The following contains spoilers for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, now in theaters.
It’s official: With the release of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Phase Four has reached its conclusion. Phase Five is set to begin in relatively short order, with the hotly anticipated Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania as the launching pad. But even with the kick-off of the MCU’s next phase on the horizon, there remains an inordinate amount of dangling plot threads, with very little indication as to when (or how) they’ll be tied up.
The MCU’s Phase Four has been the object of some criticism, with certain segmentations of fans and critics bemoaning the emphasis on seemingly disparate and aimless table-setting, combined with a lack of satisfying payoffs. There will certainly be a lot of ground to cover in the upcoming Phase Five. But, of the myriad that exists, what are the most pressing questions that demand to be answered in the MCU’s next Phase? What storylines need to be resolved more expediently than the rest?
What’s Up With Wanda, Vision, and Agatha?
Between the ending of WandaVision and Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness, the magical side of the MCU is rife with open pathways and no clear view of which one Kevin Feige and company intend to go down. In WandaVision‘s closing episodes, White Vision’s original mission as a destroyer is upended when Wanda’s Vision projection unlocks all of the original Vision’s memories and experiences. He takes off in search of a true identity. Likewise, Agatha Harkness is defeated, trapped behind her “nosy neighbor” persona. With two separate Disney+ programs on the way, Vision Quest and Agatha: Coven of Chaos, the characters are definitely coming back. But how will they tie into the rest of the MCU moving forward? Is Agatha’s next confrontation with Vision, or even Doctor Strange? And what of Wanda Maximoff? The Scarlet Witch appeared to have her final moments by the end of Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness, but the one-time Avenger’s ignominious death doesn’t seem like a fitting conclusion for the fan-favorite character. As is often the case with magic, more will undoubtedly be revealed.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever Laid the Groundwork For… A Lot
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever already had a heavy load to carry, tasked with carrying on the heroic character in the face of (equally heroic) actor Chadwick Boseman’s passing. As if that wasn’t enough, Ryan Coogler’s movie had to be a sequel to the most critically-acclaimed MCU entry and act as a bridge to the MCU’s Phase Five. Naturally, even with a solidly satisfying conclusion, many questions remain. New Black Panther Shuri and crew successfully defeat Namor and the Talokan army, with both leaders fashioning a tenuous truce. In a quick dénouement, Namor’s intentions seem far less diplomatic, as he hints to right-hand person Namora that the future might portend another opportunity for Wakanda’s destruction.
Additionally, Wakanda Forever delivers backdoor pilots for both Riri Williams’ Ironheart and Danai Gurira’s Dora Milaje super-duo, the Midnight Angels. And to add more icing to the cake, Shuri gets clued in on a family secret: the existence of T’Challa’s son. With an Ironheart television show on the way, an Okoye spin-off (likely concerning the Midnight Angels team), a multiversal MCU that opens the possibility of an older T’Challa Jr. out there in the ether, and Shuri as the new Black Panther, there’s much to be explored in Phase Five. Is Shuri an Avenger? Does Namor fight for good or for ill? Are the Midnight Angels a part of the cinematic side of the MCU, and are they being primed to battle the eventual Thunderbolts team? Where does Ironheart fit in? And what happens with T’Challa Jr.?
What Role Will the Eternals Play in the MCU?
Chloé Zhao’s Eternals arrived to the resounding sound of… crickets. Audiences seemed disinterested, and many critics called it the worst Marvel entry thus far. There were, of course, dissenting parties to that overwhelming discourse, but the fact remains that the Eternals were not well received. So, are they in it for the MCU long haul? Do they still have a part to play in the story moving forward? Their celestial omnipotence and immense power would certainly be helpful against Phase Four-Six final boss Kang the Conqueror, and producer Nate Moore has confirmed that the characters will return in some capacity.
When last seen, the Eternals were split in half, with three of their party being kidnapped by Celestial Arishem and the other three on an intergalactic hunt for oppressed Eternals. That alone sets up two distinct storylines to be concluded, but throw in some easter eggs teasing Blade, the Black Knight, and a post-credits appearance by Harry Styles as Thanos’ brother Eros… talk about a full plate. Setting aside the groundwork-laying for future character appearances, the overarching “big” question is to what extent the Eternals will factor into the larger universe. Given the muted response by fans and critics alike, the importance of the Eternals moving forward is in serious flux.
How Will Kang Conquer?
MCU devotees are now well aware that the next cross-movie villain is none other than Kang the Conqueror. And as exciting as that proposition is on its face, there are some questions about how Kang’s real reign of terror might begin. With Kang (or some variant thereof) also confirmed to appear as the primary antagonist in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, there’s sure to be a bit more clarity on the matter sooner rather than later. But the big puzzle that remains to be solved is how the MCU plans on reconciling Loki’s Kang, He Who Remains, and Ant-Man‘s Kang, and whether they’re all distinct variants to begin with. And (a bit further down the line), how does Kang trigger the enormous Secret Wars storyline? For context, Avengers: Endgame was the biggest cinematic crossover event of all time, and Secret Wars makes the events of that film look minor in comparison. To say that Kang’s story is a massive undertaking is a massive understatement.
Who Are The Avengers Now?
The Avengers, as audiences knew and loved them, are dissolved. Steve Rogers is gone. Tony Stark and Natasha Romanoff are dead, and Hawkeye has retreated to street-level crime fighting. The Hulk has unfinished business in space after the events of She-Hulk: Attorney at Law. The Vision is missing, Wanda’s living situation a complete unknown, Spider-Man is back to friendly neighborhood action, and Doctor Strange grows a third eye and bounces off into some far-flung universe. Due to a recent revelation from Chris Hemsworth, Thor’s return to the MCU is now in question, too. All in all, who and what the Avengers are in this next saga is a complete mystery. Rumors abound that Captain Marvel will assume the team’s leadership role, but the line-up, as of now, is completely up in the air. With one of Phase Four’s biggest criticisms deriving from the lack of a central connective figure in the vein of Tony Stark and Steve Rogers, Phase Five needs to establish a fulcrum for similar cohesion. When push comes to shove (as it inevitably will), who will stand side-by-side as the Avengers?
When it comes to Phase Four’s unresolved threads, the wildest part is the realization that all the aforementioned storylines in question are just a fraction of the potential plot directions laid out. The MCU has a lot of plates to keep spinning in Phase Five and beyond, to be sure. With the new multiversal element now a central conceit moving forward, the plot mechanics are bound to get pretty complex. Thankfully, history shows that Kevin Feige and his team are up to the challenge. Which dangling plot strands get resolved? Only time can tell.