Warning: SPOILERS ahead for Black Panther
At the end of Black Panther, T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman) kills Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) in battle. But considering Wakanda's advanced healing technology and the fact that the film is set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe - where characters have been brought back to life - will Killmonger return in Black Panther 2 or another Marvel Studios movie?
Arguably, Black Panther sets up Marvel's best villain with Killmonger, who is T'Challa's cousin, the son of T'Chaka's (John Kani) brother, N'Jobu (Sterling K. Brown). However, when T'Chaka kills N'Jobu for betraying Wakanda by helping Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) steal vibranium from the country, the King leaves a young Erik to fend for himself in Oakland, California. As a result, Killmonger is a Wakandan by birth - and bears the symbol all Wakandans bear - but he wasn't raised in the country and doesn't fully understand their ways.
Related: When Will Black Panther 2 Release?
Killmonger's goal, when he comes to Wakanda, is twofold. He seeks vengeance on T'Challa for T'Chaka killing N'Jobu, but Killmonger has a greater mission than that. After he becomes King of Wakanda and the Black Panther, he begins executing his plan to distribute vibranium weapons to African Americans around the world so that they may rise up and fight against the societies that have subjugated and enslaved them. In the end, though, T'Challa returns and defeats Killmonger in battle, spearing his cousin through the heart. T'Challa brings Killmonger to watch the Wakandan sunset together and allows his cousin to die because, as Killmonger explains, he'd rather be dead than in bondage.
However, there is a little bit of ambiguity in Killmonger's death scene, and viewers may wonder whether or not Jordan can return as the villain - or, perhaps, as an ally for T'Challa. So, we break down the Black Panther ending, what really happened to Killmonger, and whether he can return in Black Panther 2 or another Marvel Studios movie.
Did Killmonger Really Die in Black Panther?
Killmonger's death scene doesn't necessarily follow the standard format for a movie death scene. Though he declares to T'Challa that he chooses death over bondage, and removes the spear from his chest, the camera then cuts to a wide shot and viewers simply see Killmonger collapse. It's undoubtedly enough for viewers to presume Killmonger has died, or is near enough to death that there's no way to save him.
But, Black Panther allows for some ambiguity because of this approach to depicting Killmonger's final moments. Movies often show the moment a person dies - Marvel films have even taken this approach - with visual confirmation that a severely injured character has succumbed to their wounds: Their last breath leaves them, the light goes out of their eyes. These are visual cues moviegoers know to look for as confirmation a character has died, but Black Panther does not depict Killmonger's death in this way. So, it leaves the door open for ambiguity and debate among viewers about whether the character truly died at the end of the film.
To be clear, the scene does appear to be a death scene for Killmonger, and it's likely depicted this way by director Ryan Coogler to give the character a respectful, and non-cliche sendoff. But, because viewers don't see the moment of Killmonger's death, there is a little bit of ambiguity - however little it may be - that could leave some wondering whether he'll return. Plus, Black Panther and previous MCU installments have made it clear Killmonger could be saved or brought back from the dead if the studio and filmmakers so choose.
- Black Panther (2018) release date: Feb 16, 2018
- Avengers: Infinity War / The Avengers 3 (2018) release date: Apr 27, 2018
- Ant-Man & The Wasp (2018) release date: Jul 06, 2018
- Captain Marvel (2019) release date: Mar 08, 2019
- The Avengers 4 / Avengers: Endgame (2019) release date: Apr 26, 2019
- Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) release date: Jul 05, 2019