Presenting OTP Tuesday! Each Tuesday I will introduce you to a new One True Pairing! Tune in each week to find out which fictional couple you need to agonize/squee over next. I finally got to see Black Panther, so I need to talk about the king and future queen of Wakanda (and my heart): T’Challa/Nakia.
Who Are T’Challa/Nakia?
T’Challa/Nakia is the pairing of two characters from the newest MCU offering, Black Panther. Seeing as the movie literally just came out, there’s not a ship name yet, but I imagine there will be before long. This pairing is set to get huge: King T’Challa of Wakanda and Nakia, a spy.
T’Challa was, in my opinion, the breakout star of Captain America: Civil War (sorry, Spidey!). Civil War is far from my favorite MCU offering, but among all the incongruities and let-downs emerged one shining beacon: T’Challa, the Black Panther. In a movie that focuses on squabbling and pettiness, T’Challa is a smooth, eloquent, and noble hero.
In Civil War, T’Challa is the prince of Wakanda, an African nation that produces vibranium. Wakanda masquerades as a third world country but is actually more technologically advanced than anywhere else on the planet. They hide their resources to preserve their way of life — and they have a guardian, the Black Panther. He is endowed with the gifts of the goddess Bast.
The king of Wakanda, T’Chaka, dies in Civil War. T’Challa is distraught at the loss of his father and blames Bucky Barnes. However, when it comes out that Bucky was framed, T’Challa acknowledges his mistake and tries to right his wrongs by offering sanctuary to Bucky.
In Black Panther, T’Challa returns to Wakanda to ascend the throne. A hiccup comes up when T’Challa’s heretofore unknown cousin, Erik “Killmonger,” challenges him for the throne. The son of T’Challa’s uncle, Erik was raised in America and is bitter about his life. He wants to use Wakanda’s resources to help black people around the globe.
Although Killmonger’s violent ways are wrong, T’Challa takes his message of outreach to heart. At the end of Black Panther, Wakanda emerges from its self-imposed isolation and seeks to improve the world at large. Of course, Erik was not the only one to urge this course — Nakia did too.
Nakia first appears in Black Panther, but man, I need her in about twelve more movies, stat. In a movie full of powerful, awesome ladies, Nakia has a lot of competition for our attention — but she succeeds.
Nakia is a Wakandan spy and T’Challa’s ex-girlfriend. We first meet Nakia when T’Challa goes on a mission to retrieve her. She has been on a mission to rescue kidnapped women. During T’Challa’s “rescue,” Nakia quietly takes down many of the kidnappers herself. Initially, she is mad at T’Challa for interrupting her work but forgives him when he reveals T’Chaka’s death.
We later learn that Nakia is a royal member of the River Tribe. She is given a chance to challenge T’Challa for the throne, though she declines. However, she challenges T’Challa to be a better king than any that have come before him. Nakia disagrees with Wakanda’s isolationism, and she pushes T’Challa to help people outside of their borders.
Nakia accompanies T’Challa and the head of the Dora Milaje, Okoye, on a mission to apprehend Klaue, a vibranium smuggler. During a battle, she is saved by Everett Ross, a CIA agent. They bring Ross back to Wakanda to save his life.
When Killmonger shows up, Nakia is invaluable. Okoye will not go against her rightful king, but Nakia is a spy, not a soldier. She smuggles T’Challa’s mother and sister Shuri out of the country. They seek aid from another tribe and find T’Challa still alive. Later, Nakia helps Ross and Shuri defeat Killmonger. In the end, she convinces T’Challa that aiding others is a valuable cause, and he asks her to stay and help him in this endeavor.
Why is T’Challa/Nakia OTP?
Some ships grow on me over time. Some come out of nowhere when I read a fanfiction or something, and I suddenly find myself shipping it.
But T’Challa/Nakia had me hooked from the start. The moment Okoye tells T’Challa not to freeze when he sees Nakia, I was all aboard the S.S. T’Challa/Nakia. When Nakia sasses T’Challa and holds her own, I was ready to sail away.
This pairing is so addictive. All of their interactions are smooth, yet charged. They push off each other and achieve new heights together. This is a ship that encourages growth and learning. I just really love T’Challa/Nakia.
The King and Spy
I walked out of Black Panther 1000% in love with the Dora Milaje. Powerful, kickass ladies are so my aesthetic. I am always here for a group of women being large and in charge. But Nakia is not a Dora, something she very clearly states in the movie. But you know what — that makes her all the better, especially for T’Challa.
Nakia is a spy. She goes undercover, rather than overtly using force. She relies on tricks and deception. But while that could be seen by many as a bad thing, Nakia is respected for her work and her skills. T’Challa respects her and sees her as a talented, important person.
T’Challa doesn’t need another soldier. He has Okoye and the Dora Milaje to always have his back and support him. What T’Challa needs is someone to challenge him. Sure, he has Shuri to keep him on his toes, but Nakia pushes T’Challa.
The issue of Wakandan isolationism defines Black Panther. Though Erik is wrong in what he tries to do, he is right to argue that Wakanda ought to help those less fortunate. Nakia sees this. Even before Killmonger shows up, she argues with T’Challa that they need to do better for other people. That is why Nakia is a spy — it allows her to help others without breaking Wakandan protocol.
Nakia is incredibly dedicated to her work. She knows this is the best way for her to help improve the lives of others, and that is more important to her than anything. When T’Challa wants her to stay and be his queen, she is initially resistant because she is capable of doing good. T’Challa needs someone like Nakia on his side, to remind him of how good he can be.
Who Rescues Who?
The dynamic in the T’Challa/Nakia relationship is beyond perfection. One party is a king and a superhero, with superhuman powers. The other is a spy, dealing in shadows and tricks. It would be easy for T’Challa to be seen as the more powerful one, to overrule Nakia and to be the one in charge.
That is not what happens in this pairing. At first, T’Challa going to retrieve Nakia seems like a rescue mission — he is rescuing her from kidnappers. But when he finds her, Nakia berates him for ruining her undercover mission. She takes out kidnappers on her own and definitely doesn’t need him to rescue her.
Conversely, later in the movie, Nakia is the one who does the rescuing. T’Challa is presumed dead after a duel with Killmonger. Rather than wallow, Nakia rescues the queen and Shuri. She also sneaks into the palace to rescue the heart-shaped herb, which gives T’Challa his powers. She then attempts to ally with a former adversary, M’Baku, to save Wakanda.
M’Baku actually rescued T’Challa, who is not dead, though he is close. Because Nakia saved the herb, they are able to revive T’Challa. Then, they all work together to defeat Killmonger. Without Nakia’s quick-thinking and bravery, T’Challa would have died. T’Challa is the one to defeat Killmonger; I don’t want to disregard that. But he only has the chance because of Nakia’s actions.
In the end, Nakia and T’Challa are able to come together as equals. She is willing to stay with him because he has seen her point of view. He values her input and puts her in charge of social outreach, allowing her to dedicate herself to the cause she is passionate about. He respects that she cares, and she loves him in turn.
What’s Next for T’Challa/Nakia?
Unfortunately, Infinity War is what’s next. My poor children will be put in grave peril as angry grape Thanos attacks Earth. T’Challa features heavily in the Infinity War trailers, so he’s likely to play a big part. With so many characters in the movie, Nakia will not likely have a major role — but she is scheduled to appear (according to her wikia page), so we’ll have to see what happens.
It’s also incredibly likely that Black Panther will have a sequel. The MCU is very sequel heavy, and to be honest, Marvel would be insane not to have a sequel to Black Panther’s blow-away box office success. So although we don’t have confirmation yet, we will likely get a hefty dose of T’Challa/Nakia in a future Black Panther sequel — or even series!
Is T’Challa/Nakia Canon?
Yes! The movie confirmed that there is a romantic relationship between these two. Shuri refers to Nakia as T’Challa’s ex, proving that they have previously been together. T’Challa jokes that Nakia would make a good queen.
In the end, T’Challa asks Nakia to stay and head up his Wakandan outreach initiatives. Though there’s no sweeping romantic moment where he asks her to be his queen, it’s pretty implied. The fact that T’Challa tells Shuri that Nakia is working on his outreach shows that she agreed to stay. They’re holding hands in the post-credit scene at the United Nations!
Future movies will hopefully develop this relationship further, but so far we at least know that there is something canon here!