How does T’Challa die in ‘Wakanda Forever’?

The following post contains SPOILERS for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. (You h.)

Every single person reading this knows what happened to Chadwick Boseman. The beloved actor died on August 28, 2020 after a private battle with colon cancer. Boseman had appeared in films such as Draft day, 42and Come upbut he was best known as T’Challa, the superhero known as Black Panther in Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Boseman had appeared four times as T’Challa before his death, i Captain America: Civil War, Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity Warand Avengers: Endgame. He was scheduled to reprise the role again in one Black Panther sequel, but obviously it wasn’t meant to be. Marvel could have chosen to carry one as if Boseman’s death hadn’t happened; they could have reworked the role of T’Challa and stuck to what their original plan was for Wakanda forever has been. Instead, writer/director Ryan Coogler decided to incorporate Boseman’s real-life death into the MCU by making T’Challa’s death the inciting incident of the sequel.

There, too, there were many paths Marvel and Coogler could have taken. They could have had T’Challa die in battle. They could have found another way to remove him from the story in the short term while leaving the door open to recast the role. Instead, they hewed as close to reality as this kind of superhero fantasy would allow. In the film’s opening minutes, T’Challa is dying of some incurable but unspecified disease. His sister Shuri (Letitia Wright) desperately tries to save his life.

While the film never gives any details about what disease killed T’Challa, it does explain how a superhero with enhanced strength and invulnerability could be felled by something as mundane as a disease. Under normal circumstances, the Black Panther could be saved by consuming the “heart-shaped herb”, the magical Wakandan substance that gives the Panther his powers. But all of Wakanda’s heart-shaped herbs were destroyed by Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger in Black Panther. Shuri tries to recreate it synthetically but fails.

Throughout the film, there are other allusions to Boseman’s real-life battle with cancer, which he kept private until his death. Characters in Wakanda forever��implies that T’Challa approached his illness in the same way, hiding it from many others around him until the end of his life. That choice again gives Cooller the opportunity to make Wakanda forever even more personal; to explore how the film’s cast and crew were affected by this loss.

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

The film eventually pushes some of these feelings to the background to focus on the story, which involves a brewing war between Wakanda and the Talokan, an ancient underwater civilization led by Namor. But the characters’ feelings about T’Challa are constantly hinted at and become very important to the film’s climax. It also happens to be the most powerful scenes in the entire film. It is not a coincidence.

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is in the cinema now.

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