Black Panther 2: Why Is Marvel Still Keeping T'Challa's Successor In Wakanda Forever A Secret?

The New Black Panther in Wakanda Forever's trailer
(Image credit: Marvel Studios)

The newest trailer for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is here, and while it still leaves many details behind the curtain, it does officially confirm a couple of important things. The sequel will introduce a new Black Panther, as we see somebody wearing the familiar armor, from head to toe, and that new Black Panther is a woman.

We never see behind the mask, so we don’t know who this new Black Panther is, but the fact that it will be a woman would seem to strongly indicate that the new Black Panther is going to turn out to be exactly who many people thought it would be. But if that’s the case, why bother keeping it a secret? Unless, of course, this whole thing is a misdirect and it’s going to turn out that the new Black Panther actually isn’t who we think it will be at all.

Letitia Wright as Shuri in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever trailer

(Image credit: Marvel Studios)

The New Black Panther is Shuri, Right? 

Following the death of Chadwick Boseman, nobody was quite sure what that meant for the future of the Black Panther franchise. It was made clear fairly early that Marvel had no plans to recast the role of T’Challa, but that left the fate of Black Panther as a superhero mantle up in the air. Would somebody new wear the Black Panther suit and become a new version of the character, or would Black Panther be retired entirely?  It wasn’t until the final seconds of the first Wakanda Forever teaser trailer that it was confirmed for certain that there would actually be a new Black Panther in the new Black Panther movie.

A lot of people suggested very early on that if there was to be a new Black Panther at all, Letitia Wright’s Shuri would be a strong choice for taking on the role. She’s the sister of T’Challa, so in Wakanda’s society, where T’Challa became king following the death of his father, it would make sense that another member of the family would take over. Shuri proved herself to be intelligent and capable in the first film, and this would also give the Marvel Cinematic Universe another female hero, something it seriously needs. Letitia Wright has avoided answering the question when it’s been proposed to her.

There really isn’t a stronger argument at this point. I think there's been a pretty large assumption that this is where the Black Panther sequel is going. The marketing of the movie has put Letitia Wright front and center, and even some of the early Wakanda Forever merchandise has seemed to indicate that yes, Shuri, is the new Black Panther. So if that’s so obviously the case, why is it being kept under wraps? If it just turns out to be who we already know it’s going to be, then does the attempt at surprising us even work?

Black Panther Wakanda Forever image

(Image credit: Disney / Marvel)

Why Marvel Might Be Keeping The New Black Panther A Secret, Even If Its Shuri 

Part of this, almost certainly, is just the normal workings of tentpole movie marketing. Generally speaking, leaving mysteries is good for business. It gets people talking on social media, and that’s a big deal in the marketing process. Even if everybody is talking about the same thing, because we’re all pretty sure we know the answer, the fact that the conversations are happening is the goal. In the end, even if you know the answer, if you want to see it, you need to buy that movie ticket. The fact that tickets went on sale for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever alongside this image of a female Black Panther is certainly no coincidence.

There is another, less favorable reason why the identity of the new Black Panther may be getting hidden despite the fact that everybody has possibly guessed it. A lot of people will be less than thrilled if they’re right. 

Letitia Wright made headlines before and during the production of Black Panther 2 when she shared a video voicing anti-vaccine views during the heart of the COVID pandemic. A lot of people were critical of this and it led to Wright deleting all her social media. The calls to see Shuri become the new Black Panther shifted after that and fewer people seemed excited by the idea. If it does turn out to be Shuri behind the mask, not all fans will be happy to see it.

At the end of the day, keeping the not-so-secret thing secret potentially helps the movie overall. If it were confirmed in the trailer that Shuri was the new Black Panther, it would likely rekindle the feelings from those who are unhappy with her stance on the vaccination topic. That’s not the sort of attention Marvel Studios likely wants ahead of Wakanda Forever’s release.

Shuri holding T'Challa's helmet in Black Panther 2

(Image credit: Marvel Studios)

There’s Another Reason That The New Black Panther Could Be Remaining Hidden 

Of course, there is another possibility that is quite intriguing regarding why we don’t know who is wearing the new Black Panther mask. It could be that everything we're seeing that is indicating Shuri as the new Black Panther is a misdirection, and the identity is remaining hidden because it’s actually somebody else.

There are some candidates for who could be wearing the suit. Letitia Nyong’o’s Nakia is probably the most likely possibility since it’s almost certainly somebody with a connection to Wakanda. It could even turn out to be Riri Williams, who we saw for the first time in the new trailer. Though the fact that we also got a look at her Ironheart armor would seem to indicate she has her own suit to wear throughout the film. 

Nevertheless, nearly all signs still point to Letitia Wright’s Shuri becoming the new Black Panther. We’ll almost certainly have to wait until November 11 to know with certainty what happens. If it is in fact her, Shuri’s ascendance to Black Panther can still be a powerful moment if it's handled well, even if most everybody sees it coming. But perhaps Black Panther: Wakanda Forever will find a way to surprise us. If the point of all this is to truly surprise the audience, then the best way to do that is to lean in to the general perceptions publicly while going a different direction.

Dirk Libbey
Content Producer/Theme Park Beat

CinemaBlend’s resident theme park junkie and amateur Disney historian. Armchair Imagineer. Epcot Stan. Future Club 33 Member.