The Meaning of BLACK PANTHER: WAKANDA FOREVER’s Surprise Killmonger Cameo

We knew Black Panther: Wakanda Forever would deal with the death of the nation’s protector and the arrival of Namor. What we did not know was how many surprises the highly-anticipated sequel had in store. That included a surprise cameo from someone we did not expect to see. How did the Black Panther: Wakanda Forever pull off its big Killmonger cameo surprise, and what did it mean for Shuri and the whole of the MCU?

The answers to those questions involve discussing major spoilers.

Shuri from Black Panther Wakanda Forever is our new Black Panther
Marvel Studios

Shuri Meets an Unexpected Family Member in the Ancestral Plane

Wakandans who imbibe the Heart-Shaped Herb visit the Ancestral Plane to speak with a deceased relative. T’Challa spoke with his father, King T’Chaka, when he traveled to that land of the dead.

When Shuri consumed that concoction—made from her 3D-printed version of the flower—she expected to see her recently deceased mother. Shuri thought Queen Ramonda would give her guidance. But when the Princess awoke there and found herself inside the Wakandan throne room, she was shocked and angered to see who was waiting for her. It was the original Black Panther movie’s main villain, Erik Killmonger.

We were also surprised. Why was her cousin, who took so much from Shuri, her family, and her country, the person to greet her in that sacred dimension? Because Shuri summoned Killmonger in her Wakanda Forever visit to the ancesteral plane.

Why Did Shuri Summon Killmonger in Wakanda Forever?

Michael B. Jordan as Killmonger in Black Panther
Marvel Studios

Early in Wakanda Forever, Shuri told her mother that if she allowed herself to grieve her brother’s death she’d get so angry she’d burn the world down. Her anger then erupted following the death of her mother. When she entered the Ancestral Plane, Shuri wasn’t looking for good guidance, especially not the kind of restraint her mother would advocate for. Shuri was seeking approval for what she really wanted to do: seek vengeance. The only family member that would push her down such a dark path in Wakanda Forever was her late cousin Killmonger, played by Michael B. Jordan.

This scene shows that the Ancestral Plane is what you make of it. You can use it to seek honest aid or comfort. Or you can use it to reinforce what you want to hear. That doesn’t mean who you meet there, friend or foe, can’t help you even if they don’t mean to.

Erik Killmonger as played by Michael B. Jordan in Black Panther.
Marvel Studios

In his surprise Wakanda Forever cameo, Killmonger told Shuri that her brother T’Challa put all of Wakanda at risk by showing mercy to the country’s enemies. He also said her father was a hypocrite. Death clearly did not soften his outlook on the world. Nor did it provide him with perspective on what hatred leads to. He said the only one with the will to kill Namor was him. For Shuri to do that she needed to accept his view of the world. With that Killmonger left her as the throne room in the Ancestral plane erupted in fire, a symbol of the very thing Shuri threatened to do to the world.

Shuri almost did exactly what Killmonger pushed her toward, too. So why did Shuri ultimately ignore the advice of the ancestor she summoned in Wakanda Forever? Because when the moment came, another member of her family spoke to her from beyond.

Why Didn’t Shuri Kill Namor Like Killmonger Wanted?

Shuri watches flames consume Wakanda's throne room in the Ancestral Plane in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
Marvel Studios

With Namor at her mercy and Shuri ready to deliver a fatal blow, she saw not only the destruction to both Wakanda and Talokan that would follow his murder, she saw her mother. Ramonda appeared to her daughter from the Ancestral Plane. The Queen was right, our family members are never really gone. And when she did, the kindness and wisdom of Shuri’s mother and brother overwhelmed her.

By embracing who she truly is and letting go of her anger, rage, and pain, Shuri avoided following Killmonger’s path in Wakanda Forever. For though she summoned him to hear what she wanted, in her heart she knew what she should do. She needed to be more like the man who stopped Killmonger, her brother T’Challa.

That decision gave audiences the best of both worlds. Not only did the new Black Panther save countless lives, Wakanda Forever gave us one more scene with Jordan’s Killmonger, one of the MCU’s best villains. He was as compelling, powerful, and dangerous as ever. But maybe after he’s dead awhile longer he won’t be so eager to kill everyone he hates.

Mikey Walsh is a staff writer at Nerdist. You can follow him on Twitter at  @burgermike. And also anywhere someone is ranking the Targaryen kings.

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