Killmonger Was Right
The Tale of Two Sons
“The child who is not embraced by the village will burn it down to feel its warmth” — African Proverb
Both T’Challa and N’Jadka followed in their father’s footsteps in a way.
T’Challa made a decision to protect its country at all costs. When N’Jobu steals vibranium in an attempt to arm and aid all black people against their oppressors. T’Chaka kills N’Jobu to protect Wakanda’s isolation–or at least that’s what his defense is. He also leaves a young boy behind. He leaves him without his father and without answers, leaving him to find them for himself.
N’Jadka grows up in Oakland, California without a father to lead him along the path of becoming a man. He becomes Erik Killmonger. “He’s not Wakandan; he’s one of ours” CIA Agent Everett Ross notes. However, Erik is Wakandan. He might not have grown up there, but he has Wakandan royal blood coursing through his veins.
Driven by rage, Killmonger went on study at MIT and tour in Iraq and Afghanistan on military duty. He racked up kills as if he were playing Call of Duty in an ESports competition. He even killed in Africa. When he removes his shirt in the scene where he challenges T’Challa for the throne, he reveals the collection of kills “tallied” all over his abdomen.
His fury is incredibly understandable. His father was snatched from him by his own family members that he knew nothing about. He was exposed to oppression and violence. He was already desensitized to death to the point where he couldn’t even cry over his own father’s death. Witnessing poverty, police brutality, gang violence, and racism can certainly drive anyone into villain status.
Wakanda remained protected and untouched while the rest of the world traded humans, waged war, and plundered riches. The picturesque country is one of the most advanced places in the world and purposely stayed completely secluded. Meanwhile, the boot of oppression applied a steady, brutal pressure on the necks of others. While his deeply-rooted anger is extremely relatable, it ultimately blinded him.
Is a superhero really a superhero without an amazing villain?
Not only is T’Challa the king, he is also the Black Panther.
He goes head to head against both diplomatic and social hurdles as well as villains. Superheroes have all sorts of amazing powers, but what does that mean if they don’t have suitable competition? A great villain puts a superhero to the ultimate test. If the audience doesn’t believe there’s a chance the superhero could fail, then it’s pointless.
Killmonger marches right into Wakanda with a dead Klaw. While he eliminated the original threat to Wakanda, he himself is a new threat. He didn’t waste any time letting his goal be known. “I want the throne,” he demands. He doesn’t agree with the extreme seclusion Wakanda has practiced for so long. When he bursts into the room, no one knows who he is or how he even got there. By the end of the chaotic scene, the truth is brought into the light and everyone’s life is turned upside down.
The throne is exactly what he gets. After defeating T’Challa in an epic one on one battle, Killmonger becomes the new king. Dismay spreads around the theater like a California wildfire. When Killmonger goes into the spirit world, he only sees his father. The rest of his ancestors have been lost to the abyss caused by extreme oppression. It becomes clearly evident that he has no intentions of following Wakanda’s traditions of silence and inaccessibility. He orders the special orbs that grant the Black Panther powers to be burned. He has no plans to allow a successor to take his place.
What makes Killmonger such an amazing villain is that he was right.
Truth oozed in everything he said. He didn’t just want power and all the vibranium in Wakanda. He wanted to bring Wakanda out into the open and offer help to the oppressed. Nakia also wanted to bring Wakanda out into the open and help others, so Killmonger wasn’t the only person unsatisfied with isolation.
The audience can relate to his background and upbringing. They can empathize with him and relate to his immense frustration. As the movie continues, the audience can easily become attached to Killmonger and even become torn about whose side to be on.
As the two Black Panthers battle back and forth in the final epic showdown, both T’Challa and Killmonger began to understand each other’s side better. Ultimately, Killmonger loses. He refuses T’Challa’s offer of medical treatment. Both him and the audience mourn his death.
“Bury me in the ocean with my ancestors that jumped from ships because knew death was better than bondage” — Killmonger
While Killmonger won’t return, he forever changed Wakanda and T’Challa’s views. A once isolated land will now open its doors to international affairs and be known of. N’Jobu was fearful of whether or not N’Jadka would be welcome in Wakanda, and he wasn’t. He was viewed as an outsider and conjured confusion and anxiety. T’Challa buys the block where N’Jobu was killed and open a Wakandan international project focusing on aiding black neighborhoods.
Killmonger died, but his case lives on.
Originally posted on March 9th.
Edited and republished.