As Black Panther opens in theaters across the country, Wakanda and its accompanying cast of characters are stepping into the spotlight.
Though Black Panther is more self-contained than most Marvel fare, its third act has far-reaching consequences for both its inevitable sequel and the wider Marvel Cinematic Universe. Spoilers ahead.
After a coup d'état leaves new Wakandan king T'Challa seemingly dead at the hands of challenger Erik 'Killmonger' Stevens, the African nation is left in disarray: T'Challa's sister and mother, Shuri and Ramonda, are forced to flee; his former flame Nakia and newfound ally Everett Ross turn to M'Baku and the rival Jabari Tribe for help.
With T'Challa bested in one-on-one challenger combat and seemingly dead, the throne is turned over to Killmonger, who quickly sets into motion his plans to turn Wakanda into the top-dog global superpower.
Wakanda is the most technologically-advanced nation on Earth, and its resources — and accompanying weapons — would make it the unchallenged ruler of the free world.
T'Challa, Nakia, Shuri and Ross head back into the heart of Wakanda to reclaim the throne from Killmonger, who now commands the militaristic forces of W'Kabi and the Border Tribe. The Dora Milaje — duty-bound to serve whoever wears the figurative crown, regardless of their personal affiliation — soon turn on Killmonger as Wakanda erupts into a massive civil war.
As T'Challa engages Killmonger in combat in the mines below the surface, Shuri and Nakia help reclaim the kingdom; Okoye, General of the Dora Milaje and W'Kabi's lover, helps wage war against the Border Tribe's forces — and their hulking rhinos — eventually forcing W'Kabi to surrender.
Besting Killmonger and exposing a weakness in his Black Jaguar suit, T'Challa impales the man who dethroned him — bringing his rule to an end. Killmonger refuses T'Challa's offer for mercy — Wakanda possesses the technology capable of healing his wound — and instead chooses to die rather than face imprisonment.
Now out of favor for their rebellion and alignment with Killmonger, the Border Tribe surrender on W'Kabi's orders. The Jabari are now in T'Challa's favor, and can be spotted standing united with T'Challa, Okoye, and the rest of the Wakandan forces in the Avengers: Infinity War trailer as Thanos' forces threaten the tucked-away nation.
The events of Black Panther convince T'Challa to move away from Wakanda's isolationist policy: he assigns Nakia to oversee the social aspect of a global outreach program aimed at helping the disenfranchised and those in most need of help.
Its king officially unveils Wakanda to the world, stepping into the spotlight during a visit to the United Nations (in a moment similar to Tony Stark's infamous "I am Iron Man" declaration that closed out Iron Man).
With Wakanda's true existence now revealed to the world and the kingdom pledging to share its resources, that reveal will have a big impact on the shared Marvel Cinematic Universe — once shared, Wakandan technology will revolutionize the Marvel universe.
As all eyes are on a newly-unveiled Wakanda, the once hidden nation will again be in the spotlight when Thanos and his invading alien army come to the Earth in Avengers: Infinity War.
It's there that a massive battle will take place as an assembly of Earth's mightiest heroes and Wakanda's military forces will have to ward off Thanos' Black Order and his loyal legion of Outriders.
Black Panther is now playing. Avengers: Infinity War opens May 4.