forever'. Image Credit: Marvel Studios

At the beginning of the post-credits scene, Shuri has traveled to Haiti, burning her white Wakandan funeral attire in a fire. Earlier in the movie, Ramonda tries to get Shuri to partake in the fire ritual with her as they mourn Wakanda’s fallen king together, but Shuri’s mind is consumed by grief and the scientific equations that failed her in her attempt to save T’Challa’s life. Now, Shuri is finally accepting the death that has stricken her family and her new place on the Wakandan throne.

She is also in Haiti to visit an old friend, Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), who comes to chat by the fire. A young boy is standing next to Nakia - she introduces him as her son. Shuri is shocked not only that her friend has been a parent for years, but also at the likelihood that T’Challa is the father, given how close he was to Nakia.

Nakia confides to Shuri that yes, her son is indeed the son of T’Challa: a true heir to the Wakandan throne. She also reveals that she wasn’t at T’Challa’s funeral because he wasn’t ready for his son to be revealed. Shuri asks if her mother had had a chance to see the child, to which Nakia says yes.

Lupita Nyong'o as Nakia in Marvel Studios' 'Black Panther: Wakanda Forever'
Lupita Nyong'o as Nakia in Marvel Studios' 'Black Panther: Wakanda Forever' Image Credit: Marvel Studios

Why the secrecy? Shuri has been an auntie for years and never knew. But Nakia tells Shuri that she and T’Challa decided to raise the child in secret in Haiti so that the burden of the Wakandan throne didn’t disrupt his childhood. Nakia and T’Challa wanted their child to just be a child, not a prince living in the shadow of the Black Panther mantle. And Nakia said T’Challa did prepare his son for his untimely death, mirroring a conversation in the first “Black Panther” movie when T’Challa visited his dead father, T’Chaka, in the Wakandan ancestral plane. In that moment, T’Chaka says to T’Challa, “A man who has not prepared his children for his own death has failed as a father.”

Where does this leave the future of the Black Panther in the Marvel Cinematic Universe? After the remaining credits roll, a message flashes saying that the Black Panther will indeed return to the big screen. A likely scenario is Shuri embracing her role as the Black Panther in a third film in this franchise while teaching her young nephew the ropes of being a superhero and a potential future king. Whether Shuri is teaching a nephew that is a young boy or a man ready to inherit all his father has left him, will be revealed in a story that director Ryan Coogler and Marvel Studios now have time to craft.

But one thing remains clear: the Black Panther will be back.