Why Is Lupita Nyong'o's 'Black Panther' Character MIA in 'Infinity War'?


Avengers: Infinity War brought together pretty much every character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, including some faces most fans assumed we’d never see again. But, not everybody came to the party, including a standout new character from the previous MCU film, Black Panther. Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) does not participate in the climactic battle in Wakanda at the end of Infinity War.

This post contains some spoilers for Infinity War and also Black Panther, which is actually still in some theaters. Damn, Marvel.

Infinity War is T’Challa’s third outing as Black Panther in the MCU and it brought back Okoye, Shuri, and M’Baku for round two. Nakia, though, is neither seen nor mentioned in Infinity War, even as Wakanda readies its best warriors for battle against Thanos’s goons. The movie doesn’t call attention to her absence nor does it explicitly explain it, but the end of Black Panther provides what’s almost certainly the reason. Nakia’s in Oakland, California, most likely.

In Black Panther, we learn that Nakia was a War Dog, a special undercover spy that Wakanda sent to other countries to collect intel while keeping the rest of the world in the dark about Wakanda’s true nature. However, when T’Challa opens up Wakanda and asks Nakia to once again be with him, she says she can’t. Her place is in the world, not within Wakanda’s borders, even if they’ve been opened. Luckily, T’Challa has a job for Nakia that doesn’t involve her going deep undercover, but still has her seeing the world.

T’Challa establishes a Wakandan outreach center in Oakland, on the very spot where Killmonger grew up. Nakia, with help from Shuri, will be in charge. It’s a sweet gig, and Nakia was probably busy when everything started to go down in Infinity War.

Infinity War was already full to the brim with characters, and it’s perhaps for the best that the movie didn’t fly Nakia in just so she could have a handful of lines in the big hectic battle. (Same goes for flying in Lupita Nyong’o IRL). She’ll be back, almost certainly, just on her own terms. Same goes for Hawkeye and Ant-Man, who were also MIA.

Avengers: Infinity War is now in theaters. Black Panther 2 doesn’t have a release date yet.