Lupita Nyong’o’s character Nakia is the best choice to fill the role of the new Black Panther in the MCU’s Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.
With the tragic passing of Chadwick Boseman, the fate of the mantle of the Black Panther has been a heated debate amongst fans, but the logical character to step into the suit in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is Lupita Nyong’o’s Nakia. Marvel and director/screenwriter Ryan Coogler have the unenviable task of trying to fill the shoes of an iconic role and an iconic actor. In order to do that, they need to have the upcoming film make narrative sense, while also being respectful of the first film and the late Boseman.
Enter Nakia, who was introduced in Black Panther as a childhood friend and love interest of T’Challa. She is someone who perhaps knows T’Challa better than anyone in the world, and whose opinion matters to him. Her experience outside of Wakanda opened her eyes to the troubles that exist in the rest of the world, and she urges T’Challa to use his new position to aid all of humanity as opposed to just their kingdom. By the end of Black Panther, T’Challa decides to open up Wakanda’s vast resources and technology with the rest of the globe, showing Nakia’s influence on him.
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It is in that vein that Nakia makes the most sense to be the new Black Panther. Knowing T’Challa intimately and guiding him to a new global policy as ruler of Wakanda, gives Nakia’s character perfect standing to inherit the Black Panther title and honor her predecessor because she stands for what he stood for. Narratively it would make sense for the most powerful position in Wakanda to go to the person the previous Black Panther trusted the most, and that she would, in turn, want to step into T’Challa’s role in order to help ensure his vision is fully realized.
Nakia’s relationship with T’Challa isn’t the only reason her being the new Black Panther makes the most sense, however. She wouldn’t just fill the Black Panther suit with brains and public policy, but with tremendous combat skill as well. Nakia was a member of the Wakandan War Dogs, the central intelligence division of the secretive kingdom. As a member, she was trained to be a master of espionage and hand-to-hand combat. Her fighting skills are on full display throughout Black Panther as seen by her expertise with her signature ring blades. She was even able to briefly hold her own and disarm a fully powered and suited-up Erik Killmonger in the climactic battle of the movie. Those already considerable fighting skills would be greatly enhanced if she were to don the Black Panther suit, as well as by consuming the heart-shaped herb that imbues the Black Panther with superhuman power.
Many fans want to see T’Challa’s sister Shuri become the new Black Panther; however, her skill set can be best utilized elsewhere. Shuri is one of the smartest characters in all the MCU. Her technological brilliance would have to take a backseat if she were to take over the responsibilities of being the Black Panther. Shuri would have less time to spend in the lab providing critical technological support to not just Wakanda, but now the world and likely the entire new Avengers team. While Shuri is also an adept fighter, she is nowhere near the level of Nakia, nor does she have the experience of being outside of Wakanda. She lacks the insight required for the new globalist direction of her country that her brother wanted to be the future. Shuri is so intelligent in the MCU that she can do so much good, but that would be considerably heightened if she focuses on her greatest skill set of inventing.
Finding a new Black Panther was always going to be an ominous task. Striking a balance between being respectful and moving the plot forward for the future of the franchise comes down to the new Black Panther being different enough from T’Challa that it doesn’t feel like a retread, yet similar enough that he would approve of the choice as someone who honored and could further his legacy. Nakia checks those boxes, and though the decision won’t be easy, if she becomes the next Black Panther, Marvel will have made the best decision possible.
Next: Wakanda Forever: Black Panther 2’s New Title Explained (& Why It’s Perfect)
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