Warning: SPOILERS for Black Panther are ahead!
In addition to being one of the Marvel Cinematic Universe's most commercially successful movies, Black Panther is also being widely labeled as one of the best entries of the franchise. Among the many elements of T'Challa's standalone movie that are being praised is the main antagonist, Michael B. Jordan's Erik Stevens, a.k.a. Killmonger. Revealed to be Wakandan royalty and growing up to be a fierce black-ops assassin, Killmonger seized the African nation's throne and nearly succeeded in sending vibranium weaponry to Wakandan operatives across the globe. However, his plan was foiled thanks to T'Challa and his allies, and during his battle with the eponymous hero, Killmonger was stabbed in the chest, and he later removed the spearpoint to end his life.
We've already given our take on why Black Panther killing off its secondary antagonist, Andy Serkis' Ulysses Klaue, was a mistake. However, can the same be said for Killmonger, or was it the right creative call to take him off the board permanently? That's what we're here to hash out, so starting off, let's go over why it was a good decision for Killmonger to die in Black Panther.
Say what you will about Killmonger, he was a man who lived by his principles, however misguided they were. After discovering N'Jobu's journal, he grew up to continue the mission his father began: distributing vibranium weaponry to people of African descent across the globe so that they could rise up against their oppressors. In his mind, Killmonger was fighting to bring justice for people like him, and even when he was defeated, he valued his own freedom more than simply staying alive. As he told T'Challa after refusing the offer for Shuri to heal him:
That's an incredibly powerful statement to go out on, and certainly in keeping with Killmonger's characterization. Even in the aftermath of defeat, being thrown into a Wakandan prison for the rest of his life would have been a fate worse than death. If the fight between T'Challa and Killmonger had ended with the latter being taken into custody and swearing revenge, not only might that have come across as cliched, but then Black Panther wouldn't have hit that emotional note, which was one of the movie's best moments. Plus, an argument could be made that if T'Challa hadn't watched Killmonger choose to end his life, he might not have been swayed to set up that Wakandan outreach center in California and reveal Wakanda's true nature to the world. Killmonger's ideology was twisted, but he was right about one thing: Wakanda needs to start aiding the rest of the world rather than stay isolated. So if you think about it, for T'Challa to take that next developmental step, Killmonger needed to die.