How Does King T'Challa Die in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever?

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is now out in theaters, and it comes with the monumental task of explaining to audiences all over the world how and why Chadwick Boseman's King T'Challa is no longer alive in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Obviously, answering that question is a MASSIVE SPOILER; however, there are also plenty of fans who may want to know, beforehand how this sensitive issue gets handled by Marvel Studios and director Ryan Coogler, before they feel comfortable sitting through it in the theater alongside other viewers. Emotions are sure to run high. 

Black Panther 2: How Does King T'ChallaDie? (SPOILERS)

(Photo: Marvel Studios)

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever wastes no time addressing the loss of King T'Challa (and subsequently actor Chadwick Boseman). 

The movie opens with a chaotic scene in Princess Shuri's (Letitia Wright) lab in Wakanda. T'Challa is revealed to be critically ill  – though the illness is never named. Shuri has been working tirelessly to find a way to synthesize the Heart-Shaped Herb plant that gives Black Panther enhanced powers, in order to heal T'Challa. However, with the sacred herbs all destroyed by Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan), Shuri cannot achieve her goal in time. Queen Ramonda enters as Shuri is still hopelessly working on equations and test runs, and tells the young princess that her brother has "gone to the ancestors." The scene ends with Shuri looking shattered and traumatized, unable to process her own failure  and loss (a theme of her entire arc through the film). 

King T'Challa's Death Explained

(Photo: Marvel Studios)

Clearly Marvel and Ryan Coogler chose to keep the events of King T'Challa's death in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever close to real-life (for better or worse). Actor Chadwick Boseman died in late August of 2020; it was revealed only afterward that he had been fighting stage III (then stage IV) colon cancer since 2016 – the same year he broke out as a worldwide icon as T'Challa in Captain America: Civil War, and was headed into production on the first Black Panther movie. 

That new insight into the reality of Boseman's life and work timeline made it hard for his Black Panther co-stars to process their grief, as his loss seemed so sudden and unexpected, when really he had been fighting his illness all throughout his time on set. Letitia Wright was left particularly traumatized, as she found out about Boseman's death through a random text of condolences. 

"I didn't put the dots together," Wright admitted to Variety. "Bro was very private. He wanted to always protect us. That's all I can say."

It now seems evident that Coogler and Wright were playing with very real emotional touchstones in the scene where Shuri is left scrambling to do something, anything, even when it's too late for her brother. While the power and resonance of the scene is undeniable, true catharsis may be forever impossible for Coogler, Wright, and everyone else. 

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is now in theaters.