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Ryan Coogler Reveals Why The Manner Of T'Challa's Death Was Necessary For Shuri's Arc

Though "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" doesn't quite explain how T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman) passes away, the movie does show what a massive blow his death is to his country and family. The narrative shifts to a new focal point in Wakanda's chief scientist and T'Challa's little sister, Shuri (Letitia Wright). The young genius has a hard time accepting that she wasn't able to save her brother, and when Namor (Tenoch Huerta) kills Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett) as well, Shuri uses her grief, fury, and technological prowess to recreate the Heart-Shaped Herb and become the new Black Panther.

"Wakanda Forever" is many things, but Shuri's journey to deal with her emotions and take up her place as the protector of her people is at the center of the story. Now, the movie's director and co-writer Ryan Coogler has explained that the specific way T'Challa's death is portrayed in the movie is instrumental to Shuri's narrative arc. 

Shuri needed to change as a character

In an interview with The New York Times, Ryan Coogler and co-writer Joe Robert Cole discussed some of the decisions behind the story. They revealed the narrative choices behind T'Challa's deliberately obscure, yet swift demise in the beginning of "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" — and, specifically, its impact on Shuri's plotline. The intention of having T'Challa pass away after an implied quick bout of illness, Coogler explained, was to give Shuri no obvious enemies to attack in retaliation. 

"We wanted to keep it simple," he said. "At the end of the day, what mattered is that she had a self-expectation of being able to be solve it and she failed. And we didn't want her to have anywhere to displace her anger. If somebody else would've taken T'Challa out, Shuri would've looked for that person. We wanted it to be a situation where the only place to go was internal."

From a pure storytelling standpoint, Cole and Coogler explained that T'Challa's death at the beginning of the movie facilitated a transformation in Shuri's character. "In terms of the characters, we needed to introduce a different version of Shuri," Cole said. "We're showing the moment that she becomes a different person than the person we met. She's the smartest person in the world, but she can't save her brother. What does that do to you?"

While tragic real-world events were behind T'Challa's unnamed illness and death in the MCU, the way Coogler and Cole approached the difficult subject and its impact on Shuri allows the formerly lighthearted supporting character to emerge as a complex main character.