Welcome to Bae Watch Wednesday, where I tell you all about the fictional characters you ought to be crushing on. I finally got the chance to see Black Panther, and I’m in awe. So stay tuned for several Bae Watch posts about the awesome people of Wakanda. This week: my (future) queen, Nakia!
Who is Nakia?
Nakia is one of the leading characters in Black Panther. She is a Wakandan “war dog,” or spy. She goes on undercover missions outside of Wakandan borders, which leads to her having different opinions than other Wakandans. Nakia is also, importantly, T’Challa’s ex-girlfriend and current love interest.
We first meet Nakia when T’Challa goes on a mission to retrieve her. This mission is posed as a “rescue,” but we quickly learn that Nakia needs no one to rescue her. At first, it seems as though she has fallen prey to kidnappers; we later see that she is undercover and working to take down the kidnappers.
When T’Challa shows up, she manages to take down several of the kidnappers herself. She then berates T’Challa for ruining her undercover work. This mission was important to her. She backs down when T’Challa reveals that his father is dead and he is going to be king. He wants Nakia there with him.
Nakia is a royal member of the River Tribe, one of the five tribes of Wakanda. During the coronation proceedings, T’Challa must face challenges to his throne. The various tribes may put forth their own contender. Luckily, T’Challa has the support of his people and does not have to fight Nakia. He does fight M’Baku, of the adversarial Jabari tribe, but succeeds, becoming king.
T’Challa must determine who he wants to be as king, and Nakia has some things to say to that end. As a war dog, she has seen darkness outside of Wakandan borders, and she urges T’Challa to use their resources to help others. Nakia is very passionate about her work and the good she does. It seems that this is what stands in the way of her being happy with T’Challa in Wakanda.
However, despite their philosophical differences, Nakia has T’Challa’s back, and he knows it. He chooses her to accompany him and his general Okoye on a mission to apprehend Ulysses Klaue, an enemy of Wakanda. T’Challa’s sister Shuri questions the wisdom of bringing his ex on such an important mission, but T’Challa values Nakia’s skills and knows she will be useful.
She shows how useful she is when they get to Korea. They are able to get into an underground casino thanks to Nakia’s connections. However, it emerges that she does sometimes cause trouble on her missions when her contact jokingly points out the mess she made the last time she was there.
However, this time Nakia is prepared to do what it takes to serve her country. That doesn’t mean, though, that trouble doesn’t find them. An altercation in the casino leads to Nakia and Okoye pursuing Klaue on the streets of Busan. She drives the pursuit car while Okoye (kickass) works to take down Klaue’s escape vehicle.
After Klaue is captured, Nakia stands guard while Okoye and T’Challa work with Everett Ross, a CIA agent, to interrogate him. She is the one to realize that there is trouble coming, and only barely manages to warn T’Challa. Unfortunately, Klaue escapes thanks to Killmonger. In the escape, Nakia is almost killed but is saved by Ross.
She argues that they need to do what they can to save Ross’ life. Okoye is resistant because that could lead to exposure, but Nakia argues that it is the right thing to do. They return to Wakanda, where Killmonger shows up to challenge T’Challa to the throne.
It is after Killmonger arrives that Nakia shows how great she is. Killmonger defeats T’Challa in combat, throwing him over a waterfall. Nakia thinks fast and moves to help T’Challa’s mother and sister Shuri escape. Now that Killmonger is king, she knows they aren’t safe, and takes it upon herself to protect them.
She also comes up with a plan to defeat Killmonger. She sneaks into the palace, hoping to find aid from Okoye, but the general is loyal to the throne and will not step out of line. This does not stop Nakia, however. She sneaks into the gardens and steals a sample of heart-shaped herb, which gives the Black Panther his powers before Killmonger can destroy them all.
Then, she goes to the Jabari tribe with the queen, Shuri, and Ross. It is her plan to give the herb to M’Baku, as the only person who stands a chance of challenging Killmonger. M’Baku is an enemy, but Nakia knows that they must work together to save Wakanda.
Once there, however, they discover that T’Challa is actually still alive. Thanks to the handy heart-shaped herb, he is able to regain his health. They return to the palace to challenge Killmonger, who wants to use Wakandan weapons to arm black people around the globe. T’Challa challenges Killmonger in combat, while Shuri, Ross, and Nakia stop the weapons ships.
In the end, they are successful and defeat Killmonger. However, T’Challa has taken his — and Nakia’s — words about Wakandan isolationism to heart. What good is Wakanda’s wealth if they do not share it? In the end, T’Challa decides to work on outreach and improving the planet — and asks Nakia to help him with this. She stays in Wakanda and they work to better the world.
Why is Nakia Bae?
I love Lupita Nyong’o. She is hella adorable. She is, hands down, one of the prettiest people I have ever seen. Not to mention Nyong’o is always stylish, elegant, and poised. If anyone is worthy of being Wakanda’s queen, it’s her.
Put Lupita Nyong’o in everything. It doesn’t matter what it is, she’d be perfect.
You know how the Harry Potter fandom is applicable to everything? No matter what you’re talking about, chances are at some point or another, you’re going to sort the characters into Hogwarts houses. It’s just fandom science. But where does Nakia belong? I saw a post placing her in Hufflepuff.
In case you’re unaware, Hufflepuff is the house of kindness, loyalty, and hard work. In that sense, yeah, it’s a good fit. Nakia is kindness embodied. She advocates for her enemies, even standing up for another kidnapped victim who attempts to attack T’Challa.
She works hard in secretive missions, lacking recognition or a whole lot of support because it helps people. While some would argue that a spy is more Slytherin-like, this is one case where a spy’s heart places her in Hufflepuff.
Loyalty is definitely one of Nakia’s defining qualities. Her loyalty to T’Challa and his family shows after he is presumed dead. She thinks that this man — the man she loves — is dead, but she doesn’t give up. Instead, she puts her energies towards saving his family and the country he loved. She clashes with Okoye over loyalty — are they loyal to the crown? Or their king?
Nakia chooses her king — Killmonger may have the crown, but he is not her king. She remains loyal to T’Challa and his memory. Loyalty and fair play also come into things with Ross. Ross is a CIA agent — the natural enemy of a foreign spy. But Ross sacrificed himself to save Nakia, so she will go to hell and back to return the favor.
But hear me out. Nakia is good Hufflepuff material — she’s kind, she works hard, and loyalty defines her. But I would argue that she is just as much a Gryffindor as she is Hufflepuff. Gryffindor, the house of bravery and chivalry, would be a perfect fit for this spy.
Gryffindors are known for standing up for what’s right; consequences be damned. This, in my opinion, really sums up Nakia’s character. She works hard to save the kidnapping victims — because it is the right thing to do, and because she is capable of helping them.
Nakia’s arguments against Wakandan isolationism really stem from this idea. In her opinion, Wakanda has an obligation to help others because they can and because it’s the right thing to do. And she stands by her opinions, even when it goes against her king and love. T’Challa teases her, saying she’d be a good queen if she weren’t so stubborn. She responds she’d be a good queen because she’s stubborn.
And she’s right. Nakia’s willingness to stand up for her opinions, to advocate for doing the right thing even if it goes against tradition, is incredibly important. She is able to change even T’Challa’s mind in the end. Because of Nakia, Wakanda reaches out for the first time in their history. Because they can, and because they should.
When it really comes down to it, the interaction with Okoye solidifies Gryffindor as my choice. Nakia has saved T’Challa’s family, is standing against a cruel ruler, and is seeking aid from an ally. But where Okoye stands by tradition, Nakia stands by what is right. Even if it puts her at odds with a friend, doing the right thing is the most important.
What’s Not To Love?
Literally all the women in Black Panther were fantastic. What a bounty of riches we were granted. But walking out, Nakia occupied a special place in my heart. A Gryffindor at heart, brave and loyal and good, she is truly the queen of my heart, if not (yet) Wakanda.
Nakia is a spy, but she’s not dark like other characters (looking at you, Black Widow). Instead, she focuses on kindness, helping others, and doing what’s right. She is always looking to improve the world at large, not just her own little world. In the end, she makes a massive difference in the world just by being herself.
And it’s only thanks to Nakia that T’Challa even lives. If she had not thought to save the heart-shaped herb, T’Challa would have died in the mountains. Her quick thinking and determination saved her love, who was able to work with her to save their country.
In a world where roles for women are rare, and women of color even rarer, Nakia stands out as a queen, noble and true, who can be an icon for generations of viewers.