In Avengers: Endgame, the dusted heroes arrive just in time to assist the surviving Avengers in taking down Thanos. Just as Captain America thought he’d have to go it alone, portals begin opening across the sky. The very first hero to step through is Black Panther, and we finally know why.
Avengers: Endgame co-director Joe Russo recently revealed during a Reddit Ask Me Anything session that the King of Wakanda wasn’t technically the top choice to return first, Sam Wilson, a.k.a. Falcon, was. Joe and his filmmaking brother Anthony Russo wanted Sam to be the first person to communicate with Captain America during the battle with Thanos.
Since Sam was fighting in Wakanda when he disintegrated in Avengers: Infinity War, the directors knew that they needed to have the Wakandan portal be the first one to open up after Professor Hulk’s Snap. Given that Sam isn’t the most important person in Wakanda, T’Challa wound up being the first hero to emerge. In Endgame, Sam is the hero who is heard first, telling Cap through his communications device that the heroes are arriving to his left, but Black Panther is the first one seen.
Russo added that:
“We spent a lot of time in the edit room playing around with the sequencing of the portals. We probably didn’t lock that section of the movie until about a month before the film was in theaters. We always wanted Sam to be the first one to communicate with Cap via his comm and Sam was last in Wakanda, so logically the first portal that would open would be the Wakandan portal…the first person that would logically walk through a portal from Wakanda would be the king himself, bringing his army once again to the defense of Cap and the world.”
Joe added on the audio commentary track included on the digital release of Avengers: Endgame:
“Who else would you want to have your back in this moment other than T’Challa and Wakanda?”
Sam letting Cap know that he’s got someone coming in on his left is also a reference to a fan-favorite moment in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, in which the Star-Spangled Avenger keeps lapping Sam on their run.
“Don’t you say it, don’t you say it.”
“On your left.”
In the end, Black Panther being chosen as the first hero to return after Professor Hulk’s Snap wasn’t down to some big, emotional reason. It wasn’t even due to T’Challa and Wakanda being some of the Avengers’ most loyal allies. The real explanation has a lot more to do with logistics. They wanted Sam to communicate with Cap first, Sam was in Wakanda when he was snapped away into the ether, and Black Panther is the king of the nation, so he showed up first. Easy breezy.
The issue of which hero would return first after the Snap in Avengers: Endgame wasn’t the only logistical issue the film’s team had to tackle. Endgame co-writer Stephen McFeely revealed on the Endgame commentary track that he and his writing partner Christopher Markus wrote a version of the script in which the heroes came back and were shown immediately:
“Just on an act-construction level, we were faced with a strange problem where we needed two snaps of the Gauntlet and asked ourselves often, ‘What does it mean to bring everybody back?’…We certainly tried a version where everyone came back and you knew it immediately, and there they were…Doing that prevented us from a really heroic reveal.”
And what a heroic reveal it wound up being. Black Panther entering alongside Shuri and Okoye, then giving Captain America a knowing nod as Sam flies overhead? We’re getting chills just thinking about it.
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