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Shang-Chi: What's Xialing Going To Do With The Ten Rings?

Contains major spoilers for "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings"

At its core, Marvel's "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings" is the story of one supremely unusual family. A warlord father (Tony Leung), imbued with the power of a highly advanced weapon, falls in love with the protector (Fala Chen) of a hidden village over the course of a martial arts battle, before her eventual murder at the hands of his rivals. They have two children: a son, Xu Shang-Chi (Simu Liu), raised reluctantly in his father's cruel image, and a daughter, Xu Xialing (Meng'er Zhang), who's kept well away from the family business, despite wanting desperately to be involved.

By the end of the film, the surviving members of the family have reunited, though not entirely happily. Shang-Chi makes an effort not to fail Xialing again, and she seems to forgive him the grudge she has held. At the film's conclusion, they go their separate ways, apparently on the same page.

But while Shang-Chi may end the film in possession of the ten rings that gave their father the strength to build his empire, the post-credits scene shows that Xialing has laid claim to the bounty those weapons won for him: the army of soldiers that bears their name. Though she may have reconciled with her do-gooder brother, it seems unlikely she's going to turn their father's operation into a book club. What the tease is telling us is that someone, somewhere in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, is going to learn to fear the power of the Ten Rings again.

Xialing's Ten Rings reveal fits an MCU Phase 4 pattern

This sort of tease has been a hallmark of the MCU's Phase 4 projects so far, which have all used their final episodes or closing moments to set up the new threats that await the world's superheroes. "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier" series shows Valentina Allegra de Fontaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) recruiting John Walker (Wyatt Russell) for an unnamed future mission, and Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp) willing to use her restored connections in the intelligence world to further her ends as the Power Broker. "Black Widow" has de Fontaine offering Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh) an opportunity to hunt down Hawkeye, telling her that he killed her sister Natasha (Scarlett Johansson).

"WandaVision" featured the rebuilt Vision (Paul Bettany) fleeing in the final episode, but perhaps more importantly, showed Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) reading the Darkhold as she heard the voices of her vanished children. This, as many have speculated, may give her a motive that leads her into conflict with the Sorcerer Supreme in "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness." 

Then there's "Loki." Well, "Loki" seems to have pulled the biggest reveal of them all, giving audiences a taste of He Who Remains (Jonathan Majors), whose variants seem destined to arrive in the MCU as Kang the Conqueror.

How might the Ten Rings fit into the future of the MCU?

That's a lot of villainous plates spinning at once, and at nearly every level of the MCU — from the grounded to the astral to the temporal. Xialing's Ten Rings would seem to fit more into the first of these categories, though the organization has consistently shown a desire for new, more advanced weaponry.

That quest has brought the terrorist organization into conflict with multiple heroes of the MCU, including Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) and Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), so the next time audiences see the Ten Rings, it might not necessarily be in conflict with Shang-Chi. There are plenty of heroes a massive organization of combat-trained evil-doers might do battle with over the next couple of years, from Captain America (Anthony Mackie) in his upcoming film, to James Rhodes in "Armor Wars." Given Xialing's connections, there's plenty of opportunity to grow that threat; she already has a business relationship with the Abomination. What other villains from the past might she be able to recruit?

On the other hand, the familial nature of the conflict in "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings" could very well be a theme its potential sequel returns to. Rather than an estranged son doing battle with his father, it would pit the siblings on opposite ends of their parents' legacies against one another. Now that's a story we'd show up for.