Seeing as how Black Panther is the 18th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the fact it ends with two credits scenes is hardly a surprise. What is a surprise, though, is that while these scenes seem relatively self-explanatory, there’s a lot more going on in them than you’d think—especially in the second scene.
During the first credits scene, the film cuts to T’Challa at the United Nations as he announces Wakanda is ready to become a bigger part of helping the world. However, in typical short-sighted fashion, the world doesn’t even know what that means. He smiles and we cut back to the credits.
Obviously, Wakanda is no longer going to be hidden in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which sets up innumerable storylines, crossovers, influences, and more. In fact, we’ll start to see that play out almost immediately in May’s Avengers: Infinity War.
The scene was originally part of the main movie, according to Black Panther co-writer Joe Robert Cole, until it taken out and moved to the credits. He told io9 that in editing, they realized it was “a bit modular” and was moved into the credits. (Probably because it’s very, very similar to the last scene of the film, with the kids on the playground, as well.)
However, the scene should feel familiar—because it echoes the ending of the first movie in the MCU, Iron Man. That film also had its main character make a groundbreaking declaration in public at its conclusion, and that’s not a coincidence. Co-writer and director Ryan Coogler is a huge fan of the first Iron Man and has vivid memories of seeing it.
“I saw Iron Man the first day it opened,” Coogler told io9. “I was at film school the day it came out. I was in Los Angeles. Iron Man is the first movie I saw at the Arclight, which is like my favorite theater in Los Angeles. What I thought was great about Iron Man, which [Marvel does] a great job of in their movies, is that it feels like it’s happening in our world even though it’s not. Los Angeles looks like Los Angeles. Iron Man flies around and it feels like he lives in New York. The Iron Man press conference looks like our press conference. It feels tactile. I wanted to do that with Wakanda.”
Then there’s the second scene, which comes at the very end of the credits. Again, on the surface, it’s fairly straightforward. It’s a reminder that, in the credits for Captain America: Civil War, Captain America brought his friend Bucky to Wakanda to be put in cryogenic sleep so that he could have all vestiges of Hydra’s brainwashing removed. Here, Bucky is standing near a peaceful lake with T’Challa’s sister Shuri and a bunch of kids. That fact that he’s awake and free indicates he’s been cured, which is bolstered by the other impressive healing Shuri performs in the film.
Here’s the important part: The kids call Bucky “White Wolf” and, well, that’s huge, because White Wolf is the name of another Marvel superhero entirely. In the comics, he’s a white man named Hunter who survived a plane crash near Wakanda; his parents died and he was adopted by the then-king, T’Challa’s father T’Chaka. He was basically raised as T’Challa’s brother and went on to become the White Wolf, leader of the secret security force called the Hatut Zeraze. The White Wolf served Wakanda as an amoral, machiavellian spy and enforcer and long had an antagonistic relationship with T’Challa.
Now, obviously, Marvel isn’t turning Bucky into that interpretation of the character specifically. But the idea of Bucky being a pseudo-son of Wakanda and maybe taking up a new superheroic mantle sounds plausible. The Winter Soldier could potentially become the White Wolf. But it’s just as possible that this is just a wink from the writers to Marvel fans to get them wondering.
“[That scene] we did that in reshoots,” Cole told io9. “But we always had conversations about what that final end scene could be and that version of that. We talked about different things and that was one of things we talked about.”
So while these credit sequences work on one level, there’s plenty more to ponder here—much like the rest of Black Panther.