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What the ‘Shang-Chi’ mid credits scene means for the future of Marvel

What ‘Shang-Chi’ means for Phase Four and beyond

Wenwu (Tony Leung) and Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) in “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.”
Wenwu (Tony Leung) and Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) in Marvel Studios’ “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.”
Courtesy Marvel Studios

Warning: This article contains spoilers for “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings”

“Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” may seem like an origin story for a new superhero, but one thing is clear — the events of this film will resonate for years to come.

“Shang-Chi” tells the story of Shang-Chi (Simu Liu), who learns that his father, the Mandarin/Xu Wenwu (Tony Leung Chiu-wai), is on the hunt for Shang-Chi and his sister, Xialing (Meng’er Zhang). So Shang-Chi and his friend Katy (Awkwafina) travel to find Xialing so there can be a family reunion and confrontation. There’s a lot more going on in the story, but I won’t spoil it because the film is really worth seeing.

Though the film is monumentally important, we need to talk about the ending and what it means for the wider Marvel Cinematic Universe. After all, the final events of the film have an impact on what’s to come next and where we might be headed.

Shang-Chi joins the Marvel circus

Now, Shang-Chi has told his origin story. We know where he comes from and what makes him such an interesting hero. That one scene, though, suggests that he is going to be brought into the bigger Marvel Cinematic Universe story. Shang-Chi is not merely a side character who will be brought into the bigger fight down the road. He’s immediately in it.

You could argue that Shang-Chi is an Avenger now. Maybe he didn’t have the full knighting ceremony. So no, he won’t be in the starting lineup. But he’s at least on the bench, remaining available for any big fight that comes down the road.

His abilities make him a strong candidate for the team. He can control mystical powers like Doctor Strange but with the fighting ability of a Black Widow or Black Panther.

You could argue Shang-Chi may become a leader for the Avengers someday. Maybe he still needs to earn his chops. But the fan reaction so far to the character shows he’s at least well-received by the MCU faithful. The leader of the Avengers has to have that connection with the fans like Tony Stark did for so many years.

Whatever the case may be, Shang-Chi has a bright future ahead of him with the Avengers.

Who is the beacon for?

OK, so let’s talk about the real meat of that scene. The Avengers explain to Shang-Chi that his Ten Rings have a beacon hidden inside of them that are calling out to something extraterrestrial. It’s then when Captain Marvel zooms off into space.

Part of me thinks the Captain Marvel exit was a hint for what that other entity could be. Maybe she’s zooming off to fight whatever is watching out for the beacon. If so, we’ve received our first look at what the upcoming film “The Marvels” will be about, which will likely unite the story of Captain Marvel and Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris), who was teased to return in the MCU at the end of “WandaVision.”

That said, Captain Marvel’s exit is similar to how she dipped out of a meeting during “Avengers: Endgame.” Clearly, Captain Marvel is overly busy out in the universe fighting different threats across different planets. So she might be doing the same thing here. In some ways, her exit might be a thread the producers want us to follow, whereas something big lingers in the distance.

For example, maybe the beacon is calling out to the major enemy scene in the trailers for “Eternals.” After all, “Eternals” is coming out in November, so clearly there’s gotta be some build-up or that. If an evil threat of cosmic levels is coming to Earth, the Ten Rings serving as a beacon would be a nice way to connect “Shang-Chi” and “Eternals” without skipping a beat.

There’s also He Who Remains to consider. In “Loki,” we learn that He Who Remains has been controlling the Sacred Timeline for generations, and he has hopes to leave his position. Of course, the Sacred Timeline is shattered and the multiverse is created. He Who Remains suggests a variant of himself will emerge soon and cause widespread damage across the multiverse. Could the beacon be a way for He Who Remains to come to Earth? Could this all be one way that He Who Remains is set to take over the multiverse?

And then there’s the mega option — maybe the beacon at the end of “Shang-Chi” is a sign of the biggest, bigger bad coming down the road. He Who Remains is likely this phase’s version of Loki, who was a small terror in the first set of MCU films before the bigger bad, Thanos, showed up to fight the Avengers. Maybe the beacon is hinting at that bigger enemy to come.

Either way, Shang-Chi and his entire cast of friends and family are here for the long-term in the MCU. Hints exist about what’s to come next. We may not find out answers for a while. But the truth remains — Shang-Chi is here to stay.