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Why Shuri Passes On T'Challa's Black Panther Helmet (& Picks Killmonger Instead)

Contains spoilers for "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever"

Shuri's (Letitia Wright) path to become the next Black Panther is not an easy one. After T'Challa's (Chadwick Boseman) death in the beginning of "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever," she resists Wakandan tradition for much of the movie despite Queen Ramonda's (Angela Bassett) gentle nudges. It's not until she loses Ramonda in Namor's (Tenoch Huerta) attack on Wakanda that she realizes she has no other option if she wants to fight back ... and even then, she has to painstakingly recreate a genetically engineered approximation of the now-extinct Heart-Shaped Herb first. 

However, when Shuri actually consumes the Herb and embarks on a vision quest to the spiritual plane, her troubles only increase. Instead of a closer family member, her vision guide is her cousin N'Jadaka (Michael B. Jordan) — aka Erik "Killmonger" Stevens, the antagonist of the first "Black Panther" movie. As Killmonger not-so-subtly explains, this is because Shuri's anger and sorrow have made her closer to him in spirit than to the more traditionally noble members of her family. When she wakes up, Shuri is understandably frustrated with the nature of her vision, initially believing that her Black Panther ritual has failed. When she finds out that it worked and she received superpowers, she's still hesitant to tell Nakia (Lupita Nyong'o) about Killmonger, even when directly questioned. 

Because of this, it can be surprising that Shuri doesn't choose a T'Challa-style Black Panther helmet for herself, but makes a beeline for a gold-patterned helm with a design that's similar to the one Killmonger used to wear. Here's why she chooses to do so. 

Shuri's choice of helmet is a continuation of her Killmonger analogy

As huge fans know, "Black Panther's" Killmonger is a complex character who might be a dangerous killer and a sworn enemy of Wakanda's royal family, but he's also a victim of a major personal tragedy, and makes good points about quite a few things. He definitely knows what he's saying when he tells Shuri that the two are on very similar paths. Just like Killmonger, Shuri has lost her last remaining family member to an unbelievably powerful ruler of a nation that has access to vibranium — and just like Killmonger, Shuri is absolutely consumed by her quest for revenge. 

Outwardly, Shuri rejects Killmonger, and refuses to reveal her spiritual plane discussion with him to anyone. However, the fact that she chooses the Killmonger-style Black Panther helmet almost immediately afterwards implies that at least on some level, she realizes that her cousin's spirit is correct. By the time she discusses her anti-Namor plot with Jabari leader M'Baku (Winston Duke), she indeed seems to be in full Killmonger mode, planning to take the fight to the Talokan king's turf and to personally destroy Namor. As you might notice, this is very similar to Killmonger's own approach against Wakanda and T'Challa in "Black Panther." 

Expect to see Shuri in a very different Black Panther costume in the future

Fortunately for her own mental wellbeing and the lives of her allies, Shuri's Killmonger mode doesn't last. She shakes off the shackles of her bloodlust after overpowering Namor in the desert and seeing a last-moment vision of her mother. Regaining her kindness and rationality, she accepts Namor's surrender and begins her path toward spiritual healing — just like Ramonda wanted to. 

Because of this, the movie ends with Shuri in a much better place. It's extremely unlikely that she'll continue to wear Killmonger's colors now that she seems to be truly embracing her new role as Wakanda's protector, as well as her even newer role as a surprise aunt to T'Challa's son Toussaint (Divine Love Konadu-Sun). Combine this with Shuri's habit of redesigning and tinkering, and it's virtually guaranteed that she's made a cool new Black Panther costume the next time we see her ... if not several. After all, a whole bunch of new Black Panther costumes wouldn't exactly hurt Disney's toy sales.   

"Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" is now in theaters.